A lot has been said and written about VMware dialing back the level of competition this year at VMworld, and the big question asked by many was, "Is VMworld a VMware show or is it an industry show for virtualization?" If you, like me, were confused, I believe the answer is now finally clear.
For me, the confusion came about because for so many years, the show was indirectly promoted as a virtualization industry event, and a lot of that seemed to come directly from Diane Greene, who believed her product was far superior to the competition and, therefore, urged everyone to bring it on. Greene wasn't afraid to take money from Microsoft or Citrix to sponsor the show, nor did she seem overly concerned to have them display their wares on the exhibit floor. Sure, VMware still controlled the content of breakout sessions and the keynotes, but the exhibit hall was open to anyone and everyone.
Fast-forward to 2009: Times change. People change. Things, well, change.
As you know, Microsoft and Citrix were the most vocal as to the changes being made. They couldn't continue to sponsor the show, and they had to fall back as an exhibitor, which meant less space (a 10-by-10 booth) and little to no opportunity to speak or to sponsor anything. They were also told they couldn't display any competitor products in their booth. Still, both companies exhibited (after all, how can you miss VMworld?), but this meant that both companies would have to be a little more creative -- and they were.
Simon Crosby, Citrix CTO of virtualization, added that along with the booth space and product display limitations, they were also banned from renting facilities in and around the Moscone Center, which made it difficult to hold CTP and other meetings during the show.
However, Citrix did try to make hay out of the situation. From a marketing perspective, the company had a bit of fun with the new limitations. With a "nobody puts baby in the corner" attitude, shirts made their way into the Citrix booth that read "You can't lock Xen in a 10x10."
And Citrix took its marketing message to the streets of San Francisco. Taxi cabs roaming the streets around the Moscone Center taking people to the VMworld show sported signs that read, "Virtualization: It's a free world now. Citrix" and "Virtualization: It's an open world now. Citrix."
And if you waited at or walked by a bus stop around the Moscone Center, you may have witnessed such advertising opportunities.
Microsoft adapted to the new VMworld guidelines as well. The Redmond giant did not display any of its products in its 10-by-10 space either; instead, the company had a very simple booth manned by industry experts who were ready to answer any and all questions around their products. The company also showcased its Twitter skills.
David Greschler, Microsoft's director of virtualization and management marketing, said that was about all it could do within the VMworld guidelines. VMworld rules stated Microsoft could only show products that complemented VMware, so Microsoft opted to not show any product demos in its booth.
Not having a demo didn't seem to slow down booth traffic for Microsoft. The company's experts seemed to be busy tweeting and talking to folks on the show floor: no demo, no poker chips. And they seemed to stay within the confines of their 10-by-10 -- for the most part.
So again, why the change?
Part of that answer could be found in a Q&A session with VMware executives during the show. Tod Nielsen, VMware chief operating officer, didn't pull any punches. He said that last year some of the other hypervisor vendors were too aggressive, and since VMware was spending the money and the time to put on the show, they were going to enforce certain rules to limit that type of activity. Nielsen said that VMworld is VMware's show and that attendees come to see and hear about VMware first and foremost. He added that if Microsoft wants to tell people about Hyper-V, it can do so at TechEd or one of its other shows; the same goes for Citrix.
So with that, we now definitively know that VMworld is a VMware show, and we can all stop asking the question.
This does, however, raise new questions in my mind. Knowing that VMworld is a VMware event, will this help kick off a truly open virtualization industry show? Is there a need for such a show? Or is it still really all about VMware at this point?