VMworld Europe 2011: Perspectives

6a0128779ad48c970c014e8b18d569970dAs much as I love talking to customers, whiteboarding solutions and doing booth presentations, I miss the days of being able to attend VMworld as a fan, and as a user.  Despite having been to both 2011 VMworld events, I have yet to sit in a session, work through a lab or participate in any of the panel discussions.  Luckily the community is doing a great job of keeping everyone aware of the major announcements, but it’s hard to feel very plugged-in to the event when all my time is spent at the Solutions Exchange.  I’ll have to talk with our marketing team about making the schedule a little more friendly to allow for more participation.

All my whining aside, it’s been a great show so far!  There’s a very different vibe (as expected) to the event, with Copenhagen and Las Vegas being very different places (to say the least).  The weather hasn’t been great, but it hasn’t put a damper (ha!) on the event at all.  Copenhagen is a very interesting place, even if we didn’t get much of a chance to explore.  Luckily my co-worker Tom and his wife Jenny played chauffer and tour guide for a little while, so we did get to see some of the sights!

80377-stock-photo-architecture-europe-paris-photographic-technology-tilt-shiftYou may have noticed that I was absent from almost all social media for the first couple days of the event, and there was a very good reason for that!  I jumped in to help out the VCE Sales team and took a meeting with a customer on short notice.  The only challenge was that the customer happened to be in Paris.  It was a long day of plane rides (one of which had a fire on board, necessitating a quick evacuation and moving to a new plane), car rides (Paris isn’t all that pretty in the rain and on a highway…) but in the middle was a fantastic meeting with Orange Business Systems.  I got to meet their head of cloud computing marketing and one of the business and product development executives, and we had a great lunch.  The conversation ranged around a bit, but we talked about the philosophy of product development, the future of cloud-focused M&O and even dove a little into the VCE roadmap covering the next few quarters.  Like most SPs they are very, very aware of the amount of time between purchasing infrastructure and when that infrastructure starts generating revenue.  The Vblock and VCE solution focus are both things that meshed well with them.

From a VCE standpoint, the event was another in a string of successes in getting our brand, the value of the Vblock and the ever-growing stack of solutions developed on top of it out to the public.  Over the course of the show, more than 40% of the attendees of the conference had their badges scanned at the VCE booth, and the list of follow-up tasks I have with people who had questions or asked for more in-depth discussion after the show is insane.  Thank goodness I can scan business cards in with my phone!  The entire event marketing team outdid themselves (again) and really pulled everything off.  Mary Martinez knows how to rock an industry event, that’s for sure.  One thing that was commented on a couple times is that we typically don’t bring any of the sales team to these events, choosing to staff the booth with members of our field enablement team.  These guys are incredible, able to talk solutions, business value, partnerships, channels or tech with equal ease.  Jae Ellers and Spencer Critchlow both presented breakout sessions on our recently announced VDI solutions (FastPath and AlwaysOn), Steven Bryen and Grant Bailey presented on topics including vCloud Director and GRC solutions and Aaron Delp walked customer after customer through the Vblock components and options.  I think the highlight of the week had to be having a customer ask about the process by which customers upgraded from UIM2.1 to the (almost) newly released UIM3.0.  Rather that pull out a demo video or a presentation, Tom Chatham brought in a member of the EMC Ionix team for support and proceeded to upgrade the live Vblock that was in the booth supporting all of the demos, on the fly and without affecting any of the running workloads.  We showed off the new vCloud Director integration as well as the new elastic provisioning live and without a net.  It was one of the most ballsy things I’ve seen done at a trade show, because if it hadn’t worked like we said it would, the booth would have been down and everyone would have known about it!  Kudos to Tom for knowing that product in and out and being able to pull it off.  I know I haven’t named all of the vArchitects who helped make this event awesome, but their efforts were all stellar.

The relatively quick turnaround between the two VMworld events really prevented there from being any blockbuster announcements, but it was still a great event to meet new people and catch up with old friends.  To everyone I met in the booth, shared a meal or raised a glass with, thank you for a wonderful week.  Until next time!