In late March I was lucky enough to fly out to San Jose to attend SDExpo. I'd been wanting to go for the last couple years but their fall conference (held in Boston) usually falls pretty close to the date of the PASS Summit (register with our code of SSC if you're attending!) and I didn't really want to fly cross country. I finally decided that was the only way I'd ever get to attend, so off I went.
Over the years I've been to quite a few conferences - PASS Summit, VSLive, SQL Connections, TechEd, and even the Agile Conference last year in Salt Lake City. I would guess this one runs about the same size as VSLive, fairly low key, everything well organized. The difference for me was the diversity of content. I use Microsoft software for just about everything, but the software world is bigger than just MS. In addition, now that I've managing instead of doing, I'm even more interested in higher level conversations - something beyond just coding the latest new feature.
I tried to stay out of the things I'd usually go to and be adventurous. Went to a session on XForms, looks interesting as a way to reduce the amount of code needed to generate web forms. Did a session on Visual Studio and the new Team System, a lot of things in that mirror the current thinking - an Nunit type testing suite, determining how much code coverage you have in your tests, and the ability to tweak the UI based on your methodology, one of the Agile ones perhaps.
I went to an advanced .Net session by Jeff Richter that covered how to secure intellectual property in code, was interesting to hear that obfuscation turns out to be a decent but not perfect route to take. One of the techniques the obfuscators use it to change all the code to use some weird font that is not installed by default and even if you install it, you still won't be able to read it. Not qualified to comment on the validity, but it was a very interesting discussion. He also talked quite a bit about just in time compilation versus using Ngen and that turned to a discussion of SQL 2005. I'm definitely paraphrasing, so if I get this wrong it's my fault, not his! He said that because of the tight integration of SQL with the .Net framework, JIT is actually a risk that worries the SQL team as you could potentially hit an error for something like out of memory, branch to some error handling code that had not yet been compiled and the whole thing could blow up. They were working to avoid this by making sure that all critical methods were compiled even if not used (pre-jit if you can believe it).
Lot's of sessions on very high level best practices. Stuff about risk management at the enterprise level - do you only use on consulting company? What happens if they fail? Or are compromised in some way? A great talk about what makes great programmers. Got to listen to Joel Spolsky at a fireside chat, enjoyed that as much as I enjoy reading his occasional blog entry.
Weather was great. San Jose airport is small, but aside from some minor over crowding when we all departed Friday night it was fine and very fast. I was their with a co-worker that knew the area, so I got the nickel tour, interesting to drive around and see all the big names in the business on buildings - nVidia, ATI, McAfee, Sun, Cisco to name a few. The Cisco campus is huge and right along a rail line, must be a decent setup if you can find housing somewhere along the same rail.
To get the most of this I think you should probably be a senior level developer or higher. Not the place to go if you're just looking for 'how-to' on all the latest VS.Net or Java stuff. Only complaint I had was the extra time and expense to travel, kind of spoiled with the number of conferences that come to Orlando. Price was about $1700 for the three day conference, a few hundred more if you did the pre-conference sessions. Money well spent in my opinion.