Encompass responds to demise of HP World, Interex

Hewlett-Packard user group Encompass is expecting more attendees for the inaugural technical conference it's co-sponsoring in September in the wake of this week's cancellation of rival show HP World.

HP World was due to take place Aug. 14 to Aug. 18 in San Francisco, but organizer and HP user group Interex announced Monday that the show would not go ahead. Hard on the heels of that news, Interex said it would also shutter its doors. The 100,000-strong user group has yet to fully explain the reasoning behind both moves, though the close proximity of the Encompass-backed HP Technology Forum scheduled for Sept. 12 to Sept. 15 in New Orleans was a likely contributory factor to the cancellation of HP World.

A message on the Interex Web site described its moves as "unavoidable" and said shutting down the 31-year-old user group was "financially necessary." HP will pay registration to the Technology Forum for users who've already paid to attend HP World, Interex said on its site.

"It's unfortunate the way it happened," Encompass President Kristi Browder, said in an interview late Tuesday. "We obviously want to provide a place for HP people to go. Our doors are definitely open."

Browder expects that Encompass might have to expand the forum to cope with an influx of former HP World attendees and she said to expect further announcements about the forum later this week. Although much of the forum's content is already set, Browder said organizers are looking at whether to offer sessions likely to appeal to Interex members, particularly on HP 3000 servers, and also whether they need to include additional speakers. "We are looking at offering the opportunity to Interex members to join Encompass," she added.

Encompass is a much smaller entity than Interex, with 10,000 members. Last year, Interex and Encompass worked together on staging HP World 2004.

Browder wouldn't discuss HP's ongoing restructuring efforts, which included Tuesday's announcement of 14,500 job cuts. "Our charter is to provide education, networking and advocacy for HP users," she said. "We don't feel it's appropriate to comment on HP's internal restructuring."

As to whether event attendees would want to hear from HP's Chief Executive Officer Mark Hurd at the forum, so far looking like a no-show, Browder said, "Obviously, we'd like him to be there, but we understand he has a busy schedule." Encompass feels comfortable with the HP executive line-up at the moment, she added, pointing to Forum keynote speaker Ann Livermore, HP's executive vice president, technology solutions group.

Encompass is working on developing several tracks for the forum including security, cluster technology and business contingency, according to Browder. There will also be sessions focussed on particular industries such as the public sector, health care and manufacturing. Hot topics will include blade servers, dual-core architectures, radio frequency identification-based products and VMware's virtualization. There will be sessions on storage and operating systems from OpenVMS and HP-UX to Windows and Linux, she added.

"I hope people walk away saying that's the best technical conference they've been to in years," Browder said. "I hope they walk away having learned what they came to learn and more, something they didn't expect to learn."

Encompass begun life in 1961 as DECUS, a user group for customers of Digital Equipment. Encompass has been affiliated with three companies over the course of its lifetime -- Digital, bought by Compaq, which was later purchased by HP. "We were OpenVMS, then the [Compaq] ProLiant server came along and the next thing we know we're looking at HP-UX," Browder quipped. "We evolved, what we support now [product wise] is much broader." Most users' data centers have evolved similarly, going from a single vendor to being full of products from lots of different companies, she pointed out.

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