2014 Chicago VMUG User Conference – One For the Books
Today (thanks to my employer) I was able to attend the 4th Annual Chicago VMUG User Conference in the Rosemont Convention Center – in the suburbs of Chicago. This was both my first VMUG User Conference and my first Chicago VMUG meeting (I live in Louisville, KY). Easily the best VM conference I’ve been to (outside VMworld), there was something for everyone and it truly felt like a miniaturized version of VMworld, especially considering there were 850 attendees this year. Overall the entire event was stellar and sets the bar on how a user conference should be run.
The event kicked off with breakfast and a keynote given by Nick Marshall (@NickMarshall9) with a topic that is close to my heart – Building Your IT Career. Nick spoke about many things that I’ve been preaching to colleagues for years about and of which I’ve recently blogged out here – self-improvement and the desire to better yourself. His presentation was spot on and I truly felt he hit the nail on the head with this one. Nick shared ideas such as setting goals, aiming for your dream job, and simple, yet effective ways, to progress in your career. Overall a fantastic presentation and I’d recommend everyone view it when/if they make it available online.
After breakfast and the opening keynote the vendor exhibition hall opened, boasting 70 vendors with their solutions and products. Most were vendors that you’ve seen before and the majority of them are at VMworld each year. Folks such as EMC, Veeam, Nutanix, SolidFire, and many more vendors showed off their products and gave away swag to attendees. The vendor exhibition hall stayed open for the remainder of the day and was a great place to kill time while learning about solutions they had to offer.
The User Conference had 5 different blocks of sessions that users could attend, most lasting about 40 minutes or so. These were similar to sessions VMworld had to offer with tracks surrounding topics such as End User Computing, Network Virtualization, Storage Virtualization, Hyper-Convergence, vCOps and more. About half of the sessions were run by VMware while they rest were presented by vendors in attendance.
Another highlight of the conference was the presence of the vBrownBag crew. If you’re unfamiliar with these guys, stop reading now and check them out. These guys put on a great show with a wealth of content – and the best part – it’s all community driven. I listened to Alastair Cooke (@DemitasseNZ), who flew in from New Zealand to be here, talk about how to get started with blogging. He had a great presentation and provided many great tips for folks thinking about starting a blog.
The next talk was one I was extremely interested in – the VirtualDesignMaster contest. I had the pleasure of watching most of the episodes of this year’s contest and it seemed like a fantastic way to not only get involved with the community but learn a great deal during the process. Another reason I was so interested was that I unofficially signed up for next year’s contest 🙂
After lunch was served, which was phenomenal by the way, Scott Lowe (@ScottLowe) gave the afternoon keynote on the topic of “Closing the Cloud Skills Gap”. During his keynote, Scott presented on how the industry is changing with the adoption of cloud and therefore as IT professionals, we must change. Scott told the crowd that by 2015, there are will be 7 million jobs directly related to managing and deploying infrastructure in the cloud and if IT pros aren’t actively seeking to expand their ‘cloud’ knowledge, they’ll be left behind. I’ve read many of Scott’s publications but this was the first time I’ve heard him speak live and in person. During his keynote, I quickly discovered that Scott was very passionate about this topic and I think it resonated throughout the audience. Even my some of my twitter friends noticed this as well:
After the afternoon keynote there were two more session blocks followed by the closing ceremonies. I sat in on a Nutanix discussion regarding their product (not the greatest session I’ve attended) and followed it by Nick Marshall’s vCOps sessions to learn what’s slated for the future of vCOps. Nick’s session was really good and I was able to pickup a few pointers to take home with me.
Overall, the user conference was one of the best events I’ve attended outside of a major vendor conference. The logistics of this large conference were spot on and I think everything ran very smoothly. I’ll definitely be putting next year’s Chicago User Conference on the calendar to attend – and you should too! Hats off to the Chicago VMUG leaders for a great event.