VMware Explore In-Person: What It Was Like

Tom wore many hats at the show as a regular participant, presenter, vExpert, author and also a booth worker.

VMware Explore 2022 was held from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1 in San Francisco at the newly revamped Moscone Center after a two-year pandemic-related hiatus. In this article, I will take a general look at the conference itself and discuss my experience. In a separate article, I highlighted some of the key announcements made during the event.

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Explore was an interesting event for me as I was able to attend it wearing many different hats: a regular participant, presenter, vExpert, author and also as a booth worker. Needless to say, I was very, very busy.

The last time this conference was held in-person was 2019 with over 20,000 attendees, and I was interested to see how many people would attend it in-person this year after being a completely virtual event for the past two years. The prior year's conference in 2018, when VMworld was held in Las Vegas, drew in 21,000 people from 86 countries. While VMware has yet to release the official number for this year's event, if I was to guess I would say it had somewhere around 9,000 attendees with maybe 1,500 of those being VMware employees. In the Expo Center, where the VMware ecosystem set up booths, there were considerably fewer vendors than in past years.

There are myriad reasons for the low attendance at this year's event. Of course, COVID-19 was probably the biggest factor, but there were many other conditions that could have had an impact as well. For one, San Francisco is not an inexpensive city to visit, but it also has gotten a reputation over the past couple years as being dirty and unsafe. While there's no doubt that the city is expensive, I was pleasantly surprised how clean the area around the convention center was. I felt very safe, and in fact I ended up walking home from the Chase Arena to my hotel after the VMware Explore party.

Another factor that may have played into the lower attendance was that VMware is expanding their hosted events beyond their traditional U.S. and Europe conferences this year to include events in Brazil, Singapore, Japan and China. This is a wise move as it allows VMware to bring their message to the people rather than having them travel across the globe. Likely as a result, I did notice a lack of foreign attendees at the event this year.

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As a regular attendee, I was able to sit in on a few sessions and chat with other participants, many of whom I was surprised to discover were first-time attendees. I found many to be very excited about VMware and the announcements that were made at this year's event.

As a member of the press, I was able to sit in on some sessions with the leadership at VMware. Many of the questions asked were centered around the impact of Broadcom's acquisition of VMware. As to be expected, due to SEC requirements, VMware was not able to say much about it.

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I presented four times at this Explore. I had three VMTN TechTalks and co-presented with Joel Stocker at an Expo Theater session. I was pleasantly surprised that all of these sessions were full, and the audience was very engaged. The Expo session was a lot of fun as we played IT Clue where I was presented with a scenario and I had to decipher who had the problem, where the problem emanated from, and what the root cause of the problem was.

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VMware had a booth set up for book signing, and I was able to spend time at it to sign copies of "Running ESXi on a Raspberry Pi," which I wrote last year. Many thanks to all of those who stopped by.

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For my day job, I am technical marketing engineer for ControlUp, and, in between all my other activities, I had the opportunity to work at their booth and talk to current and prospective customers about our product. Because I knew that the number of attendees was going to be dramatically lower this year, I (to be totally honest) had very low expectations for the booth. However, I was happy to find that it was consistently busy, and people were asking lots of questions about our products.

Overall, I would have to say that VMware Explore was a success for VMware, their partners and the attendees. Yes, the number of participants was down, but this meant that those who did attend were able to sit in the more popular sessions and have more personal interactions with VMware and the supporting vendors.

About the Author

Tom Fenton has a wealth of hands-on IT experience gained over the past 30 years in a variety of technologies, with the past 20 years focusing on virtualization and storage. He previously worked as a Technical Marketing Manager for ControlUp. He also previously worked at VMware in Staff and Senior level positions. He has also worked as a Senior Validation Engineer with The Taneja Group, where he headed the Validation Service Lab and was instrumental in starting up its vSphere Virtual Volumes practice. He's on X @vDoppler.


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