VMworld 2010 is fast approaching, with important changes

VMware is implementing new fixes to solve lab and session problems at VMworld. Have they also patched things up with Citrix and Microsoft?

With one more week to go before VMworld starts, VMware and its ecosystem of partners and end-users are gearing up for what should prove to be once again the year's largest virtualization trade show in the world. VMworld 2010 is, for the second year in a row, taking place at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. It is operating from Aug. 30 through Sept. 2, 2010.

Even though we are still facing another down economy and organizations are still slashing travel and conference budgets, there is little doubt in my mind that VMworld 2010 will easily be the virtualization event of the year. The question is, how many attendees will they get up to this year? And will it surpass last year's numbers?

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This year's event will be markedly different from its predecessor shows in a few regards.

First, VMware is narrowing the gap between when VMworld U.S. and VMworld Europe take place. This year, VMworld U.S. opens at the end of August, while VMworld Europe kicks off in mid-October, only a few weeks later. In years past, the two shows had approximately six to seven months between them. Now, with such a narrow time span between the two events, it will be interesting to see how it affects attendance at both shows, as well as how it will affect any announcements being made by VMware. I would anticipate that the European contingency will be much smaller at this year's U.S. show, at least from an administrator or end-user perspective. And because of the close proximity of the two shows, it seems like VMware would have to hold back on at least some of its noteworthy news announcements to make sure the VMworld Europe show does not appear to be a watered-down rehash of the same news already heard six weeks earlier.

On another front, VMware listened to many of the complaints coming from past attendees about not being able to schedule or attend the sessions that they wanted. So this year, VMware is making a bold decision as to how sessions will be offered and scheduled. The new arrangement has fewer session topics, but there will be more repeat sessions that are offered on a more frequent basis. While the session builder itself still exists, it will only be used to build out a schedule so that an attendee can have a mapped-out plan of attack to know the "what, when, and where" for each interested session. Entries to all sessions will now be based on a first-come, first-serve basis. The session builder will not hold a guaranteed spot for you.

In addition to breakout sessions, attendees were also upset last year with the hands-on labs. Like breakout sessions, hands-on labs were difficult to schedule and attend. This year, VMworld 2010 will feature more than 30 lab topics with 18,000 lab seats conducting up to 480 simultaneous lab sessions during the four-day event. According to VMware, this year all VMworld labs will be powered by the VMware cloud and presented via a self-service Lab Cloud portal, allowing them to increase the number of labs being offered. Unlike traditional instructor-led labs, attendees will be able to schedule the lab topic they want at a time that is convenient for them during the show. If handled properly, this could be a major win with attendees for VMware.

While server virtualization has been the main topic of conversation in the past at these shows, this year we should expect the conversation to be dominated by discussions around the cloud. VMware said this year's conference theme is "Virtual Roads, Actual Clouds," and stated the event will focus on reducing IT complexity and enabling IT as a Service (ITaaS) through virtualization and cloud computing. With 10 tracks at this year's show, four are dedicated to the public, private, or hybrid cloud, and only two tracks even have the word "virtualization" in their titles: "Desktop Virtualization" and "Virtualization 101."

VMware's keynote sessions and exhibit areas will more than likely be showcasing the work that it has been doing with its partners around Project Redwood, now dubbed the VMware vCloud Service Director (vCSD). Expect VMware to allow its partners like Terremark and SalesForce.com to highlight how others can work with VMware to launch their own cloud projects.

And let's not forget about last year's VMworld fiasco with Citrix and Microsoft. The media had a field day covering this news before, during, and after the show. What difference will there be this year with the way these two virtualization giants are handled?

Citrix has decided to bury the hatchet -- and no, not into anyone's back. Instead, the company seems to be taking the high road. Last year, Citrix was pinned down into a 10-by-10-foot exhibitor booth and told it couldn't showcase any products considered competitive to VMware. That didn't sit too well with Citrix, and the company definitely had the "nobody puts baby in a corner" attitude -- as was evident from its "You can't lock Xen in a 10x10" T-shirts and the fact that the company plastered the area around the Moscone Center with Citrix Xen advertisements at bus stops and on taxi cabs operating throughout the city.

This year, Citrix has decided to play ball and make nice with VMware.

Kim Woodward, vice president of corporate marketing at Citrix, said, "In order to participate more fully and openly at VMworld, we have joined the VMware partner program as a Technology Alliance Partner at the Select level." Doing so will allow Citrix to become a silver sponsor at this year's VMworld event, and as such, they will have twice as much booth space as they did last year, giving them a bit more elbow room in which to show off their wares.

The company said it plans on showing demos of their desktop virtualization solution, XenDesktop, running on a variety of devices, including the new Xenith from Wyse. It will also be talking about running Citrix Receiver on a mobile device, virtual desktops to go with XenClient, and how enterprise and cloud computing go hand in hand.

Microsoft, the other major virtualization vendor who appeared shunned at last year's VMworld, isn't taking the same approach as Citrix. Instead, the Redmond giant will once again be sporting a 10-by-10 booth at the show. Refusing, or not finding it necessary to become a VMware Technology Alliance Partner, Microsoft instead will opt to become an exhibitor at the show rather than a silver, gold, or platinum sponsor, and it plans on participating within the confines of the conference agreement of not showing a competing product.

Last year, the company also decided to not show any competing products and instead created a "follow the Microsoft virtualization experts" Twitter program. This year, it continues to leverage the Twitter technology by promoting a Microsoft TweetUp during VMworld at a popular drinking hole called the Thirsty Bear. Mike Neil, Edwin Yuen, and other Microsoft team members will be in attendance, along with a few folks from Citrix.

Within its booth, Microsoft will be showing off technology that it believes does not compete directly with VMware. Here, Microsoft will be showing off Windows Azure and a self-service portal toolkit (System Center Virtual Machine Manager Self-Service Portal) that customers can use to build out their own private clouds.

Let's see if these three can play nice together. We seem to be off to a good start.

Speaking of being off to a good start, have you heard about the new VMworld conference bags? If you didn't think VMware employees were ready for this show, just check out this tongue-in-cheek video from John Troyer and Luke Kilpatrick of VMware's social media team as they spend a whopping 4 minutes of their day giving a full demonstration of the features and use cases of this year's VMworld backpack -- a coveted item earned each year for the low, low price of a VMworld attendee conference ticket.

This year's bag is described as a very sturdy bag with a tasteful color schema compared to last year's "you could spot me in a blackout" lime-green color. It is complete with many pockets offering a place for a laptop, a water bottle, a set of pencils, floppy disks (still a big demand item for IT users), keys, and a cell phone. It also has snazzy, metal zipper pulls that shouldn't break off (unlike the fine craftsmanship of last year's bags).

Great news on the updated conference bag, VMware!

What about you? Are travel budget restrictions holding you back this year? Or are you going to be able to make VMworld 2010 in San Francisco? Or what about VMworld Europe in Copenhagen? Anyone lucky enough to be going to both?

This story, "VMworld 2010 is fast approaching, with important changes," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in virtualization and cloud computing at InfoWorld.com.

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