I have only been to one VMworld edition before. Last year I attended the European version in Barcelona. I found the conference quite interesting and – as I was mostly a visitor – managed to see a lot of interesting sessions and roam the Solutions Exchange booths a lot, collecting tons of swag. It was also of great help that Catalans really know how to cook … the evil bastards!
This year I was even more excited for two reasons: first, it was my first VMworld US which is the main platform for announcing everything VMware has been working on throughout the year (hello high share prices!), and second – this time I was doing sessions of my own.
VMworld is the biggest conference and trade show for all things virtualization. Spanning five days, from Sunday 26 September to Thursday 30 September, it was held at the convention center at Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas but there were additional sessions and meetings eating up the conferencing space of the three adjacent hotels – Mandalay Bay, Luxor, and Delano.
I came to Vegas as the architect responsible for enabling the extensibility of the vSphere UI through plug-ins. The main motivation for me cramping my humongous butt in the economy-class seats of three airplanes was to socialize a significant change happening to the vSphere UI architecture that enables third-party UI plug-in ecosystem on the VMware Cloud on AWS. My goal was to collect feedback from VMware partners that develop UI plug-ins as well as from customers. We did multiple one-on-one sessions with partners with solutions ranging from storage, through backup and recovery, to hyper-converged infrastructure, and met multiple other teams throughout the conference. These meetings are held in the Delano and were dispersed in such a way throughout the four days that it was extremely hard for me to jump back to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center to catch any of the regular VMworld sessions.
Outside of that I used the opportunity to reach even more plug-in developers external to VMware and help them speed up their adoption of the vSphere Client platform (HTML5 version). I held a total of three meet-the-experts sessions during which I was helping plug-in developers with answers to tricky plug-in design problems, provided best practices, and giving glimpses of the road ahead.
I also assisted plug-in developers to do a guided hands-on lab on writing a plugin for the vSphere Client based on the Plugin Seed. Both the hands-on lab and the Plugin Seed project are led by Laurent Delamare, a peer of mine from the team in Palo Alto.
In addition to the regular schedule I had for VMworld I also joined the vSphere UI team in Sofia (Milen Borchev, Mincho Tonev, Mustafa Ibryamov, Ivaylo Ivanov) in presenting improvements in workflows between the Flash and the HTML5 version of the client – I presented improvements to the networking UI that were really appreciated by the audience, as well as talked about the customer impact of the plug-in re-architecture.
There were a number interesting things to see around the Expo area. There’s a new startup called PrimaryIO that exposes on-premise data to virtual machines deployed on VMware Cloud on AWS. This is done through a smart caching layer implemented on the AWS side. As with all other booths I was glad to see the team implementing a plugin for the vSphere UI.
The team from Palo Alto Networks gave us a demo of their security-centric configuration for NSX – much easier to grasp than the ACLs you would normally go through with network configuration.
One more UI plugin I was happy to see was the one by OVH who integrated their own hosting and cloud-provider processes into the vSphere Client.
There are two things to do for fun within the framework of VMworld – games at the Expo during the day – and partying at night.
The games get less interesting after your first VMworld, also I was left with the impression that there were less in this edition. Therefore this time I focused on the partying. There are multiple parties happening around town – either organized by VMware partners or by teams within VMware. A list of events is tracked at vmblog.com. Before I knew about this list seasoned VMware employees enlightened me about the parties’ registration links.
On Monday I tried to crash the Cohesity party that was at Omnia night club inside Caesars Palace. The reason: co-workers of mine were going … oh, and they had Snoop Dogg. Not that I am a huge fan – but still more interesting to write home about than to complain how much money you lost at the blackjack tables. I did not get a response so I did not attempt entering. Instead I decided to honor my jet-lag and have a few drinks at the hotel. Snoop was rumored to join another party on Tuesday but I find now mention of this on the interweb right now.
Tuesday: already a packed schedule. First I went to the Legendary Veeam VMworld party – a title not only self-assigned but also – per all feedback from previous conferences – rightfully earned. The organization was impressive and the environment and entertainment – awesome.
Two hurdles came in the way of my full enjoying the event. I did not know anybody and I had to run to another party afterwards. The second was an exclusive party for members of my business unit at VMware and took place at the Marquee inside Cosmopolitan. Without having the scale or investment put into the Veeam party it was quite enjoyable simply because I knew half the party-goers – and the rest I got introduced to. Also, given that I work in a remote office ten hours away from HQ I have only so few opportunities to meet my US coworkers and executives in an informal environment and continue babbling on about stuff – both professional and unprofessional – until the early hours.
There was no debate about what to do on Wednesday – the official VMworld party – called VMworld Fest – was on. Three tents at the edge of the Vegas Strip, at the World Market Pavilion, each containing varied selection of food, drinks, and entertainment. Having to sleep off the consequences of last night’s partying, I arrived an hour and a half later so I missed the tribute band impersonating Prince and the Revolution and was ready for the main event: the Royal Machines with a huge list of guests including Mark McGrath, Macy Gray, Sebastian Bach, Robin Zander, D.M.C., and Fred Durst. Having in mind the bands that played on previous VMworld installments I was pretty happy with the choice. It had something for everybody – I especially enjoyed Seb Bach and D.M.C. covering Ozzy, AC/DC, and Aerosmith.
After the party we hung around the Irish Pub ath the Mandalay Bay Mall having a refreshing chat with an awesomely-crazy East Texan administrator working for an oil company that prides himself on voting Republican, pumping money out of the soil, and stashing guns to defend himself against the federal government.
My most important takeaway from the conference was the first-day keynote in which three brand new vSphere UI plug-ins developed by VMware teams were presented. It is a great honor for me to have enabled these teams to announce strategic products at VMworld and to have helped two out of the three teams in the design and development of their plug-ins. It is also a huge morale boost for my whole Sofia-based team that owns the vSphere UI extensibility and SDK.
Images in the article courtesy of Milen Borchev, Laurent Delamare, and Ivaylo Ivanov.