VMworld 2017 – a non technical review

As I sit here on the last day of VMworld 2017 in Barcelona, I’m thinking about how good the conference was.  Lots of people will be focusing on the technical aspects of the conference, all of the announcements etc., so I thought that I would take a slightly different approach and look at the non technical side of things… The items that I think work with regards to the organisation and operation of the conference and the items that could be done better.

Firstly, let me talk about walking… At any VMworld, prepare to do a lot of walking.  Here are some stats for distances walked (some social walkabouts, metro and general walking around the conference), please note that I arrived on Sunday and therefore did some walking before collecting my badge and materials on Sunday afternoon:

Sunday – 24.25 km

Monday – 16.74 km

Tuesday – 21.35 km

Wednesday – 13.94 km

Total (without Thursday included):  76.28 km (approx. 47.4 miles)

In context, this is nearly the distance of two marathons.

The reason I bring this up is due to the logistics and location of everything.  I’m impressed with the rearrangement of the entrance to VMworld now going through Hall 6 instead of Hall 8.  This has proved useful because a lot of the extra items, such as Hand-On Labs, VMTN community, Education etc. have been placed together in one area close to the Solutions Exchange.

This then brings me onto one of the bad elements of the conference… The breakout sessions are still in Hall 8 which is potentially a 1km walk away.  It’s not just the distance that is the issue, it’s the time that it takes to get between the Halls.  I had to cancel some sessions because I wanted to attend some education and VMTN community sessions, along with the breakout sessions but the timings of the sessions meant that I would need to be in Hall 6 for an education session, that would finish on the hour with my next session due to start on the hour all the way over in Hall 8, to then have another session back in Hall 6 straight after the Hall 8 session… Not practical.

I completely understand why Hall 8 is utilised for the breakout sessions due to the numerous rooms that can be created, but surely there is an alternative utilising one of the halls close to everything else.

Registration at VMworld was nice and simple using the QR code on the VMworld App and generally the app functioned well.

I collected my pass and materials on Sunday, something that I have done for a number of years, the difference on this Sunday, was the number of other people also collecting their passes… The problem was that everyone collected their passes and was just stood around not sure what to do then.  I understand that this may not be feasible, but why not have the Hands-on labs available on the Sunday, maybe between 2pm and 8pm… I’m sure that a number of people would utilise that opportunity to learn.

Whilst we are on the subject of Sunday, please can we get the shuttle buses running earlier on Sunday.  I normally fly out Sunday morning and therefore arrive in Barcelona around lunchtime… If I was to utilise the shuttle bus to VMworld, I would be sitting around until 4pm waiting.

On a positive note, I have to admit that the wifi signal around VMworld was pretty good, whenever I wanted to utilise it, it was available and quite responsive.

Now this brings me onto another item, the days at VMworld can be long… Arriving onsite for an early session, a hands-on lab or the general sessions and then staying on for the welcome reception or the customer appreciation party means that you could be onsite for 12 hours plus.  We know that most people attending the conference have their own day jobs as well and need to keep on top of that work whilst away.  We also know that phone batteries, although improving, will only just about manage a day of usage… Wouldn’t it be good to have a charged power bank as part of the materials.

The Solutions Exchange… This is a useful place to discuss products and discover what is available on the market… If you can get in!!!  A lot of the time this isn’t a problem until you realise that HPE and DellEMC have their stands opposite each other, right at the entrance to the Solutions Exchange.  Not an issue, I hear you shout, they are both major sponsors of the show.  This is true but they are also the two companies who run prize draws throughout the day after each presentation which sees hundreds of people gathered around their stands spilling across the relatively narrow walkway, making it difficult for anyone else to get through to the other booths.

Congratulations to VMware for booking the Kaiser Chiefs for the Customer Appreciation Party.  I was lucky enough to get to the front to see the band, meeting a Swedish visitor in the process whilst enjoying the music and fully engaging in the party experience.  Unfortunately, whilst exiting Hall 4 after the party, everyone was trying to leave and were being funnelled into a smaller and smaller space spilling out into the hang-out area.  This could have been avoided, a little, if the tensa barriers used when entering the party, had been moved to allow everyone to exit easier… Or better still, having a number of additional exits available.

Whilst on the subject of exits, something has got to be done about exiting the general sessions… 10,000 people leaving the general session all at the same time through two relatively small exits, fighting for position down the narrow aisles, is a recipe for disaster.  Maybe more exits could be opened and different blocks are directed to exit through different exits.

It’s still a pleasure to receive a metro pass each time I attend the conference, and discussing it with several people during the conference, there are a number of people who have converted to utilising the metro rather than taxis, especially with the Fira station being available.

As my time in Barcelona for this year draws to an end, I look forward to the possibility of heading back again next year.

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