Generic VMworld Post

I’m compiling a bunch of topic specific posts on VMworld 2014. This post is about my general impressions as a first time VMworld attendee.

My perception is biased because I attended as press. Press (and analysts) see a very different show to that of other attendees, as do those on booth duty, those herding comms for vendors, and various other groups. It’s the same event seen from multiple, different angles, so I encourage you to read plenty of accounts to get a wider view on things.

Press and analysts get treated reasonably well. You get free food (most of the time) and get invited to a bunch of meetings/parties because vendors want you to write nice things about them and their products. You spend a lot of your time in windowless rooms full of press people furiously writing things, or briefings with execs. It’s kinda hectic. To give you some idea, here are the briefings I had during VMworld:

  • Pat Gelsinger, CEO VMward for 1/2 hour with other APJ journos
  • Martin Casado, VP of the NSX business unit at VMware for 1/2 hour with 2 other journos
  • Duncan Bennet, MD of VMware Australia, for 1/2 hour with other APJ journos and analysts
  • Howard Ting, head of marketing for Nutanix (and Josh Odgers) for an hour. Yes, Josh, you only rate a parenthesis. ;)
  • Michele Borovac, VP at HyTrust for 1/2 hour
  • 1/2 hour with Dell on upcoming product announcements

These don’t include the briefings I had via phone before the event. Most of this won’t make it into ‘print’ at iTNews.com.au because it’s either not ‘newsy’ enough, or not interesting enough to that broad an audience. I’ll try to work a lot of it into posts here, but I need to find an angle that’s interesting enough for you to read, and for me to write.

Biggest Show In Town

VMworld feels all encompassing, but if you walk two blocks in any direction, there’s a city filled with people who could hardly care less about the convention that’s in town this week. The Moscone centre hosts a lot of conferences throughout the year, so VMworld really isn’t that special from an external perspective.

But for those of us in the industry, this is the big gathering. VMworld has become the de-facto cross-industry conference now that all the trade-association conferences have mostly died out (after the death/rebirth of independent tech journalism). Logically, Interop should probably have taken up the mantle, but somehow that didn’t happen. I spoke to a bunch of people about this, and the consensus seems to be that because VMware is a hypervisor that needs compute, server, and storage infrastructure to be useful, all the other vendors have to be welcome here. It had just slightly enough extra people at it early on that the self-reinforcing nature of the network effect kicked in and more and more people picked this conference as the one to go to. There are other big conferences, don’t get me wrong, but VMworld feels like the major cross-industry conference while the others don’t quite have the same breadth.

Announcements

The announcements were a little odd this year. There was a half hour long motivational speech from Pat Gelsinger that utterly failed to resonate with the reasonably technical crowd. The middle third, another 30 minutes, was a rapidfire exposition of major announcements, but none of them really got the “wow!” response they probably deserved. EVO:RAIL and EVO:RACK are a very big deal, as is the vCloud Air announcement. The Docker announcement is interesting, but I don’t think it’s as profound as others seem to think. The Google/nVidia/Chromebook partnership is nifty, but I’m not sure it’s that important.

Maybe VMware were trying to be low-key, but I suspect the subtlety was unintentional.

There is an odd obsession with VDI at the moment, and while I’m sure it matters for a few people, it’s just not that widespread a use-case. I don’t get it. Maybe someone can explain it to me and show me why it’s worth so much attention compared to, I dunno, production server workloads. Databases, app servers, that sort of thing.

Storage, Storage, Storage

There were an astounding number of storage vendors on the show floor this year. Someone told me there were 32 different vendors doing storage things. 32! Who knew storage could be so busy or interesting? There is so much activity that it’s hard to see when the consolidation phase will really kick in. From what was happening at VMworld, it looks like at least a year away.

I managed to get time with a large number of vendors at VMworld doing research for my Buyer’s Guide to Primary Storage, which was excellent. Multiple times the issue I’m aiming to address was brought up without my prompting: how on Earth does a customer figure out what storage to consider, let alone buy?  There’s almost too much choice.

Friends

The best part of VMworld was seeing all my nerd friends. I got to hang out with some of my favourite people in the world and just geek out in ways that I don’t get to do most of the time. That part of the vibe of VMworld was very strong, and if VMware can keep that, they’ll have a conference worth going to for a while yet.

These things are fragile, though, so I don’t expect it to last forever. If VMworld starts to suck, people will just move on to something else. We need somewhere to hang out and be social together, so if it isn’t VMworld, something else will rise up as the new choice.

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