Crowd Sourcing to Find the Winners from VMworld 2014

What do Virtual Volumes, 3D VDI graphics, OpenStack and multidimensional thumb wresting have in common? They are some of the things the alumni of VMworld 2014 got to experience in San Francisco last month. By the numbers, there were more than 230 vendors vying to get their message heard by the over 22,000 show attendees. That’s a lot of noise to filter through, but being a data scientist and somewhat of a detective, let me share what vendors got my attention and why.

The week of VMworld was the closest I’ve ever come to experiencing what it feels like inside a beehive set on fire. From the warm San Francisco mornings to the windy evenings, everyone from IT engineers dressed in jeans to line-of-business managers wearing off-the-rack suits rushed around five downtown blocks to get to:


Every 100 feet – both indoors and out – there was a uniformed VMware show staffer holding signs to direct the rivers of people into one room or another. At every door, badges were being scanned and in the Solutions Pavilion everyone wanted five minutes of your time so they could “give away a prize.”

To get some insight into what vendors got the attendees’ attention, I had a couple of options. I could hope VMware would share the treasure trove of badge scan data from every booth and session or I could turn to data science and find a way to empirically measure what my marketing friends call “share of voice”: the reach that one brand (the vendor) has within the total advertising activity (the show). I opted for the latter.

For a vendor at the conference, the “share of voice” is directly related to engaging people in order to drive those people to the vendor’s technology. Here are a few conversations I overheard:

  • The merits of flash vs hard-disk in the most biased way imaginable
  • A rumor that Cisco software-defined networking was being delayed leaving VMware NSX as the only option
  • A pair of data center engineers from the Midwest convincing IT guys from the west coast to buy from a different computer hardware vendor in the airport security line

To measure “share of voice” let’s start with gravity. All things being equal, the larger the booth and the closer it is to the entrance the more people it should attract. In other words, a major sponsor with a large booth right by the door is expected to have lots of traffic and a minor sponsor with a small booth all the away at the end will see little foot traffic.

With a little data modeling the equation looks loosely like this:


With the help of a spreadsheet we can plot the top and bottom vendors’ gravity (location on the y-axis and booth size on the x-axis) and relative traffic (ball size). The winners are the vendors with the highest “force” or “share of voice”:

Let’s look at the top three ranking vendors in terms of “share of voice”:

  • EMC featured its software-defined storage solutions which included ViPR. ViPR transforms your storage into a single platform, making management, automation, delivery and access simple.
  • Samsung who is trying to out-innovate Apple in the “Internet of Things” with curved screen phablet and Gear VR (a virtual reality headset).
  • The finalist for “Best of VMworld 2014” (by TechTarget) in the virtualization management category. VMTurbo keeps the virtual environment in a healthy state and prevents problems by continuously optimizing resource allocation.

Looking a little deeper, I would argue that these vendors are the ones pushing the boundries of innovation in their industry. These companies have the technology people want to know more about.

After talking to my share of vendors, there were other aspects of the event that had a gravitational pull on me. I headed upstairs to the Hands on Labs – all run as a virtual machine. The cool guys with their own iPads had no line / no wait. There were many good labs, however, for two years in a row VMware NSX dominated (see lab photo above) by at least 30% over it’s nearest rival. Want to know who is looking at virtual networking? Take a look below.

Ilya_Image_4Source: VMware

I felt NSX was worth looking at becase the Hands on Lab showedus how NSX offers:

  • Ease-of-Use –NSX is easy to install and deploy, very simple to configure VXLAN, add logical switch, and edit dynamic routing; all from vSphere Web Client UI.
  • Integration –sample scenarios such as Docker with NSX (trap phone calls to create docker container), vCloud Automation Center with NSX (orchestrate NSX) and OpenStack with NSX (vMotion). OpenStack Nova and vCenter integration can support up to 60,000 VMs, 15,000 tenants and 1,000 hypervisors.
  • Choice – They allow physical network integration as well. You can use a bridging function or use 3rd party hardware gateways. It also works with other hypervisors out of the box (KVM, Xen, Hyper-V).

Next I headed to the sessions, , which were also the highlight of the show for me. The top two were “Virtual Volumes Technical Deep Dive” and “Advanced Topics & Future Directions in Network Virtualization with NSX.” You don’t have to take my word for it. The most popolar wererecorded and are available for everyone to see for themselves.

After the exhibits, the sessions and the Hands on Labs, we certainly had a lot to think about:

This is only one of the many ways to have a conversation about the winners from VMworld 2014. I welcome your ideas if you have another approach. Please share it!

See you at VMworld 2015!

About the Author: Ilya Leybovitch

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