Pre-VMworld 2016 Thoughts Part 1 – Call for Papers and the Anger Around It

By | August 15, 2016

With two weeks to go before VMworld, I wanted to gather my thoughts around this year’s show. It’s been a difficult year for me in various ways, so I am hoping that the show is at least a chance to keep my passion around technology alive. This section is about Call for Papers and my non-attempt this year.

No Presentation Attempts for Me

Last year I was a customer speaker,  a SOLO customer speaker  I might add(I did not have a VMware employee tag teaming with me), and it was a great experience that hopefully I am able to do again. I had a really good project to share and finally made it through the gauntlet of legal approvals to actually present.  I wrote about my experience here, here and here. This year I decided not to submit an abstract during the call for papers (CFP). I was in the middle of upgrading all of my vCenters to 6 and I didn’t have a good project at scale to present. One of the things that surprised me was all of the negativity around the CFP. There was a lot of disappointment and outrage over sessions that were not picked up. Some have submitted papers every year without getting a submission in. Eric Siebert has a great dissection of this year’s sessions (note there are no solo customers) That made me wonder how I did I make it last year? Here are a couple of things that may have been positives for my abstract:

  1. I was a customer with a large scale deployment of a VMware project (VMware SRM) and was willing to share it
  2. I blogged about my work with said product and the issues that I have encountered
  3. I was active in the community forums in regards to the product as well as with VMware PMs/TMMs and Hardware vendor TMM
  4. I had a very well defined abstract that was the outline for the presentation

My session seemed to be well received (292 attendees, good feedback ratings).

I think point #1 is the biggest point. VMware is using these opportunities to promote their products. One of the best ways is to showcase successful customers. Not all customers (especially BIG customers) are willing to do that because legal and public affairs have to sanitize the message and may not approve at the end of the day. My company wants to promote itself as well, and doesn’t want to give VMware any free marketing or use it’s trademarks if it doesn’t have to. As an attendee to VMworld, I would always look for customer presentations because I want to see real world use cases and I want to get that persons contact info. What I had found in previous VMworld was consulting companies that had to sanitize names or VMworld pre-approved case studies.

There was also an interesting abstract from Keith Townsend:

One of the key things that I got from his video and some his tweets was that he actually got feedback from the VMware team, that doesn’t seem normal (more on this later). The product group mentioned that SAP HANA on VSAN was not officially supported. I think that’s an instant red flag for me. There may be some customers who are willing to throw a dev environment on a non-supported setup, but I would want to start witha minimal supported config for dev and then move up to prod. Second, it wasn’t a real-world implementation (at least that’s what I would be looking for). If it wasn’t a real-world implementation, then I would expect blessing from SAP and/or VMware and most likely a presentation from one or both of those companies. And this is where it gets interesting actually. In early July, a blog post was released

Remember how I said it was unusual that Keith got feedback? It was probably because VMware was already working on the same idea! VMware’s blog post states that it’s not a supported config as of yet, but they were working to certify it (and they gave some early performance numbers). You can look at it as Keith got robbed of a really good idea, but I look at it as he was on to something. What would be interesting is if Keith did try to implement SAP HANA on VSAN and then compared his results to the results that VMware got. Maybe there’s secret sauce that VMware is cooking into VSAN.NEXT to support this config?

There was also some anger (which seems to happen every year) that VMware employees are the bulk of the presentations or have an inside lead:

This comment sparked a whole other powder keg of tweets. It’s really sad because all of these people seem to know eachother, and as one person said, twitter is just a echo chamber sometimes (totally agree with that). You have to expect some people to have a good chance at sessions (TMMs for example, maybe some PMs with good content), but other employees probably have to be just as creative with real-world scenarios and useful sessions as everyone else. I love hearing about how VMware’s internal IT team approaches some of the challenges. Or the tales from support tendto be a great sessions as well. Overall, a well developed idea that connects with the audience and fits the VMware narrative puts an abstract on the best foot forward. But what do I know? I’m just a customer.

The last thing I’ll say on this topic is that VMworld is just becoming difficult to manage. I don’t know how Oracle OpenWorld handles all of these sessions, if they are also mostly employee led or if they have some community sessions as well. With the addition of VSAN/EVO:Rail/EVO:SDDC/Photon there is a whole set of sessions that go with those that weren’t around three years ago. Creating a schedule is just crazy now,  all I can say is that it must be difficult to create a cohesive show now that VMworld is trying to stretch into different areas. It would be awesome if the show was longer or if somehow the community presentations were given first class status, but I don’t know how that will work as the show gets more and more packed.


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