Early last week, I was at VMworld — VMware’s huge annual show. 21,000 people showed up; it was truly awe-inspiring to be at a show of that magnitude. Walking across the expo floor took close to 10 minutes, and that’s before you count the crowd.
My overall impressions of VMworld were that VMware had one of the world’s largest stages to make some huge announcements, and it didn’t — instead, it showed incremental improvements. I think Jerome Wendt put it best (certainly most optimistically):
Except this year something unexpected happened. VMware failed to deliver the earth shattering, mind altering announcements in virtualization that had become almost common place at past events. … Yet at the end of the day, this lack of excitement or earth shattering announcements events may be exactly what users and the business world at large have been waiting to occur. Nothing is worse than being convinced you should buy or implement a technology and then three or four weeks pass and then another technology that is ten times better is released.
Frankly, what I was hoping for out of VMworld in advance was actually pretty similar — nothing huge out of virtualization, but rather some big announcements in areas like Cloud Foundry and its social efforts like Socialcast, or perhaps major news around Data Director. But I didn’t see much of that at all, much to my regret. The impression I got was that VMware feels that its audience at the conference is so full of ops people doing virtualization that they don’t want to bother with anything else. But every time I brought up Cloud Foundry in conversations, for example, I heard lots of excitement from attendees. As we move toward a more DevOps-based world, companies like VMware need to celebrate the change and help its customers rather than avoid mentioning it (in hopes of not scaring some attendees?).
In the analyst track, we actually heard a lot of those interesting topics that were largely missing from the keynotes — things like the Cetas acquisition for Big Data analytics, or a deep dive into VMware’s social technologies. The biggest problem with analyst days is that they put us into a bubble separate from the conference itself, particularly when the schedule is as packed as it was at VMworld; why not integrate themes across the entire event?
Something I’ve seen done well at other vendor events is product keynotes; rather than having 21,000-person rooms or small tracks, have spotlighted talks on a few tracks immediately following the keynotes that promise an overview and announcements within smaller parts of the business. I didn’t any see that at VMworld, but it could be because I frankly didn’t have the time to look for it.
One thing worth noting, though, is the focus VMware put on reverting its vRAM-based pricing. Although the announcement leaked, this could have been some of the big news out of VMworld. I definitely appreciate VMware’s candor in admitting its mistake, and it gives them a lot of credibility and builds faith in them for doing so. That said, an announcement about changed pricing is a big difference from an announcement of new products or major features and releases.
Now it’s only a matter of waiting till next year to see whether VMware continues down that road of stability over major announcements. It’s easy to say that a slower conference, in terms of news, is a good thing when it happens once. But it’s impossible to suggest any sort of pattern with a single example — it’s no more than a guessing game. Rather than play that game, I look forward to seeing what VMware does for next year.
Disclosure: VMware is a client and paid my travel and hotel for VMworld.