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Cloud computing conferences in 2021 you won't want to miss

Cloud industry players are preparing to showcase the latest developments at digital and in-person events this year. Plan your next round of cloud conferences with this guide.

In 2020, countless technology conferences went digital due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That trend will partially carry over to this year, as many cloud vendors and analyst firms will host another round of virtual events. Meanwhile, other groups are tentatively planning to revert to in-person shows.

Regardless of the format, cloud computing conferences are an important resource for IT professionals. They use these events to stay informed on the latest cloud trends, network with peers, learn about new products and see real-world case studies of different cloud technologies in action. Conferences are also an opportunity to advance in training and certification.

Follow this guide to find out which cloud computing conferences are worth checking out virtually -- or in person -- in 2021. Find out when and where the top shows will be hosted, and what you can expect to learn.

Editor's note: The ongoing impacts of the pandemic could impact dates, times or locations for these events. Check back for updates as they're announced.

Microsoft Ignite
March 2-4, virtual

Microsoft Ignite is intended for a broad audience of IT professionals and developers, as well as consumers and businesses. Microsoft typically rolls out a number of Azure announcements relevant to cloud-based professionals at the show. This year's virtual Ignite will also feature interactive small group sessions and opportunities for training and certification. Attendees can participate in the Ignite Cloud Skills Challenge, where they can earn a free certification exam.

IDC Directions Conference
March 9 and March 16, virtual

The 56th annual IDC directions conference is a live, virtual event, held over two days in March. This year's sessions focus on digital resilience in the post-pandemic world. Attendees can choose from five tracks and 27 breakout sessions presented by IDC analysts, as well as two guest keynotes.

Red Hat Summit
April 27-28, June 15-16, virtual
September through December, in-person

Red Hat Summit presents a range of news and announcements relevant to the open source community. It features Red Hat product demos, real-world open source use cases with Red Hat customers and opportunities to speak with open source technology experts.

This year, the event is spread across three separate timeframes. It kicks off virtually with keynotes, expert sessions and demos in late April. A second virtual event is scheduled for June, consisting of individual tracks and breakout sessions. Then, Red Hat is offering a series of in-person events set to take place from September to December 2021 in various cities, where attendees can connect to discuss the virtual events they attended earlier in the year. 

IBM Think
May 11-12, virtual

This conference consists of sessions, case studies and trainings focused on IBM technologies. Last year's IBM Think included a mix of live and on-demand virtual sessions, but this year's conference is fully remote. The first day is for attendees in the Americas, while the second day is for APAC and EMEA. Attendees can expect an emphasis on hybrid cloud and AI efforts.

Cyber Security and Cloud Congress
Sept. 22-23, Santa Clara, Calif.

This Cyber Security Cloud Expo event will present case studies, expert panels and discussions on how cybersecurity and cloud technologies impact various industries. Tracks include "Enterprise Cybersecurity," "Cyber Intelligence," "Regulation and Compliance" and "Developing Security Solutions."

Oct. 5-7, virtual

VMworld is VMware's annual virtualization and cloud computing conference. It covers VMware product updates, news and expert-lead sessions. Highlights from the 2020 event were heavy on acquisition news, with announcements of VMware's plans to buy SaltStack, an open source configuration management software company, and Carbon Black, an endpoint security vendor. Registration for VMworld 2021 begins in June.

Google Cloud Next
October 12-14, location TBD

In 2020, Google presented Cloud Next: OnAir, a virtual version of its annual cloud computing conference. Rather than its typical three-day format, the Cloud Next 2020 conference was a nine-week event series from July 14 to Sept. 8. The series included keynotes, more than 200 sessions and opportunities to learn from Google Cloud experts. Google has not announced if Cloud Next 2021 will take place virtually or in-person yet.

KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America
Oct. 12-15, Los Angeles

Hosted by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), this show presents the latest news and developments about Kubernetes and other open source, cloud native technologies. KubeCon + CloudNativeCon consists of hundreds of sessions on topics including containers, application development, DevOps and more. The conference is geared toward developers, IT operations professionals, service providers, end users and others interested in learning about cloud native technology.

The event was held virtually last year due to the pandemic, but this year's show is set to be in person at the Los Angeles Convention Center. KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Europe will take place virtually May 4-7. Dates and location for KubeCon + CloudNativeCon China have not been released yet.

Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations and Cloud Strategies Conference
Dec. 6-8, Las Vegas

This conference showcases Gartner research and insights on cloud infrastructure and operations industry trends. The 2020 conference consisted of more than 150 sessions and nine tracks, including "Agile and DevOps," "Edge and Distributed Cloud" and "Infrastructure and Cloud Security."

TBD cloud conferences

While there are a number of cloud computing conferences in 2021 already on the calendar, some vendors have yet to announce dates and locations for their annual shows. The uncertainty of the ongoing pandemic is likely a reason some major players have not announced plans for whether they will opt for a virtual event again or return to the traditional in-person format.

AWS re:Invent

As the dominant player in the market, AWS' flagship conference is the biggest event in cloud computing every year. It's typically held in Las Vegas the week after Thanksgiving. The 2020 show was the first time re:Invent was held virtually. The show took place over three weeks in December, with additional virtual sessions in January of this year.

AWS has not yet released 2021 dates for this event or its cloud security conference, AWS re:Inforce. AWS does plan to hold its smaller, regional AWS Summits over the course of the year, but details, including specific dates, have not been released.

Microsoft Build

This Microsoft conference is designed for a developer-focused audience. Microsoft Build showcases Azure developments and news, as well as trainings and hands-on exercises for developers. Last year's event was fully virtual.

Oracle OpenWorld

Oracle's annual vendor conference presents product features and news, as well as a mix of sessions on cloud and database topics. Last year, OpenWorld was scheduled to shift from its long-time home in San Francisco to Las Vegas, but it was ultimately held remotely due to the pandemic. This year's event is tentatively scheduled to take place in Las Vegas.

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