Notes from VMworld 2018

LAS VEGAS, Aug. 29, 2018 — It’s been a busy week in Las Vegas – and it’s only Tuesday. Here are one attendee’s scattered thoughts on VMworld 2018.

  • It’s my first show as a member of ActualTech Media. I’ve always covered it as a member of the press, and although I’m not officially with a news organization anymore, I do have a press/analyst pass. Being with a different company has re-energized me, and I’ve had more fun here this week than I’ve had in years.
  • I do like Las Vegas as a venue. It goes back to San Francisco and the Moscone Center next year, but Vegas is a good fit with its size and the fact that most of it is clustered in a few hotels.
  • Don’t get the idea that I’m saying it’s a short walk everywhere, however. Las Vegas hotels are huge, and you’ll likely put many, many more miles on your shoes here than you do in an average week. Don’t come to this shoe with new shoes on; you’ll regret it.
  • The exhibit hall is, as always, massive. There’s a good mix of companies here; some years it seemed that half of the vendors were storage companies. It’s not that way anymore. One vendor whose booth size surprised me was Microsoft. They had a tiny little space to show off their Azure stuff. Kind of shocking, since Azure is firmly ensconced in second place in the public cloud arena, behind only Amazon Web Services (AWS). I mean, I know VMware and Microsoft aren’t the best of friends, but Azure is well supported by VMware Cloud, and I thought they’d have a larger presence.
  • Like, you know, AWS has. I seem to remember that not all that long ago they were direct competitors with VMware and had a booth roughly Microsoft’s size. Things can change a lot in a couple of years, no?
  • The highlight of the first-day keynote? Easy – the perfectly-timed reveal that a port of ESXi on bare-metal hardware with fault tolerance was running on a low-power ARM processor rather than the expected x86 proc. That woke a few people up, and demonstrated what could be coming in the future.
  • The other big applause moment at the keynote was reserved for the announcement that Amazon was making its RDS database available on-premises as part of the VMware’s vSphere stack. ActualTech Media Partner James Green already explained why this is a big deal.
  • The Day Two keynote wasn’t really a keynote at all, in the traditional sense of the word. There were no, as in zero, product announcements. No unveilings of cool new technologies or discussions of future vision or past triumphs. Instead, it was a “The View”-style series of interviews with VMware COO Sanjay Poonen acting as host. For the most part, I was terribly underwhelmed by the “tell me why your company and mine are so great together” chats that consumed the first half of the session.
  • But things changed when he brought MalalaYousafzai onstage. She’s the 21-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner and women’s rights activist who was shot by the Taliban in her native Pakistan in 2012. Yousafzai, the youngest-ever Peace Prize winner, was engaging and inspiring, and Poonen did a great job interviewing her. It was thrilling for most in attendance.
  • Getting into the keynote area itself was unexpectedly difficult, though. Given the threats Yousafzai still gets on a regular basis, attendees went through an airport security-style gauntlet to get into the auditorium. I didn’t mind particularly, but it was strange, although very much worth it, to hear Yousafzai speak.
  • I have always found, and still find it to be the case: VMware executives are, as a group, the most approachable for a large company in the industry. I’ve talked with numerous ones over the years, and 2018 was no different. They’re a friendly lot who listen and make themselves available. It’s refreshing.
  • The thing I least expected to see: VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger with a tattoo on his forearm, which he showed off during his keynote. It was just the company’s name, but it was big. I assumed it was a temporary tattoo, until a colleague showed me a Tweet Gelsinger had published showing him getting it done by a real tattoo artist.
  • Then, of course, Poonen had to one-up him at the Day Two keynote: not only did he get a similar company logo on his forearm, but he got another one on his other arm. I wonder if that means Gelsinger will have three tats by VMworld 2019…