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GTC 2012: Not your average vendo-loveathon

Why I geek out for GTC

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HPC blog One of my very favorite industry events is coming up next week: the NVIDIA-organised GPU Technology Conference, aka GTC 2012. I’ve been in the tech industry for almost 20 years; roughly half that time was spent working for The Man in vendor firms, and the other half at my own boutique industry analyst firm. Not surprisingly, I’ve been to a lot of vendor-sponsored conferences. I’ve helped organise some and have had speaking slots at quite a few, so I know the drill.

But the GTC isn't a typical vendor conference. It's way different and, in my opinion, the best vendor event in the industry today. If not ever. Why?

The vast majority of GTC content and sessions are provided by real customers talking about what they do, how they do it, and their results. A typical session is led by a non-NVIDIA researcher or practitioner who discusses the ins and outs of their particular challenge – perhaps dealing with masses of quickly changing market data, or trying to figure out how water moves through pipes, or designing a tank or rover that can handle any terrain.

Not surprisingly, the common thread running through these sessions is that they're all achieving their goals by using GPUs, or they've figured out some innovative way to apply GPUey goodness to a new problem.

Other vendor events certainly make an effort to include customers in their programmes, but it's usually in a highly scripted and controlled setting, where they’re asked hard-hitting questions like: "Ted, wouldn’t you agree that your company is the best at what you do, and that at least some of your success is due to the deep and transformative partnership you’ve had with us?" "Yep, Bill, I would agree with that." "Great! Thanks for coming to _____-fest 2012. We’re going to take a break now, there’s coffee and cookies in the lobby..."

GTC is really about users talking to other users – it's much more like the SC (supercomputing) symposiums than a vendor show. This is what really sets it apart. You get the specifics, the down-and-dirty details that are glossed over in every marketing-blessed presentation at other shows.

One other cool thing? They video almost all of the sessions and post them on the web. You can see sessions from GTC 2009 or 2010 in the United States, or various events in Asia or at other shows, here.

From what I know so far, GTC 2012 is going to be full of surprises. A word to the wise: the opening keynote session by Jen-Hsun Huang will be particularly interesting to anyone looking into advanced hybrid computing.

There’s still time to get to San Jose for GTC 2012. Tutorial classes start on Monday, while the full conference boots up Tuesday morning. If you can’t be there, you'll see plenty of coverage in The Reg from our pal tech journo supremo TPM, and I’ll be in high gear too. I’ll be driven by a combination of high-octane curiosity, coffee and cinnamon rolls the size of a baby's head that will be procured en route as I road-trip from Oregon to San Jose. ®

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