Kaspersky Partner Conference: VARs In Paradise

Welcome to the islands! For its 2009 Americas Partners conference, Kaspersky Lab hosted about 130 channel partners from all over North America at the exotic El Conquistador Golf Resort, an hour from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Set on a cliff high above the Caribbean Sea, the resort featured, among other things, a multitiered pool deck, a marina and breathtaking views of the ocean. Getting partners to attend the conference was easy. As for getting them off the island ... that was another matter.

Fred Longietti and Greg Aker of Carolinas NetCare, based in Charlotte, N.C., hang out at the Kaspersky Lab Partner Conference welcome reception on one of the resort's outdoor patios. Hors d'oeuvres and seafood cioppino are abundant and the Mai Thais are flowing.

Kaspersky partners Shane Vinup (left) and Darin Ginguette (center) of CyberAdvisors, based in Maple Grove, Minn., make their way through cocktails with Kaspersky COO Eugene Buyakin on the balmy Puerto Rican evening during the conference welcome reception.

Partners hailing from Latin America comprised almost half of the Kaspersky Partner Conference attendees in Puerto Rico. However, for them the climate change wasn't as dramatic as those hailing from, say, Minnesota. From left: Adriana Yanira Uribe, Rogelio Martinez, Oswaldo Badillo, Lizeth Grajales, Gonzalo Araujo.

Kaspersky partners Blake Webber, left, director of sales for Ridgeland, Miss.-based Business Communications and Integration, and Mike Neal, senior executive from Fort Collins, Colo.-based Heit, wait for their exotic Mai Thais as the bartender pours double fist.

Mmmm. Mai Thais poured to the rim. No complaints here.

Kaspersky partners grab a bite of cookies, brownies and fruit in between sessions at the El Conquistador Resort. Not every channel partner spent their time at the pool. In fact, all the presentations brought out "full house" attendance.

The top dog, Kaspersky Lab CEO Eugene Kaspersky himself, kills time with Latin American partners after the presentations at the Conquistador Resort conference hall.

During the conference's second night gala dinner, partners paid frequent visits to a cigar table offering free cigars from .. err ... Puerto Rico. Needless to say, partners spent most of the evening lighting up. Nothing like the aroma of Puerto Rican cigars to set the tone for the evening.

The Kaspersky Partner Conference's second night gala dinner was held at one of the resort's many open air restaurants -- this one overlooking the pool decks and ocean -- where partners and execs mingled, drank, danced and eventually erupted into a conga line.

The band that got the crowd a-hoppin' played everything from meringue to Marley to "Margaritaville." Eventually they played "Hot, Hot, Hot," forcing the partners into a trancelike state that inevitably resulted in a conga line.

Partners load up their plates with everything from salad to steak offered at the buffet dinner during the Kaspersky Partner Conference second night gala dinner.

Armed with cigars and beers in hand, partners enjoy the salsa music and the 80-degree evening. From left: Stefan Zanchenberger, partner with ICE Systems, based in Kansas City, Kan., Paul Thresher, vice president of Secure Links, based in Toronto, and Gunter Fuhrmann, Kaspersky global sales director for corporate business division.

For one of the scheduled afternoon excursions, some Kaspersky partners got their sea legs in gear to go on a catamaran snorkeling trip around the islands -- a trip that included a full spread of food, music and all of the rum swill one could consume. Other excursion choices included a hike through a rain forest or 18 holes of golf.

Hanging out on the bow of the catamaran, Stefan Zanchenberger of Kansas City, Kan.-based ICE Systems, is ready to go.

Did we mention there was music? Yes, this gentleman serenaded the partners the entire four-hour tour with his own renditions of Steve Miller and Jimmy Buffet. There might have been some Zeppelin in there, too.

OK, so the first snorkeling island didn't work out. The waves were too choppy. So what did all the VARs do? Well, they suffered through hanging out on the beach, swimming in the ocean and laying out on the deck of the boat.

Following the day's activities in the sun, Kaspersky staff gathered their partners at the resort's marina in the evening to board a ferry for Palomino Island, a tiny island berg about 20 minutes off the coast of Puerto Rico, for the grand finale fiesta of the Kaspersky Lab Partner Conference.

Partners mingle on board as they prepared to leave toward the island. Hope it doesn't rain. Oh wait ... it did. But not enough to ruin the event.

Upon docking at Palomino Island, partners were led down a palm tree and tiki-torch lined path, greeted by people on stilts, a man with lots of parrots and fire twirlers. And, of course, anyone who breaths fire after swallowing alcohol is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

After spending all day out in the sun, Kaspersky partners stand in line for the buffet, which included steak, barbecued ribs and lobster tail.

After a big meal of lobster tail and strawberry shortcake, partners lean back and socialize as they listen to music and enjoy the last night on the island. While there was plenty of networking, most people seemed to leave their business cards back at the resort.

Yikes, wouldn't want to run into this in a dark alley. But somehow they seemed to fit in at the island fiesta. Rumor has it that they talked to some Kaspersky execs about distributing future lines of enterprise-class application control products.

So eat, drink and dance -- which is exactly what partners did on the last night of the Kaspersky conference. Partners swung their hips to salsa rhythms of the salsa band. And more partners got down as the night went on.

Yeah, it did get a little wild. Kaspersky partners were seen doing everything from conga lines to the funky chicken. But, hey, they were on some tropical island off the coast of Puerto Rico. Who's gonna know?