The Cost of Virtual Database Conferences

This year — 2020 — the year of the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine is wreaking havoc on the technical conference industry. So far, we have already seen many conferences postponed or canceled. Those that continue are soldiering along with online, virtual conferences.

I like the general idea of a virtual conference held online, especially when there are no safe, realistic options for holding in-person events this year.

One example of a well-done, online virtual event was the IBM Think 2020 conference. For those who never attended an IBM Think event, it is IBM’s annual, in-person conference that usually attracts over 10,000 attendees. The cost to attend is over $1000, but IBM offers discounts to some customers and VIPs.

This year’s IBM Think 2020 event hosted nearly 90,000 virtual participants. Which is incredible! But I think one of the key factors was the cost, which was free. Yes, IBM Think 2020 was provided for free to anybody who wanted to attend. Of course, a vendor the size of IBM can bear the cost of a free conference easier than those run by volunteers and organizations.

It will be interesting to watch what Oracle does for its currently-still-scheduled-to-be-an-in-person-event, Oracle World. This year the event is moving (or hopes to be moving) from San Francisco, where is has been held for years, to Las Vegas. It is still scheduled for the week of September 21-24, 2020… but who knows if it will still be held. And, if not, will it go virtual? Will it be free of charge? I’m curious… as are (probably) many of you!

Now take a look at some of some other database-focused events.

First let’s take a look at the IDUG Db2 North American Technical Conference, which will be a virtual event this year. Having postponed the original weeklong conference that was to be held in Dallas this week, IDUG is promoting the virtual event as a kickoff event occurring the week of July 20th, followed by additional labs, workshops, and sessions for three ensuing weeks. That sounds great to me! I’ll be presenting at one of the recorded sessions on the plight of the modern DBA, so if you attend, be sure to look me up and take part in my session!

But the IDUG Virtual Db2 Tech Conference is not free. There is a nominal cost of $199 to participate and attend.

Turning our attention away from Db2 to Microsoft SQL Server, the annual PASS Summit has also gone virtual for 2020. It was originally scheduled as a live conference in Houston (nearby to me, so I’m disappointed that PASS Summit won’t be in-person this year). Instead, the event will be held online, virtually, the week of November 10, 2020, and will offer over 200 hours of content.

Again, though, like IDUG, the PASS Summit 2020 is not free, either. The cost for this event is listed as $499.

But not all of the database events going virtual are charging. The Postgres Vision Conference will be conducted online June 23-24, 2020… and registration and attendance is free of charge.

Now I do not want to be negative about either of these great events. Both of them have histories of providing quality content for their respective database systems (Db2 and SQL Server). And I wish for both of them to survive and thrive both during, and after, this pandemic passes. Nevertheless, I am skeptical that there will be an outpouring of paid attendees for these events. Why do I say this?

Well, first of all, there are already a plethora of educational webinars being offered for free every day of the week on a myriad of technical topics. Sure, you may have to endure some commercial content, but frequently that means learning about technology solutions you may not know about. And to reiterate, these are free of charge.

The other mitigating factor will be attention spans. It can be difficult to allot time from your schedule to attend a series of presentations over a full day, let alone a full week. Without being in attendance, in person, at an event, there will be many distractions that will draw folks’ attention away from the content… phone ringing, texts and IMs, e-mail, is that the doorbell?, and so on.

So, potential attendees, but also their managers, will have to decide if the cost of a virtual event is worth it. I hope that most people will temper their objections and give these events a try, even the ones that are charging. After all, if you have been to these events in the past, and were planning on attending this year too, the cost will be lower than if you paid a full in-person registration fee plus travel expenses. For that reason alone it should be worth giving these events a shot. I mean, we DO want them to start up again after the pandemic, right? So supporting them now, even if you have reservations, is really the right thing to do!

What do you think? Will you be attending IDUG or PASS this year virtually? Why or why not? Leave a comment below and let us know!


I'm a data management strategist, researcher, and consultant with over three decades of experience in all facets of database systems development and implementation.
This entry was posted in conferences, DB2, DBA, DBMS, Microsoft SQL Server. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Cost of Virtual Database Conferences

  1. Brian Daily says:

    I hope to attend IDUG this year – I need to see if my employer will cover the cost. I’ve attended in person in the past but haven’t been able to for a couple of years. It will be interesting to see what the experience is like in comparison. So much of what is gained at these conferences happens outside the actual sessions/presentations.

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