Editor’s Note: This guest post was written by Greg W. Stuart, winner of the Boche.net/Gestalt IT VMworld trip contest
Finally Attending a Computer/Technology Event
I have to confess something right off the bat; I’ve never actually been to a computer/technology conference in the 10 years that I’ve been in the business. Yes, that is pitiful, being that there are so many good conferences out there such as Microsoft’s TechEd, Oracle’s Open World, Citrix’s Synergy and of course VMware’s VMworld. These are all very exciting and highly entertaining conferences. That being said, I can finally say I’ve attended a computer/technology event, VMworld 2010.
Being completely new to virtualization (introduced to VMware for the 1st time in December of 2009), I quickly gained a passion for the field and the technology involved, particularly with VMware. We have Citrix and even an instance of Hyper-V in our infrastructure but VMware grabbed my attention and I’ve been hooked ever since. In April of 2010 I achieved my VMware Certified Professional (V4) certification and have gained a lot of good experience and knowledge in a fairly short period of time. This is thanks to the amazing VMware community; i.e. blogs, twitter feeds, training, etc.
As I’m surfing through many of the great blogs on VMware I came across a blog post by Jason Boche promoting a “Get Away to VMworld” contest. Jason donated a free registration to the person who won his contest, and Gestalt IT agreed to cover the airfare. I thought, why not, I never win anyways and it only took my 2 minutes to enter, done.
Just as I’m about to fall asleep one night, I get an email on my phone and sure enough it was from Jason telling me I won his competition. I was going to VMworld, my first computer/technology conference. Needless to say I didn’t sleep much the rest of the night.
Inspired to Join the Community
Winning that contest inspired me to join the community of bloggers evangelizing VMware and find ways to give back as well. I started my own blog, vDestination.com, and quickly began writing about VMware, my experiences as well as a few contests that would help give back to the community.
In the days leading up to VMworld 2010, I ran a contest giving away a full library of books based on VMware vSphere and its tools. Authors and vExperts, Eric Siebert, Scott Lowe and Mike Laverick all donated a book (some donated 2) as well as David Davis and Train Signal donating their vSphere training video series and even a donation of Windows 7 Ultimate by Chris Kusek. It was a huge testament to the willingness of the community to give back to those who are seeking to expand their knowledge base on VMware.
Finally the day to leave for VMworld had arrived; excitement was at its apex as I boarded the plane in Baltimore to head out to San Francisco. The first order of business upon arriving at the Moscone Center was getting my badge and my swag… I mean conference materials. VMware provided a really nice backpack chock full of conference material, a helpful map of Moscone, a guide to all of the sessions, labs, etc. and a map of the Solutions Exchange show floor. Being my first time at VMworld the first day was very overwhelming and the guides and materials provided really helped to make it a more structured event for me.
Day one I headed over to the bloggers lounge in hopes to meet some of the bloggers whose content I read on a daily basis, and to meet some of my readers as well. The difficult part was figuring out who was who due to the fact that our avatars were not posted on our badges (note to VMware: print badges with avatar/twitter handle next year). I plugged in my laptop and began tweeting and blogging.
No more than 2 minutes after I had tweeted that I was in the bloggers lounge, Guy Chapman sends me a tweet that said, “@gregwstuart Raise your left hand if you are here” I looked around worried that people might think I was crazy sitting in the lounge with my left hand raised so I did a quick scan and saw Guy hanging out in the corner. We met and had a nice chat for about a half hour, first networking connection made! I also met Patrick Redknap, John Troyer and Stu Miniman, Kendrick Coleman as well as the man that made my trip possible, Jason Boche.
From there I went to my first session which was about building your own home lab, the speakers included Eric Siebert and Simon Seagrave, both vExperts and authors. The sessions were really great, while I didn’t attend many; the ones I did attend were very knowledgeable and entertaining as well. You don’t always assume that a tech conference is going to be entertaining, but this was different, VMworld was fun at every turn.
The labs were amazing. This was an area that was constantly packed and at times had a significant wait to get into. In different areas of Moscone there was what I call “chill” areas, staged with small ottoman like cubes to sit on or even, get this, giant VMworld beanbag chairs. People napped, held meetings, typed away on their laptops or just sat for a breather, it was very interesting.
There were even areas that were staged like a game room. I counted about 4 ping pong tables, a couple of air hockey tables and other areas you could hang out in that were relaxing and fun.
I didn’t expect this to be the scene at VMworld. I thought it was going to be long days of bad food, very involved sessions, waiting in lines, and having nowhere to sit. This was not the case. The food was always good and available at every turn it seemed, from hot food, food for on the go, candy, soda, water and everything in between. This is an aspect of the conference that I thought was very well put together, it made the long days easier to handle.
Day two I was invited to attend a product launch/press release held by Xsigo at the W hotel across from the Moscone Center. This was an awesome event. I was there on behalf of Gestalt IT, and following the press release and lunch, Xsigo invited us to hold a round table discussion on their new line of Virtual I/O Directors and to discuss the relevance of virtual I/O in the field today.
It was very educational and I made some good contacts and came away with a nice blog post as well. It was nice to be the first to get the news and blog about it, a significant benefit of attending these types of events.
The Solutions Exchange
Lastly, the Solutions Exchange was my most favorite attraction at VMworld; this is where I spent the bulk of days 3 and 4. There were over 200 sponsors and exhibitors that had their offering of the latest technology to either partner with VMware or even in some instances compete with VMware, yes Citrix had a booth, 10×20 actually… which I thought was interesting.
My favorite booth was the WYSE booth. WYSE had their WYSE Pocket Cloud product on display with a number of various end points displaying its ability to reach your virtual desktop anywhere you are. They had the DroidX phone, the iPhone 4 and a couple of other handhelds on display that you could actually play with and test drive the application. Cisco, Veeam and NetApp all had really great booths and very good presentations.
The Solutions Exchange next year should really be called The Swag Depot, this is where I got 98% of my swag from all of the different vendors. My most prized piece of swag was an iPod Nano that I won, and I can’t even remember who I won it from. There was just so much stuff going on, at times it was information overload.
A Year’s Worth of Knowledge
In less than a week at VMworld, I came away with a year’s worth of knowledge it seems. I definitely came back with a ton of stuff to blog about; I think I generated at least 4 blog posts resulting from my trip to VMworld.
I also made some very good connections with others inside the VMware community that are sure to be long lasting and mutually beneficial. I was actually approached by Mike Laverick and he told me he loved my blog contest and has begun to run contests on his blog as well.
The VMware community is very involved in helping others join in the community and gain the knowledge and experience that will further their careers in the virtualization field. To be a part of this community had done more for my career than any certification or training course had done to date. Many thanks to Stephen Foskett at GestaltIT and Jason Boche for helping me get to VMworld; I wouldn’t have gone without your help.