This year marked my first time attending the VMware Partner Exchange conference (also known as PEX or VPEX). It was a great experience for me, so I thought I'd put my thoughts from the event together in one place.
I flew into Orlando early (on Saturday for a conference that officially started on Tuesday). This was actually for work reasons (no, really)- since PEX was going to be one of those rare occasions where some of the vSpecialists from other continents and I were in the same place at the same time, we wanted to take advantage of it and get some planning and brain-storming done when we could be in the same room together (not that I actually minded being away from the snow and ice of New England a little longer...)
One of the great things that came out of our meetings was some great feedback and suggested changes to my much-hyped Partner Bootcamp presentation. (You can read the advance info on my presentation in this earlier blog post.) The suggestions were obviously improvements the moment I heard them -- so obvious that I'd have never seen them on my own, at least partly due to having spent a month living inside those slides...
Of course, any last-minute change to a presentation that was part of an as carefully-planned and important an event to us as our Partner Bootcamp required that I at least check with Those Above My Paygrade before just implementing them. As further evidence that the changes were, in fact, obvious improvements, approval for the changes came nearly instantly.
I want to take a moment to speak about both the patience and professionalism of the events team that coordinated EMC's activities around PEX. There I was, making major cosmetic changes on Monday afternoon to a deck I'd be presenting on Tuesday -- a deck that I'd previously turned in at least four "I'm pretty sure it's really the final version this time" versions of - all after the deadline. [No, I'm not always like this. OK, sure, it was partly me -- once I'm engaged in something I don't let it go; I keep turning it over and upside-down and sideways and inside-out in my head and keep coming up with ways to keep making it better. But it wasn't just me. Since the topic was so central to one of the key points of EMC's VMware message, you can imagine that it got a bit of advance review.] Anyway, the point I wanted to make about the team responsible for the whole EMC effort at PEX was that they rolled with every change and made everything no problem, despite the fact that I'm pretty sure that -- in some states -- local laws would have allowed them the legal right to punch me for some of what I put them through. For future events, all anyone will have to tell me is that this team is on the job and I won't worry about anything event-related.
Tuesday came, and with it, the EMC Partner Bootcamp. It was literally standing room only. We had nearly 200 attendees in what turned out to be the most-attended partner bootcamp of the PEX conference.
After the opening remarks, Chad Sakac got up and did the keynote in his usual full-on Chad style. He had a VNXe right up front with him, he did peka-kucha (I've probably spelled that wrong), he talked roadmaps, he talked features, he talked solutions. It was great. Chad's already done a PEX write-up on the Virtual Geek blog, and both video of his presentation and the slides he used are online, so you can see for yourself.
Next up was Aaron Chaisson in one of the worst spots to put any presenter (i.e.: immediately following Chad...), but Aaron rocked it with his talk on virtualizing mission-critical applications (as I'd suspected he would).
Both the VNX family presentation and the discussion on redesigning backup to meet the needs of the virtualized environment were very well done and very well received. They were followed by a break for lunch and then I was up.
My topic, "60 VMware Integrations in 60 Minutes" was tough for a few reasons:
- It's very central to a lot of our VMware message, and, as such was under a lot of scrutiny.
- A lot of our partners were really ready to count to make sure they hadn't been misled or that the list hadn't been exaggerated in any way. I needed to prove it to them.
- It turns out there are actually 75 EMC integration points with VMware covered in the presentation and I was actually a little worried about fitting it all in the allotted hour.
- Most of all, by itself, the list is just a list...
By itself, a list isn't very interesting, relevant, or helpful. It's not the length of the list that actually matters (although, yes, our list is, in fact, longer than everyone else's, thanks for asking). What matters is what tangible business differences the technical integrations on the list are making for our customers every day.
To make the list of integration points more interesting, more relevant, and more helpful, I enlisted the help of my good friend Bob (pictured on the right). Bob's the "IT generalist" at a mid-sized company. It's his job to make sure everything works well together throughout the data center. Bob's been helping his company in their journey to the private cloud for about a year now. When they started their server virtualization project a year ago, Bob's company originally purchased a competing solution. Bob has recently switched his company over to an EMC solution. We checked in with Bob at multiple points throughout my presentation to get his help in illustrating the differences those integration points are making to him and his company.
(Bob is also a perfect example of why I work in the IT industry, rather than have a lucrative career as a famous artist.)
Bob, with his many moods, was able to point out these specific differences very handily. I'll go into them in more detail in my upcoming 7-part deep-dive into the integration points. For now, just know that, with Bob's help, I was able to cover all 75 in sufficient detail in 56 minutes.
And I know it worked. You don't get the kind of direct partner feedback and requests for copies of the deck like I did if people are just being polite. (By the way, the version with full speaker notes should be available to our partners next week.) The message is solid and it resonates.
The rest of the bootcamp itself was a blur to me, mostly because I spent 98% of it outside the room either deep in conversations with partners about the integration points or sneaking outside for some fresh air and a peek at the VNXe Mini Cooper.
After the bootcamp ended, I had to rush over to the Exhibit Hall to man my station in the EMC booth for the Welcome Reception. Along the way I had the opportunity to confirm that the VNXe is, in fact, man-portable (by which I mean I carried it from the bootcamp room to the booth).
The reception started and partners poured into the Hall. Things got very busy and a couple things happened that I'm still not 100% sure on. It started with the "No B.S. Challenge we had going on. Rather than ask partners to take our word for it about our products, we invited them to come to the EMC Hands-on Lab and try the products out for themselves. Any partner completing a lab received one of the handsome caps pictured here.
Now, someone else had had the great idea to make up some ink stamps that said "No B.S. Guarantee" and have them in the booth. This is where things get fuzzy for me.
Things really picked up in the EMC booth on Wednesday after I got the VNXe demo installed on my workstation. To prove just how easy our new application-aware storage wizards are, I stopped giving demos. Instead, I had partners run their own demos. I didn't direct them, I simply made myself available to answer any questions they had. Every one who tried, regardless of their level of technical knowledge, was able to provision storage optimized for Exchange or VMware (oddly, no one actually tried the Hyper-V wizard...) in less than 5 minutes -- in some cases including having also set up both local snapshots and remote replication... The product is simply THAT easy to use...
All in all, I had a great time, learned a lot, and met a lot of great people, made some friends, EMC partners, VMware folks, and competitors alike, and I'm looking forward to seeing them all again at EMC World and/or VMworld later this year. Definitely looking forward to continuing to work with my amazing EMC team.