3rd Annual Chicago VMUG User Conference Puts Powerful Emphasis on the Users

There’s been a surge of effort among the virtualization community to put users back into the spotlight at various user group meetings. While I applaud the efforts, with shining examples coming forth from Scott Lowe, Eric Wright, and Cody Bunch, I’m very proud to stand by the efforts made by the Chicago chapter of the VMware User Group over the past half decade. We’ve had several events where users were invited to come and speak about various experiences, push very hard on our sponsors to bring along customers and users to explain their use case and pain points with a solution, and try to hold regular vBeer and social events to help fellow members network with peers, professionals, and vendors. This isn’t to say that other groups aren’t doing the same, but I don’t run other groups nor do I care to judge them.

But, no matter how well the Chicago leadership team has done in the past, there is always room for improvement. As such, the five of us that lead the Chicago group have really worked hard to reach out to our community of members and come up with some great content and new twists to our third annual user conference, taking place October 22nd at the Rosemont Convention Center. There’s a ton of great things to say about the conference: we have Jay Cuthrell giving the morning keynote, there are 35 breakout sessions from VMware and other vendors, over 75 sponsors to mingle with, and a ton of great prizes.

But how are we putting a powerful emphasis on the users?

The Ultimate Home Lab

Each year we try to do something really awesome for our members to help develop their skill set and advance their career goals. Previously we have given away an entire weeks worth of VMware Install, Configure, Manage training along with a VCP exam voucher to get a lucky winner VMware certified. We’ve also handed out mountains of VMware Press books. But this is a year to break records and set the bar higher.

As such, we’re ponying up the cash for the ultimate grand prize: an entire home lab kit comprising of two HP MicroServer Gen8 servers, a network switch, and a NAS storage array (with disk). This lab is worth about $4000.

But wait, what about software? Do you have to put up with those 60 day evaluations? Nope – the grand prize winner also receives an entire year of NFR vSphere licenses, courtesy of our good friend John Troyer and his team, to use with this ultimate home lab.

The Ultimate Home Lab
The Ultimate Home Lab

This prize is legendary!

Joint VMware and User Sessions

The VMUG leadership team has opened up the VMware sessions to user participation. This allows a VMware SE to pair up with a customer / user in the area to focus on both technical content and first hand experience. We all feel this adds value to members who participate in the sessions, as they can opt to pepper either of the two presenters with questions, or further network after the session. Additionally, our local group of VMware SEs have been incredibly supportive.

I’ll highlight one example: Nick Colyer, a member of our VMUG and orchestration ninja, and Amy Manley, also a VMUG member and vSphere ninja, are going to discuss experiences with orchestration (vCO) and the Self Healing Data Center. Awesome! I think this also might offer an excellent opposing view to the “Muggle Quadrant” idea from Michael Stump, although he has some note worthy ideas to ponder.

The Social Media Room, VMUG Style

First off, kudos to Amy Lewis for this idea (or at least this is where I learned it from) at Cisco Live. She provided a place where creators of content could do just that – create content. Podcasters, bloggers, experts, and product managers all got their fair shake in a common room to create content.

In a similar vein, the Chicago VMUG is hosting a Social Media Room at our conference. I’ve sent out invitations to various members of the social media community to do what they do best – be passionate about their craft! The room is set up with seating for up to 18 people, Internet, power outlets, and tables. This is a great opportunity to tap into the vast number of user members available to discuss technology trends, trouble spots, what’s exciting at the event, and various tales of technology. Think of it like a mini version of the VMworld Hang Space.

Expect to see the following fun folks at the event, plus more to be announced!

  • Lauren Malhoit AdaptingIT Podcast – Lauren is a well known vExpert and EMC Elect who has amazing discussions with women in technology. This is one of the must-listen podcasts on my feed.
  • Kasia LorencTom’s IT Pro – Kasia is the Managing Editor for Tom’s IT Pro, a site focused on all sorts of technical goodies. She also has an excellent video series called Top 5 in Tech that covers a wide variety of weekly news. If you have a passion for writing about tech, make sure to make an introduction!
  • Andy McCaskeySDRNews – Andy is the mind behind the magic at SDRNews, a very popular podcast and broadcasting show that covers technology, the enterprise, and is often found at major tech conferences. Check out his channel on Roku here.
  • Brian SuhrVirtualizeTips – Brian has been contributing to the community as a blogger and vExpert for years, and recently acquired his VCDX at VMworld. Come chat with one of vSphere-Land’s top 50 virtualization bloggers.
  • Eric ShanksTheITHollow – Eric is another top 50 virtualization blogger on vSphere-Land and a newly minted vExpert. He regularly posts a number of technical articles that help administrators with a variety of tasks.
  • Chris Wahl – Wahl Network – The Wahl Network team will be on site to capture some Tech Chats with various members and experts who traveled to the event. For a preview of what’s to come, see our Tech Chats from both the 2013 Indy VMUG and 2013 VMworld US events.


It has been incredible to work with the team on the list of improvements outlined above. Every year we learn more and more about how to make the conference a better experience for attendees. I hope that if you are in the Midwest area you can make it out to the 3rd annual Chicago VMUG User Conference. If you do – please do make sure to come say hello to myself and any of the others mentioned above. If you want, I can make weird faces in a photo with you, because apparently that’s what I do without trying (99% of the photos of me at VMworld came out as if I were a zombie or something worse). 🙂