Red Hat Summit 2021 has a lot of catching up to do if it wants to match the attendance of last year's online event, which drew a virtual crowd of 82,000, more than nine times the attendance at the company’s last in-person event in 2019.
This year the conference has been divided into two free events, with the first round taking place in April, and round two scheduled to go live on June 15-16.
"This year, by splitting up the content into two parts, we were able to focus on high-level content in April – our announcements, keynotes, global customer stories, demos and vision-focused sessions," said a Red Hat spokesperson. "Part two features the traditional breakout sessions broken out by channels, topics and products, and features the technical content our audience is looking for across a wide variety of industries, job roles and digital transformation journeys."
Round one of Red Hat Summit 2021 drew fewer than 18,000 attendees, according to Red Hat, an audience which would be robust by an in-person event metric but dwindles in comparison to last year’s 82,000.
The reasons for last year’s tremendous audience are not clear. It was one of the first online events to be held after the pandemic stay-at-home orders went into effect, meaning many people might have attended out of a combination of boredom and curiosity. It was also the first Summit since Red Hat's IBM ownership became official, and the first with Paul Cormier as CEO, which also might have increased interest.
No matter the reason, it's doubtful that round two of this year's Summit will come close to attracting the 64,000 attendees that will be needed if it’s to match last year’s numbers.
Round Two – Just the Basics
One problem the upcoming second part of Red Hat Summit 2021 is facing is that many of the components that may have attracted an audience during the April event are missing for this one.
There will be no keynote addresses, which generally are a morning ritual on each and every day of a tech conference. Keynotes are generally crowd pleasers, not only because they set the tone for a conference, but because they usually include appearances from tech industry movers and shakers.
There also won't be any "special guest appearances." While round one featured appearances by the actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who most recently appeared in The Trial of the Chicago 7; musician and record producer Ben Folds, who was the first artistic advisor to the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center; and comedian Kumail Nanjiani, who spent six seasons on HBO’s Silicon Valley, the second round only offers on-demand repeats of these appearances.
"Video replays are being offered for one year from the date of the event so attendees can go back and revisit keynotes and breakout sessions,” said a Red Hat spokesperson. “We offer this content so our customers and partners can view sessions on their schedule. We want to make sure our audience gets the full benefit."
What this version of the Summit will have in abundance: sessions to educate and bring people up-to-date on what's happening in the world of open source enterprise technology.
The two-day event will be filled with 59 live "breakout sessions," 45 live "Ask the Experts" Q&A panel discussions, and 35 on-demand sessions recorded specifically for the June event. In addition, all of the sessions from April will be available for viewing for those who missed them the first time around.
Everything Enterprise Open Source
Edge computing, IoT, Kubernetes, data center, hybrid cloud, microservices, 5G, and more will all be on the agenda. While most of the speakers will be folks who collect a paycheck from Red Hat, there will be experts from movers and shakers in the tech world as well, both as users, developers and vendors. Verizon, Citigroup, ExxonMobile, Audi and Bell Canada will all be on hand.
There will be Q&A periods at the end of each breakout session, and the Ask the Experts sessions are panel discussions in which panel members answer questions submitted by the audience. In both cases, attempts will be made to later answer any questions not answered during the session via email
The schedule for the event is available online. Free registration is required to attend, but those who registered in April do not have to register again.
Red Hat Summit 2021 doesn't end with this event. In September, Red Hat plans to host another online event, followed by a travelling road show of small in person events in cities where Red Hat has a presence. Red Hat told ITPro Today that this third leg of the summit is very much in the works, especially now that it's becoming more certain that in person events will be doable in the fall.