The PASS Summit location survey results came in a few weeks ago, and since then we've been analyzing the data, getting in costs from venues across the US, and reviewing with the PASS Board of Directors. You can find the results here.

At first glance, the results seem fairly clear: 81% of the 1,573 respondents want a PASS Summit on the East Coast at least every four years. When we look at responses from only 2008 and 2009 Summit attendees (our most successful ones by far), the number who want a future Summit outside of Seattle drops to 69%.

When we dig deeper though, other findings emerge. There is a disparity between wanting to have Summit on the East Coast and the desire to have access to plentiful, top-notch Microsoft resources at every PASS Summit. For all three questions pertaining to the importance of Microsoft resources, 69%- 84% of respondents maintain that having access to many, and varied, Microsoft resources is important to their Summit experience.

From these findings, we took two immediate actions:

  1. PASS HQ undertook a full-scale research and budgeting exercise for venues and hotels through the convention bureaus in the following East Coast cities: Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Miami, Nashville, New Orleans, Orlando, and Washington, D.C.
  2. The PASS Board of Directors conducted thorough discussions on the feasibility of a strong Microsoft showing in terms of presenters, experts, executives, and overall sponsorship support for a Summit outside of the Seattle area.

It took a while to gather and digest all the information, but here's what we discovered:

  • We would not be able to achieve anywhere near the same level of support from Microsoft as we do when Summit is held in Seattle. We would lose out on at least 50% and likely 75% of Microsoft presenters, developers, and SQLCAT and CSS staff – all things a majority of survey respondents listed as important or very important.
  • Based on Microsoft's release cycle history (major release cycles run approximately every 3 years, with minor ones often coming in between), 2011 or 2012 will likely be a launch year. It would be disappointing for the community to lose out on the advantages of being in Seattle during a potential release year.
  • Seattle is a very cost-effective location for a conference the size and scope of Summit. We were surprised to find that most East Coast locations we considered would cost substantially more and would likely raise registration prices and negatively impact the budget available to many other PASS activities, including Chapter resources and online events. We should also point out that survey respondents listed the cost of moving Summit to the East Coast as the least important of four PASS priorities (others included: Chapter resources, events such as 24 Hours of PASS, and the PASS website).

So where does this leave us? The Board has decided to hold PASS Summit 2011 and PASS Summit 2012 in Seattle for the reasons listed above. It was difficult weighing all the different considerations for the benefit of the SQL Server community, and we really appreciate the input we received. We feel that continuing to host PASS Summit in Seattle – in order to access Microsoft resources and support and keep costs down for the organization and for the attendees – is the best decision for the community as a whole.

We are listening to all of you who desire more PASS presence on the East Coast, and are currently looking into holding a smaller conference there in the near future. We’ll share more information as it becomes available.

Rushabh Mehta
PASS President