Last week, I went to VMworld 2011 in Las Vegas. The conference was great, 20,000+ people all there and focused on one thing, VMware and every product they offer. This was my first time at the VMworld conference, and hopefully will get to go again some time in the future. The main reason I went was because of the recently released vSphere 5 and seeing what all it offered and what all was changed. Needless to say, there are many cool new features that were added, I am only going to mention a few here, but the full list is available in this PDF.
The first cool feature is : Auto Deploy. Simply said, (wish they would have chose a different name) it is PXE boot of the vSphere image from a TFTP server, so no local disk is required to "run" vSphere. For example if you have a "shit ton" of blades and don't want to have to go update and install all of them, just get their MAC address, setup the host in DHCP with a couple of DHCP options to tell it where to boot from and have the blade boot from the network. It will download the image from the TFTP server and run automagically. Once up and running all config is stored in vCenter 5 (a requirement!). So need to upgrade your hosts? Just reboot them after updating the image. A couple of notes for this, make sure you have logging set up to go to your syslog server, and that you set up the Dump Collector incase of a PSOD.
Another cool feature is: vSphere 5 supports Apple Xserve servers running OS X Server 10.6 (Snow Leopard) as a guest operating system. This is because vSphere now supports UEFI "bios". Now "supposedly" this does not require Xserve's (since Apple no longer sells them), but it "requires" them because of Apple's EULA for use of Mac OS X.
There are many other features that have been upgraded, or are new.. Too bad the conference wasn't a little longer, as the amount of sessions I wanted to go to were greater than the amount of time I had available to go to said sessions. (I.E. only one instance of a session and 2 sessions I wanted to see were at the same time.)
The Hands on Lab area was "freaking huge". There were over 800 workstations set up where you could do 1 of 16 LABS (you could do more, just had to stand in line, I was only able to do 1 in the week I was there). Ironically each "lab" station was a Wyse "chubby client" that had dual monitors so you could rdesktop to some windows XP and servers to do the work. The HOL area, sort of reminded me of the CTF area at DefCon, a huge big room, with nearly no light what so ever and hundreds of thousands of screens.
The most interesting part of the conference is that they have grown so big, that next year they have to go to San Francisco to host the event, as there is no place in Vegas that is big enough to house them. This year it was at the Venetian with some spill over to Wynn. They also had the Sands Expo hall, which is connected to the Venetian. The "dining" room was 1.5 million sq ft alone, you could barely see from one end to the other.
I will have to say out of the many conferences I have been to by different vendors, I will have to say so far VMware has been the best. Some of the things that has made it stand out from the rest:
- Food, while not "the greatest ever" it was far better than I have had at other places. They gave us breakfast and lunch every day. In addition the break periods between sessions had different items every day. One day they had fresh hot made pretzel sticks with cheese and different sauces.
- Hang out area: Most conferences if there is "downtime" you usually end up either walking around or going back to the hotel. VMware set up a "hang space" where they had a basketball court, badmitten court, huge chess sets, fake grass to sit on in front of a big screen (like 20+feet) TV. A Twitter vMeetup place, where you could meet other people that you have met on twitter.
- Scheduled sessions. While I was skeptical at first on "pre-registering" for the sessions you want to attend, I think in the end it was a good idea, as it "guaranteed" your spot in the session as long as you showed up 3 minutes before it started. (There were gaps between end and start, so you really had no reason not to be there.)
- Group Discussion: in some conferences, I have seen "group discussion" be these "huge" groups where it ends up being a more Q&A session. VMware had group discussions, where there were maybe max 30 people in a room, each one had a clicker, and everyone voted on how the session went and it was a free form for questions. One of the best ones was the Oracle on VMware vSphere one. I learned a lot from that session.
- P.A.R.T.Y. : By far the best conference / vendor party I have ever been to. First was the food, you name it, they probably had it. I didn't realize this till I had already ate a couple of slices of pizza. Then I saw a station where they were making fresh cut cheese-steak sandwiches, another was doing fresh made crab cakes. Like I said, name it, and it was probably there. In addition, a huge open bar (not that I drink, but it was there). So now that we got past the food, they had at least 4 different acts during the night. Two people doing fire tricks, then the openers was Recycled Percussion, which I didn't realize who they were till I got back to the hotel room that night, but they were on the America's Got Talent show, and previously had a show nightly in Vegas. The headliners were The Killers. They played for an hour and did all the "popular" songs along with some that I hadn't heard before.
This part of the party ended around 9PM. Which was the start time to the "after party" which was at the Venetian pool. I did not go to it, but it sounded like people had a bunch of fun there too.
So if you are still reading by now, you are probably trying to figure out the second part of the title "... should have stayed in Vegas". Well, it seems that some time either on Sunday or early Monday morning I either sprained or got a stress fracture in my left foot. Needless to say, the 30+miles of walking I did, (cause my hotel was 2 miles away from the conference hotel, it is a damn long walk from Planet Hollywood to the Venetian even if you take the monorail when your foot it hurting like a Mofo) did not help it any. By the time I got home it was still hurting and I noticed that the top of my foot started to have some swelling and bruising. I just iced it on Saturday and Sunday, but as of today it was still hurting and didn't seem to change much, so I ended up going to the doctor to have it X-ray'd. They said it didn't show any fractures, but thought it was just a really bad sprain or a damaged ligament. So it is more ice, and a ankle air cast for a while. So that is what I "wish that it should have stayed in Vegas."