VMworld Europe 2011 Review

It's slightly later than I had planned to post it (due to other commitments) but here's a brief overview of how I spent my time in Copenhagen and what I thought of it.

Day 0 – Partner Day

The partner sessions that I was interested in attending were fortunately scheduled for the afternoon so I was able to travel out to Copenhagen on Monday morning rather than on Sunday night – more time to spend with the family before leaving them for most of the week. Luckily I travelled out on the same flight as Ed Grigson (@egrigson), a comparative veteran of VMworld compared to me, the newbie. I need not have worried though. VMware had people with sign boards dotted around the airport to direct attendees to the waiting buses outside that took people straight over to the Bella Center.

Registration was simple – no waiting. One of the perks of arriving before many of the other general attendees but after the partner rush. Armed with a Veeam sponsored metro pass, my new VMworld backpack, a suitcase and my laptop bag I headed straight for… the cloakroom. No way I was taking all of that round with me πŸ™‚

So far, so good. Next on the agenda was a quick wander around to get my bearings. I found the Community & Blogger's lounge and met the inestimable John Troyer. I must confess that I got a little carried away chatting to John and some of the other people passing by and missed my partner session. Fortunately that opened up another possibility – try out the Hands-on-Labs! I've got a separate post on the Labs so I'm not going to dwell on that here.

Two lab sessions and some more networking with people and the afternoon was soon gone.

My evening was spent initially at the VMware partner reception before I made my way into central Copenhagen to check into my hotel. From there I made my way along to the Danish VMUG party. The hospitality was top-notch, aided in no small part by Quest and Veeam picking up the bar tab.

An excellent first day, and I was very keen to jump into my first session on Tuesday.

Day 1

The first day of general attendance at VMworld Europe 2011. I think it's safe to say I had not been in such a crowd of people as that before. It was a bit unnerving at first but I quickly got used to it.

My first session was “View Troubleshooting: Looking Under the Hood” with Matt Coppinger of VMware. Matt was an excellent speaker and delivered an excellent presentation. A good way to start off the conference. Afterwards I got to speak to Matt briefly – he used to work with some of the Partners who founded the company that I now work for. We had a short conversation about vCenter as a single point of failure in View implementations before event staff ushered us from the room for the next session to get seated.

My second session was “VMware vSphere 5.0 Resource Management Deep Dive” with Frank Denneman and Valentin Hamburger, both of VMware. I was familiar with much of the subject material presented but the delivery and the odd nugget that I didn't know was well worth attending for.

Straight out of one session and into another – “Private VMware vCloud Architecture Technical Deep Dive” with Chris Colotti and David Hill of VMware. Cloud is a growth area and an area of interest to me as well. Dave and Chris's presentation was very detailed and on a subject that's as deep and as wide as the Atlantic Ocean. They could have gone on for hours and I would have listened. vCD has come on a way since v1.0 but still has plenty of distance to go.

After a lightning bite of lunch, I indulged in a session that in truth I hadn't considered until I spoke with Carter Shanklin the night before. “Managing High Performance Data with SQLFire” wasn't something that jumped out at me initially as my current projects are more Cloud and Desktop based but what do these things usually sit on? Databases! SQLFire is VMware's effort to find a middle ground between large, un-scalable relational databases and the scale-out benefits that many NoSQL databases are offering. The session was perhaps aimed more at software developers than infrastructure people like me but could VMware start adopting it as the database layer for some of their products? I'd like to think so in the future.

I had a few minutes after Carter's session to catch my breath in the Community Lounge before heading into Steve Herrod's keynote for the day where I got to meet up with most of the other London VMUG attendees present.

Steve Herrod is VMware's CTO and a good speaker and gave the assembled bloggers (me included) plenty to tweet about. I gather that some of our mutual Twitter followers found it hard to keep up!

There were rumours in advance of the keynote that VMware hadn't shown their entire hand in the US conference last month and I had previously been told that VMworld Europe would be more management focused. It was. VMware chose that keynote to announce no fewer than three Management Suites / products. I'm not going to go into detail about them here, but probably in future postings.

Tuesday night I had an invitation to the Veeam party in the city courtesy of Ricky El-Qasem. Veeam throw a good party although it was slightly too crowded for my liking. It was great to bump into yet more people I hadn't already met during the day and a good way to unwind after quite a busy day.

Day 2

I started Day 2 off with a quick Lab session when the doors opened at 8am and then went off in search of Raghu Raghuram's early morning keynote session. I got side-tracked on the way and missed it so I'll have to watch it when it's available on VMworld.com.

Much of Wednesday I planned to set aside for moving through the Solutions Exchange. I've written a separate post on that that you can read here.

My only other activity of note on Day 2 was to attend “VMware View and Thinapp Group Discussion” with Tommy Walker. It was the only GD session that I attended and in hindsight a few more might have been good to do. Obviously with these sorts of sessions, your mileage may vary with the composition of the crowd present. I felt that this particular session could have gone a bit better but that's not a reflection on Tommy Walker, who was very knowledgeable and led the discussion well.

The evening was given over to the VMworld party. There was much speculation, based on “Bjorn Again” in Copenhagen 2010 and “The Killers” in Las Vegas 2011, who the band might be that VMware had booked. There were rumours floating about “Aqua” and “Steps” humourously propagated by a few people πŸ™‚ but on arriving at the venue for the party, it looked less likely that there would be a big band because a lot of effort appeared to have been expended on everything else. This party literally was a p**s up in a brewery – The Carlsberg Brewery!

Being in a party with up to 7000 other people is quite an experience. I found the best way to experience it at first was to stand fairly still and drink through it. Our small group (Simon Long, Gregg Robertson, Stu McHugh and Jonathan Medd) quickly grew to incorporate PowerCLIMan, I mean Alan Renouf, and other London VMUGers as well as most of the Dutch vMafia (Duncan Epping, Frank Denneman, Gabrie van Zanten, Eric Sloof, Chris Colotti and Dave Hill – yes I know the latter two aren't Dutch).

It wasn't perhaps the event that some had hoped it would be but a lot of effort had gone into it and I enjoyed myself.

Day 3

The final day of VMworld Europe 2011 felt very slightly subdued to start off with. Due to the scheduled keynote by VMware CEO Paul Maritz at 9am, the Hands-on-Labs and Solutions Exchange were not immediately open and, I suspect, a few people may have stayed in bed a little later.

I watched the keynote with a few other attendees out in the atrium on the big screen as it was easier to use a laptop out there than in the auditorium. (The close proximity to tea and croissants may also have been a factor.) Paul's speech focused a lot on selling the concept and need for Cloud computing as well as showcasing three VMware customers (SAP, Ducati and NYSE EuroNext) who explained how they were transforming their businesses using VMware and private / public clouds.

I attended only two sessions after the keynote. The first was “VMware View plus Virtual Cloud Infrastructure: What's New and Future Directions” withΒ  Robert Baesman and Jessy Schoss. I wasn't too sure what to expect from this session ahead of time but I wasn't disappointed. As well as discussing and showing an early version of a new product spin off, the presenters discussed a more unified management interface for virtual infrastructure – including a mock up of what it might look like.

My other session of the day was “Understanding VMware vSphere Stretched Clusters, Disaster Recovery and Planned Workload Mobility” with Chad Sakac and Lee Dilworth. Both are excellent presenters but where does Chad get his energy from? This session was packed out (it was not the first one where that happened either) and had been run once before but it still felt fresh. It described and covered some of the misconceptions of various Disaster Recovery (DR) and Disaster Avoidance (DA) scenarios. A subject that could fill a very big book indeed!

The rest of the day slipped by either in the Solutions Exchange or in conversation in the Community Lounge. Gradually people started leave, handfuls at first and then in their droves. Most, it seemed were headed straight for the airport, I was staying one more night and spent it in the company of Rick Vanover and Chris Dearden of Veeam and Stu McHugh, a fellow London VMUGer.


A final word on VMworld then. As I mentioned a few times already, this was my first VMworld and I got a lot out of it. I finally got to meet some of the people who I have previously only spoken to on Twitter or via email. I got to meet many more new people and made some new contacts. I got to try a number of VMware products in the Labs that I haven't had time to investigate fully. I got to attend a number of sessions where I learned a lot about several aspects of virtualisation that particularly interest me. In short, I got a lot out of it. I felt slightly rejuvenated and inspired (not to mention tired) by the end of the week. I have a number of posts that I've got to find time to write now πŸ™‚

I'd recommend visiting next year if you're at all interested. Whether it's San Francisco or Barcelona (or both), in my opinion it's well worth the effort to attend. One word of caution however, if you're thinking of attending or sending an employee, make sure that they're free and clear of work for the week. To get the best and the most from VMworld, I think that you need to immerse yourself in it totally. Answering work emails or phone calls is not ideal.

It's also worth giving yourself plenty of time to visit the Solutions Exchange, the Hands-on-Labs and have plenty of conversations with the people that you meet. VMworld is not just about turning up and listening, it's also about discussing and sharing ideas with the other people there.

The food and the hospitality were top notch. VMware and the Bella Center really looked after their attendees in my opinion – I had a great time.