I recently had the opportunity to attend the Indianapolis VMUG User Conference, dubbed Demo Days 4. As a Leader in the Chicago VMUG group, I wanted to both see how the largest VMUG User Conference does things, while also getting to know many of the different technical people working to put it together and vendors who sponsor them. The event did set a record for VMUG attendance, with somewhere near the 900 mark physically attending.
The biggest allure for attending this event is the set of quality labs. Getting hands on experience with technology is a great way to get a feel for how it works, learn it in more depth, and gain a true appreciation for handling it. Demo Days 4 had its share of some really spot on labs, including PowerCLI, EMC (VNX, VNXe, others), and Thinapp (the packaging software for virtualized applications). The labs had plenty of seats and were screened off from the main area, allowing for a sort of private learning experience.
The EMC vSpecialist folks are especially lively, offering lots of real world insight into ways they’ve used technology to solve virtualization requirements. They were all very approachable and social, and made sure that I was able to do a VNX lab within a few seconds of asking. There is also a little shenanigans at hand, which can be fun after a long day of demos, vendor info, and sessions.
In particular, make sure to follow @virtualbug (Heather Boegemann) and @scott_lowe (Scott Lowe) on twitter.
The sessions were held in smaller, private rooms, so as to give the audience a more “discussion” feel to them. There were several tracks to attend, focusing on lofty C-Level/ROI topics, vendor specific products, and VMware centric information sessions covering a range of questions from upgrading to ESXi through performance tuning vSphere.
The main stage had many different sessions as well, including a great presentation by Mike Laverick on SRM in vSphere 5 (always a pleasure to hear him speak on a topic) to Certifications and Licensing by David M Davis (Hello and welcome to TrainSignal!).
Somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 vendors were on hand to answer questions on their products and hand out interesting nick nacks. The interesting thing about Demo Days 4 was the punch card holding many vendors name’s on the front. If you went to the booths corresponding to the card and got the card stamped, you could drop off the card with the VMUG crew for a chance to win a trip to VMworld! This is a very cool prize and really helped motivate everyone to hunt down the vendors on their card.
The cards had a random assortment of vendors on them, which gives you a chance to meet people and technology that you might not of otherwise heard of. I know that many of my card’s vendors were names I was not familiar with, so meeting these people helped branch out my understanding of what technology and services are available in the market.
The Actifio booth had some friendly ladies from the Colts cheerleaders posing for photos:
I snagged some funny bumper stickers from the Tintri booth:
I felt like the time spent at Demo Days 4 was very well spent. Everyone I met was very interested in the “positive message” – in that they promoted their own products or services without the need to “bash” on someone else (competitor or otherwise). The layout of the vendor booths were very easy to navigate with plenty of aisle space. The food was very delicious (especially the desert) to help keep you energized while shuffling around all day.
Some constructive criticism: It was difficult to hear speakers in the main hall, as it is also shared with the labs, vendor booths, and VMUG lounge. It would have been better to somehow section that area off so that the audience could better participate in the discussion and hear the speakers.
Other than that, the Indy VMUG did a spectacular job, and I’m already looking forward to Demo Days 5. I hope to also use what I’ve learned to help craft a wonderful experience for those in the Chicagoland (and surrounding) areas for when we hold our VMUG User Conference coming up in a few months.
A special hello to the twitter folks there:
@davidmdavis @scott_lowe @virtualbug @Mike_Laverick @sixfootdad @Justin_Lauer @jwalsh2 @erickMoore