Tag Archive: VMworld

Oct 21 2021

My thoughts and observations on VMworld 2021

Another VMworld here and gone, blink and you might have missed it with it being a all virtual event again this year. I previously wrote that I wasn’t excited at all for this event based on my experience from last year. I did have higher expectations for this event compared to last year as this time around VMware has had a whole year to prepare for it and some experience from last years event. However overall it seemed to me even more disappointing an event compared to last year and it seemed like VMware put the bare minimum in to execute it perhaps based on they felt they won’t have to do this again after this year as they transition back to physical events.

Overall the event felt like giant webinar and not like an organized event. Their was nothing really to guide you through the event, their was a main page with some links and that was about it. The general session keynote felt like a big low energy infomercial, nothing like the exciting keynotes of past events. The breakout sessions were a mix of on-demand and live Zoom calls, they were OK but again you didn’t feel like you were part of the session at all. The Solutions Exchange was largely worthless, I know you can’t replicate an on-site event but they could of done much more to make it a better experience for both vendors and attendees.

Thankfully this will be the last year as a virtual event, according to VMware next years event will be largely on-site. Here’s their official statement on that:

Important!

We are making plans to return to an in-person event in San Francisco, August 30 – September 1, 2022 and Barcelona, November 7-10, 2022. We are currently evaluating opportunities for a hybrid model, offering some elements of content in a virtual form, but expect the major program components and opportunities for sponsors and exhibitors to be in an in-person format. We will share more information as it becomes available.

I can’t wait until things are back to normal as I really miss the whole VMworld experience which was like the Super Bowl for VMware geeks. For next years event it will have been 3 years since I have seen old friends and I’m hoping next years event will be a special one for all of us.

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Sep 23 2021

VMworld is almost here and frankly I’m not really excited

It’s that time of year again, albeit a little later than normal, time for VMware’s marquee event, VMworld. I’ve been attending VMworld since 2008 and with the event again virtual this year I’m just not feeling any excitement about it. I wrote about my experience with last year’s virtual event (spoiler alert: I hated it) and it looks like not much is changing this year to make the experience any different. I cut VMware some slack last year as they did not have a lot of time to make the transition to a virtual event but this year they have had a full year to prepare for it. Perhaps they don’t want to invest to heavily in the platform and experience for a virtual event if they anticipate this will be the last year they need it.

To me this event just feels like a big webinar, it’s almost impossible to reproduce the physical event experience in a virtual event but I feel VMware could do more to try and replicate that experience as much as possible. The biggest advantage of a physical event is networking, in a virtual event that is much more difficult to arrange in a way that you feel like you are having meaningful and personal conversations with others. I haven’t spoken to old friends in years now, an experience I sorely miss.

Then you have the virtual solutions exchange, I’m sorry but those virtual booths simply suck. The solutions exchange was the standout feature at the physical event, walking around seeing what each vendor has to offer and the cool booth setups, running into friends, getting hands on with demos and talking to product experts. There is no way to reproduce that experience in a virtual event.

Of course the night life was always fun as well and that is another experience that you can’t replicate. Watching a band over Zoom feels like watching a band on YouTube, it’s just not the same as being there. Those late night hanging with friends was always a highlight for me and that is something you can only do in person.

So I registered again this year, albeit it very late as I really didn’t feel that rush to register like you would for a physical event. I scheduled some sessions, again since they are largely like a webinar I felt no sense of urgency to schedule them. My backpack collection just collects dust and there have been no new additions to it now for 2 years. My wall full of hanging event lanyards hasn’t gotten any bigger in 2 years as well.

I’ll watch the general session, some technical sessions and participate in the vExpert activities. Corey Romero to his credit has gone above and beyond to try and make the vExpert activities as fun and social as possible. But beyond that VMworld will pass quickly by with no new notable memories or experiences and to me it’s like it never even happened as a virtual event just isn’t the same as being there in person. So hopefully next year things can open up again and we can back to in person events which I am sure everyone misses so we can feel like we actually attended something and cherish all of the benefits that a physical event brings.

Stay safe my friends and I hope to see you in person again soon…

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Sep 25 2020

VMworld is here! But it sure doesn’t feel like it…

It’s that time of year again, albeit a bit later than usual, it’s time for VMware’s annual mega conference, VMworld. For me this will be VMworld number 13 and with VMworld being virtual this year its going to be a way different experience. I could say I won’t miss the travel, the expensive hotel rooms in San Fran, the sore feet from all the walking, all the street noise and people to deal with but I actually think I will miss it. Maybe its from not traveling  for over 6 months, maybe I just found that whole environment oddly comforting or maybe I just need to get out again. What I do know is I’ll miss seeing all the people, the whole solutions exchange atmosphere, making new friends, visiting with old friends, late nights socializing, my annual meet Pat Gelsinger at the vExpert party and of course the VMworld backpack (I have a whole closet full of them).

With VMworld starting in just a few days, I don’t feel any of the usual excitement that I usually feel leading up to the event and I feel pretty dis-connected from the event, almost if I got distracted for whatever reason I might miss it. I know VMware will be making it’s best effort to put on the best possible show but it just won’t be the same, not even close to it. The sessions are mostly pre-recorded and the solutions exchange is just virtual booths lacking real demos, real equipment, real people (and of course swag). The biggest missing element will be the networking and interaction with people, try as you might you just can’t replicate that in a virtual event.

I am speaking in 2 sessions this year, an SRM/vVols session along with Velina from VMware and Cody from Pure and then an HPE session where I have a brief part on vVols. Recording the sessions was a challenge, especially with multiple speakers and I’ll miss the waiting for the room to fill up to see how many will show, the audience interaction and the questions. VMware put a lot of effort into making sure the technical aspects (video/audio/etc) of the sessions are very good so I have no doubt it will be quality content. One benefit of being virtual is most of the sessions will be available right at the start and free for everyone so there will be a much bigger audience for the event. I heard from our planning team that 54,000+ companies have registered for the event so the audience will be much bigger. There is also paid content that is live such as expert sessions and roundtables that you can gain access to with a Premier Pass ($299).

So I’ll try and make the most of this years event, it will be hard to block out time for it and with all the other distractions from being in a home/work environment it might be difficult to focus solely on the event. I’m not sure where to even start or how to ensure that I’m getting at all the content available on those 2 days so I’ll have to figure that out. There is a lot of things I’ll miss this year and I’m really looking forward to going back to physical events. One thing I know I’ll really miss is sitting around with my good buddies Jason Boche and Bob Plankers smoking stogies late into the night. I’d normally conclude by saying I hope to see you there but that’s just not going to happen this year, so stay safe, try and make the most of the event and I hope to see you all sometime in the future.

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Sep 11 2019

My thoughts and observations on VMworld 2019

Another year, another VMworld, this one being #12 for me, wow has it really been 12 years of going to VMworld. I’ve never in my professional career gone to any conference that many times. I think that is a largely a testament to how relevant VMware has managed to stay in the ever changing IT landscape that they have made all the right moves to stay fresh and competitive. This VMworld might have been called Containerworld instead with all the announcements and focus that VMworld has put into their container strategy, but more on that in a bit. As usual the event goes by all too fast but I have to admit overall this was probably one of the most enjoyable VMworld’s that I’ve been too in a long while. Seeing old friends and hanging out with them is always a highlight for me and making new friends always is great as well. So let’s get on with my thoughts and observations from VMworld 2019:

Before I dive in I first wanted to highlight this cool VMworld infographic made by my good buddy David Marshall.

The Location

After a 3 year run in Las Vegas, VMworld has finally and inevitably moved back to San Francisco having mainly moved because of construction and renovations being doing at Moscone Center the past few years. Now San Francisco has some cool things to see and do but the area around Moscone isn’t all that great. The big issues with it are the very expensive hotel rooms ($350+/night), less centrally located (caters to the western crowd) and the big one dealing with all the crap on the street and the homeless crowd. Also everything in SF shuts down way early, by 10pm everything around Moscone is super quiet which is a sharp contrast to Vegas where you can go all night every night. Everyone I talked to did not like VMworld being back in SF one bit and would prefer it being in Vegas which is much better equipped to handle large conferences. I know it is more convenient for VMware being in the bay area but is it far less convenient for the people that matter the most, the attendees. I really hope VMware shifts it back to Vegas at some point as VMworld 2020 is back in San Francisco.

How many people attended VMworld?

According to VMware around 20,000 which puts it about the same or a bit less than last year. However it felt like there was less people there, again it may have been the whole back in SF thing which is a turn off for many. VMworld attendance peaked in 2014 at 26,000, it was at 23,000 in 2015 and 2016 and then dropped off from there. While this number is a good general indicator of how popular an event is the number that matters is how many of that 20,000 are VMware staff, vendors, press, analysts, partners and customers. Unfortunately only VMware knows that percentage mix. Suffice it to say VMworld still draws a good number of people, for comparison sake Cisco Live draws 30,000, Amazon re:Invent draws 50,000, Oracle OpenWorld draws 60,000 and SalesForce DreamForce draws 170,000. I have no idea how you fit 170,000 people in San Fransisco when 20,000 seems rather crowded.

What was announced at VMworld?

If you were hoping to tune in hearing about the next version of vSphere, this wasn’t the conference for you. Instead VMware focused all of their announcement around their latest acquisitions and container strategy with Kubernetes. Right off the bat on Day 1 Pat announced Project Tanzu in the keynote, Project Tanzu by itself isn’t really a product, it is basically a new brand name for VMware’s container app portfolio that is categorized into the typical container buckets of Build, Run and Manage. Within those buckets reside much of VMware’s new products and acquisitions.

The Build bucket of Tanzu consists of VMware PKS, Pivotal, Bitnami and Heptio. These are all mostly acquisitions VMware has made with the Pivotal one still pending. This will provide VMware with a huge existing install base of Kubernetes apps and services that they can further integrate into their portfolio.

The Run bucket consists mainly of another new announcement, Project Pacific which basically embeds support for Kubernetes directly into vSphere. This is a big announcement as this time around VMware isn’t taking the spin-off or bolt on approach to containers like they did with Photon or vSphere Integrated Containers. This is full blown embedded directly into the core vSphere products much like they did with vSAN. Essentially it introduces the concept of Kubernetes Namespaces as an object in vSphere that can be managed right alongside traditional VMs, see below:

There is a good demo of this in the day 2 keynote. VMware also is claiming their is not performance tax for running Kubernetes inside of vSphere and that it is actually 8% faster then running it on bare metal. This support is currently a tech preview so it’s unknown which version of vSphere it will appear in but I’m guessing VMware wants to deliver this as soon as possible.

The Manage bucket consists of another new announcement, Tanzu Mission Control which a SaaS offering that will enable a single point of control to manage any Kubernetes cluster no matter where it is running. There is more to the Manage strategy then that as vRealize, CloudHealth and some other tools are also in that bucket.

In addition VMware showed off Project Magna which is yet another SaaS solution that use AI/ML to collect data in a vast VMware data lake, learn from it and allow it to self-optimize and self-tune your environment for you. This will be integrated into vROPs and the first iteration of it appears to only support vSAN although I assume it will support any storage at some point.

Combined this is a lot of new stuff that VMware is implementing and integrating into their portfolio, it makes sense from a strategic direction but you have to wonder how much more complexity and inter-dependency that this introduces into their product portfolio. Being a vSphere admin is way more complicated these days with clouds and containers in the mix when contrasted to the early days when you only had to worry about ESX & Virtual Center.

VMware also quietly announced new versions of their vRealize Suite (8.0) as well.

VMware Tanzu:

Project Pacific:

Project Tanzu Mission Control:

Project Magna:

How were the General Sessions?

I stopped attending the General Sessions live years ago and just watch it from my hotel via the live stream. Historically for me VMworld has had some good years and some bland years with their General Sessions. They definitely are different now compared to many years ago back in the Stephen Herrod days. That said I thought this years were about in the middle between good and bland. Day 1 with Pat Gelsinger largely featured all the Tanzu announcements and then followed up with cloud and networking announcements and customer interviews. It may just be me but I find customer interviews in keynotes extremely boring. You can watch the day 1 keynote here.

The Day 2 keynote mostly featured Ray O’Farrell who talked through a made up company, Tanzu Tees that had IT challenges but have no fear, VMware to the rescue. It was a decent demonstration of everything they announced on Day 1 including Project Pacific, Tanzu Mission Control, Magna and more. Near the end they brought out Greg Lavender who talked about Bitfusion and ARM stuff. At the end Pat Gelsinger announced Ray O’Farrell is the new leader of the Cloud Native NU and that Greg Lavender is the new CTO. I really like Ray, he reminds me of a kind, patient grandpa who is a great storyteller, we’ll have to see how Greg does in that prominent position.

How were the Breakout Sessions?

I actually didn’t sign up for many this year knowing that there was a 99% chance that I wouldn’t attend them at the event. I did attend (and present) a few key ones. I went to the vVols technical deep dive session by Jason Massae that has run for the last 5 years. The were a good amount of people there but attendance seemed about half of last year. As this session is largely similar content each year I imagine some people don’t repeat this session year after year.

I also went to the vVols & SRM tech preview session that featured Velina Krestava who is the product manager for SRM and a presentitive from both Pure and HPE who are the only partners that support vVols replication to this day. This was a great session that was mostly full, Velina did a great job presenting and Cody & Bharath brought the vVols energy. There seemed to be a lot of interest in SRM support for vVols as expected because failover without SRM is a bit complicated.

I also was in the vVols industry tech panel which featured myself representing HPE, Andy Banta representing NetApp, Cody Hosterman representing Pure and Karl Owen representing Dell/EMC. The session was mostly Q&A and we had plenty of questions and comments in the room, also present was Bryan Young, the PM for vVols and Howard Marks, professional vVols heckler which made it interesting and fun.

I’ll watch everything I missed via the VMworld On-Demand Library, unfortunately VMware has not made any sessions public this year, so you need a login to watch the sessions. They appear to be gated pretty well with authentication required for direct links to the videos although I was able to use Curl to download them to my PC once I authenticated with the site.

What was going on in the Solutions Exchange?

The usual stuff, being back in Moscone the layout was good and it was very roomy. The VMware booth was positioned in the middle towards the back. Overall it seemed pretty busy in there every time I was in there, the welcome reception was pretty busy but the food this year wasn’t all that great. Speaking of food as usual the lunches provided during the event were those dreadful box lunches with processed lunch meat (below), I couldn’t eat them so I just ate out every day.

As far as booths go, overall it seemed like less bling and flashy then last year. Rubrik went big and flashy as usual with a 2nd booth again as a basketball court. Cohesity went big as well, Google Cloud had a prominent presence this year and a cool looking booth. The HPE booth which I helped with planning really popped this year. We had a cool military Polaris vehicle from SAIC in there and also a football theme going which culminated with Joe Montana appearing in the booth during the Hall Crawl. I was able to spend some time with Joe in the green room before he came out and he was very laid back and easy to talk to. Here’s a few pics from the Solutions Exchange.

vExpert Activities

VMware of course does a great job of coordinating activities for vExperts at VMworld, the marquis one being the vExpert party that Pat Gelsinger traditionally attends. The party was held at SPIN which is a ping pong bar close to Moscone and it was a great time as usual. Whenever Pat shows up he always get swarmed for pics but he’s a great sport and very easy to talk to. VMware also had a swag bag giveaway for vExperts which included a Raspberry Pi. There was also a few vendors still supporting the vExpert program, both Cohesity and Datrium had vExpert giveaways so thank you very much for that.

How about the parties?

There was definitely a lot less parties it seemed like, I think being in SF makes it harder to find party venues as well as more costly to throw parties. But there were still some parties that you could always find somewhere to go to each evening. On Sunday there was the annual VMunderground party which I attended, it was good to see a lot of old friends there. I went pretty light on parties this year, using a lot of the time to hang out with old friends, the only others parties I attended were the HyTrust party at the Press Club, the vExpert party and the VMworld Fest party.

The VMworld Fest shot up on my priority list once I found out Billy Idol was performing before One Republic. I love 80’s bands so that one was a must see for me. The VMworld Fest was a few blocks away at a a big auditorium, there was initially a huge line to get in as they has metal detectors and badge scanners at the front entrance. The line moved fairly fast though, the party was partly outside and inside where the band played. The auditorium had a large area in front of the stage where people can stand and seating all around that and up. I got there just in time to see Billy Idol and he was totally awesome, he’s very high energy and quite a showman and played all of his hits. After he played I went outside for beers and stogies with friends.

After the party Bob Plankers, Jason Boche and I went back around the Marriott and smoked some stogies around back. We ran across Keith Norbie who was on a mission to make a beer run, on his way back I tagged along with him back to Andy Banta’s room where a lively Cards Against Humanity party was in progress. It was great hanging out there with old friends such as Howards Marks, Josh Atwell, Tim Antonowicz and Damian Karlson.

Final Thoughts

As I stated earlier I thought this was one of the more enjoyable VMworld’s for a variety of reasons. I had some great times with old friends, overall the event was well executed despite being in SF, the networking was great and we did a lot around vVols (separate post on that coming). VMware had a lot to talk about on the container side which is really going to take vSphere in a new direction and it will be interesting to see how all that pans out. One thing is for sure, I better start brushing up on my Kubernetes knowledge, vSphere admins should as well as at some point they may become container admins as well. vSphere is getting a lot more complicated bringing more products and integrations into the mix which could have some potential downsides but as usual we’ll have to roll with the changes and adapt to it. Now that I’m back home and mostly caught up with the impact of being out a week it’s time to start watching the session replays and absorbing all that content. Overall it was a great event as usual and I look forward to the next one.

And here are some more pics:

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Jul 22 2019

VVols at VMworld

Last week I wrote about the numbers around the sessions at VMworld, outlining how many sessions were specific to certain keywords. This year again the content catalog is dominated by vSAN sessions. Every year I’m hopeful we’ll see more VVols related content at VMworld as VVols usually gets lost in the noise that VMware makes around vSAN. As far as VVols content goes this year at VMworld, there is slightly more than last year year with VMware doing a few VVols sessions and then it’s up to the partners to do their own session to promote their VVols solutions. It’s a shame that only 2 partners (HPE & Pure) are doing just that, we need more partners talking about VVols to drive greater awareness.

Here’s what’s in the content catalog right now that you can sign up for:

I’ll start with the one that I am doing, it’s a sponsor session as all my VVols submissions were not accepted this year. Being a sponsor session doesn’t mean it will be a marketing session, if I’m presenting I always keep it technical and educational. The session does cover a combination of topics though, VVols will be 1/3 of it, it will also cover the new HPE Primera array and Nimble dHCI from a technical perspective.


This one is the traditional VVols technical deep dive session that VMware has done every year at VMworld. Patrick Dirks and Pete Flecha have retired from it though and are replaced by Jason Massae and one of the VVols engineers. It will definitely be a good technical overview on VVols, I’ve seen some of Jason’s slides and they do a great job describing the VVols architecture so if you’re new to VVols you’ll want to attend this session. If you are experienced with VVols you may not get a lot from this session as not much has changed from last year but you’ll still probably benefit from this session.


This next one is also a sponsor session from Pure Storage, but it’s being presented by Cody Hosterman so I think I can confidently say it will definitely be a good technical and educational session. In this session Cody will answer the burning question, why should you use VVols? I think this is one of the biggest barriers to VVols adoption, the general lack of understanding of what VVols will get you over VMFS. There are many reasons that you should use VVols and from my experience once users learn about the benefits they get excited to try it out. So if you don’t understand the benefits of VVols attend this session!


Everyone hates using RDMs but you pretty much have to if you have an application that requires multiple VMs using a shared disk like MSCS. Starting with vSphere 6.7 VVols can replace the need to use RDMs as VVols now support persistent SCSI reservations. For customers with existing RDMs that want to migrate them to VVols it is possible but takes a few steps to complete the migration. This short (15 min) VMTN session will wlak you through the process of doing that.


This session from Bryan Young, VMware’s Product Manager for core storage covers an overview of external storage options for vSphere which includes VVols. Since it also covers VMFS/NFS I’m hoping Bryan will make the distinction between VVols & VMFS/NFS to inspire customers to get out of their comfort zone and give VVols serious consideration.


Next up is an exciting one, SRM support for VVols is here! Well almost here, it’s close enough that VMware is confident to show it off as a tech preview. I’ve been working with VMware on this one and I think I’ll be participating in this session. Don’t miss this one as you’ll get to see how SRM will work with SPBM to orchestrate VVols replication, that means no more SRAs!


This next VVols session is from VMware’s Global Support Services (GSS) and if you needed further convincing why you should migrate to VVols this session will provide it with real world example comparisons to VMFS/NFS. I’m guessing VVols wins hands down here but attend for your self to hear why and see why the future is right now.


Next we have a VVols partner panel session led by Jason Massae from VMware that I’ll be participating in where we’ll talk about customer success stories with VVols, deployment strategies and best practices. Come out and meet the VVols evangelists!


Finally there are some expert led and self paced labs on VVols, the expert led you have to schedule at a specific time but the self paced ones you can take anytime. Go give VVols a test drive!

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Jul 17 2019

VMworld 2019 sessions by the numbers

While looking through the content catalog I thought I would do some searches to see the number of sessions focused on specific products/solutions based on keywords. My observations on the numbers below are the # of sponsor sessions are very small, of the remaining sessions it’s unknown how many came through the public CFP but that’s typically a very small amount.

Technical sessions are the most popular by far making up almost 90% of the session types at VMworld, business level sessions tend to not do to well at VMworld as the audience tends to be made of of mostly technical job roles. vSAN dominates the storage sessions, Kubernetes dominates the container sessions and AWS dominates the cloud sessions. About 20% of the sessions are deep dive type sessions which tend to be very popular.

If you are registered for VMworld, the Schedule Builder opened up yesterday so you can now start scheduling sessions. I’ll be posting my list of interesting sessions soon.

General stats:

  • Total Breakout Sessions – 523
    • Total Sponsor Sessions – 36
    • Total Sessions with VMware Only Speaker(s) – 378
    • Total Sessions with VMware and non-VMware Speaker(s) – 90
    • Total Technical 100 Sessions – 119
    • Total Technical 200 Sessions – 206
    • Total Technical 300 Sessions – 141
    • Total Business 100 Sessions – 32
    • Total Business 200 Sessions – 25
  • Total HOLs (Expert led) – 52
  • Total HOLs (Self paced) – 78
  • Total Panel Discussions – 36

Searches based on keywords:

  • Total “Storage” sessions – 50
  • Total “vSAN” sessions – 105
  • Total “VVols” sessions – 6
  • Total “Hyperconverged” sessions – 68
  • Total “vxRail” sessions – 22
  • Total “Cloud” sessions – 200
  • Total “AWS” sessions – 112
  • Total “Google” sessions – 7
  • Total “Container” sessions – 41
  • Total “Kubernetes” sessions – 41
  • Total “Database” sessions – 17
  • Total “Oracle” sessions – 14
  • Total “SQL” sessions – 10
  • Total “SAP” sessions – 12
  • Total “Networking” sessions – 111
  • Total “NSX” sessions – 116
  • Total “Backup” sessions – 18
  • Total “Data Protection” sessions – 9
  • Total “Deep Dive” sessions – 98
  • Total “VDI” sessions – 14
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Sep 21 2017

With attendance down does this mean VMworld has jumped the shark?

As I reported in my annual post on my experiences at VMworld, attendance was down this year and in a fairly big way. VMware reported attendance at 20,000 this year which is about a 15% decline from the 23,000 who attended in 2015 & 2016. Is this a sign that less people care about what VMware has to offer and have migrated to competing solutions or is there other reasons for the decline this year. I’ll throw out some theories on this but lets first look at what those number mean.

When VMware gives total attendee numbers for VMworld that includes several distinct groups of peoples which VMware tracks by the badge type issued for VMworld:

  • People there to support the event – this includes anyone with a booth at the event and is mostly vendors, partners and VARs, typically this is a Booth badge.
  • VMware employees there to support the event – this includes those involved in logistics, speaking at sessions, booth duty and more, they typically have VMware employee badges.
  • Press, bloggers, analysts – this includes complementary badges for anyone approved by VMware that is associated with external media.
  • Customers – this is anyone that is there as an actual attendee with a paid Full Conference badge.
  • Non-customers – this is anyone from partners/vendors/VARs that paid for a Full Conference badge and are not really there to do booth duty but instead to network and learn.

Now VMware has never shared the percentages of badge types that make up the total attendee numbers so without that insight it is difficult to know how much a decline occurred in each of those groups this year. Obviously the important one is the number of customers that attend the event as that is VMware’s core audience for VMworld. So why the decline this year, let’s look at a couple theories and the net result may very well be a combination of some of these.

Theory 1 – VMware sent less people to support the event this year. I’m guessing there are thousands of VMware employees that go to this event each year, perhaps VMware simply cut back on the number of internal people they approved for the event. As the event is in no longer in VMware’s back yard in the bay area, most VMware employees need travel expense to attend the event.

Theory 2 – Partners sent less people to support the event this year. I think every partner knows the importance of this event and has a presence at it but perhaps they cut back on staffing this year, I personally know on the HPE side we cut back a lot on the staff we sent this year. I’m guessing this group also consists of thousands of people at the event.

Theory 3 – Companies have tighter budgets and are tightening belts, travel is often the first thing to get cut when this happens. This can impact many groups including customers, partners and VMware itself. I know as a customer justifying attending these events can be a challenge as companies often see these as paid vacations for employees and don’t understand the true value of attending the events.

Theory 4 – More people feel they can experience the event from home. VMware does offer a lot of ways for anyone to experience the event remotely and as a result maybe some people feel they can get what they need from the event without attending it. I had one person reach out to me with a theory that since VMware released all the sessions from VMworld for free last year right after the event this might have resulted in less people attending since they thought they could enjoy all the session content again this year without attending. Notice that VMware hasn’t released the majority of the sessions to the public this year, just a select group of 40 of them.

Theory 5 – Hurricane Harvey disrupting travel. Again I know personally of at least 4 people at my company that were stuck in Houston as Harvey hit right before the event and couldn’t attend VMworld as a result. As Houston is the 4th largest city in the US I’m guessing there were at least hundreds of people that had to cancel their plans to attend VMworld because of Harvey.

Theory 6 – (thanks Christian for suggesting) VMworld EMEA was only 2 weeks after VMworld US instead of being spaced over a month apart as it has been in the past. This may have resulted in some attendees that typically go to both events only attending EMEA and the EMEA event cannibalizing some potential US attendees. The attendance at the EMEA event was up this year.

Again I can see a couple of these theories having an impact on attendance this year, does this mean that this is the new norm for VMworld attendance and VMworld has jumped the shark? Will it decline further next year? Personally I think this year was kind of a fluke like back in 2009 and I fully expect VMworld to be back at the 22K-23K attendance mark next year. VMworld still provides a ton of value for customers, partners and VMware employees to all converge in person and learn from each other. VMware is also expanding their presence, forming new partnerships and touching many other key areas in the IT world so it makes for a larger pool of potential attendees to come to VMworld. Only time will tell though, we’ll see what happens next year but I’m confident in predicting that we will see more people attending VMworld next year, I know I’ll be there and I hope to see you there as  well.

  • VMworld 2004 – 1400
  • VMworld 2005 – 3500
  • VMworld 2006 – 6700
  • VMworld 2007 – 10800
  • VMworld 2008 – 14000
  • VMworld 2009 – 12500
  • VMworld 2010 – 17000
  • VMworld 2011 – 19000
  • VMworld 2012 – 21000
  • VMworld 2013 – 22500
  • VMworld 2014 – 22000
  • VMworld 2015 – 23000
  • VMworld 2016 – 23000
  • VMworld 2017 – 20000

 

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Sep 19 2017

My thoughts and observations on VMworld 2017

Another year, another VMworld in the books, this is number 10 for me (there have been 14 VMworld events total) and how fast the event flies by never changes. I’m posting this a little late this year as the old adage “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” didn’t hold true for me and I brought a nasty cold bug back with me that I just got over. One thing about VMworld never changes, it always seems like you wish you could of done and seen so much more at the event and every year I have regrets and feel like I missed out on seeing things and meeting friends and acquaintances. I think I had about a 75% success rate on my people I must meet at VMworld bucket list this year. Overall I thought it was a another well executed and great event and the following are my thoughts and observations on VMworld 2017:

Thanks to the vendors that support the vExpert program

Once again this year the number of vendors doing giveaways for vExperts at VMworld was pretty small. But that’s OK, they sure don’t have to do it but it’s a very nice gesture to the vExpert community. I recently wrote about the top 10 companies that I felt “get” the whole vCommunity thing and a few vendors on that list stepped up and delivered to the vExperts.

Cohesity once again had a very generous giveaway with a nice backpack and some other cool swag in it including a nice portable charger. Datrium also went big this year and had another cool geek gift in the form of a Arduboy which is a cool retro portable game device. Also Infinio helped the vExperts be recognized by making some custom buttons with the vExpert logo that they could pin to their lanyards.

So a sincere thank you from me to these companies for doing this.

Location, location, location…

I have a confession to make, I don’t really miss having VMworld in San Francisco one bit, Vegas is so much better equipped to handle large conventions than San Francisco is, especially when it comes to hotel rooms. Like Vegas or not Mandalay Bay is a great venue to have VMworld in, it is very spacious to easily accommodate 23,000+ attendees and everything is under one roof and easily accessible. If you do like Vegas the good news is that VMworld will be returning there next year and once again be at the Mandalay Bay.

I was initially going to stay at the Excalibur for a ridiculously cheap rate, $45/night and that was for one of their remodeled Royal rooms, it’s all about location for me and I don’t care about fancy rooms. There is an express tram that connects Excalibur to Mandalay Bay which makes it easy to get there. However I was able to score a room at the Mandalay Bay through our corporate room block and my feet were rejoicing at the greatly reduced walking that they had to do.

How many people attended VMworld?

After holding at around 23,000 attendees the past few years, VMworld attendance seems to be on the decline this year. According to VMware there were around 20,000+ attendees for VMworld US this year. Losing 3,000 attendees is almost a 15% drop, are less people interested in VMware and it’s ecosystem now then before or is something else going on?

VMware has never stated what that mix of total attendees is comprised of but I can guess that it includes VMware employees, partners & booth staff, press and analysts and customers. How much of each is anyone’s guess, I’d say at least half of that number is made up of customers. It would be interesting to know what groups those 3,000 missing attendees were in.

Are people just getting tired of Vegas, or are budgets getting cut, has VMworld jumped the shark finally or are sponsors/VMware cutting back on staffing? It’s probably a combination of all that , I know our company sent less people this year to support the event and hurricane Harvey certainly didn’t help matters either.

What was announced at VMworld?

In hot & sunny Vegas VMware was mostly talking clouds at VMworld. There were no new core vSphere product announcements at VMworld but there were a few announcements related to cloud focused VMware products. As VMware continues to get serious about securing virtual workloads they did announce a new product called AppDefense which is an application focused security layer built within their hypervisor. AppDefense looks to be a VMware built product rather than an acquisition that leverages some existing VMware frameworks to provide an application focused security layer around a VM. Rather than focusing at the edge where many of VMware’s security products operate AppDefense works at the VM-level to provide application security which can quickly isolate VM’s when needed to minimize damage from malicious software.

VMware also announced general availability of their VMware on AWS offering but as of right now it is only available in the US West (Oregon) region but will eventually expand to AWS regions worldwide sometime in 2018. VMware also announced a collaboration with Google Cloud with a new product called Pivotal Container Service (PKS) which enables enterprises and service providers to deliver production-ready Kubernetes on VMware vSphere and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), with constant compatibility to Google Container Engine (GKE).

In addition there were some announcements with various partners like HP, Fujitsu, Dell/EMC and IBM around cloud-based solutions. Also there were announcements around OpenStack, Network Insight and new vSAN offerings (HCI acceleration kits).

How were the General Sessions?

I’ve been pretty critical of VMworld general session keynotes in years past, last year I thought they were un-exciting and boring. Many times the excitement level of keynotes is driven by NPIs but lately it seems many of VMware’s NPIs don’t align with VMworld. This year again there weren’t a huge amount of exciting NPIs announced at VMworld but I feel VMware did an excellent job of making the keynotes interesting and worth watching.

The day 1 keynote featured CEO Pat Gelsinger and COO Sanjay Poonen who covered the state of VMware and the industry today, what they accomplished over the last year and then brought out a bunch of partners and customers to share their perspectives and tell their stories. We also learned a new term when it comes to security, “cyber hygiene”, you can read all about what that is here, which lead to the introduction of VMware’s new AppDefense product. All in all the day 1 keynote wasn’t super exciting but it held my interest enough to not be bored.

The day 2 keynote featured CEO Pat Gelsinger opening up again and transitioned right away to a Q&A conversation from user submitted questions with Michael Dell who came out and joined Pat. Pat & Michael aren’t your typical corporate stuffed suits and are two very chill, down to earth CEO’s so watching them converse was enjoyable. Next they brought up Rob Mee, CEO of Pivotal where they announced a new offering, Pivotal Container Service (PKS) that is built on a Kubernetes foundation and integrated into Google Cloud platform services. With that announcement they then brought out Sam Ramji from Google Cloud to further discuss that partnership. Notice how VMware seems to be getting cozy with all the major cloud players these days.

After that was over out came Ray O’Farrell, VMware’s CTO who introduced a scenario involving a fictitious company, Elastic Sky Pizza that was in trouble with their smartphone app and cloud based ordering system and needed help with their digital transformation. Next out came Chris Wolf from the CTO office and  Purnima Padmanabhan from the VP of the Cloud Management group to walk through how VMware’s various products and services could save Elastic Sky Pizza and make them successful. There were various cut aways to pre-recorded ESP office scenes which felt a bit like a sitcom and also showing off some demos of VMware products in action but overall I felt it was very enjoyable watching it all unfold and made the keynote pretty fun and interesting.

How were the Breakout Sessions?

There were all sorts of great breakout sessions this year you can read about my top picks here. As usual I carefully build my schedule before the event and then once I’m at the event I’m lucky to have the time to see one or two of them with everything else going on. But that’s OK as they are all recorded, some even with video and available to attendees through the VMworld smartphone app or via VMworld.com. For non-attendees VMware has already released 40 of the top sessions to the public but unlike last year where they released all the session to the public this year they are holding back and may eventually release the rest of them at some point..

I had two breakout sessions that I spoke at, one was a HPE sponsor session on VVols Replication and the other was a VVols panel session hosted by Bryan Young the VVols product manager at VMware.I was a little disappointed this year at the attendance of our VVol Replication session given that we had over 900 register for our VVol session last year. We had about 210 register this year and about 170 attend which wasn’t too bad, I thought we would have better attendance though especially on the distinct lack of VVols session at VMworld this year.

The VVols partner panel had light attendance, around 65 people showed up, it was added very late to the catalog and was also held at the end of the day right when many people are winding down. Despite that I thought it was fun and had a lot of good conversations around VVols, the panelists included myself and some good friends and acquaintances such as David Glynn (Dell), Andy Banta (NetApp/SolidFire) and Julian Cates (Nimble/HPE) along with a few others. There were some good (and tough) questions, Patrick Dirks one of the engineering leads for VVols and Pete Flecha were in the audience which helped out.

If you want to see a great VVols session check out the recording of Patrick/Pete’s VVols technical deep dive session which I heard had great attendance despite being on a Thursday.

What was going on in the Solutions Exchange?

There was a lot of room in the Solutions Exchange and this year they had the VMvillage right next to it which was nice as it really cut down on walking and made for a unified area. A saw a lot of smaller vendors going big their like Infinio and Turbonomic but perhaps the biggest splash was made by Rubrik who had a huge booth, an RV and a big basketball court which also featured an appearance by Kevin Durant, I found out he is actually an investor in Rubrik. Rubrik continued the big theme by hiring Ice Cube to play at their party. The Solutions Exchange seemed as full as usual with tons of vendors present and had good traffic throughout the show. The popular giveaway there this year seemed to be the fidget spinner with many vendors giving away branded ones.

Party Time, Excellent!

All learn and no play makes Jack a dull boy so the evening parties add a fun element after a long day of learning, walking and networking. On Sunday I attended the VMunderground party at the Beerhaus at the Park by New York New York, attendance wasn’t too bad there as it was more intimate and easier to talk with people. Afterwards was stogie time with a group of close friends including Jason Boche, Todd Scalzott and Shane Williford. Going on at the same time was the VMUG party which I missed once again this year.

On Monday I went to Zerto’s epic Journey to the Cloud party at the House of Blues, I missed their  ThunDRstruck party last year with a female AC/DShe band so I made sure to make the party this year. I have to honestly say that was the most fun party at the event, it featured an absolutely amazing Journey tribute band, Voyage, who looked and sounded just like the real thing, the singer looked like Steve Perry’s twin brother. Opening for them was a female Rolling Stones tribute band.

Tuesday is always packed with parties and it’s hard to choose which ones to attend. I skipped the vExpert party this year which was held at the Pinball Museum, I ended up going to the HPE Rockstar Karaoke party at the House of Blues. This was pretty fun as you get to sing karaoke to a live band. Afterwards it was off to the Veeam party which was at the MGM Grand in the Hakkasan ultra night club. The Veeam party was epic and crowded as usual, I didn’t stay too long though as I’m not really into those high energy night clubs and it was insanely packed inside. Honestly I think some of the best Veeam parties were in San Fran at more traditional locations like the Metreon which had tons of space.

Wednesday was the official VMworld party being held at the T-Mobile Arena which was across the street from Mandalay Bay. I was flying out Wednesday night so I missed that one, I wasn’t really into the band they had playing, Blink-182, if they had a band I liked more I probably would of stayed until Thursday and attended the party.

Some final thoughts

Overall I thought it was an excellent show and as usual the event execution was fantastic and seemingly flawless. Mandalay Bay is a great venue for VMworld and it’s good to see it returning there next year. It will be interesting to see what the attendance looks like next year to see if this year was a fluke or if it’s really on the decline. This was the first VMworld since the Dell merger closed and it looked like VMware has done a fairly good job of staying independent at the event. While Michael Dell was part of the keynotes there was also people from competitors like IBM and HP participating as well. It’s real fun attending these events under Pat Gelsinger as he’s almost the complete opposite of former CEO Paul Maritz. Where Paul seemed more stiff, formal and business-like, Pat is a lot more easy going, geeky, fun and down to earth.

Overall I had a great time networking with peers, customers, friends, co-workers and VMware employees at VMworld. It’s always a bit sad when you have to leave but overall I leave feeling both energized and highly satisfied with a renewed drive to stay committed to the technology that I love and I can’t wait until next year when we get to do it again. Thanks VMware for another great event!

And now a few pics from VMworld…

VVols in the wild partner panel:

Calvin, Angelo & myself:

David Davis, Edward Haletky and myself:

Me presenting at VVols replication session:

Pete Flecha from VMware preaching VVols at HPE booth:

Rubrik command center:

Veeam party at Hakkasan night club:

HPE Rockstar Karaoke at House of Blues:

VMworld sign in VMvillage with Solutions Exchange in background:

Zerto Journey to the Cloud party at House of Blues:

Legos in VMvillage!

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