My first trip to VMworld

VMworld is the new industry show.  It is the show to attend and the show to exhibit at.  I was really impressed.  Here's a list of my thoughts about my trip there.

Update: I re-read this blog post this morning and felt it was too harsh and didn't contain enough of my positive reaction to the show.  I've therefore added a new paragraph or two in the beginning that explains my overall reaction to VMworld.  I also added some photos. No, I didn't get any complaints. This is just a case of writer's remorse.

VMworld is a very impressive show.  The main session was the biggest such session I've ever seen.  Attendance was around 20,000 people, which is more than last year, which was bigger than the year before, etc.  In a world of ever-shrinking tradeshows, it's nice to see one that's growing.  I liked the way they did the virtual park, and the way they had volleyball, basketball, and badminton courts (with what appeared to be pros would would play with you).  The attendance at the opening keynote was incredible.  (The content of the Paul Maritz's talk, or the what-appeared-to-be-scripted "interview" of the three CIOs later… not so much.  Due to my impression of that talk, I slept in the following morning and didn't go to the next morning's general session, only to be disappointed by all the tweets about how much better THAT talk was.) 

VMworld and the Venetian also did a very good job of shuffling 20,000 people around the various venues, including lunch.  I never felt like I was ever waiting in line anywhere.  There was the occasional traffic jam, of course, but nothing compared to what I've seen at some shows. Food was decent, and there were healthy options if that's what you were looking for. 

The treatment of the press was very good.  We had a press-only area with meals, drinks, and snacks where we could relax, write, blog, etc. Then they had a place where press could bring non-press people for interviews.  They also had dedicated Q&A sessions for the press.  All of that was very close by, which made it all very convenient.

Overall, it's a very good show with a lot of content (if that' what you're looking for) and a lot of exhibitors (if that's what you're looking for).  You could do a lot worse.  Now, my feedback…

1. Registration was easy

That is, just getting registered.  And then….

2. Session builder was horrible

You were required to register for any sessions you wanted to attend.  That's fine.  However, the system you had to use to do that was one of the worst designed web pages I've ever worked with.  Every mouse click resulted in a refresh of the entire page with a list of all sessions.  Many sessions were listed in multiple places, instead of just listing the session once with multiple times.  Registering for each session required many, many mouse clicks and a popup.  Then, of course, it was followed by a page refresh.  Yuck.

One cool feature was that you could export your schedule to your calendar.  That was nice.

3. The exhibit hall was huge, huge, huge.

It's not just that this was bigger than EMC World or Symantec Vision, or any other large industry show.  It's that it contained almost anyone who was anyone.  In the backup world, you're not going to see SyncSort or CA at EMC World, but you do see them here.  This shows how separate EMC continues to allow VMware to be.

In fact, the exhibit hall was so big, and there were so many vendors there that I hadn't seen in a long time, that I had to give up almost all the sessions I had planned to attend just to make time to see all the vendors in my space.  And that's just in the backup space!

4. The exhibit hall is a little out of control

Certain vendors (and you know who they are if you were there) send people so far out in the aisle that you can't get past them without being accosted.  They would literally stand in front of you, forcing you to interact with them.  This is regardless of how many times you went by the booth, or whether or not you had any interest in technology.

Many vendors exceeded any reasonable noise rules.  There should be a very definite rule that your booth cannot be beyond N decibels if you're more than N feet away from the booth.  Subwoofers should be outlawed altogether.  It is soooo not cool to be the booth 30 feet away and not be able to hold a conversation because another booth is blasting away.

If you're going to hire booth babes (and there's a good argument for not doing so), can you at least have them dress professionally and not like they're going to a night club or standing on a street corner?

5. Water.  Seriously.

I was never so thirsty as when I was in the exhibit hall.  You're several minutes away from any drinks you can buy.  There's no complimentary sodas.  So there should be water dispenser everywhere — and they should be constantly monitored for fullness and cup availability.  Almost every single water dispenser I found was either out of water, out of cups, or both.  Here's an idea?  How about putting the next 5-gallon water bottle next to the dispenser.  If we're thirsty and it's empty, we'll put it in.

The first night I went to dinner after being thirsted to death in the exhibit hall.  I drank six glasses of water and — not sure how to say this delicately — my body showed me later it needed all six glasses. [Update: I heard from a few people that I put this too delicately and they didn't understand what I was saying.  I'm saying that I didn't need to go to the bathroom at all after drinking that much water.]  I was severely dehydrated just from walking around the exhibit hall.  Water was that hard to find.

Having said all of that, this is the new industry show and I will never miss it again if I can help it.

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----- Signature and Disclaimer -----

Written by W. Curtis Preston (@wcpreston). For those of you unfamiliar with my work, I've specialized in backup & recovery since 1993. I've written the O'Reilly books on backup and have worked with a number of native and commercial tools. I am now Chief Technical Evangelist at Druva, the leading provider of cloud-based data protection and data management tools for endpoints, infrastructure, and cloud applications. These posts reflect my own opinion and are not necessarily the opinion of my employer.