OpeningActs 2017—How Failing Made Me Better

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zero-UHave you ever been out socializing with your IT peers, and somehow the topic shifted to some data center horror story? Whether it’s the “zero U switch” that was only supposed to be temporary; or the accidental “rm –r /”; or that time you deleted the wrong LUN (raises hand, hangs head). We all have one or more in our collective history that we occasionally bring back out, dust off, and (hopefully) share to the amusement of all.

There are also those failures that you never bring up. You know, the ones that other folks call “RGEs” (Resume Generating Events). The “cautionary tale.” The sort of thing that, in hindsight, you can’t imagine why you thought it would be a good idea.

And then there are the failures that you were sure would be successes: the exam you almost passed, the project you declined, the proposal—or VCDX defense—that you poured blood, sweat and tears into only to have it rejected.

Aside from “fail,” what should all of these things have in common? All should have been learning experiences.

With a nod to the old saw of “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” we present a group of panelists who have risen to personal and career success, not through a string of only positive achievements, but through reasoned risk-taking, occasional bad luck… and failures.

OpeningActs 2017—The Awkward Teenage Years of the VMware Community

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awkward-teenage-yearsOne idiom all IT professionals know to be true is “the one constant is change.” Nature adapts and changes over time. TV series shift over time. People come and go into your life. Enterprise IT is always chasing a more efficient and simple solution.

As we humans mature from childhood into adolescence, many changes occur. We get bigger and our internal systems change. Our interests change. We struggle to find purpose. Our friend groups change, sometimes turning friends into enemies and enemies into friends. The IT industry and the companies within it also go through similar growing pains.

Another common idiom that seems to ring true in multiple facets of life is “it takes a village to raise a child.” In the IT industry, most companies start with only one or two products and very few of them can make it from startup to self-sustaining (or a marriage to another company) without a system of support around it. This system is usually composed of other vendors, customer advocates, and third-party industry “watchers” who help to promote interesting products/concepts.

As these companies mature their one or two initial products, they almost always find an inflection point where they find the need to diversify their portfolio in order to remain competitive and maintain the growth they experienced before. This often leads to changes in interest and a struggle to find new purpose (often referred to as a pivot). Sometimes these pivots create friction with their old partners and friends. Sometimes they draw closer to and create partnerships with old enemies.

VMware appears to be in the midst of this awkward adolescence-like growth phase. They’re creating a bunch of new products far from the core hypervisor. Their primarily purpose is now cloud and management technologies. They’re directly competing with companies that have ridden in the wake of VMware’s success (see: Veeam, Cisco, every storage vendor). They’re even creating significant partnerships with old enemies like AWS.

The community is also being affected. Newer technologies that VMware isn’t reacting to quickly enough (e.g. containers) are drawing people away from the VMware community. This is causing a reduced focus in the ecosystem sponsors on organizations like VMUG and the myriad of VMworld community events, causing struggles to find sponsors to keep VMware-focused events afloat.

This is a topic hitting us directly at VMunderground and vBrownBag, so we decided to have an open discussion during Opening Acts. One of our panels will be dedicated to discussing how the industry matures and how technology, ecosystems, and communities are affected when vendors mature or move from innovation to sustaining.

VMunderground 2017—Ticketing

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We’ve had a number of questions about the availability of tickets for the VMunderground 2017 party; apparently, the Early Bird tickets we made available at the end of April were confused with the General Access tickets that we’re going to make available later this month.

July 26th, 2017 at 8am PDT, to be precise.

As we announced on the Eventbrite site for the party, the Early Bird tickets would be lower-cost than the General Access tickets when they became available. That hasn’t changed, either, and when they go on sale, they’ll be $40US each.

Opening Acts is still a free reservation, just as in previous years, and is really meant to help us keep track of how many to expect in attendance…

And no…we’re still not telling you where things are happening. It’s still our little secret.

It’s that time again.

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It’s on.

August 27 may seem like a long time away when you’re looking at it from March 27, 2017, but VMworld 2017 US is going to be here sooner than you think. This small band of geeks has kicked off the work that goes on behind-the-scenes in order to stand up the community’s longest-running pre-conference party…

Make your plans.

We’re planning another round of Opening Acts panel sessions. And as before, we’ll be reaching out to our community to provide direction on topics. Like 2016, we’ll start before lunch on Sunday, 27-Aug, so when registration is open, you’ll want to take that into consideration when booking flights and hotels.

We’re also planning a bit of a party. It’ll happen sometime after Opening Acts concludes, but will definitely happen on the same day. And because this is VMunderground, we’re not going to tell you where or when until much, much later.

The Community Approach to VMworld

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I’ve been around the VMware/VMworld community for awhile now. Pretty much since the beginning. The community began in the very early VMworlds, when guys like myself and Jase McCarty were paired up for a lab session, and while hanging out in the beanbag chairs on the last day when a random group of us discussed the logistics of getting the beanbag chairs out of the conference center and through the airports and airplanes to home.

While I did not help to start VMunderground 11 years ago (all credit for that goes to my good friend Theron), I got involved early on and helped it grow and keep on going.  During that time, several other community events got started using a similar model: create an opportunity to give vendors an opportunity to support the community. This has led to vRockstar (the European cousin of VMunderground), vBrownBag TechTalks (an amazing way for individuals to help educate attendees and non-attendees), Spousetivities (which has given so many of us, including myself, a way to try to maintain a better work-life balance even at conferences), and Opening Acts.

Two years ago, all of these groups got together to see how we could support one another.  We all run on shoestring budgets (trust me, none of us are getting rich, and some are even injecting personal money), so there wasn’t a possibility of financial support.  What we decided to do was to create an easier (and cheaper) path for sponsors to sponsor all of us. Thus was formed the VMworld Community Sponsorship package, with the intention to make it very simple to find and sponsor multiple events at VMworld in order to get their company name out in front of the people that have the largest collective influence at VMworld: the vCommunity.

If you are a vendor, VAR, or community group and are looking to make a mark in the VMworld community, or simply want to give back to the community for all they’ve done for the industry, this is your best opportunity.

If you are an end user, blogger, or vExpert, make sure the vendors, VARs, and community leaders you work with understand what the community really does for one another and how big a part of the VMworld experience these events are for you (and could be for them).

We’ll have more info about our events announced soon, but we’re already getting budgets set, venues picked, activities narrowed down, and most importantly, getting sponsors lined up. If you’d like to help sponsor, please let us know:


Wrap-up, 2016-style

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The day (and night) passed without so much as a hiccup, and VMworld 2016 US has come and gone…

We’d again like to thank our generous sponsors, without whom these events couldn’t occur.


Of course, without attendance and community interest, the sponsors wouldn’t have any reason to help out; so without further ado, photos documenting Opening Acts and VMunderground attendees can be found here.

Before You Go, Viva Las Vegas Edition

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Viva, Las Vegas…

At this time next week, all the pre-show chaos for VMworld 2016 US will be over, and many (most?) of us will be sitting and listening to the opening keynote.

We’re excited to present the third instance of Opening Acts and the 10th Anniversary of VMunderground! A little “who, what, why, when & how” will help make the most of your pre-event plans with us.

Although we have all events being held in the New York-New York Hotel & Casino, it’s a large place and we’re using two different spaces within…

Main Venue

New York-New York Hotel & Casino
3790 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89109

The venue is approximately 1 mile (or 1.5 Km) north of the main VMworld campus at Mandalay Bay; depending on your starting point within the resort, the true distance will of course vary. MGM (the owners of the Mandalay Bay and other properties in Las Vegas) has a free tram you can board at the Mandalay resort in order to get north to the Excalibur; the Excalibur, in turn, is across Tropicana Avenue from New York-New York. It might not be the fastest way to get there—based on tram scheduling—but it does create the shortest walk without relying on a paid transportation.

UPDATE: The tram service runs every few minutes during the day; it’s posted service hours end at 12:30am, so if you like to stay out late, plan accordingly. There are actually two different tram runs on the Mandalay campus, one which runs between the three hotels (Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay) without easy access to The Strip, and another “Express” that runs between the far-north Strip station and Mandalay Bay.

You want to use the Express for the shortest walk to NYNY, even if you’re at Luxor: Board the tram at Luxor and head to Mandalay, then board the Express back to the Strip. See the image below and it should make more sense…


Opening Acts & #vBrisket

Liberty Loft (link to the property map) is the official name of the meeting room for Opening Acts and #vBrisket. Access is located near the Shake Shack and Gonzales Y Gonzales; you can reach it quickly from The Strip at the north end of the property, as well as through the interior via any other available property entrance. We will have signs posted and the activity will be published on the video displays throughout the venue.

Opening Acts is free to all attendees; although there is registration, that’s for internal planning and tracking, so even if you haven’t registered, you are welcome to come. If we end up with SRO, but that’d just be gravy.

Speaking of gravy… #vBrisket is not a free event; only those attendees wearing the appropriate wrist band will be allowed to participate. If you purchased a ticket—they’re currently sold out—you will be able to exchange it for the proper wrist band during or prior to Opening Acts. Physical tickets will only be required if you are unable to provide an electronic ticket, so make sure you can get to your e-ticket on your smartphone before you come over.

Panel sessions start at 11am, and we run through 4pm; don’t worry if you can’t arrive at the very beginning. You are free to come and go as it suits you.

We will have light snacks for Opening Acts, but if you’re not doing vBrisket, they will not constitute a meal. There are a bunch of places both inside the casino as well as in the area to grab a real lunch.


Nine Fine Irishmen will be the site of this year’s tenth anniversary bash. Not coincidentally, we were there the last time VMworld was in Las Vegas and it was our fifth anniversary (also held on Sunday, August 28th!!!). Like Opening Acts, there will be signs to assist you in finding the entrance to the venue; although the pub has outdoor access, we don’t plan to use it for party access: you’ll need to come inside to gain entry.

Doors open at 7pm; there’s no “VIP” access prior to that time.

As with previous years, this is an adults-only event. Although non-alcoholic beverages (smoothie bar!) will be served, US and state laws require attendees to be 21 years old and be able to prove it using a government-issue photo ID. Driver’s license and passport are the most common forms of ID; your VMworld badge and/or party ticket/wristband will not be sufficient.

That’s not to say, however,  that you should leave your badge at home… On the contrary, having your badge helps fellow attendees see your name…and if you’re anything like me, getting a reminder of the name that goes with the face is always appreciated!

An important departure from previous years: This year the party is restricted to only those who have a wrist band. No public access—with or without a VMworld badge—is going to be permitted. As in previous years, your best bet to get a free wrist band is to hit up the sponsors; if you know you’re a sponsor guest, you will coordinate getting your wristband directly with the sponsor, not with the VMunderground organizers. As of this writing, there are still general access tickets available for purchase, but the number is few and when they’re gone…they’re gone. If you’d skipped purchasing a ticket and figured you’d “just show up” at the last half, you will be disappointed.

Also, if you have a GA ticket, you won’t have to wait until the party to get your wristband: we will be exchanging them during Opening Acts; if you purchased both vBrisket and VMunderground tickets, let us know so we can get you both wristbands at the same time. Like vBrisket, physical tickets will only be required if you can’t produce your e-ticket.

See you on Sunday!