PEX2010 Impressions

I finally got one of my senior executives out to a VMware event, and we had a fantastic week.  I've spent the last few hours working on an Executive Briefing for my employer for Monday, so I thought I'd jump over here and give my impressions of the event.

First off, you just can't beat Vegas for an event like this.  Sure there's fun to be had (more on that later) but you can't understate the value of having the hotel rooms be a 5 minute walk from the conference center.  After attending PEX09 in Orlando and VMworld09 in San Francisco and being able to contrast those with VMworld08 in Las Vegas and this year's event, I think it's a no brainer.  The convienience of Las Vegas, even with some of the negative connotations in this economy, are awesome.  The opportunities to find quick places to sit and talk with partners, the ease with which Vegas handles a large conference like this and the ease of getting in and out by air…  Come on VMware, stick with Vegas!

VMware makes a point to say that this event isn't a "conference", that it's a place for all VMware partners to exchange ideas and information.  Man were they right.  I have to give a special shout-out to our EMC (Rob Osborne, Walt Kelley), Cisco (Mike White) and especially our VMware (Andy Kunkler) reps for working hard to find the right people for us to meet with.  It was a veritable who's who of VCE executives that we got access to, and I know those kinds of meetings aren't made without some work behind the scenes.  Thanks guys!

Most of our meetings were centered around our upcoming two-week lab engagement with the VCE team in Raleigh to build out a vBlock reference design.  We are very interested in seeing if the vBlock concept can help us in our goal to take the virtualization products we offer to the next level, and we had lots of discussion to that end.  First, we had an incredible dinner with Chad Sakac and the vSpecialist team.  In addition to being some of the smartest guys on the planet when it comes to the technology, they are also some of the most open and accessible.  Almost any conversation with Chad is worthwhile, but get him talking about global (even historical) technology trends over a couple bottles of wine and you never know where the discussion will lead.  Much of the discussion was "off the record", but Chad did offer to get his team involved in the vBlock design with us, and also agreed to let us build the reference design with the new v2.0 of the Ionix UIM software (BIG DEAL!!!).  It was a very productive discussion and I'm looking forward to getting engaged with Chris Horn, Scott Lowe and the rest of the team out in Raleigh over the next couple weeks.

We also got a chance to speak with Ed Bugnion, CTO of the Compute side of Cisco, who just also happens to be one of the original co-founders of VMware.  This guy is like the Barry Bonds of technology; he just keeps hitting home run after home run.  We had some great discussion on the roadmap for the UCS and Nexus products, which really got me excited about getting in on the ground floor with the technology.  I hope we are able to get to use the new Palo mezzanine (CNA) cards in the lab, because those look to be the final piece of the puzzle on the 10GE layout.  We also had some interesting discussions around Acadia, including where it is now and what role service providers like Peak 10 can play in the Build (um, we do data centers) and Operate (seems some companies LIKE outsourcing the management of their infrastructure, who knew?) phases of their business model.  There's some work to do on that front, but the upside could be very significant.  It was hard to sit across the table from Ed and not act a little bit like a fan-boy; he's one of the guys who BUILT the technology we all use every day!

Finally we really got to dig in on the VMware side, especially on the sales relationships with us service providers.  At PEX09 we had a conversation with Joel Davis, the VMware Director of the VAR Channel for North America and he essentially told us the whole thing was broken and needed to be redone.  He didn't have a lot of specifics for us, but he promised us that by the time PEX10 rolled around they'd be in a better position to work with us and he was right.  We had meetings with Bob Selph (vCloud Strategic Sales) and Tod Nielsen (COO) around how service providers fit, how the VSPP licensing will be evolving and just generally how things can be better, and they had lots of good ideas that are in progress.  We were also very excited to hear about Don Schleicher's new position as the head of a new SP/Cloud Sales Channel.  Don has been a friend of the family for some time in his old role as the VP of the US Commercial Sales Division, and now that he's focused exclusively on the SP/Cloud Channel I expect to see some great new ideas.  We discussed new licensing ideas that have the potential to change the game for service providers, we discussed who the players in this space needed to be and we brainstormed ways to make everyone successful.  Don has his hands full, but my impression is that he's the right man for the job.

As you can see there was a TON of work stuff, but Vegas is still Vegas, and being in the Foundation Club for the Superbowl didn't suck at all.  All of the VMware, Cisco and EMC guys took care of us all week, and between the food, the adult beverages and the gambling, I was ready to come home and see the family.  The Cisco guys gave us little Flip video cameras, and while I did my best not to record anything incriminating, there were definitely some clips that left no doubt we were in Sin City.  Thanks to everyone who made it a productive, fun and unforgettable week!