Dan's Take

VMworld and the Changing Value of Events

Just like the IT industry, vendor shows have evolved over time.

I was unfortunately unable to attend VMware's most recent VMworld event, held last week. I read Keith Ward's comments in his article, The VMworld 2015 Experience: Day One with great interest.

Keith commented on several topics but, one really caught my attention. He said:

"There were many announcements made at the keynote, but what struck me most was that there was almost nothing new unveiled. Instead, the company touted lots of upgrades to its cloud infrastructure products, its vision of the software-defined datacenter (SDDC), better automation and management capabilities and new opportunities for development, among other announcements. Overall, though, there was no "wow" moment."

Having followed VMware since the company's beginning, I thought that I'd respond by offering a few comments from the bleachers about VMware, the challenges of having a broad product portfolio and the event itself.

VMware has grown from humble origins as a company that offered virtual machine software to offer products in nearly every category of virtualization including products in access virtualization, application virtualization, processing virtualization, storage virtualization, network virtualization, and both management of their own virtualized environments and security for those environments.

The company is also offering its technology as the platform for service providers in the form of vCloud Air, to offer their own cloud computing services.

More Growth = Less Agility
As a supplier continues to offer a broader and broader product portfolio, it typically becomes less and less agile.

It's very hard to move quickly into a new market without also making sure that the new technology will collaborate with its current products. Management and security products must recognize and work with this new technology as well.

Product managers must plan for a longer and longer series of lab tests prior to product launches. Training managers must not only develop training classes and materials for each new product, but must also update all other training materials to reflect the fact that the new product exists and offer best practices for developers and administrators to follow when monitoring and managing the product.

Keith noticed the impact of this loss of agility when he commented that most of what he heard added up to evolutionary changes and updates to products rather than revolutionary new technology. This clearly can be attributed to VMware understanding that its customers prefer that it gently add new capabilities and not break their IT environments.

Measuring Success
Vendor events are designed to demonstrate a vendor's products; train developers and administrators on the new features and functions of the vendor's products; and show what its partners are doing.  But even more important, it wants to show that the company is growing, grabbing market share and that its presence is being recognized. It has to show that more people attended the event than the event held last year.

It's also important that more journalists, analysts and consultants (industry influencers) have paid attention to the company and its products. This helps customers validate their selection of the company and its products.

At one time, a good measure of a vendor's success was how successful its events were. This is no longer the case. Making an event grow is increasingly challenging, because IT decision makers get their information and validation from the Internet.

Enterprises have come to understand that most, if not all, of the information they get from sending representatives to events is now is available on the Internet. Often the information is available only moments after it was presented at the vendor's event.

Analysts, journalists and consultants have learned that they can learn just about as much about a product by watching the event being streamed on the Internet, without taking time away from their customers and paying travel expenses.

Internet outlets, such as this one, typically command a much larger audience than any physical event could possibly duplicate. So enterprise decision makers seek out information online rather than going to events. Product videos that are easily accessible on the Internet are often replacing class time.

Dan's Take: The Real Value in Events
Events have their place, however. They're often just about the only way for enterprises to learn about the products and services offered by the vendor's partners. Partners still see these events as having value because they can create some market awareness of what they're doing, and offer opportunities to met representatives of other vendor partners. Joint sales and marketing agreements can be initiated behind the scenes at these events.

I seldom go to events unless a client requests a meeting, I'm presenting a session or the vendor is offering me a private meeting with several of their executives. If a vendor isn't a client, I seldom attend its events.

While events can be fun to attend, I recommend that enterprises really consider what they are going to get from attending and then determine if the return will justify the investment.

About the Author

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.


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