So this at the last minute i decided to pull the trigger and go to VMWorld. I had never been to VMWorld but had seen many blog and forum posts about it or referencing it, so my interest was "sparked". They held it at the Venician in Las Vegas this year, so it was yet another trip to Vegas for me. Since i had been to Vegas many times, its just another destination to me and because i am from Orlando, its seems more like an adult theme park than anything else.
Anyhow, a few things to describe my trip. First i landed in Vegas around 5pm Vegas time, took a taxi to the hotel and checked into my room. Note here, taxi's are the best way to get around in Vegas unless you want to do some urban exploration. Once i was settled in my room, which was upgraded because they ran out of single King beds(how is two queens an upgrade?), i rode the elevator down to the casino floor and began to look for the registration area. Needless to say, the maps in the venician are somewhat confusing and i ended up walking to the other end of the convention area to the front where registration was, which was only about 300 feet from the elevator i got off(argh!). I swooped in at the last minute and registered, they were passing out coronas and soda to get everyones night started! Since i had registered online, it was a simple matter of showing my ID and getting my welcome swag(backpack, tin can, expo teases) and badge. After this equipment was had, i headed back to room to drop it off and grab some din din.
Now the veician has 45 resturants, so picking one can be somewhat diffucult if you have never been to Vegas. In my case, i was looking for a decent meal and a good conversation with other attendees. They have a nice one near the front desk called the Grand Lux which has a bar, tables, booths and a front inside patio area where you can see the casino(no one eats outdoors in vegas as its really hot in the summer). So i moseyed up to the bar and made the best of the experience with a few other attendees who were also trying to figure out what was where.
So day one starts at 8am, which is great, cause thats like 11am EST, so i was wide awake. What i didnt realize is that they serve breakfast! So i had run down to hit my talk, skipping breakfast and when i was out at 9am, it was over(argh!). Would of been nice to know before hand, but hey, note for day 2. On a good note, they had snacks around and plenty to drink, so keeping the engine going without heading off to a hotel eatery was somewhat easy. At the end of day one, the Expo area opens( que mass hoard of swag wanting mob ). The Expo folks dont miss a beat, they are presenting to anyone and everyone who will listen and stop by their booth. Some booths were more agressive than others(holy crap vkernel you scanned me like 50 times). Everyone was giving away an IPAD 2 and everyone at the conference regardless if they had one already or not, wanted one. What made matters worse is that almost EVERY exibitor wanted you at their booth for their drawing. Ok, note to you guys, we are their to see the confernence not hang at your booth at 11am, 1pm and 4pm. I was going to schedule my day around drawings, but on the second day i decided it was futile if i was to learn anything.
The good part about the whole conference was that the SANS EXPO is built on levels(with many exsculators!), so going from one class to the next was a simple trip down or up and a 200-400 foot walk. There were also hotel staff everyone directing all the lost folks to the correct rooms and i can say by day 2 i fully understood the signs, though asking hotel staff was really easy. Course on day 2 i decided to wear a nice white striped shirt without a tie, well this made me look like hotel staff apparently. I had hotel staff tracking me down and people asking me where to go. It was funnny cause one of the bosses running around ran up to me and said several of her staff were confused because i looked like a casio boss. To my credit i was wearing the VMWorld badge. I had some funny conversations with other attendees though, few were quite interesting, always a good place to meet people and talk shop.
So i grabbed lunch with the herd. This was an interesting experience, the hotel(maybe expo?) staff are well trained at traffic control and orchestrated the whole thing quite well. My only tweak on their delivery was that they should fill the front of the room first, then the back of the room! Nothing like walking a mile past empty tables, then having to walk back, come on people, we walk the whole conference, give us a break! Anyhow, that was my only complaint, the food was great, service was instant and everyone seemed very friendly no matter how flustered they looked.
Dinner wasnt provided, but on the first night, several companies had parties with appetizers. I was party hoping around, though going to different casios was made easier with companions on the drinking tours. I think i ate dinner on Tuesday and thursday night and only paid for about 4 meals the whole trip. Thad will definitely save the company money, course the 2K price of the conference kinda wipes that out.
Before i knew it the conference was over and it was time to head out. I was a bit pissed cause i couldnt get late check out after calling like 10 times, but i guess that means they were busy. I will be back for HIMSS in February, so when i registered for that, i noted myself for early check in and late check out, lets see if they actually allow it. BTW, HIMSS fills up quick, so if you havent registered by now, you most likely will not be able to stay at the Venician, or atleast at the hotel rate($215). Personally i had to register for one night on standard rate then the rest of the week on HIMSS rate.
As far as the talks went, they were all relatively useful. I think i got more information from talking with other attendees than the conference talks themselves though. Although Brian Madden did a session on TS vs VDI that was really good, course he is a good speaker anyways, so maybe thats why? Also dell did one on the 7 sins of VDI which was also quite good(yes, we all have and hate unicorns!). It was nice to see that others were running virtualized exchange environments and that everyone has VM sprall, though with the new licensing model, that may change quickly. It was great to learn that VSphere 5 has monster VM capabilities 1TB ram, 32 procs, 5TB drives, etc! Storage DRS looks to be quite interesting as well as the additional tools to give better insight into performance. Also learned that you can use thin provisioning on the vm level with databases as long as you check the failover compatibility box when creating/adding a drive. It was also nice to know that everyone was thinking security in vmware needs some fine tuning, there are holes, some are man made.
Software to help you do many of the things that admins normally do was a plenty. Seems everyone is adding more VMs and not adding admins, thought we were special! Lots of backup software and storage systems to look at, i was surprised not to Exagrid there. Found a new thin client to check into as well as some additional performance checking software to look at and some built in tools that are free(well plug-ins).
All in all, it was a great time and i will be back next year, course i have to figure out how to do this, defcon and Hope all in the same year without appearing to spend too much of the companies money(heck maybe i can squeeze blackhat and defcon on the same run!).