Why We Started the Velocity Conference

Back in 2006, Debra Chrapaty, then VP of Operations for Windows Live (later CIO at Zynga, and now CEO of Nirvanix) made a prescient comment to me: “In the future, being a developer on someone’s platform will mean being hosted on their infrastructure.” As it often turns out, things don’t work out quite as planned. A few months later, Amazon announced EC2, and it was Amazon, not Microsoft, that became the platform whose infrastructure startups chose to host their applications on. But Debra certainly nailed the big idea!

I wrote a blog post about that conversation, entitled Operations: The New Secret Sauce, which included the statement “Operations used to be thought of as boring. It’s now ground zero in the computing wars.” Jesse Robbins, then “Master of Disaster” at Amazon and later co-founder and CEO of Opscode, told me that everyone in operations at Amazon printed out that blog post and posted it in their cubicles.  Operations had been a relatively low-status job. Jesse told me that was the first time anyone had made a strong public statement about how important it was becoming.

As a result of that post, Jesse, Steve Souders, and a group of others came to me the following year and said “We need a gathering place for our tribe.”  That gathering place became the Velocity Conference, now in its sixth year.  We chose to include not just web operations, but also web performance and the emerging field of “DevOps” – the development model for applications hosted in the cloud.

This seems to be part of the secret sauce of some of our most successful events:  the recognition that it’s not just about technology but the people who put it into practice. At the heart of conferences like Velocity and Strata are new job descriptions, new skills, and new opportunities to grow careers and companies. That’s also why we increasingly think of these events not as conferences but as gathering places for communities.  Technology matters. The people who put it into practice matter more.

The Velocity Conference starts tomorrow in Santa Clara.  There is still time to attend.