Quick aside: A friend of mine ended up at a poker table full of Michael Jackson impersonators.  As it turned out every time this one particular MJ impersonator got a decent hand he’d yell out, “Hee…Hee!” in that famous MJ sort of way. Not witnessing that amazingness first hand is my biggest VMworld 2016 regret!

In any case, let’s look at five things that should have gotten your attention at this year’s VMworld:

1. Vegas is well… Vegas – Las Vegas is an interesting arena for a show. On one hand it’s very easy to get around as transportation isn’t an issue. Although the hatred by the cab drivers towards Uber has significantly risen this year. One driver I had actually cut off an Uber driver and then proceeded to break check him before letting out a barrage of insults aimed at Uber in general… he did not get a tip.

I’ll get back on track. While the logistics of getting around in Vegas are fantastic there’s still the whole, “we’ve all been here a million times” thing. We do the Casino shuffle and change scenery but at the end of the day many of us get the Vegas 48-hour flu. It does look like VMworld will remain in Vegas for at least two more years, so I’ll make a note to bring this back up again in 2017. Overall, Mandalay Bay did a tremendous job hosting!

2. vRealize in the House – In 2015 the vRealize suite didn’t seem to have all that much buzz, or at the very least, there didn’t seem to be a ton of customers going full steam ahead. This year the vRA conversations seemed much more mature. Too many, vRA is like being given the basic components needed to build a home. Windows, doors, frame, roof etc… the issue is you still have to build and then manage that house. Expensive and time consuming.

I probably had 15 conversations around vRA, and everyone seemed to feel the same way, “We are using it to a certain extent but it can be a bear to wrap our hands around.” vRA is a powerful automation platform and with organizations looking to transform IT in general I’m sure we’ll see continued improvements moving forward around its simplicity.

You’re already seeing vRA plugins around IPAM, custom naming, Puppet, and ServiceNow drastically reduce time to value for IT departments looking to utilize vRA. These efficiencies for vRA will continue to improve and change over time.

3. Population Decline – I’m not sure about you but VMworld seemed a bit on the smaller side this year. Maybe it’s because San Francisco is so spread out, but it didn’t have the same zing as it’s had in the past. Actually by the numbers VMworld did show slight decline in overall attendees, but it wasn’t discussed much and didn’t seem to be that noticeable. Candidly I think these shows in general will continue to decline as innovation continues to churn. I could see regional shows in the not so distant future or even a pivot towards incorporating virtual and/or augmented reality into the mix thus keeping more folks from traveling outside of territory. Sound crazy? VR and AR are here and they’ll only continue to grow in popularity. At some point popular will become the norm, and remember… if you think you’re in a training room full of people several hundred miles away then you’re in a room full of people several hundred miles away. Brain trickery at its best!

4Multicloud Strategy – So, as promised, VMware announced their new Cross Cloud Architecture, but is this the vision we’ve all been waiting for or is this simply re-gifting? You know… taking that toaster oven that your creepy aunt gave you four years ago and making it someone else’s problem. The answer seems pretty clear to me… VMware has to go down this path. VMware isn’t a startup anymore and they’re not in the place where a complete redesign makes sense. What VMware can do, however, is take existing portfolio offerings (NSX, vSphere, vSAN etc.) and create an automated seamless cloud experience for their customer base. Personally, I think it would be a mistake for people to view this strategy as a product. It’s not a product… it’s a vision because visions aren’t product specific. People buy stories… not products, and Cross Cloud Architecture could become a very powerful story.

5. Perception is Reality – Where will VMware fit in the new direction that innovation takes us? I was physically on the floor every day at VMworld and had many conversations with customers and vendors alike. One thing constantly came up… How is VMware going to adjust to market demands around Open Source? Well, maybe not that exact question, but when Docker, Ansible, Puppet, Chef etc. continued to be a hot topic of conversation how can one not immediately wonder how VMware will adapt? No doubt there will be an integration roadmap laid out, but the whole, “trust us, we got this,” story is going to have to have a little more meat on the bone going into 2017.

Some may view what’s going on in the industry as a little scary while others, myself included, see excitement more than fear. VMware is going to have an interesting year ahead of them for a multitude of reasons. The big elephant in the room is obviously the Dell/EMC acquisition closing last week, and how that will affect VMware moving forward. Other folks want to know how VMware will become the innovation leader again, while others are convinced those times are over.

Me?

I tend to think VMware will steady itself, IF they can execute on plans around Cross Cloud, create a solid strategy around containers and simplify their overall messaging in the coming quarters.

We shall see, but regardless I’ll look forward to reading this blog before the show next year to see if VMware was able to pull any rabbits out of their proverbial magician’s hat.

Cheers!