In a week filled with chatter about an economic downturn and cost-cutting, last week’s Data Center World in Orlando, Fla. had the largest turnout ever for the fall version of the trade show, with more than 700 attendees. While smaller than the spring version of DCW conference - which had 1,300 attendees for the 2008 version in Las Vegas – this year’s Data Center World Fall event benefited from the rising profile of the data center industry.
“The data center industry is so pertinent today,” said Jill Eckhaus, the CEO of AFCOM. “For the first time in history, the data center has been recognized as an integral part of every business. That’s really why AFCOM was founded: to help recognize how important the data center has become.”
AFCOM is a leading association for data center professionals, founded in 1980 to support the management of data centers around the world. Originally, AFCOM was an acronym for the “Association for Computer Operations Management,” but has since expanded its focus to the entire data center and become known simply as AFCOM. In the past five years, AFCOM has been transformed along with the industry it represents, growing from 1,700 members to more than 4,200. The biggest growth has been local.
“Five years ago we had seven local chapters and today we have 35,” said Eckhaus, who noted that AFCOM is also seeing strong growth among overseas members, both in attendance at the conference and the launch of local data center user groups.
New international chapters have been formed in the United Kingdom, Mexico City, and Melbourne, Australia, while domestic AFCOM local chapters have been organized in Greater Houston, Wisconsin, Western Pennsylvania, Omaha, Greater Minnesota and Northern California in 2008.
“The chapter program helps our members to interact with and learn from other data center professionals at the local level,” said Michelle Morrissey, AFCOM’s member services manager. “The program is considered our most valued platform for continuing education, networking and sharing solutions to challenges in the workplace.”
The growth of AFCOM’s local chapters has been a function of the organization’s philosophy, Eckhaus said. “AFCOM has always made it our goal to be vendor-neutral,” said Eckhaus, who said some members found other meeting opportunities in the data center sector to be more “vendor-happy.”
Eckhaus believes the growth of local chapters will continue to be an important element in AFCOM’s development, and one of the best ways the group can serve its membership. “It was really important after 9/11 to see growth in local chapters and have local meetings,” said Eckhaus. “People stopped traveling, but they still needed education.”
The twice-yearly Data Center World events have become some of the best-attended events in the industry. Data Center World has been named to the Tradeshow Week list of the 50 fastest-growing trade shows for the past three years. Eckhaus expects that trend to continue.
“I believe this industry will continue to prosper and grow,” she said. “It makes in an exciting time for younger people to get into the field. Whether so much economic difficulty, here’s an industry that is booming.”