VMworld this year was incredible to say the least. There is so much to blog about and there will be tons of posts coming out of VMworld this year. This year was my first year as a vExpert and I wanted to somehow spotlight what a vExpert is, what they do, and where they come from; that idea lead to my vExpert Corner podcast series, which turned out to be bigger than I expected it to. I spent most of my time on the Solutions Exchange floor meeting new people, getting to know some of the newer companies out there and of course, collecting mounds of swag. My other time was spent in the bloggers lounge catching up with some of my blogger peeps, and meeting some newcomers. I was able to record a couple of vExpert Daily episodes with Michael Letschin who set that up. I was also lucky enough to do a live episode of vExpert Corner and that was a blast, hopefully you caught it. I wanted to take this blog post to summarize my thoughts and opinions on VMworld, I wanted to make sure I gave my honest and unbiased opinion on all things VMworld, so here it is…

The High Points
There were so many great things about VMworld 2011, it’s hard to summarize them all in one paragraph, but I’ll give it a try. I loved the atmosphere at VMworld 2011, it was incredible. This year it was at the Venetian, which is a beautiful hotel. The meeting rooms were very classy and clean, the materials were very organized and there was always someone to point you in the right direction if you got turned around, which was easy given the size of the venue. What VMware nailed this year at VMworld by far was the “Hang Space”. The “Hang Space” was set up like a park, there was grass, bushes, trees, volleyball courts, a badminton court, a couple of basketball courts and a ton of places to sit and take a load off. If you haven’t been to VMworld yet, take my word for it, it’s busy and there is a lot of walking. To have a space to just relax and decompress, like the “Hang Space” was priceless. I observed so many people sitting Indian style on the grass chatting, tweeting, and blogging. Kudos to whoever had the idea to set it up in this manner, I was impressed.

The other thing that stood out to me was the quality of the food they had for breakfast and lunch, simply put, it was delicious. There were options for just about every palate, from vegan, vegetarian, kosher and of course meat lovers (that’s me, loved the braised short ribs). Can’t say that VMware gets credit for that, I’m sure it was the chefs from the Venetian or Sands Expo that created the menus, great job. Aside from breakfast and lunch, there were snacks everyday, usually smart stuff like unsalted trail mix, carrots and ranch dressing, mingled with the occasional junk food like chips, donuts and ice cream bars. Can’t complain about the food, well done, we needed good food to get through so much walking.

I know the VMware Labs were a big hit this year. The labs spit out some impressive statistics to say the least. I believe there were a total of about 200,000 VMs created, that’s a ton. The cool thing about the labs this year is that they were completely built-in the cloud which was housed at the Super NAP in Las Vegas. For anyone that had trust issues with cloud computing, the labs this year should have sold you on it without a doubt, they went off without a hitch! There were times where the lines were really long, but if you were an early riser you pretty much got your pick. The nice thing about the labs this year is that VMware is going to allow access to all the labs via the Internet (for VMworld attendees only) some time around January, that’s the word from John Troyer whom I discussed this with at lunch today. They are hoping to go live in January, but there is a lot to do between now and then to get them online, dont’ be upset if they aren’t ready by January, be thankful you still get to do labs if you missed them at VMworld this year.

The Parties
The parties this year were epic, but there were a few that fell short of my expectations and one that completely disappointed me. First off, the best party all week by far was the VMworld Party on Wednesday night. This party was legendary, I’ve never been to a party so big in my life. I overheard many at the party talking about how much better it was this year than last. We walked in to a huge expo hall just behind the Solutions Exchange floor, and it was packed. There was a huge screen that stretched the length of the expo hall and even some parts of the screen stuck out in a triangular shape, it was amazing. We started the party off grabbing some incredible Maryland crab cakes, then attacked the cheese steak table, migrated to the chicken and beef skewer table and finished up at the thin crust pizza table, it was a lot of food and it was great! From there the warm up entertainment took the stage, Recycled Percussion is the name of their band/group/???. They rocked! That’s an understatement. The majority of their instruments were from recycled plastic drums, to metal grinders, sticks, anything they could bang on, they had it. These guys will be big, no doubt. Then it was time for The Killers to take the stage, these guys really were amazing. I have to be honest, I didn’t really know very many of their songs and wasn’t that excited to see them, but they made me an instant fan. In fact, I’m buying their albums on iTunes as we speak, and rocking out (always helpful to have good music to blog to). The party took a little bit of a hit when they moved it to the pool area, it was slightly boring. They had good food, but by then I was stuffed and I wanted to swim, but you got escorted out of the party if you tried to swim. Apparently it was only a “pool” party for the VMware mermaids, yes there were mermaids. All in all it was the best party all week.

The other parties I attended were the VMunderground WuPaaS, and that was a blast. It was my first WuPaaS, it was at Nine Fine Irishmen at New York, NY hotel. The food was awesome, giant turkey legs, incredible vegetables and anything you wanted to drink, Diet Cokes for me! I also attended the Welcome Reception, I guess you could classify it as a party, they had good food, a live band and it was the opening night of the Solutions Exchange which was great. I was so amped to go to the Wyse party this year, it was head and shoulders above any party I attended last year at VMworld 2010 in San Francisco and it was a very classy affair. Last year’s party was held at the San Fran Museum of Modern Art and it had great live entertainment, incredible food and great people. This year’s Wyse party was a major let down. I was so disappointed in the lack of class at this party. My wife and I got in line outside the Marquee Nightclub at the Cosmopolitan hotel and couldn’t figure out why four women wearing next to nothing were just standing at the door in front of the club. They weren’t checking the VIP list, just standing there, a night club version of booth babes. When we got inside there were 5-6 women in tiny dresses dancing on top of tables to the way too loud music being piped over the speakers. There was nobody there, so we just turned around and left. Zero class, disappointed in Wyse, so much class last year and none at this year’s party. Hopefully next year they’ll be back on track. Christopher Kusek, aka “the ears” had a party at his room in the Cosmopolitan hotel and it was funny because it reminded me of high school parties from way back. Just a bunch of people crunched in a small space, beer in the bathtub, a door marked “bathroom” and people huddled in corners. The cool thing about the @CXI party was that is was on the 45th floor and had an incredible balcony with views of Bellagio water show. Thanks Christopher, you brought back some funny memories.

The People
The greatest thing about VMworld is really the people who you meet there. I can’t imagine any other setting in which you would find 20,000 people all in the same place at the same time and not having a problem with a single person. Everyone is really nice and very helpful. You get the opportunity meet the authors of the books on your shelf at work, the people who are in charge of putting this all together and most importantly, you get to meet John Troyer, the Man, the vWookie, the man in the shimmery lounge jacket and bowtie! I was able to catch up with most of the people I met at VMworld last year, and meet some new faces this year. I met some new vExperts like Shane Williford, a great guy who really knows his stuff and was gracious enough to record a podcast with me at the show. I think I ran into Shane at just about every party I attended. I also was lucky enough to cross paths with Duncan Epping and Frank Denneman on the Solutions Exchange floor. I was able to chat with them for a couple of minutes and get some advice on which book to buy and what not to miss at VMworld. Edward Haletky chatted with me in the bloggers lounge for a while and even gave me some tips on editing all the podcasts I recorded, he’s a great guy and is very knowledgable, thanks Edward. The people at VMworld are simply awesome, you’ll understand this if you ever get the chance to attend.

The Pain Points
I’ll keep this section short and to the point (this is the brutal honesty bit). My VMworld pain points are as follows; the wi-fi was pretty bad this year, forget about getting connected on the upper floors of the show…. there weren’t enough drinks throughout the hang space and solutions exchange, it seems like I had to walk all the way out of the expo hall to find a drink and they weren’t cold either, you had to carry a cup with ice which sucked… it was very spread out on multiple floors, my feet were done by day 2 (not much you can do about this, just wear comfortable shoes)… breakfast closed way too early, if you weren’t up out of bed, dressed and at the meals hall by 8:30am you missed breakfast, we were in Las Vegas, 8:30 in Vegas is like 4:30am in any normal city, please keep breakfast open until 10am next year… note to the exhibitors, don’t force people to be present to win a prize we entered for, the least you can do since you will be spamming us all year-long, is notify us by email if we win so we don’t have to leave important breakout sessions or labs to come and see if we win, that’s annoying, make it easier for everyone. Ok enough on pain points, VMworld is a great show, but I need to be honest about what I thought was wrong. Whew, done.

Lasting Thoughts
If you only attend one tech conference in your lifetime, make it VMworld, you won’t be disappointed. See you in San Francisco for VMworld 2012.

Greg W Stuart
Greg is the owner and editor of vDestination.com. He's been a VMware vExpert every year since 2011. Greg enjoys spending time with his wife and 3 kids. He works as a Sr. Consultant at VMware and resides in Northern Virginia, 15 minutes west of Washington DC.

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