Another year, another VMworld, this will be the 10th anniversary of VMworld since the first one held in San Diego in 2004. The first VMworld only had 1,400 attendees, this year I would expect that at least 22,000 people attend VMworld. For me this VMworld will be number 6, my first one was in 2008 in Las Vegas. I remember that experience fondly as it was more intimate back then when it was a lot smaller. I attended VMworld as a speaker that year as I was part of a group of VMTN moderators selected to participate in a VMTN Community Experts panel along with Thomas Bryant, Ken Cline, Steve Beaver, Tom Howarth and Edward Haletky. Over the years I learned many lessons about attending VMworld so I thought I’d pass that on to you:
- Set your priorities and expectations ahead of time, VMworld has plenty to offer and you’ll get as much out of it as you put into it. Sessions are at the bottom of the priority list for me, things like networking and going through the Solutions Exchange are at the top. If you make a schedule it will be challenging to keep it as there are plenty of distractions at VMworld. Be realistic and don’t try and cram your schedule so full that you stress yourself out and are rushing to get to everything. Relax, enjoy yourself and have fun.
- The sessions, so many to choose from, so little time, you’ll be lucky if you can attend more than a dozen of them. They’re just so much other stuff to do there its hard to find time to go to sessions. I recommend you pick a few that you really want to see and don’t sweat it if you miss some, remember they’re all recorded and you have plenty of time to see them after VMworld. I usually choose based on certain people that I want to hear speak and meet after the session. After all you can always hear the session later but you can’t meet the speaker after VMworld is over. This year again you have to register for sessions, but anyone can show up and you can usually get in if you wait in line until the session begins and there are still seats.
- The labs, always pretty hectic to get into them but they keep getting bigger and better each year. Gone for a while now are the instructor-led labs using on-site data centers, VMware has migrated everything to the cloud and it is all self-paced. Many of the labs are available 24×7 now thanks to VMware’s Project Nee, so you don’t need to feel the urgency to take them at VMworld. Still it’s always good to get some hands on so if you have some free time be sure and take a few.
- The parties, there are no shortage of them, my inbox always fills up with party invitations each year and trying to pick and choose which ones you want to attend can be even more challenging than picking which sessions to see. There is a pretty comprehensive list of them here. With VMworld starting a day earlier this year it opens up one more day for parties. Traditionally held on Sunday, the Welcome Reception in the Solutions Exchange is from 4-7pm on Sunday this year. There is lots of food, beer & vendors so its a good way to start the evening. Afterwards on Sunday is the annual big VMunderground warm-up party, this years it’s at the Terra Gallery from 8-11pm, you have to register to get in (its already closed) but if you try going later they may have some room for anyone to go in. This party grows every year and I think they had almost 2,000 tickets for it this year. The official (or unofficial) VMworld tweetup and flipcup tournament is in on Monday from 7:30pm – 10:30pm at Mr. Smith’s, more info and sign-up is available here. Tuesday seems to be the day every vendor throws a party, so pick the ones you want to go to and hop between them. Personally I’m going to try and make it to 2-3 of them including the Veeam party which is always great. Contact your vendors if you don’t have invites and they should be able to get you one. Wednesday is the big official VMworld party with Train & Imagine Dragons playing this year, unlike previous years where they played indoors in the same area as the keynotes are held, this year they are playing the the SF Giants stadium (AT&T Park). Finally on Wednesday evening if you are into stogies, a group of people are going to smoke them after 11:00pm at a local cigar bar, RSVP here. You can’t smoke anywhere in San Fran so if you like cigars come along.
- The networking, that’s what VMworld is all about, don’t be a hermit and don’t be afraid to talk to people. People like Mike Laverick, Jason Boche, Scott Lowe and Duncan Epping aren’t surrounded by security guards and are down to earth guys who will talk to anyone. So go say high, introduce yourself and have a conversation, you’ll be very glad you did so afterwards. Don’t know where to find people? Well parties are a good place to start, everyone seems to gravitate there. Do yourself a favor and get on twitter if you’re not already and you’ll know in real time whats going on. You can find out more about tweeting here and blogging here, the official VMworld hashtag is #vmworld. There is also the VMworld Hang Space which is a good place to socialize and meet the bloggers. Be sure and check out VMware’s social media & community guide which has a lot of good info in it.
- Plan your trip appropriately, you’re going to be on your feet a lot at VMworld, you better have comfortable shoes or you’re going to have real sore feet. Don’t by a pair of new spiffy shoes right before VMworld without breaking them in, you’ll regret it! Pack light if you can, you might want to being an extra bag, there are lots of prize giveaways and free swag all over the place so I can almost guarantee you’re going to go home with more than you came with. If you’re going to walk around with a back pack don’t stuff it too much, its going to get awfully heavy after wearing it a few hours. I travel light and don’t want a full laptop to lug around, I bring a netbook, iPad and iPhone and choose the one I want to carry for what I need to do at the time. Don’t forget power, especially for your iPhone, I carry 3 battery packs so I can charge it as needed without an outlet. Wi-fi coverage at Moscone is so-so and 3G in San Fran is always bad and will probably be even worse at VMworld due to an additional 5,000 or so iPhones/iPads all fighting for service.
- VMware makes a point to show off their talent at VMworld, this means those geeky developers that are normally locked up all day making the next version of vSphere are there and usually available to talk to. What better person to ask your HA question than someone who actually developed the feature. VMware has lots of other smart people there so be sure and check out the VMware booths in the Solutions Exchange to meet them. It’s not just VMware that has their smartest and brightest at the show though, most of the vendors have their best people there also so go by your favorite vendors and talk them up and get your questions answered.
- The Solutions Exchange is like a Super Walmart, everything you can possibly need for VMware products all under one roof, take your time, stroll around and I guarantee you’ll see many cool products that you probably never knew existed. VMware has an incredibly rich ecosystem of vendors that can help solve your pain points and enhance your environment. Do make a point of spending plenty of time there, besides learning a lot you’ll leave with pockets stuffed with vendor swag. Besides the Welcome Reception on Sunday there is the Hall Crawl on Tuesday from 4-6pm where you can get free booze from certain vendors that offer it.
- If this is your first time at VMworld or San Fran it can be a bit intimidating, especially when it comes to finding your way around. If you get there on Sunday try and pick up your badge then rather than fight the crowds on Monday. Walking around and trying to get your bearings can help, be sure and use the maps of the Moscone that are published on VMworld.com and in the docs you are given when you check in to see where everything is. If you need information don’t hesitate to ask someone, or even better trying tweeting it and you might get a quick answer. The more social you can be at VMworld especially if its your first time will really help you out as us virtualization folks are a friendly lot that don’t bite and are glad to help out a vComrade. Also be sure and download the VMworld mobile app for your phone or tablet.
- See San Francisco if you can, there is lots to see in the city, know how to get around ahead of time, BART and the public transportation are great for this. Go see the sea lions at Pier 39 (watch out for the Bush Man), take a boat trip to Alcatraz, see the Muir Woods, Golden Gate or go climb Coit Tower. I have a big list of things to do in San Francisco here.
- Know where to go after the action is over, once VMworld closes each day there are plenty of parties, after the parties are over many gather at popular spots. One such spot is the lobby bar of the Marriott Marquis hotel which is 2 blocks from the Moscone. I had many great late night conversations with others there each night after all the parties ended.
VMworld is four short days and will fly by before you know it, so be sure and make the most of it and soak up the incredible amount of knowledge that will be available both formally through labs and sessions and informally through talking to others. Enjoy the show, I hope to meet many of you there and I leave you with this: John Troyer takes a swim at VMworld 2011