My journey to VMworld 2018 began in an unexpected way - a tweet from Chris McCain.
u a CCIE? Apply for a full VMworld pass.
What did I have to lose? Never mind that VMworld was only a month away, and I had no approval to actually travel to Las Vegas. I filled out a little survey about how much I love NSX, and pressed submit. Fast forward a week, a wild email appears:
Thanks for filling out the application, I’d love to offer you the NSX Mindset scholarship to VMworld!
Uh oh. That is not what I expected. After a good amount of scrambling on my part, and some very gracious actions by my employer, I was approved for travel and lodging in Las Vegas for VMworld 2018. What an exciting an unexpected turn of events! I registered, made arrangements, and started prepping to head to a conference I never expected to attend. With CiscoLive fresh on my mind, I made a concerted effort to keep my schedule realistic. I definitely wanted plenty of time to meet new people, hit some hands on labs, and some down time so I didn’t exhaust myself. I exercised self control while scheduling sessions, but it was not easy. There was a long list of options that piqued my interest.
It’s no secret that my roots are in networking. I’ve spent plenty of time in the compute and storage silos, and I attend my local VMUG, but I am an “outsider” when it comes to the #vCommunity. I expected that VMworld was a lot like CiscoLive in terms of form and function. I found this to be mostly true, but there are some differences that I will call out throughout this post.
August crept by slowly, but the time finally came to board a plane bound for Las Vegas. After checking into my hotel and grabbing my VMworld badge, it was time for Opening Acts, followed by VMunderground. This was the first of several differences I noticed between VMworld and CiscoLive. If VMworld was a planet, it would have several orbiting moons that represent all the community events happening in conjunction. vDodgeball, vSoccer, vFit runs, vBeards gatherings - there is something for everyone. From what I can tell, these all have roots in VMUG (or vBrownbag). VMware made a smart decision supporting and empowering VMUG leaders. It has spawned a vibrant community, and it sets VMworld apart from other events.
Opening Acts was a great way to kick off VMworld. The panel on “Beating IT Burnout” was a highlight, and it was fun watching my friend Thom up on stage. Alicia Preston spoke about practicing mindfulness to combat burnout. This presentation spawned several other hallway conversations throughout the week. If you missed it, take the time to watch. VMunderground was also a great time, and I got the opportunity to meet several folks that I would continue to see at blogger tables and VMTN area. I definitely recommend this event for anyone that is new to VMworld.
Overall the session content was very good, and I was surprised at the depth of the networking material. In general, I found the sessions to be a bit more technical at CLUS than VMworld, but not by much. One thing I missed from CLUS was having access to a copy of the slides for each session. There were several times a presenter blew past a slide that I wanted to digest a bit more. It also keeps people from feeling like they have to snap a picture of every slide. Here are my highlights:
- NSX Mindset: Clouds Collide, Opportunity Strikes (NET1919BU) - This is not a technical talk, but I’d recommed it to anyone working in IT. Chris McCain is a fantastic presenter and could probably work the motivational speaker circuit.
- Kubernetes NSX-T Deep Dive (NET1677BU) - I’ve spent plenty of hours trying to detangle networking in Kubernetes. This presentation lays out k8s topics and constructs in an easy to understand way, and makes a great case for NSX-T as one of the best ways to “do networking” in Kubernetes.
- Next-Generation Reference Design with NSX-T Data Center: Part 1 (NET1561BU)
- Next-Generation Reference Design with NSX-T Data Center: Part 2 (NET1562BU)
- VMware Cloud on AWS with NSX: Use Cases, Design, and Implementation (NET1327BU) - Good overview of networking in VMWonAWS, plus a preview of things to come with NSX-T support.
Keynotes and announcements
Honestly, I don’t really care about keynotes at conferences. The only ones I’m truly interested in are the non-technical ones, a la Michio Kaku & Amy Webb at CLUS, and Malala Yousafzai at VMworld. All of the announcements are already well covered, so I’m not going to generate yet another list. I was absolutely thrilled at the opportunity to hear Malala speak, and I give VMware major credit for bringing her to speak, along with committing to supporting her charity. There were some grumbles about the increased security, but in my opinion it was all worth it. I am so inspired by this young woman and her commitment to fighting for education for girls everywhere. Someone - I’m not saying who - recorded her talk on Periscope, and you can watch here. Thinking it still gives me all the feels.
Maybe it’s because VMworld is in Las Vegas, but it would be an understatement to say that there were lots of parties going on. My MO for conferences is to treat them like work. I’m there to learn, and my employer is paying for me to be there. However, there were a few baller parties that are worth mentioning.
- Rubrik had the party of the week in my option. RUN-DMC and The Roots?! It was non-stop awesome and I danced my butt off. I have been a fan of The Roots since 1996, and I had only seen them live once. I made my way to the front of the stage and enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime show. RUN-DMC was also great and Jam Master Jay’s son is a hell of a turntablist. Kudos to Rubrik for throwing a great party. Here are a couple videos I took from the party
- VMfest was, in my opinion, a fun time. Several people I talked to skipped the party altogether. I’ve read comments from many people that thought it was terrible. Royal Machines was an unpopular choice for a band - I was disappointed when I saw the announcement. If this wasn’t my first VMworld I may have skipped the party as well, but I decided to go into it with an open mind. When I walked in, there were long lines for food trucks scattered around the entrance area. I have no idea why people were waiting as there was food available in several other places. I never had to wait in line for a drink all night. The theme was four different environments: tropical, desert, jungle, aquatic. Maybe this turned people off - I thought it was an original idea and the decorations were well done. Royal Machines were a pleasant surprise. I’m a sucker for a good cover band, and it was a fun show. They completely embraced the ridiculousness of who they are. Dave Navarro is a rock god - it was a pleasure to watch him play. Mark McGrath understands that everyone thinks he’s a joke, and he is still willing to get out on the stage and give it his all. He gets my respect for that. Macy Gray covering Radiohead: Awesome. Sebastian Bach covering Ozzy: Awesome. Robin Zander in general: Awesome. Surprise appearance by DMC: Awesome. Videos from the show / Setlist
- The NSBU threw an “NSX Mindset” party at the 1923 Bourbon Bar. The place was packed, and rockin’. I truly wish I could have stayed longer, but I did not want to experience FUTURE:NET with a hangover. I did the responsible (i.e. boring) thing and slipped out early.
Future:net is a one day “conference within a conference”, described as a “discussion on the future of networking with industry leaders and visionaries”. It is invite-only, and I was lucky to receive an invitation along with my scholarship. I first heard about this event on Packet Pushers, and I was immediately intrigued. Of everything I had scheduled at VMworld, I was most excited for this event, and it did not disappoint. The event took place all day Thursday, and there was a welcome reception Wedensday evening. I considered skipping the reception, and I’m glad I walked over to The Four Seasons instead of taking a nap. The first person I met leads networking teams at Google. Not long after that, Pat Gelsinger showed up. I was standing right beside him as he and Greg Ferro made a bet about the SD-WAN industry.
I just made a SD-WAN bet with @pgelsinger that NSX Velocloud and Cisco Viptela will NOT have 70% market share by this time next year. Tell me I am wrong ? https://twitter.com/etherealmind/status/1035011002855636992
Thursday the conference kicked off with breakfast and a live recording of a Packet Pushers podcast, which was a real treat to watch. I have been a loyal listener for many years, but I had never gotten the chance to meet Greg, Ethan and Drew. After breakfast, the presentations began, and the first presenter was a professor from Cornell discussing blockchain. Of every presenter on the agenda I was least excited for this talk - I feel like we’ve all heard more than enough about blockchain already. I was completely wrong, and it may have been my favorite talk of the day. Emin Gun Sirer delivered fascinating talk about why blockchain as a technology is much more interesting than cryptocurrencies.
I live tweeted the event and this blog is already long enough, so you can see my thoughts and others here: #FutureNET18. You can also find coverage in Packet Pushers Weekly Episode 406 and Network Break 200. I will try to write some more words about this event later - it really deserves its own blog post. Needless to say I was honored to attend and it was one of the highlights of my week.
- As I mentioned, I’m not going to regurgitate all of the announcements from VMworld. Here’s a few links if you still need to catch up.
- VMworld has a little ways to go in terms of organization. Compared to CLUS, registration was a hot mess. CiscoLive is a larger conference, and Cisco clearly throws a lot of resources at it. There are some other small things like putting tables in the breakout room that I missed. Would this stuff prevent me from coming again? Probably not. VMware does a very good job with this conference, but they could take a couple pages out of Cisco’s playbook.
- There was a question thrown out in the Packet Pushers slack: If you went to VMworld this year, would you go again? My answer is probably. I’m not sure if it’s an event that I would need to hit every year, but I really enjoyed my experience. The only thing that bothered me was the location. I am not a fan of Las Vegas. Everything is too expensive. Everything is over the top. There are times when I’m mildly amused, but they are few and far in-between. I am not the morality police and I am not interested in judging anyone, but being in Vegas pushes me to the edge. It makes me feel icky. I’ve made no decision on if I’ll request to go to San Francisco in 2019, but I’ll seriously consider it.
- Some genius at DEF CON was handing out “blockchains” - miniature cinder blocks on a dogtag chain. I found this to be incredibly punny, so I gathered the necessary materials and brought some with me to Vegas. I figured it would be a fun way to break the ice and meet new people, and I was not wrong. Everyone loved them, and I met so many people that I would not have met otherwise. I wish I knew who came up with the original idea so I could give him/her credit. Having something fun to share is an awesome way to meet people, especially if you’re a newcomer. If I’m already thinking about ways to expand on this idea if I make it to VMworld in San Francisco.
- If you’re in Vegas and you don’t get a meal at Hash House a Go Go, you’re losing at life.