Interview CEO CloudFest: “I am Pretty Sure That We Will See Hybrid CloudFest Formats in the Future”

"Our industry is the backbone of the technologies that drive or will change the world. However, it must be our task as event organizers to continuously showcase recent developments to our audience. It is important that we constantly learn how we need to change our current thinking and setups to host the applications of the future", said Christian Jäger, CEO of CloudFest.

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The CloudFest event in Rust, Germany, is the only cloud, hosting and data center industry event with such a high fun factor. Before the pandemic, that’s to say. Will this year’s online event, March 23 – 25, be as much fun? And what about the new owners of CloudFest who bought it from GoDaddy recently, are they planning to do things different? HostingJournalist sat down with Christian Jäger, the newly appointed CEO of CloudFest, to talk about the online version of CloudFest coming op.

Photo Christian Jäger, CEO of CloudFest
“The new CloudFest shareholders are formed by a group of ‘superfans’ including the initial founders Thomas Strohe and Jochen Berger, but also other industry giants like Serguei Beloussov and a few others,” said Christian Jäger, CEO of CloudFest.

Who exactly is behind the new CloudFest owner, WHD Events GmbH?

“We are a group of people coming from the industry, organizing premier events for our industry. The initial founders are on board as well as other C-Level reps and founders from different companies. We want to build a completely independent and neutral platform. All of us are regular visitors and most attended more than 10 to 15 of the last CloudFests and want to go to the next 20 ones. We are all very committed and I would bet we all have a CloudFest hoodie in our closet.”

“Soeren (von Varchmin, red.) will continue with CloudFest and is now Chairman of the advisory board. We want to build a strong board helping us to find the right strategic direction, speakers, and agenda design. Soeren is the perfect networker, and we are sure he is the right fit. I take over his responsibilities as CEO. We have worked successfully together in the past and will do so in the future.”

GoDaddy in 2017 became the owner of the CloudFest events through the acquisition of Host Europe Group. Why did they sell it this year, and why did WHD Events GmbH take over?

“To my understanding, the acquisition of Host Europe Group followed the strategic rational to gain a significant client base in Europe. CloudFest was an interesting extra but it is also a completely different business, following a completely different business logic. It was clear that if there would ever be a carve-out it would have to be people that will continue the business and know it in detail. Consequently, we were the logic partner.”

There have been a number of changes in management and ownership of the CloudFest/WHD events in recent years. Some may wonder how big the support base for the event still is.

“The support base has never been bigger! CloudFest or WHD as it has been called years ago, was always a side business that belonged to a much bigger hosting group. It moved from being part of Intergenia to Host Europe Group and then ultimately to GoDaddy. Today, the only purpose of the business is to organize – the coolest hosting and domain – events. In addition, the shareholders are formed by a group of ‘superfans’ including the initial founders Thomas Strohe and Jochen Berger, but also other industry giants like Serguei Beloussov and a few others. We want to continue our events and grow them further.

This month, March 23 to 25, we’ll be able to experience this 3-day online edition of CloudFest. How will you be able to imitate the face-to-face networking contacts CloudFest usually is all about?

“The team really put a lot of effort in getting many things we love about the physical event into the digital world. However, we will not try to imitate the Rust event. This is also the reason we did not decide for a virtual floor with avatars running around. We are not playing games but delivering content and facilitating networking. During the first two NamesCon online events we learned that the platform is the key success factor, so we chose a platform that puts sessions and networking in focus. You can do random chats, join tables, or take part at organized speed-dating. It is as close to “reality” as possible and the feedback we received at NamesCon was very positive.”

CloudFest is especially known for its fun part. With its setting in a theme park, rock bands and DJs. Will we have the same fun online as in Rust?

“Can you imagine a CloudFest without parties and fun? We could not either. There are several phases when we move away from sessions and businesses. Be prepared for some magic to happen and even some Europa-Park rollercoaster nostalgia. Also, we produced some really cool content with awesome bands and be rest-assured, this is not some YouTube playlist we are going to show, it is exclusive content for CloudFest. I have not seen something similar yet. We are going to rock – digitally.”

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We saw AI and IoT popping up in the program of this online edition. Why do you think these are urgent topics for the international cloud, hosting and data center services industry?

“Our industry is the backbone of the technologies that drive or will change the world. However, it must be our task as event organizers to continuously showcase recent developments to our audience. It is important that we constantly learn how we need to change our current thinking and setups to host the applications of the future. What hardware and software layers do we need? Does the data center design need to change and in what way? If our audience does not react and offer products that are needed, they will lose more and more customers to the international hyperscalers.”

Which keynote speakers should we keep an eye on?

“We have invited Aaron Draplin to speak, the name may not directly ring a bell but he designed logos for Obama, Nike or Ford. So, that day we will not only talk about technology, but have the actual user, the actual web pro in mind. He is just one example of the typical customer of hosters going head-to-head to wix.com, GoDaddy or EIG. The last day covers security topics and what’s really cool: We can all meet the former boss of James Bond. Sir Alex Younger was responsible for cyber protection at the British intelligence service MI6 until December 2020, so he literally just left the house – if there is one person that knows about cyber threats, its him.”

What type of fun, like bands, DJs and so on can we expect, and in what manner?

“The party and fun part plays an integral role at all our events. Of course, this is more challenging to deliver online than it is when we use one of the crazy locations of Europa-Park. Still, we managed to get some nice acts that will perform during CloudFest. Iceland is not only known for, well…ice, and data centers by the way, but recently for really cool music as well. For 2020 we had booked the Indie-House band GusGus and as the concert could not take place as planned, we worked together with them to make it happen this year, so 100% digital. The music is very special and once you see the front men you get a feeling of what to expect. Also, we can count on the support of our beloved Dell Band and the Lords of Uptime presenting their newest videos!”

Previously, you’ve worked for PlusServer and GoDaddy. You’ve also worked for Soeren and WHD in the past. What are your personal reasons for joining CloudFest again?

“Returning to CloudFest feels really like coming home. I still know many of the team members personally and was in exchange with them during the shows while I worked at other companies. In retro perspective, my journey helped me to better understand the needs of hosting companies as well as the needs of our partners. PlusServer is one of the leading managed hosting providers in Europe while GoDaddy is targeting end-customers and web professionals. Later, we invested in companies like cPanel or Plesk – who are exhibitors of CloudFest and again have very different expectations to an event. I was able to learn a lot and experience the industry from various angles and I am positive this will help in the future.”

Next year, or at least after the Covid-19 pandemic, what elements of this year’s online edition will probably be preserved?

“Covid-19 boosted the digitalization of the event sector and this included us as well. We can already see that we are able to reach a wider audience, welcoming people we did not yet welcome at other events – simply because it’s not always easy to travel into “nowhere-land” in southern Germany. So, I am pretty sure we will see hybrid formats in the future where more and exclusive content is streamed online.”

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