By now, readers of this blog may have already heard of our presence at VMworld in San Francisco this week. As you can imagine, planning a “guerrilla” activity is never a trivial task, and making it happen requires a lot of hard work behind the scenes. Therefore, I was feeling pretty pleased with what our team had managed to organize as I boarded my flight for San Francisco early Monday morning. Add to this the fact that I was visiting the Bay Area, a place that I called home for seven memorable years – I was really looking forward to the trip.  

It was only during the flight (when I finally had some time to myself) did the enormity, the audacity of what we were doing dawn on me. We were driving up to our competitor’s biggest event of the year, in its own backyard, and trying to promote a competing technology to a very committed and passionate community. We were committed to keep our conversation to the merits of our own solution, and not to disparage our competition in any way, but would VMworld attendees give us a chance? I would be lying if I said that I didn’t start to feel apprehensive about the week ahead.

Two days in, and I can tell you that the only thing I should have been worried about is eating way more frozen custard than is healthy (to be fair though, I have been standing in front of an ice cream truck for two days). So far, hundreds of VMworld attendees have lined up to sample some delicious dessert and talk to us about Hyper-V and System Center, the latest trends in storage and networking, and above all, the future of the datacenter. All in all, it’s been a blast.

Of course, we showed up unannounced at VMware’s biggest event of the year, so some interesting encounters were to be expected. As word of our presence spread, quite a few VMware employees stopped by our location. While one tried to interrogate us, and a few were clearly very nervous, many shared a good laugh with us, and some even tried the frozen custard!

Not surprisingly, the real highlight over the last two days has been the great conversations I’ve had with the IT professionals who have stopped by. Here are the trends that seemed to repeat themselves over and over again:

  • IT professionals are being asked to keep up with a flood of innovation coming out of IT infrastructure vendors. A clear example is the advent of storage and network virtualization solutions, which is challenging virtualization experts to expand their knowledge base to concepts that were previously the domain of other specialists. Continuous learning is more important than ever.  
  • IT departments are seriously looking at virtualizing more and more workloads, targeting even workloads that were previously considered “untouchable” from a virtualization point of view. At the same time, companies are wary of putting all their eggs in one basket, and are looking at their options beyond the incumbent.
  • A surprising number of people I spoke to acknowledged their business units’ frustration with IT’s perceived lack of agility, and were acutely aware of the ability of business unit’s to go “around” IT by leveraging a cloud provider. There doesn’t seem to be a great solution in people’s minds as of now, but clearly this issue is top of mind.
  • Lastly, it is very clear that Hyper-V is enjoying a lot traction in our customers’ datacenters. Almost everyone I spoke to either has Hyper-V already running in some capacity, or has concrete plans to start testing it. Consequently, there is a growing demand for Hyper-V and System Center skills, and  people can see that skilling up on another platform will be good for their careers.

Of course, some of the people we spoke to were skeptical about how good Hyper-V really is. Many looked at Hyper-V a long time ago, and haven’t kept up with the progress our platform has made in recent years. If you count yourself among this group, we at Microsoft would love to show you how far we’ve come. However, you needn’t take my word for it – I encourage you to find out for yourself. We have created a website called Virtualization2 specifically for IT professionals familiar with VMware. The site has self-paced courses that go into Microsoft virtualization, our advanced management and automation tools, as well as the storage and network virtualization features of Windows Server 2012. There are also links to hands-on-labs, trial downloads of our software, as well as other useful tools.

Our ice-cream truck will be at VMworld on Wednesday as well – you can find us on the corner of 2nd and Howard between 12-4 pm. If you haven’t yet done so, please come by and talk to our experts! And whether or not you are at the conference, be sure to check out our Virtualization2 website, and give us your feedback on other content you’d like to see there.