September 13, 2016

VMblog's Final Review of #VMworld 2016

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And... that's a wrap!  It's been almost two weeks now, and truth be told, I'm still playing catch up from VMworld 2016.  This is my 13th VMworld event, and I always come home feeling like I am left wanting.  No, not in a bad way, it just seems like I never have enough time to accomplish everything on my TODO list.  

Time Flies

Three days (and some change) absolutely flew by at this year's VMworld event... perhaps even more than any other year prior. 

[ Watch VMblog's VMworld 2016 video montage | and view the VMworld 2016 photos ]

For many of us, VMworld has become a sort of "class reunion" if you will.  Yes, many of us keep in touch via email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or each others blogs, but VMworld is the one event where most of us have a chance to come together, from around the globe, in person to interact with one another face-to-face.  If you've never been to VMworld, you have to understand that beyond the education, this is a great networking event.  But this year, I hardly came close to visiting with all my friends!  There simply wasn't enough time to see all the familiar faces on my "must see" list, yet alone meet new acquaintances, which quite frankly stinks.  

Time also got away from me to the point where I couldn't visit with all the vendor booths that I had planned on visiting.  With just over 210 vendors in attendance sponsoring the event, I felt like I was participating in a speed dating event, jumping from one booth to the next, with only so many minutes of time allotted to each vendor.  And even then, I still couldn't make it to every booth.

Parties and mixers also suffered.  I did my best to make it to as many events as I could, but it just wasn't possible.  But that's a good thing, because there were so many to choose from.  

I always say it, and this year was no different.  Although I look forward to coming back home to my family, I do wish I had an extra day at the show.  It might be crazy, but I feel like I'd get way more accomplished on my personal TODO list if the show was extended just one day!  Maybe I need to suck it up and show up a day earlier than I already do.  But then, so too would everyone else.  ;)

Show Size

During the keynote, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger announced to the world that VMworld 2016 had 23,000 people in attendance.  If you're wondering how that compares to years past, this year is actually down, as some of you may have guessed.  But not by much.  In 2015, VMware reported 23,500+ people in attendance (although at one point, I thought I heard the number had reached 25,000), so really, that isn't too much of a drop-off.  But, the size of the show has come a long way from the original 1,600 people who attended the very first event in San Diego back in 2004.   

I spoke with many attendees and vendors, and almost everyone had the same thought on attendance: "Feels like less people this year."  Some of the vendors I spoke with said they may end up with fewer badge scans this year, but the quality of conversations was way up!  Obviously, virtualization and VMware has continued to evolve and spread across most IT organizations in the world, and attendees are coming to VMworld to find new and interesting solutions.  Maybe corporate wallets are also beginning to open up again as IT searches for new tools and solutions that can help make work life easier.

The Venue

Ah yes, the venue.  I like San Francisco as much as the next guy, but honestly, I was thrilled to hear that this year's VMworld 2016 event was going to take place in Las Vegas.  And after Elvis left the building, I was even more thrilled that VMworld took place in Las Vegas rather than SFO.

For me, San Francisco was getting a bit long in the tooth.  It was nice to have a change of pace... and venue.  One of the issues with San Francisco is that VMworld is so big and so spread out, there's too much walking around (back and forth) from one building to the next -- outside, inside, outside, inside.  And I'm sure, finding venues for extra curricular activities in San Francisco can often times become a chore (at least anything close enough to enjoy).  Not saying there isn't plenty to do there, but the separation effect often causes more time, delay and costs, and keeps you from easily jumping from one thing to the next with so many things overlapping.  Distance also causes issues with hotel rooms.  Trying to get something close to the Moscone can become hugely problematic for most people.  Yes, VMworld provides buses (extending out a decent amount), but honestly, the last thing you want to do after a long day at the convention (before heading to a party or meetup) is to wait in line to take a bus ride back to the hotel and then figure out how you're going to get from there to the next thing.  But perhaps my biggest complaint is the cost.  Don't know about you, but I typically spend 3-4x per night for a hotel room in San Francisco compared to Las Vegas.  And after a 4 night stay, that starts to add up in out of pocket expenses.  

Personally, I find Vegas to be a much better venue for a show of this size.  Yes, I probably did as much walking, but I didn't care (the mind plays tricks when you're walking inside the building).  The food was also way better than anything provided at the Moscone Center (could be menu selection, but come on, it's been years and the selection has always been suspect).  The ride from the airport to the hotel was faster and WAY cheaper.  The hotel rooms and facilities were also way nicer.  The convention components were closer together.  And restaurant and entertainment options were fantastic!  Net, net - a better venue in my mind.  And no, I didn't gamble a single cent, so that didn't play into my venue preference.


VMworld keynote 

Okay, I'm just going to say it -- the VMworld 2016 keynote sessions were... lackluster.  I'm not alone here.  I spoke with quite a few folks during the show, and the overwhelming response after the conclusion of the Day 1 keynote session was: "it was pretty boring."  For me, it had a low wow factor for two reasons: First, Day 1 really didn't have anything new and exciting to discuss.  Second, it was delivered without any oomph or passion.  Had they simply done the second, I think the material from Day 1 would have at least come across better.  Day 2 was a bit of a different story.  During this keynote, I at least felt as though they upped their game on stage and put a little more feeling behind the delivery.

On Day 1, the keynote kicked off with VMware CEO, Pat Gelsinger discussing VMware's industry perspective on digital business and the state of the cloud, as well as how VMware is empowering its customers to innovate in this new era of multiple clouds.

On Day 2, the keynote session was more about technology, and included announcements around features and functionality, and included product demonstrations.  To do that, VMware brought out VMware Executive Vice President and General Manager of End-User Computing and Global Head of Marketing & Communications, Sanjay Poonen, VMware Chief Technology Officer, Ray O'Farrell, as well as Kit Colbert and Yanbing Li.  The goal here was to highlight how VMware is enhancing the user experience by simplifying the development, deployment and security of all apps, no matter where they're running.  They also showcased accelerating the software-defined data center.

What else was discussed? 

VMware didn't really reveal anything major, or at least, nothing that many of us haven't already heard about.  So hopefully they have something new to reveal at VMworld 2016 Europe next month.

The virtualization giant did showcase two additional capabilities for its vSphere Integrated Containers, which is designed to help IT operations teams to provide a Docker compatible interface to their app teams.  And, they introduced open source software called Admiral and Harbor which aims to provide customers with key registry and management functionality in order to better support production-grade containerized applications.

They also talked about the latest release of VMware Integrated OpenStack (VIO) their OpenStack distribution which is now based on the latest Mitaka release.  Features and enhancements include simplified configuration for Nova compute service, and streamlined Keystone identity service, now a one-step process for setting up the identity management features of a cloud network.

Also given a fair amount of air time was the company's Cloud Foundation, a VMware suite of products that includes vSphere, NSX, SDDC Manager and VSAN, which is being made available first on IBM's public cloud.

VMware also showed off its unified endpoint management approach for managing Windows 10, along with advancements to VMware Horizon and VMware Workspace ONE.  These enhancements are designed to help advance the digital workspace and solve the challenge of supporting an increasingly mobile workforce.  

If you missed either of the keynote sessions, you can watch the recordings on YouTube: VMworld 2016 Day 1 Keynote | VMworld 2016 Day 2 Keynote.  

Solution Exchange

Like the number of attendees, the number of sponsors or vendors who took up shop in the Solution Exchange were down this year.  During VMworld 2015, there were around 250 vendors sponsoring the event.  This year, VMworld 2016 had around 210 sponsors.  But, oddly enough, the first thing that went through my mind as I entered the Solutions Exchange on Day 1 was: "Wow, this feels so much bigger than last year!"  Odd, right?  Around 40 fewer booths, but yet it had a larger feel to it.  And that might be because of two things:  First (and it might just be me), but it felt like there were more larger booths this year.  In prior years, I remembered a lot more 10x10 booths. A lot of vendors seemed to have stepped up their game -- go big or go home!  Second, and again it could just be me, but the Expo floor had a more spread out feel to it this year.  When I walked from one end to the next, I couldn't believe how long it took.  And, it didn't feel like everyone was on top of one another.  That again could be because of the space difference between Moscone and Mandalay Bay.

In addition to "go big or go home," vendors really stepped up their booths this year.  Beyond size, a lot of vendors brought out something new.  There are too many to comment on, but some of those booths weren't your typical self expanding, quick to hang booths.

There were quite a few fun and unique looking booths this time out.  Unitrends broke out the Hot Shot game (throwing a football or launching something from a T-Shirt hand cannon); Mellanox brought out the carnival strong man hammer game; Primary Data had an obstacle course; and Tintri gave attendees a chance to wake up in Vegas like the guys in The Hangover.

VMworld Fun Booths 

Turbonomics had a freaking massive digital NASDAQ style digital display.  And come on people, Veeam had light up, dancing robots for crying out loud. CDW parked a massive vehicle with large screens.  And Tegile brought back a game of chance with the roll of dice to win an expensive Audi which was parked in their booth for viewing pleasure.

VMworld 2016 Big Booths   

The Parties

VMworld 2016 Parties 

The old adage of all work and no play... well, you didn't have to worry about that at this year's event.  There was a huge amount of entertainment to be had if you followed my VMworld 2016 Party List.  And there were quite a few more events that I missed (I'll do better next time, I promise, haha).  The only unfortunate part was that you couldn't clone yourself to make every event. 

If you weren't shy, you should have been able to find something to do with no out of pocket expense.  Food, drinks, games, networking and entertainment.

Thanks to all the vendors who threw down, opened the wallet and brought out the creativity to make each of those events possible.  We listened to some great music and were entertained by some of the following: the VMUG Member party had a live cover band at the House of Blues, Zerto took up the challenge of topping last year's party with ThunDRstruck (also at the House of Blues) with an all-female AC/DC tribute band called AC/DShe, and Veeam's annual epic party which took place at The Light nightclub venue which included a DJ, a group of modern violinists, and aerial acrobatics. vExperts were treated to a party at the Mob Museum.  And the show ended with VMware's party at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway (fantastic venue) with a DJ, live music from Capital Cities and Fallout Boy, rides on the race track at 90+ MPH, food, drinks and fun.

Well played everyone! 

The vExpert Gifts

During the show, I was able to meet up with a number of great vendors who provided me with excellent product overviews of their technology.  For most attendees, one of the best parts of VMworld is the networking -- and I got introduced to some really passionate employees this year and had some really interesting conversations on the show floor. 

But I was also fortunate to walk away with some exclusive VMworld 2016 vExpert gifts being handed out by a few of those same vendors.  I wanted to take a moment to again say thanks to each of those companies -- this time, in the written word.

The VMware vExpert program is a fantastic group organized by VMware to pay tribute and give thanks to vocal members of the community who educate, help, evangelize and give back to the VMware virtualization community-at-large.  And, as it happens, over the last couple of years, some organizations in the ecosystem further acknowledge the efforts of those in the vExpert community by offering a token of their appreciation as well.  While the love of being a vExpert isn't about the gifts handed out at VMworld or the tokens provided throughout the year, they are appreciated.

This year, I'd like to thank Catalogic Software for the collectible vMaester Chalice which fit well with their Game of Thrones theme and was a welcomed addition to my limited swag bag.  The team from Cohesity gave an awesome Timbuk2 Q Backpack customized with a vExpert logo, including a USB drive, 4-in-1 charging cable, 1000 mAh battery pack, and Contigo water bottle.  All of which proved useful.  My friends from DataCore gave out limited edition vExpert t-shirts (and allowed me to sucker punch a few friends with some blow up gloves).  And although Datrium ran into a few shipping challenges (I feel for you guys), they eventually gave out an awesome Raspberry Pi device.  Very cool!  Finally, Docker gave away a limited edition vExpert T-shirt and hat after you attended one of their live vExpert sessions during the show.

Hopefully vExperts had an opportunity to meet with and dive into these great technologies while picking up their limited edition swag.

What's Next?

That's a great question.  Next year's VMworld event will be the first VMworld event since the Dell acquisition of EMC finalized.  Will that change anything?  Who knows.  During VMworld 2016, Michael Dell and Pat Gelsinger made it perfectly clear that VMware was to be run and operated as it is currently, independently from the parent owner.  And since VMware controls, owns and operates VMworld, as VMware goes so too does VMworld I suppose.  In other words, time will tell. 

What I can say is that this year's VMworld was well done!  And I can also say that next year's VMworld event is already planned to return to Las Vegas rather than San Francisco.  And some of the people I spoke with also told me that it should be coming back to Las Vegas for the next two years, so VMworld 2017 and 2018.  As I stated above, I think that's great news.

I'm excited for what's to come.  I hope that by the time VMworld 2017 rolls around, VMware will have a series of interesting things to discuss on stage. 

And even if I can't find enough time to accomplish everything I want to do at the show, I'm ready to give it another go next year.  Plan, plan and then plan some more.  And then, hang on for dear life.

Hope to see you at VMworld 2017. 

Last modified on September 13, 2016
David Marshall

David Marshall has been involved in the technology industry for over 19 years, and he's been working with virtualization software since 1999. He was able to become an industry expert in virtualization by becoming a pioneer in that field - one of the few people in the industry allowed to work with Alpha stage server virtualization software from industry leaders: VMware (ESX Server), Connectix and Microsoft (Virtual Server).

Through the years, he has invented, marketed and helped launch a number of successful virtualization software companies and products. David holds a BS degree in Finance, an Information Technology Certification, and a number of vendor certifications from Microsoft, CompTia and others. He's also co-authored two published books: "VMware ESX Essentials in the Virtual Data Center" and "Advanced Server Virtualization: VMware and Microsoft Platforms in the Virtual Data Center" and acted as technical editor for two popular Virtualization "For Dummies" books. With his remaining spare time, David founded and operates one of the oldest independent virtualization news blogs, And co-founded, a publication dedicated to Cloud Computing. Starting in 2009 and continuing all the way to 2016, David has been honored with the vExpert distinction by VMware for his virtualization evangelism.

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