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Posted: May 26, 2011

SharePoint Fest

Gurus and great fajitas -- what more could you want?

Eric Peterson

The second annual SharePoint Fest Denver took place May 19-20 at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver, attracting about 500 attendees, 30 exhibitors, and a who's who of Microsoft SharePoint gurus from all over the country.

Released last year, SharePoint 2010 is the latest iteration of Microsoft's collaborative enterprise content-management software, and it was the buzz of the conference a year after its debut. More specifically, the hottest topics were the expansion of the SharePoint feature set and issues relating to its implementation and integration.

"Now it's not, 'Should we do SharePoint?' - it's 'How are we going to do it?'" said David Wilhelm, the event's organizer. "The title level of the attendees has increased drastically from last year. You can see the buy-in for the product."

Describing SharePoint 2010 as a "huge, robust platform," Wilhelm added, "This is no longer just a replacement for a file server," he added. "It's so much more."

Echoing Wilhelm was Ira Fuchs, a SharePoint technical specialist with Microsoft and author of the book Enterprise Application Development in SharePoint 2010. "The biggest trend is using SharePoint as an application-development platform," he said. "You can write applications without code."

Fuchs said applications developed in SharePoint are easier to integrate, modify, and reuse. "There's an old saying at enterprises. If you want to change one line of code, it takes eight or nine months. With SharePoint, you can do it regularly, on any day."

The functionality has catalyzed enthusiasm in the user community, he added. "There is no technology out there anywhere that has gotten the kind of user response SharePoint has. It's the most active community I've ever seen for any technology."

"This is not our event - it's grassroots," added Microsoft's Henry Winkler (no, not the Fonz). "That's how I know SharePoint is a great thing: People are building businesses around it and basing their businesses on it."

Among the exhibitors at SharePoint Fest Denver were numerous companies doing just that, Denver-based NewsGator, offering Social Sites 2010, a SharePoint-based social-networking application; San Diego-based SharePoint360, which brings SharePoint into the cloud; and Greenwood Village-based AmeriTeach, a Microsoft educator offering six-day "boot camps" dubbed Camp SharePoint.

Wilhelm, who also works for AmeriTeach, has organized similar events in Dallas and Chicago, but Denver was the first and remains the flagship. "So far, so great," said Wilhelm of the two-year history of his SharePoint Fest, LLC. "We want to be a hub for the SharePoint community in Colorado."

The strategy is clearly bearing fruit. "Every one of my customers in Colorado attended as well as all of our top Gold partners," said Charise Harlene, a Microsoft account executive. "This is one of the best events developed for SharePoint to date."

The accolades were not reserved exclusively for the event's networking, workshops and speakers. "The food's been great," said Gary Newman, one of the latter as AmeriTeach's point man for SharePoint. "The fajitas bar was one of the best I've ever seen."

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Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com

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