Looking back at VMworld 2011 Las Vegas

VMworld 2011 in Las Vegas has come to end. Once again it has been an epic event. I can’t believe how fast it was over. Was it worthwhile? Very much. Would I do it again? Definitely!

Panorama at the Moon club

View of “the Strip” as seen from Moon nightclub at the Palms which was the setting of the vGeekFest.

The Setting

Personally I had never before been to Las Vegas. One thing is for sure: There was a lot to be seen in Vegas during VMworld. High heels. Geeks. Gambling. Lights. “No way those are real”. Bloggers. Craps. Midget freefighting. Cocktails. Party at Moon. Nerdy shirts. Hookers . An interesting mix to say the least, even if you’re not into gambling. It’s superficial, it’s artificial, but a great setting nonetheless.

Next year VMWorld will be returning to San Francisco, where I have been twice before (in 2007 and 2009). VMworld is simply outgrowing Vegas. Am I sad to see this? No. Having been to Vegas is cool, but San Francisco is also a very nice place to be.

General session 360-panorama

Panorama of the General Session on Monday (actually a 360 degree panorama)

The General Sessions

I blogged “realtime” during each of the big general sessions. You can find the blogposts here:

Blogpost on the Monday Session
Blogpost on the Tuesday Session

The sessions were quite impressive. I am sad to see the deep technical stuff going away more and more with each VMworld. But that is the shape of things to come: As the hypervisor gets more sophisticated, the products starting to work together and the line between storage, compute and networking starts to fade it is now time to get some more “high level” stuff going on. Integration. Fusion. Clouds. It’s on. And It’s coming to a theatre near you. Like it or not. Strap yourself in.

The journey to the cloud is for real. Talks about Cloud computing have been around for years, up to a point that the word “Cloud” was like barf in your mouth. But now we seem to have come to a turning point: It’s real. Its either here or coming, depending on where your IT is at right now. VMware is working hard to enable you all to get moving towards the cloudy stuff. With the introduction of vCloud Director 1.5 (vCD 1.5) and the vCloud Datacenter a viable form of cloud computing is evolving fast. One of the biggest issues in these cloud models, security, is being addressed as well. Especially with exciting things like RSA’s DLP technology being incorporated in VMware’s vShield product… Man!

So where did the Thursday session go? No worries, I got it covered. The thursday session was kind of different from the other general sessions which is kind of the defacto standard during VMworld. This session usually focusses on something not directly related, and this time round it was the understanding of the human brain. Given by people who are constantly trying to figure out how the humans brain works. There were no bloggers seats, no reserved press or analysts seats this time. I figured not too much bloggers were comfortable in blogging about this anyway. Since the way our brain works has always had my personal interest, I wrote up a blogpost on it anyway:

Blogpost on the Thursday Session

Too far out of your comfort zone? Too far off for your imagination? Don’t worry. Just skip this, stick to virtualization and you’ll do fine 🙂

The Breakout Sessions

I was SO lucky. After I was elected VMware vExpert 2011, my employer EMC allowed me to go to Las Vegas as well as to Copenhagen. The best part: No booth duty. No Hand-on-Labs duty in Vegas. Just freedom. Gather as much information as you possibly can. And that I did. I followed as much sessions as possible. Hooked up with as many people as I could. And it paid off. I feel it has been very worthwhile indeed.

As www.VMdamentals.com is a technical deep dive blog, you maybe wondering where the die-hard technical info is. To be honest, it is not really here. Not in the breakout sessions. I feel the technical level of the “advanced technical” breakout session is nowhere near the technical level it should be. I would have loved to do a session on storage for VDI, alignment, raid types all the way down to the bone. Unfortunately my submission was not elected. Hopefully I’ll get a shot next year.

These aren’t the sessions you are looking for {insert wave of hand here}

I have been talking to several people about the shortcoming of having real technical deep dives. I have had many discussions on how to go about it. I would like to see a new level in the breakout sessions that is really for the die-hard technical freaks. We need technical deep dives to go in balls-deep. Not kidding. A lot of people I had this discussion with agreed and were positive that it would be welcomed by many visitors of VMworld. So VMware, if you’re tuned in, please give us this. I will gladly present one of these Geek Level Deepdives. You want to know RAID down to the sector? What goes on in a hard drives queue, on its platter? What is this alignment thing all about? Count me in.

Some sessions were still worthwhile though. I joined a few sessions like the @esloof and @msundling “myth busting” session, the SMP-version of Fault Tolerance with very cool demo (you can read my blogpost on it: 4 vCPU FT demoed with synchronous replication?). Also some cool sessions on PCoIP optimizations in vSphere / View 5. All cool stuff.

More critique? Always. For example, I visited two sessions on new View 5 goodness, and these session both had at least a 50% overlap of the same slides, the same presentations, hell even the same bad jokes. VMware, how can this be? A lot of submissions were declined (and I mean a LOT; from EMC alone there were 105 submissions, most of them vendor agnostic, and only 5 made it though). Don’t get me wrong, that’s all ok, there are only so many hours in the day right? But please VMware, don’t allow sessions with such an enormous overlap, it is such a waste of every bodies time and severely limits the number of session people can effectively visit.

Furthermore I heard a lot of things during the breakout sessions that simply are not correct. Tiny details most of the time, but if you present at VMworld all should be 100% IMHO. Maybe its just me. Maybe I’m too much of a perfectionist. Maybe.

The Bloggers Corner
The Bloggers Corner

The Bloggers Corner

Still honored to be elected as a VMWare vExpert 2011, I have been hanging around the bloggers corner a lot. The scene is overwhelming: SO many people there, some of which I truly did not recognize by their name until I learned their Twitter name! (Are you reading this @SixFootDad ??). It is a strange and geeky world. Walking into the bloggers corner it is easy to find legendary guys like Mike Laverick, Rick Scherer and many others so striking up a good conversation is easy.

Since I am Dutch, I feel closely related to all Dutch guys and girls visiting Las Vegas. And this year there were actually quite a number of them. Guys like Joep Piscaer, Duco Jaspars, Viktor van den Berg, Frank Denneman, Duncan Epping and many others, a lot them which are blogging and/or vExpert as well. It was great to meet you in Vegas guys and girl!

The guys at the Dutch VMUG had been seeing all these vSpecialist guys walking all over VMworld in their distinctive black-and-blue bowling shirts. They wanted to know more on what these guys are actually all about. Since I too am a vSpecialist working for EMC and I speak Dutch, I was honored to be asked to perform in a short video interview:

Dutch VMUG “VMworld TV”: Interview met Erik Zandboer (Dutch spoken)

Panorama of the CTO Party

The Private CTO Party panorama

The private CTO party

The highlight for meeting people was definitely the private CTO party for me. Most of the famous “stars” in the VMware scenery were there, including the way coolest one (sorry Steve): Marvin the MonsterVM! This guy is Rocking! In fact he is SO popular at parties we were happy to have him spend a full 20 minutes to meet up with us. And he is SO photogenic. Any girl (and a guy or two) at the party fainted in his presence. This dude is awesome. Wow.

Marvin the MonsterVM was definitely the coolest guy on VMworld 2011.
Marvin the MonsterVM was definitely the coolest guy on VMworld 2011!

I was happy to be able to personally meet Steve Herrod. He is so relaxed. He told me when he planned this party and Paul Maritz heared about it, he promptly decided to come as well. And he did. I met up with Paul, and when I introduced myself as “Erik Zandboer from the Netherlands” I was at first surprised to hear “Goedenavond” as Paul’s reply. Then it dawned on me: Paul Maritz originates from South Africa, so he speaks “Afrikaans” which very much related to the Dutch I speak.

Paul Maritz is also very relaxed and truly interested. As I do a lot of photography (see XHD Photography) South Africa is still high on my “must-go-there” list. I told him my wife had been to South Africa once while I have never gone there, and I had to set that straight some day. There was this little glitter in his eyes as I said that, I could tell he is definitely and truly passionate about “his” South Africa (on the side a call-out to Trav: Get my b*tt to South Africa in the near future man!)

Marvin the MonsterVM as an ice sculpture on the CTO Party
Marvin the MonsterVM as an ice sculpture on the CTO Party

Unfortunately not all vExperts were allowed to come to the party; invitations were sent at random. So at this party we had to miss out on some of the most prominent bloggers. On the other hand I can imagine that VMware wants to control the scale of the party and give everyone a shot: If it gets too big there will be no chance to meet up with everyone. John Troyer gave us a mission for this party: “Talk to at least one person who is not a vExpert”. That was kind of hard; there were a lot of them around. Well I guess Paul Maritz isn’t a vExpert, so John, mission accomplished on my side 😉

The VMworld Party

Right after the private CTO party, the VMworld party started in the Venetian in the same room where the general sessions were held. This year featuring “the Killers” who definitely rocked the place. There were a lot of people attending:

At the VMworld party
At the VMworld party. The Killers were rockin’ !

Not much more to add here. The food was good, the company was excellent, the music was rocking. Not an event to have decent conversations unless you know sign language.

VMworld: Get Involved!

Even if you do not go to a single session, just go out and talk to the bloggers and vendors. You’ll be sure to strike up an interesting conversation, and get more information, tips and opinions than anywhere else. We bloggers L-O-V-E to see your questions, your concerns, your ideas, your theories. You planning on a twin datacenter implementation, or even a stretched cluster? Bring it on.

I will be attending VMworld 2011 in Copenhagen as well. Find me either at the EMC Booth or the bloggers corner. I’m either wearing the black-and-blue vSpecialist bowling shirt, or some kind of VMdamentals.com shirt. I’m open to ANY tech discussion, whether you use EMC, NetApp, HP, Dell or any other. By ALL means, get me started on a technical subject and you’ll get an instant breakout session right there. Guaranteed. Whether it is a 100 seat or a 5000 seat VDI deployment, a requirement for 5 Petabytes of storage or how to build your home lab cheaply and effectively. I’m in for it. Note to John Troyer: We need whiteboards, lots of whiteboards. Matrix-style 🙂

The Verdict

Although I had some negative remarks on the technical level of the breakout sessions, I still think the event is VERY worthwhile. If you have any chance to visit VMWorld 2011 in Copenhagen (which will be held from October 16th through 18th at the Bella Center. You can register for the event HERE). I would highly recommend you to go and talk to your boss, and tell him you NEED to be there. Get the answers you need. Discuss this idea you’ve been having. Discuss the new technologies. Get psyched. Get your geek on!

The verdict on VMworld 2011:

VMworld 2011: Highly recommended!
What are you waiting for? Get your b*tt to VMworld 2011 in Copenhagen!

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