September 7, 2012
VMworld is a global conference for virtualization and cloud computing, hosted by VMware. There are two conferences every year: one in North America and another in Europe, and Since I’m based in Michigan it just makes more sense to attend, and talk about, the North American conference. If you are looking for VMworld announcements, you can find those announcements scattered throughout the blogosphere via a simple Google Search. Instead I want to give you a view of the conference from my point of view as a consultant, and why you, as an IT Consultant, should go next year.
The conference took place in San Francisco, California. Over 20,000 attendees were on site, with an additional 10,000 virtual attendees watching the keynote sessions via the internet. Most of the conference activities began on Sunday, August 26th, and concluded on Thursday, August 30th.
I arrived on Sunday to take advantage of the registration time period and to pick up my VMworld Materials (Laptop Bag, T-shirt, Notepad). Immediately following, the Solutions Exchange opened for a reception of small snacks and chilled beverages. Sunday was a great time to get in there and pick up as much free swag as you can before the vendors run out. One almost irksome thing was wearing a badge with an RFID tag that the vendors must scan before you leave their booths with swag, which means they have your contact information, which will undoubtedly lead to a year of sales calls. The swag, while cool, is not the point of the Solutions Exchange.
The Solutions Exchange provided a place to see the new technologies and solutions that will make our jobs easier in the future. Solution vendors did a great job of selling their products, including plenty of information and having more than one reason why their product is the best. As a Data Center Solutions Consultant, I need to know what these solutions are, what they do, and more importantly: I need to separate the marketing from the reality of the solution and what it can mean for our customers in the future. The Solutions Exchange offered me the ability to check out these products first-hand and as an IT Professional – this was key.
The final keynote on Thursday was the best. Three guest speakers were in the room speaking on various technologies around us: Kevin Slavin spoke about how various algorithms are used around the world, Dr. Dennis Hong spoke about his work creating humanoid robots and even brought some out for a live demonstration, and Chris Ormson from the Google self-driving car spoke about the project and even brought a car in to demonstrate. In between the keynote speeches there were plenty of activities to keep us busy, Breakout Sessions (seminar-style get together where you learn about a specific technology or project), lunches, labs, and after-hour sessions. Since I mainly consult in the virtual desktop infrastructure space (or “End User Computing” as VMware likes to call it) all of the Breakout Sessions that I attended revolved around this specific technology space.
The most informative sessions for me where I learned something new came from John Dodge, with his advanced troubleshooting for VMware View seminar, an updated ThinApp seminar where they noted a change in the abstraction layer in order to support 64-bit applications moving forward; and a joint VMware/FusionIO session where they demonstrated and explained a white box with FusionIO configuration that brought the desktop cost down to less than $200/desktop/year. This excited me because finding ways to cut down the costs is a great offer to our customers, and since this stuff is expensive (way more expensive than giving users a standard physical desktop) cutting costs is imperative!!
The final aspect of VMworld that you’ll need to know about is the after-hour activities: networking, dinner, group hang-outs, etc. This was where I took my social hat out of the closet, dusted it off, and made some new friends. Networking with vendors and other customers at events like VMworld will help you and your organization in the long term, and not only with those relationships you make while at VMworld. Other customers in your market may have encountered issues and solved the problems before you even thought of it, and these experiences can become your experience through dinner and other activities.
The VMworld party this year was headlined by Bon Jovi. As a younger guy this didn’t excite me nearly as much as the techno mix playing before the concert, but the party was still a blast. This is where you have some fun with all the new friends and contacts that you’ve made throughout the week. Most people fly home the very next day so this is the time to make things happen.
So what did I take away from my week at VMworld?
- VDI is shifting from traditional server/SAN infrastructure and will be more appliance-based and commoditized: this will bring down the per desktop cost to more acceptable levels allowing for further market penetration for VDI.
- VMware is making leaps and bounds towards creating a 100% virtual datacenter (software defined datacenter): this will include 100% virtualized networking (through the Nicira acquisition) and also virtual SAN.
- ThinApp, the application packaging software that VMware uses, will support 64-bit applications moving forward.
- The Drivers of Change for End User Computing: End user should be able to work Whenever, Wherever, and However best fits that user – IT must respond and support this.
- VMware will sometimes listen to customers and partners: they changed the vSphere licensing model in response to the community outrage.
- Expect better documentation that doesn’t just describe the products and capabilities, but also tells you how to use the software moving forward.
- This is the most important for me: The next major version of VMware View will solve the 2+ Datacenter and Single Namespace issue that has been present since the very beginning. This is a huge win for VMware View in my opinion. I just wish it was available right now!
As a consultant I find these conferences to be the best way to discover new solutions to everyday problems. I’m constantly running into brick walls – the chance to bounce these thoughts off of other like-minded people is both necessary and welcome. Will I see you at VMworld 2013? I sure hope so!