In-Depth

VMworld 2015 In Review

Ultimately, for this attendee, the show is about relationships.

In the lull between VMworld U.S. and when Barcelona kicks off, people like myself take time to process everything that happened at the U.S. event. That usually means reading lots of blog posts, press releases, and watching videos of sessions (both official and un-official content). For anyone looking to get just the highlights, I'm going to lay out the important pieces of my experience at VMworld 2015 US. For the most part, I'll avoid the big VMware announcements (wait…were there any?) because you could throw a rock and hit someone writing that article right now. I'd prefer to share the exciting bits from the harrowing moments I spent in the Solutions Exchange trying to avoid having my badge scanned, from Tech Field Day Extra, and from the hours I got to spend with good friends and new acquaintances.

Sweet Startups
I've become a Tech Field Day fan boy ever since the organizers were kind enough to invite me to VFD3 about a year and a half ago. At VMworld (and other shows like Interop and Cisco Live), TFD goes on the road. At VMworld 2015, the organizers rented a loft up the road from  Moscone Center and held events there all week long.

All the vendors were really interesting, but truth be told: the highlight of the week was Enrico cooking us an authentic Italian dinner! In legitimately important news, however, I got the chance to listen to Paula Long (of EqualLogic fame) and David Siles (formerly a director at Veeam) talk about what's new in the V2 release of their data-aware storage platform called DataGravity. I wrote about them when they came out of stealth at VMworld last year; it's absolutely worth watching the video, but suffice it to say that the things they said and showed us blew me away.

They're in the business of uncovering things that your business wants (and needs) to know about. DataGravity's Gabe Maentz said that in one case, they found homicide photos on a customer's storage array; and no, it wasn't a police department. I'm not sure if I happened to be on video at the moment, but I literally had to pick my jaw up off the table.

Understand that things like credit card numbers, social security numbers, other personally-identifiable information, and possibly even evidence of a crime is living on storage arrays all over the globe, and in many cases it shouldn't be there. The Discovery Series will not only identify that data, but also report on your exposure. The organization responding to an incident under normal conditions is in a totally different predicament than an organization responding to an incident where a DataGravity array is involved. The difference can be minutes vs. months or years.

The following folks I spoke with at VMworld stand out for what they're doing now, or planning to do soon: Platform9, Velostrata, Stratoscale, Ravello Systems (another of my favorites!), Datrium, Rubrik, PernixData, Nexenta.

Community
In case you don't know (and I'm sorry for saying this, VMware), the most important part of being at VMworld is not the sessions. In fact, this year I went to three sessions, which is up one from last year, when I only went to two. The sessions are great, and I'm certainly not saying they aren't super valuable. But with a valid conference pass, one can watch the sessions online starting a week or two after the event ends. The real value in VMworld (or any event like it) for me is in the time spent with like-minded individuals. Asking people what they're excited about leads to me hearing about neat ideas I would never hear of otherwise. Networking with folks at the conference pays off for years to come as I engage with them via Twitter, email, and their blogs. They help me; I help them.

Here are a few of the cool things I learned about from (or did in) the community at VMworld that I wouldn't have learned about in a session:

  • Larry Smith made this sweet Vagrant/Ansible project which will facilitate the simple creation of a multi-tier environment for testing/learning purposes. It's based on NGINX and WordPress, among other things.
  • Irfan Ahmad thinks dashboards suck! I do too; interestingly, we were having a conversation about this at Freshroll the day before he gave this talk. Rhetorical question: what does it take to distill data and make a dashboard useful?
  • Emad Younis and I talked career strategy, which was actually a short segment of a discussion that seems to go on all week long in one way or another.
  • The VMUnderground crew outdid themselves again, and in tandem with the vBrownbag team they made awesome things happen at Opening Acts and the following party.
San Francisco -- Overburdened?
One final thought about my VMworld experience this year: the city begins to buckle under the load of a conference the size of this one. It's nothing in comparison to Dreamforce, where they brought in cruise ships just to give people enough places to stay this year! But at 25,000-ish, VMworld is massive in its own right, and finding (and affording) quality accommodations has become a challenge.

I'm personally looking forward to VMworld 2016 being held at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas because quality accommodations will be so much easier to come by. San Francisco is a beautiful city and I've enjoyed my chances to visit. I'll also be back in 2017, as the move back to Vegas for 2016 is only a temporary move due to construction. But I will certainly enjoy a year of not having to worry about how far away from the event I'll have to be, or how hard I'm going to have to fight to get a room within my budget.

VMworld is definitely one of the highlights of my year professionally. In the coming weeks, I'll be taking time to digest the session material now available for viewing online. I'll also be following up with the new contacts I made and ensuring that we have a relationship for the foreseeable future that can benefit us both. If we've never met, I hope we can do it at VMworld 2016!

About the Author

vExpert James Green has roughly a decade of experience as an IT administrator, architect and consultant in a variety of organizations. He's highly certified, and continues to purse professional certifications to increase his breadth and depth of knowledge. He has always been passionate about writing and speaking, and discussing the marriage of cutting-edge technology and business is one of his favorite activities. He works for ActualTech Media, www.actualtech.io.

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