New Year Kicks off! New Projects, New Book, New Awards

January has gone as quickly as it arrived after the Christmas break! I’ve just had an analyst call and wished him a belated Happy New Year and it occurred to me that I only had time  in January to write one post. So this post is a summary of the last 6 weeks since beginning of January.

January saw the first London VMUG of 2017 being held. Many posts have already been written on the success of the day but it was a great event and a pleasure to attend as an attendee instead of committee member 🙂 I attended the Cohesity session and Alex Galbraith and Chris Porter’s AWS community presentation. Alex and Chris’ slidedeck can be found here, highly recommended taking a look. It was also good to catch up with many long time VMUG attendees and supporters; Ricky el Qasem (who’s double session received tremendous feedback), Alex, Chris, Sam MacGeown, Amit Panchal, Gareth Edwards, the committee of Simon Gallagher, Chris Dearden, Dave Simpson and Linda Smith, plus many more! I also had the pleasure of meeting with Stanimir Markov from Runecast for the first time. Runecast has been making quite a name for itself in the VMware community and will be sponsoring the April London VMUG. More about those guys at the end of this post 😉 It was great to see the committee continue with the community awards and it was fab to see Alex, Ricky and all the Opentechcast crew receive recognition of their contribution to London VMUG for 2016.

I’ve also been working with the WhatMatrix team on plans for the future development of the platform from a marketing perspective. I’ve also submitted them for an award in a datacenter innovation category. Once the finalists are announced, and I’m hoping WhatMatrix be one, voting will start, so I shall be canvassing you all for your votes, fingers crossed!

I am also pleased to announce I will be a judge in the newly launched Tech PR Star Awards, launched by my good friend and industry colleague, Rose Ross, of Tech Trailblazers fame.

Another project I’m involved in has been copy-proofing a very exciting new book – obviously not from the technical aspect, it’s already been peer-reviewed before it gets to me! But just ensuring it’s all proper English, like! I’m not mentioning authors or the book at this time as it’s pretty much under wraps but am excited to be involved, even if in a very small way.

I’ve also been asked by TECHunplugged team to help them secure sponsors for their 2017 events, so any vendors reading this, if you want to sponsor this very unique format event, just let me know!

Finally, two awesome things have topped off today for me personally. One, I’ve been awarded vExpert for the 7th year running; you can read the full list here. And two, I am very pleased to announce that I just signed a new client, Runecast! I believe their solution to be a totally relevant “must have” for any VMware vSphere estate and I’m looking forward to working with the team. As Stan is a VCDX and other team members are fellow vExperts, I might also learn something along the way 🙂

 

Whew, I’m exhausted just writing about what I’m currently involved in but am super excited for what the coming months will bring for me and hiviz-marketing and our involvement in these many fab initiatives. Stay tuned!!

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VMware President, Carl Eschenbach, departing VMware

When I started at VMware in 2003, Carl was heading up North American sales. The rise of his career within VMware to President and COO is a real success story in my opinion. During the span of his 14-year tenure at VMware it, and the industry at large, has morphed/evolved/changed dramatically, as has Carl’s position in the company.

What strikes a chord with me is Carl’s versatility. From the ‘humble’ beginnings of being a sales guy, he stepped into the big shoes of what was traditionally – for me anyways – Steve Herrod’s day 2 keynote at VMworld in 2013, delivering a great session, along with Kit Colbert, then a senior principal engineer now VP & CTO, Cloud-Native Apps, followed by more banter with EMEA CTO, Joe Baguley. You can read my summary post from VMworld 2013 here. I know of a few techies that might still categorize Carl in the ‘salesman’ bucket, but his understanding of technology, relating that to both customers and partners, is a huge part of having driven VMware revenues from $10M to over $6BN during his tenure.

I think his departure, along with Martin Casado’s, is a big loss for VMware. Both Carl and Martin will, apparently, remain as advisors to VMware, but their presence will be missed and, for me, particularly on the VMworld stage.

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Me and Carl at VMworld 2013 vExpert/VCDX party

I have very fond memories of working at VMware in the early days and Carl is a big part of those memories. He really understood the power of sales and marketing working as one team and I still have an email from him stating I’m his favorite marketing leader ever 🙂 Despite the drain on his time being president and COO at VMware, Carl always rapidly responds to my emails – whilst at VMware and ever since – not many executives do that. In fact, the only other one I know is Mark Templeton – another influential person in my virtualization career. Both great leaders and both now in new chapters of their lives. I wish them both continued success – and happiness too.

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Community 2.0

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Community – it means different things to different people, particularly in our industry. But I like this definition the best: A community is a social unit of any size that shares common values. I’ve recently become involved in a crowd-sourced community, WhatMatrix. The goal of WhatMatrix is to provide free comparisons to organizations based upon collaborative, expert input. Having been involved in the launch of this community, it is exciting to see people’s responses to the matrices – particularly when they don’t agree! But the sweet thing about WhatMatrix is the fact that this is exactly what underpins it; if you disagree and can assert the correct information, it will be updated.

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The value of this can, however, potentially be undermined or misconstrued if an expert contributor is associated with a vendor. It could be assumed that the expert might have a bias towards his or her own company’s solution. This train of thought got me thinking about other things in general. I think that experts, bloggers, industry contributors etc., whatever “nomenclature” you want to associate with this group of people, it all boils down to respect. If you can demonstrate that your opinion is factually based and be willing to change it if proven wrong, then you command the respect to be an ‘independent’ member of said community. Whilst I’ve always said if you’re an employee, you’re ‘always on’ as a representative for your company, you can still be a community contributor and employee. I’ve also seen experts move from being independent to working for a vendor only to discover their ‘perks’, such as NFRs etc. are removed from them, as owners of the programs to which they belong don’t like the competition having access to their software. Well, let me tell you, if you sell via a channel and your competition is that desperate to get a hold of your product, they will! Don’t penalize the expert for no longer being independent is my view.

But I digress…….. What does the future hold for our community within the virtualization and cloud space? I see many vendors creating their own select programs and really getting behind them to own, drive and, in most cases, fund them. For any user community to thrive the vendor has to take ownership early on, in conjunction and collaboration with the users. Big user groups, such as the VMware User Group, have become totally independent to be effective and are funded via vendor sponsorship. For more niche players and start ups, make the community what your ‘social unit’ needs it to be, not what you, as a vendor, want it to be. Other community programs, such as VMware’s vExpert accolade, become less meaningful, to some, as they grow. People want exclusivity to feel more valued it would seem. My view is that as the user base grows, the vExpert numbers will grow. But maybe it is time to create some kind of tiering? This point reminds me of being involved building the channel for Citrix and then VMware across EMEA in both companies’ early days. The innovative partners that first came on board and really invested wanted recognition as the partner base grew to include the ‘box shifters’, and so tiering was introduced; platinum, gold, silver, etc.

In summary, I think Community 2.0 will be more collaborative, potentially less exclusive but more ‘segmented’ and should continue to focus on the needs of the member first and foremost.

 

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User Groups – They’re all about the users, but the vendor needs to recognize that!

Finally have the time to blog about a meeting I had at the recent IP Expo at Earls Court, London.  I had the great pleasure to meet up with Neil Spellings and Andrew Wood, steering committee leaders of the Citrix User Group here in the UK.  Julian Wood also joined us; as many of you know he’s a long term VMUG attendee and contributor, but he’s also attended some of the Citrix UGs as he – as with many VMUG members – has implemented both Citrix and VMware infrastructures.

We were discussing the merits of vendor involvement in user groups and how they can help, as well as hinder, community effort.  We discussed what is required from a vendor to make a successful user group.  Obviously being involved with a couple of VMware User Groups (London and UK), I have a good insight into what works well with a successful user group.  Observing from the outside in, I see a fundamental difference between what VMUGs receive from their eponymous vendor versus what Citrix provides, which appears very little.  On the other hand, I also see a striking similarity – and that is user passion.

The discussion got me wondering about why VMUG is so successful and why many other UGs stumble in its shadow.  I believe there are two intrinsic components to even get a UG started. One is the vendor’s belief in the value of supporting a UG and thus allocating a resource (preferably a dedicated one) as a ‘connector’ between the vendor’s relevant department(s) and the UG leaders.  Second, you have to have the passion and dedication from the users.  In VMUG’s case I believe this passion to border on (in a good way!) a cult-like following.  Without these 2 starting ingredients, you do not have a recipe for success.

If you look at what Citrix currently provides a focus on within its community – their CTPs (Citrix Technology Professionals) – it is too narrow in focus, as currently there are only 46 holders of this title.  Meanwhile VMware’s vExpert program has over 580 members and is highly focused on people evangelizing VMware and its technology and sharing within the community.

For me, VMware gets community, they invest in a team of people, including John Mark Troyer and Corey Romero, and originally help set up VMUG.  VMUG is now an independent, not-for-profit, organization run by the users for the users.  Although the London VMUG had been running long before VMUG was formed, by becoming a formal VMUG, we’ve been able to expand our meetings to all day and multiple tracks due to VMUG HQ taking the ‘back office’ burden off our shoulders – such as invoicing sponsors, paying the venue, etc. – enabling us to focus on securing the best speakers and relevant sponsors for our members’ enjoyment and edification and providing a networking forum that promotes further learning.

At last weekend’s E2EVC event, 2 of our prominent European VMUG members, Liselotte Foverskov (Danish VMUG) and Andrea Mauro (Italian VMUG) presented about VMware.  Their presentation was well received by the community in attendance at the event, which, from what I can tell, is predominantly Citrix/Microsoft focused.

Citrix has Perrine Crampton as their community programs manager – John Troyer recently interviewed her on Geek-Whisperers – it was great to hear about EMCElect, vExpert and CTP communities from the people that own the relationship within their respective vendors.  I think it would be great to see Citrix provide a deeper focus to their user group communities, expanding out from just a CTP focus.  I was recently asked by a senior Citrix marketing exec how much budget should they allocate to user groups.  My answer? None.  The funding comes from sponsors, but you need to provide the commitment of relevant speakers to attend the user groups and you need to connect with the leaders on a regular basis. And executive sponsorship is key – every VMworld has Pat Gelsinger or other senior executives mention VMUG.  While I’ve not attended a Citrix Synergy for a while now, I don’t ever recall Mark Templeton mention CUG………

A recent tweet from Julian Wood says it all:

and I hope other vendors can follow VMUG’s lead and provide THEIR users the commitment and dedication to supporting their user groups.  It’s all about the users you know 🙂

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