VMworld 2019 Conclusion: vCommunity

I’m back in my house, in my chair, with my family. I’m so thankful for them and happy and contented to be back home.

But the whirlwind of the past few days hasn’t faded yet from my mind. There are so many notes, so much information, and I so want to fire up the homelab before it all disappears, but I just can’t. My brain needs to unclench first.

This was my first time at VMworld in San Francisco. Unlike the Vegas show last year, Moscone Center is broken up into three distinct buildings, all separated by busy streets. What this means is that it takes 10 to 15 minutes to get from, say the third floor of Moscone West to Moscone South. Because most events and sessions are scheduled for 30 or 60 minutes, it means leaving an event early or arriving late to the next one. While there was some of this in Vegas, usually events were only separated by a floor and a short walk. It’s something I have to take into account when scheduling sessions next year, and it meant that I had to duck out early or skip some sessions altogether.

The sessions I attended were all excellent. I tried to keep my sessions to topics that would help in my current situation, i.e. wrangling thousands of random virtual machines that are in various stages of use or abandonment, managing and deploying VMs with as few touches as possible, and trying to automate the hell out of all of it. To that end, I focused on the code-related sessions as much as possible, and I was not disappointed. VMware and the community are hard at work solving problems like mine with code, and it’s great to have such a variety of tools ready for incorporation into my own workflows.

Additionally, I attended great sessions on vSphere topics such as VMware Tools, ESXi performance, certificate management and vMotion. These not only gave me insight into how these functions work under the hood, they hinted at new technologies being planned for ESXi and vCenter to make these products work better. This was a great relief, as I’ve been concerned for a while that vSphere would go into a more slow maintenance-only product cycle as the push toward cloud increases. I’m happy that VMware continues to invest heavily in its on-prem products.

If there was one word that summed up the overarching theme of this VMworld, it’s Kubernetes. From the moment Pat Gelsinger stepped onto the stage, Kubernetes was the topic at hand. Kubernetes integration will involve a complete rearchitecting of ESXi, and as someone who sees my customers experimenting with using containers for their build processes, I’m happy that VMware is going to make this easier (and faster) to do and manage in the future.

Let’s face it though. Most of the sessions were recorded and will be made available after the show. This is true of most major software trade shows, and if sessions were the only reason to attend, one could reasonably just stay home and watch videos in their pajamas.

It’s the interactions that matter. Being able to ask questions and get clarifications is very important, and I found that valuable for certain topics and sessions. However, the most important thing that you don’t get sitting at home is the interaction with the community.

Last year was my first VMworld. I didn’t know anybody, and I didn’t really know what to do to get the most out of the show. I scheduled sessions to fill every time slot, even if the product or topic wasn’t interesting or relevant. The time that I wasn’t in a session was spent roaming the conference floor collecting swag from vendors. By the time I was done, I had fifteen t-shirts, a jacket, a drone, a game console and more pens and hats than I would ever use. I did attend a couple of parties and met a couple of great people (like Scott Lowe, who I only realized later was the proprietor of the Full Stack Journey podcast I had been listening to on the plane.)

I didn’t have the real community experience until the Dallas VMUG UserCon a few months later. There I met great people like Ariel Sanchez Mora and the leaders of both the Dallas and Austin VMUGs. But it was a talk Tim Davis gave on community that really made me realize how important my participation would be to me. I dropped a few bucks on WordPress.com and threw out and replaced my old Twitter account and started participating. I’ve seen been attending both the Cedar Park and Austin VMUG meetings as well as the Dallas UserCon, and it’s been great having a group of peers to talk with and bounce ideas off of.

Contrast last year’s VMworld to this year’s. This VMworld I collected two shirts (both from VMUG events) and no vendor swag. I visited a couple of vendors that I specifically wanted to talk to but otherwise just did a little browsing. Instead of filling my calendar and stressing out about catching them all, I strategically picked topics that would be relevant for me in the next year.

Most of my downtime between sessions was spent at the blogger tables at the VMware Social Media and Community booth outside the Solutions Exchange. It was a little darker than the VMUG area, and with a lot less foot traffic. There, I could recharge my batteries (literally), blog about the event and catch up on some of the other topics I’ve been working on and chat with the other community members who rotated in and out as they went to their sessions and events. I also got to drop in on vBrownbag sessions being given by community members, which provided some good background learning while I was working.

So what do I plan to have accomplished by VMworld 2020?

  1. Build out those automation workflows, VMware integrations and tools that I need to better manage the clusters under my purview.
  2. Blog about it.
  3. Work with my customers to get their automated ephemeral build and test envrionments working so they don’t have to rely on sharing and snapshotting their current environments.
  4. Blog about it.
  5. Earn my VCP.
  6. Blog about it.
  7. Have a presentation ready for vBrownbag.
  8. Blog about it.

Thanks to everyone I met this year; it was great.

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