The 80s were a huge decade for two things: big hair and technology. We saw the popularization of the first personal computers and got just a glimpse of what would become a huge contender against those conventional PCs – Apple’s Macintosh. 1989 closed the decade off being an incredibly important year in the world’s geopolitical landscape, with some notable technology moments worth mentioning, including the very first installment of what we know today as the SAPPHIRE NOW & ASUG Annual Conference, which back then was referred to as the “International R/2 User Conference.” I’ve written about SAPPHIRE at length, focusing on its historical roots as well as taking a look at its Woodstock-like characteristics, and I am proud to complete yet another entry on it, this time celebrating thirty years of this wonderful event.

Before we get into the logistics of what we saw for 2019, I wanted to share with you all this incredible piece worked on by Michael Zipf from the SAP News team, where he interviewed me as one of the people that were responsible for producing the very first SAPPHIRE. I’m honored to have been able to share some of my insights from that time, and to still be so closely bound to SAP in more ways than I can count.

It was year 1989…

SAPPHIRE NOW & ASUG Annual Conference has turned into a beast of a conference, welcoming over 23,000 attendees from more than 80 countries over the course of a three-day period in the sunshine US state, Florida. From its beginnings bringing together a few hundred people in Switzerland under its not-so-catchy name, to the SAPPHIRE renaming in 1991 and being hosted in both Europe and America, SAPPHIRE NOW has become a household name in the software industry. SAP prospects, customers, and partners fly in from all over the world to witness the promise of innovation personified, brought to life on the famous SAPPHIRE stage and seen in action across the hundreds of sessions and interactive demos on its show floor. SAP HANA, S/4 HANA, C/4 HANA, SAP Leonardo… you name it, every important SAP innovation, platform or solution has been announced here.

For its 30th anniversary, SAPPHIRE broke records once again, and our team couldn’t have been prouder to witness it in person. We were onsite managing some of the customer booths on the show floor, and as always meeting with our favorite SAP teams that we work with throughout the year on other projects. For our customer SNP, we had an incredible ICEBAR party and helped Mr. Bluefield come to life throughout the week, through countless customer encounters and information sessions. For Data Migration Services we ran an exciting booth experience with a virtual reality race simulation that left visitors ready to take on the rest of the week from the driver seat. What a great week it was!

One of the things that help put into perspective the magnitude of the event are some fun facts that the SAPPHIRE planning team release at the end of each edition, that show a glimpse into what it takes to put on such an incredible conference. Some of the numbers they’ve shared in the past couple of years include:

  • This year was the sweet sixteenth time that SAPPHIRE was held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. This partnership with the OCCC ensures a great experience for new and returning attendees alike.
  • It takes roughly 22 days & over 61,000 man-hours to build and run the tech infrastructure of the event.
  • Every year, there are over 1,000 content sessions featuring hundreds of speakers from different countries across continents, and in the past few years in particular, there’s been a dedicated focus to ensure a good percentage of them are women.
  • Three miles of carpeting span across the length of 16 (American) football fields at the Orange County Convention Center
  • 1.2 million pounds of equipment is suspended from the roof.
  • More than 5 miles of Fiber Optic Cables installed, and over 2GB of bandwidth used.
  • In 2017, attendees consumed: 30K meatballs, 1,575 pounds of salad, 4,500 pounds of chicken, 25 thousand sandwiches, 45 thousand gallons of coffee, and lots of snacks between sessions

45 thousand gallons of coffee really puts things into perspective!

I can only help but smile thinking back to those first conversations that made SAPPHIRE NOW a reality, and I am proud to be a part of this event three decades later, in a completely different capacity. Let’s raise a glass to 30 years of SAPPHIRE NOW, and see you SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference May 12 – 14, 2020!

Cover picture credit: Steffi Paasche, Compart-Media, Germany