Make the Most of VMworld 2021

Before my first VMworld experience in 2017, I was completely overwhelmed with how to spend my time at the conference.  With so many activities happening, how do you decide?  Despite this being a virtual event yet again, I want to provide a framework for attendees to make the most out of this year’s conference.  Regardless of what you do or how much you know about VMware, there’s something for you…and probably some items you didn’t expect.

Watch the Prequel

It was only a few days ago that SpringOne took place.  If you’re watching some sort of TV series, you would watch the episodes in order, right?  As you prepare for VMworld, read up on the announcements that came from SpringOne.  Here’s a quick recap to give you the highlights:


Enter the Loop

Tech conferences are well known for having activities before and after the conference.  Before VMworld officially kicks off on October 5, DevOps Loop happens October 4 (free to attend).  This requires a separate registration and is about having DevOps community thought leaders educate the rest of us on solutions to key issues.  Check out the full agenda here.


Look in the Miro

Nathan Hudson created a Miro board that shows a nice visualization some of the activities you can undertake during this year’s VMworld event.


Lean in to VMUG

If you’re not a member of VMUG (VMware User Group), there is no better time to sign up (free).  In fact, VMUG will have a virtual lounge at VMworld this year and some watch parties across the country.  Get the full details on VMUG at VMworld 2021 here.
Note:  There are separate registrations needed for each day of the VMUG Virtual Lounge.

This is your chance to connect with other VMware users across the world and stay in touch with them even beyond the conference.  Be sure to find and join a VMUG group in your area so you can start attending events (most are virtual right now).

VMUG is also hosting a VMworld 2021 know before you go webinar on 9/30.  Full details and sign up can be found here.

Get yourself a free t-shirt if you’re registered for VMworld by filling out this survey (only while supplies last per this Tweet).


Conquer the Content Catalog

With over 1150 sessions in the catalog as of this article’s publishing, how do you navigate it?  It’s like trying to decide what to eat when staring down a large buffet.  Here are some general recommendations.

Some sessions are strictly happening on-demand (547 on-demand sessions as of the publish date of this article).  For those, you can mark as a favorite and consume when you’re ready.


For those sessions that are aired live, be sure to add them to your schedule (should see the button to “add to schedule” when viewing details of a session) to hold your place in the time slot that works for you.  The session shown here (a hidden gem for you…a design studio session) is offered in multiple time slots.  Some time slots are full (only option is to join waitlist), while others still have available space.  Snag a spot in the ones you want to attend the most!


If you invested in the Tech+ pass, there is a way to filter the content catalog to see only those sessions (250 of these in total available).  This session was recommended for me because of my top 3 interests during registration.  I would not expect all sessions on the Tech+ pass track to be recorded for later viewing.  Keep that in mind.


There are also different session types to understand.  Many of them are covered here, but let’s dig into some of those which were not mentioned.  The content catalog can be filtered by any of the session types in bold.

  • Consider attending a UX Design Studio session to interact with our Design Studio team members and shape the user experience of products moving forward.  Bring honest feedback on the good, bad, and ugly.
  • Check out the VMTN TechTalk sessions (coordinated by the vBrownBag team).  These are sessions from community members on a wide variety of topics and are normally recorded for later viewing on the vBrownBag YouTube channel.  Here are my top 3 recommendations:
    • David Klee – VMware Storage Queue Tuning [VMTN2862]
      • David is a database performance wizard, and he knows best practices for the entire stack.  Any session he does is excellent.
    • Gregory Mobley – BIOS bias – Capacity, Performance and ROI (CPR) for your infrastructure [VMTN3301]
      • Imagine adjusting the power settings on your servers and boosting densities.  It’s an often overlooked thing in private cloud environments.  Squeeze every bit of performance you can out of those servers!
    • Varghese Philipose – Track Sustainability Goals in Datacenter with vRealize Operations [VMTN2802]
      • Sustainability is something companies of all shapes and sizes are starting to track.  What if you could help your company do it and boost your value as an employee?
  • Last year was the first Code Connect event in conjunction with VMworld, made up of live sessions from the VMware {code} community.  This year Code Connect is back with 100% live sessions folded into the main content catalog.  Visit this page for a look at the wholistic Code Connect catalog.  Here are a couple of recommendations:
    • Dean Lewis and Sam McGeown – Pipelining Tanzu Kubernetes Clusters [CODE2805]
      • What if you thought a little differently about your pipelines as it relates to Kubernetes?  Don’t miss this one.
    • Ryan Conley and Michael Fleisher – From vSphere Admin to Site Reliability Engineer – Where Do I Start? [CODE2795]
      • Two engineers who have made this transition give advice to those who want to walk the path.  It’s great to learn how others built a new skillset.
  • Don’t forget about sessions with special guests like Will Smith, Michael J. Fox, Dr. Moogega Cooper, Mick Ebelin, Robin Arzón, and Dr. Nicole Forsgren.  See a list of all featured speakers here with links to their sessions.


Did you know it’s easy to see what sessions were newly added or updated?  Even after the content catalog is released and schedule builder is live, there may be changes to take into consideration.


If you need help with the content catalog, consider reaching out to your VMware team or joining the content catalog office hours happening September 14 and September 28.

Find Session Recommendations

As you pick sessions, think about the things you’re working on today, but stretch yourself to consider areas outside your normal lens of focus.  Being aware that something exists may be enough to help you solve a problem later (or at least give you a place to start).



Sessions I believe are worth considering:
    • Solution Keynote: What’s Next? A Look inside VMware’s Innovation Engine [VI3091]
    • Next-Generation SaltStack: What Idem Brings to SaltStack [VI1865]
      • Hear from Thomas Hatch (founder and CTO of SaltStack) and Tom Hite about Idem and how it provides some very interesting capabilities.
    • Next-Generation Machine Learning with VMware: FML [VI1860]
      • What exactly is federated machine learning, and how does it work?  Come find out for yourself.
    • Deep Dive: Treating Security Like a Product [APP1436]
      • The US Army will share what they did to let security drive changes to its software development lifecycle.
    • 10 Things You Need to Know About Project Monterey [MCL1833]
    • Bring Intel PMem into the Mainstream with Memory Monitoring and Remediation [MCL3014S]
      • Persistent memory is gaining traction.  Find out what Intel is doing to enhance the experience with Optane.
    • Start from Square 001: A Conversation on Virtual Career Development [IC1938]
      • What is it like to start your career in a Zoom world?  Four different people give their perspective on thriving with your career (and newly landed job) in a pandemic.
    • Achieving Happiness: The Quest for Something New [IC1484]
      • If you haven’t seen one of the past iterations of this from Amanda Blevins, don’t miss the opportunity this year.  She and VMUG President will team up to address how you can evolve your career in 2021 in a way that is in alignment with your own happiness.
    • Implementing an AIOps Strategy with VMware Edge Network Intelligence [2952]
      • If you’ve never seen it, this is the technology that originally came from the acquisition of Nyansa.  Find out what it does, and see it in action.  It’s an extremely interesting product.
    • Anatomy of the VMware SOC [SEC1048]
      • Come learn about the VMware Security Operations Center and how it was transformed to fit into a better security strategy.
    • VMware SASE: What’s New and What’s Next [EDG1647]
      • Maybe you heard about VMware’s SASE solution already.  Find out where it’s going from here.
    • Taming Public Clouds with CloudHealth and vRealize: An End-to-End Demo [2800]
      • This one looks to be very good.  It’s a demo of all vRealize products including SaltStack and CloudHealth.  How can all of these tools work together in harmony?  Come take a look.
    • Detecting and Preventing Threats with NSX Advanced Threat Prevention [2924]
      • This session will spotlight some of the technology that came to us through the acquisition of LastLine (a malware research firm) and how it adds capabilities to NSX.
    • The Evolution of Intelligent Edge and Electrical Grid Modernization [VI1455]
      • How should we be modernizing the edge for power grid automation and control with increased cybersecurity?  Check out some of the innovations in the utility sector.
    • Decoding VMUG [IC2827S]
      • If you’re still not sure about VMUG, check out this session delivered by VMUG President Steve Athanas.
    • Observability for Modern Application and Kubernetes Environments [APP1308]
      • Tanzu Observability remains one of the coolest products at VMware.  Of course you should attend a session on it!
    • Antrea and NSX-T update for Container Networking [CODE2743]
      • If you’ve not heard about Antrea and what we’ve done in that area, definitely take a peak here.  Kudos to David Kirkland for the recommendation on this one.


Perhaps you prefer hearing recommendations instead of reading about them.


Browse the Sponsors

The full list of VMworld sponsors can be found here.  The list can be filtered by sponsor level, VMware product, or relevant topic on which they are presenting.  Click on any sponsor to learn more about what they do.

If we click on a specific sponsor, the details look like what you see here.  We could then filter the content catalog by the topic(s) highlighted to find sessions specific to this sponsor.

For example, an Intel-sposored session from the content catalog (filter content catalog by Co-Innovation in Action and search for Intel) would look like this.  Notice the “Sponsored” tag on the session.


Get into Slack

If you’re someone who has not registered for VMworld yet, make sure you opt in for Slack and VMware Talk.  It’s a great way to interact with other attendees (and probably some VMware employees that can help answer questions during the conference).  For more on what VMware Talk is all about, check out this article.


If you select the option to opt in, you can optionally upload a picture of yourself for interacting with others via Slack.

If you decided to opt out of this when registering for VMworld, the good news is you have the power to change your answer at any time.  When logging into the VMworld site with your Customer Connect (or myvmware) id, take a look at your profile / attendee dashboard (click the My Profile link if not directed her automatically upon login).  Notice I can change my desire to opt in / out from here.  And it’s easy to see I am leveraging the general pass (free).  For a comparison of pass types (free vs. paid), check out this link.

There are also some questions to answer once you opt-in to Slack to help shape some of the conversation topics.  You can see from the screenshot here that I’ve answered one but left the other unanswered.

Step up to the Challenge

How can you win prizes during a virtual VMworld?  Enter the VMworld Challenge, of course.  How exactly does that work?  Get the full scoop here.


Set a Goal to Become an Expert

Though there is a special vExpert party / networking event at each VMworld, the vExperts are actively contributing to the VMware community in some way to share their experience and knowledge with others on a regular basis.  If you’re not a vExpert, this is a chance to raise your game and career.  Check out the vExpert site to learn more about the program, and click the option to get notified when applications open (twice per year).  If you want to know what it takes to become a vExpert or find people in your network that are vExperts, check out the vExpert directory.  Follow people on Twitter and see what they are doing to build up the greater community.  Ask current program members if you need advice on how to get into the program.  What you take from VMworld doesn’t have to end here.


Use Your Library Card

Many of the sessions happening at VMworld 2021 will be recorded and stored for later viewing in the VMworld On-Demand Video Library.  In fact, videos from 2020 and 2019 are there now for your consumption.  You can login to the site with the same account used to login to the VMworld site.  Pay special attention as most sessions should have an accompanying PDF of the slides for that session.  Personally, I find those extremely helpful to go and reference at a later time.  Even if there was an interesting session you know you won’t have time to watch for a while, make a note to watch it once it drops into the on-demand video library.


Answer the Call

In spring of next year the call for papers for VMworld will open again.  Maybe it’s time to submit something to share your expertise and gain the experience presenting.  Or, if that stage is too big, maybe you start at a local VMUG meeting.  Later this year I’d expect to see a call for papers for VMUG UserCons.  Start gathering ideas now and keep them somewhere so that when the time comes you don’t have to think too much on it.  And remember…any time you put in a submission to give a presentation, all you need is an abstract to start.  Don’t think you need the entire presentation written to put your name in the hat.

If you still aren’t convinced that giving a technical presentation is worthwhile for your career, listen to Al Rasheed‘s journey (part 1 and part 2).


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