Its the week after VMworld 2015. I’ve successfully survived my first very LARGE conference. For those reading this heading to VMworld 20XX at some point, I’ll leave something at the end for you. For the most part though, it was amazing.

First couple of days for me was the Partner Exchange. I’m lucky enough to work for a VMware Partner which, at the benefit of my first VMworld meant 2 days of additional sessions before the main event. Day 1 consisted of sessions at the VMware HQ discussing different areas around NSX, SDDC, vRA or any other number of VMware acronyms relating to Data Center Virtualization and Automation. One of the great things about Day 1 is meeting other partners and talking with them about challenges they face in their own industry around virtualization.

Day 2 of Partner Exchange took place at Moscone West and really starts off with the General Session. Part of that experience is that VMware does talk about some things early with partners, so that when those partners meet with their customer the next day, they have the chance to prepare for meetings with them regarding some of the announcements. Although that doesn’t seem like a lot of time, In my mind it can make a bit of difference in the eyes of the customer. I don’t have any direct customers that I would need to have that integration with, but it made for some nice “oh thats cool!” moments ahead of the main VMworld General Session.

Now, Partner Exchange, that was nice and quiet compared to VMworld itself. There were approximately over 7000 partners that joined VMware in San Francisco for the Saturday and Sunday events. When it came to Monday, that was a little over 23,000 total. I’ve never been to a conference that large… so for me it was a little intimidating. It crowded and despite being among so many people, if you don’t know anyone there, it can feel a little lonely if you have a little bit of an introvert in you.

First big thing on the docket for Monday or Day 1 VMworld is the General Session, this is the one where product announcements are shown. The big ticket was Cross-Cloud vMotion. The feature was presented by Yanbing Li, whose presentation skills were pretty fantastic. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the #vmworld twitter feed as she was up on stage. There were of course other announcements in the way of VSAN 6.1 updates and cross application support within different products. Altogether, those features didn’t present anything that made me jump out of my seat. As it stood, there was nothing major in the way of fundamental Data Center Virtualization that made me want to cheer.

I will say that the blueprints deployment across both private and public clouds did intrigue me to a point, but these are expected evolutionary jumps in virtualization. With “Hybrid Clouds” being the moniker for deploying across multiple platforms and infrastructures, deploying new apps easily across that and making it look like a single infrastructure plane is key. Growth in management and ease of use between two or more SDDC infrastructures is a given to me. Regardless, these are big steps for VMware and I don’t want to down play them as if they aren’t important. They are, just not to me or the infrastructure currently where I work. That may change in the future, but for now… i’m good ‘ol on-premises.

Sessions spread out over the next few days allowed for more technical deep-dive views into areas that I both currently need to know more, as well as VMware offerings that could be beneficial for the company I work for. Thinks like NSX that we don’t currently use, but could be something to consider later on. Now, when I talked with someone and they found out this is my first VMworld, the question was always the same… “Do you have a full schedule?”, and yes… I did. I did not make it to all of my scheduled sessions, but they are available online after the fact. Thankfully. Some of them I was really looking forward to.

Solutions Exchange, AKA the largest swag treasure trove I’ve ever seen in one place, was HUGE. Vendors for all different areas surrounding Data Centers, Virtualization, VDI, Automation, Storage, Network and SOOO many more topics. All present, either with a small booth, or a massive booth stretching almost to the height of showroom ceiling. One of the best places to check out was the “Genius Bar” type setup at the VMware booth. Nice to be able to talk out an issue with someone from support so quickly. Have a decision question, there’s a person for every area or product covered under VMware’s portfolio. There were also a lot of smaller companies on the showroom floor that caught my interest. Look forward to following up with them later on their products.

Hangout space, that was pretty neat. In the event that you realize that the general session room is too… packed, the Hangout Space gives you a more comfortable area to still watch the Keynote speech, but find a table or chair that isn’t in a crowded space. During the Keynote, the extra things in the space are stopped. Things like the pool tables, ping pong, foosball and even the EVO Rail challenge. Obviously, they want to respect the people on stage and the those watching the keynote in the room. But ultimately.. during some downtime, I got to catch a breathe and relax before running across to another building for a session. It also just happens to be where you can meet and chat with some of the bloggers that you follow. Yes you can talk to them, they are pretty easy going and don’t mind chatting up on different topics.

Events, well that could be put in a post all of its own, but… there are many. You will never make it to all f them, much like you won’t make it to all of your chosen sessions. The first two days of VMworld can have anywhere from 8-10 different private and public (Don’t need an invite) events. I started with vBeers and I’m glad I did. I met some really incredible people during that event that eventually introduced me to others throughout the week. People like Tony Foster and his Rebecca Foster (his wife), Alexander Nimmannit, Julia Weatherby and so many others! As the days went on, I’d bump into them again with others, and everyone is always happy to introduce you to someone else that might do something really interesting within this virtualization industry. Ending with the main party at AT&T Park, the events are fantastic and if you hold yourself up in your room for any reason… well you’re doing VMworld wrong.

Networking… well, one of the challenges as a newcomer to VMworld is trying to meet new people. Though if you just stop moving for any second, say hello to a person next to you, its actually not that hard. So my challenge was that any time I felt like I wasn’t being social (there were quite a few times), I’d find someone else that also seemed to be on their own. Its amazing the people you meet. One of those people ended up being David Klee over breakfast at Mel’s. If you do anything with SQL by the way, reach out to him! On many occasions, that turned into someone that I really wanted to follow on twitter, just to see what they might be working on.

Certifications, typically if you want to spend a little less on the test, you could wait for VMware Education to post on twitter discounts for classes, tests and materials. At VMworld, the tests were 50% off and there were discounts for the classes as well. I took on VCAP-DCA and passed and I saw atlas 10 other people in the testing room going for other various tests. The room looks to seat about 40 or so at a time, so there is room to accommodate a lot of people. Either way, try your hand at a certification and expand both your knowledge and your resume. It’s worth a try.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         cn

Tips I was given before hand? Tips I would pass along? Here is my short list:

  • Shoes: These make all the difference, I bought some new running shoes beforehand because my typical shoes were wearing a bit thin. Thankfully they came in with at least a couple days before leaving so I could sort of break them in.
  • Sanity check your day before leaving the hotel: Don’t find yourself doing what I did and having to go pick something up or drop something off at your room. You’re already going to walk about 30 miles that week, try not to make it 31 because you forgot something.
  • Take some nightly walks at home before the convention: Get ready for the pure leg muscle pains. I’m a Florida boy, born and raised. I don’t walk that often, its too damn hot for that. This was definitely a wake up.
  • Stay hydrated: that goes without needing to be stated.
  • Battery backup packs are your friend: VMware and vendors at solutions exchange will hand some out, but I took a larger Anker battery with me and only charged it once, right before I left on my flight to SF. I’ve only just now charged it for a second time. That will save your butt in some of those hard-to-get-service underground session rooms.

I’m very thankful for the opportunity to have attended VMworld. It was an amazing experience and I met a lot of incredible people. I truly hope it isn’t my last. If you are headed to VMworld for the first time, or by yourself, just make the most of it and enjoy yourself. You’ll never make it to all of your scheduled sessions and you’ll just have to learn to be okay with it.