VMworld US 2015 wrapped up yesterday with an abbreviated day of hands-on labs and breakout sessions, many of which were repeats of popular sessions from earlier in the week. The vendor showcase is closed on the last day of VMworld, and the mood is that of a ghost town, with many folks having flown out or using the last day to see some of San Francisco. Regardless, with many people gone, it is an ideal time to do Hands-on Labs without waiting in line.
Hands-on Labs used to be a massive attraction for VMworld. In the labs you can preview new technologies, see new versions of software you’re already running, and experiment with little fear of destroying anything. The labs are a giant showcase of VMware technology behind the scenes, too, as they’re all hosted virtually. Over the years, many vSphere improvements have come from the hands-on labs, improving things like scaling, the ability to nest ESXi VMs (running an ESXi VM inside ESXi), etc., as many rough edges are found when you create and destroy 100,000 VMs in a week. All these improvements are a boon for testing in the real world, too—my organizations’ test environments exist as ESXi VMs inside other environments. You can’t do performance testing in a nested environment, but you can certainly test functionality and upgrades, leveraging snapshots and all the other advanced features you expect from a virtualization platform.
I said that the Hands-on Labs used to be a massive attraction for VMworld. Certainly they’re still a big draw, but now you can access many of the labs year round from home or work, via VMware’s Hands-on Labs Online site. The Hands-on Labs (HOL) Online site has many of the most popular labs on it, but it doesn’t have the same number of labs available as at the conference simply because of the maintenance required for the labs themselves. Just like applications in your enterprise, every lab offered requires care and feeding, and that adds up rapidly. Another nice thing about the HOL Online offering is partner labs. Want to see Atlantis USX in action? There’s a lab for that.
Breakout sessions this year were as widely varied as ever. VMworld, at least for me, tends to be about seeing people and vendors more than attending breakout sessions, and part of that is because all the sessions are recorded. In a few weeks, all VMworld attendees will be able to view the recordings, and folks who didn’t attend VMworld can pay a nominal fee for full access. Additionally, the top ten sessions each year are made available for free. VMworld has been doing this for years, and it is a nice touch because it decouples the training aspects of VMworld from networking and efforts in the vendor showcase. There just simply isn’t enough time in the week to do everything. Personally, I’m hoping that the sessions from the DevOps program track were recorded, too, because that’s an area of immense interest for me.
So, what are the takeaways from the conference this year? To start, it’s clear that NSX is a core component of VMware’s product offerings going forward. To that end, it would be nice if it were more widely available to technical staff as a preview, such as through the VMUG EVALExperience, to drive knowledge and understanding at a grassroots level. When organizations and technologists can deploy NSX on their own and see the power of network virtualization, it’ll start being a no-brainer for deployment.
Second, security was emphasized more heavily than ever, both in the keynotes and in sessions. Certainly a lot of this is driven by NSX and its ability to do microsegmentation, but it’s nice that a CEO of a major tech firm like VMware addressed security in a post-Snowden world directly during a keynote. One of my personal tenets of IT is that it should be easy for IT staff and users to do the right thing, and it feels like VMware is taking steps in that direction on the security front, too.
Third, my TVP analyst colleague (and Sphere3D CTO) Simon Bramfitt put his finger on it when he tweeted that “VMworld is really a storage show.” VDI wasn’t emphasized much this year, in favor of the other types of desktop management (AirWatch, App Volumes, etc.) NSX is ramping up slowly. But things like VSAN and hyperconvergence, as well as the stunning array of storage vendors in the Solutions Exchange, really drives home the idea that storage is still a fundamental pain point in virtualization. Not just primary storage, either, as new products from Rubrik and Cohesity signal a renewed interest in improving data recovery and in backup products as well. Backup is an area of IT long overdue for disruptive innovation.
Overall, VMworld is what you’d expect from a large conference, and minus a few glitches like HVAC issues and the perpetual complaints that WiFi doesn’t work (why is this so hard for a major conference venue, anyway?) and the food isn’t great (all conference food is lowest common denominator), it seems that VMworld US 2015 was a complete success.
See you in 2016 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada!