It's my first time this year and I am going based on a recommendation from a former co-worker. He lauded networking opportunities and said that the sessions were very useful in helping him come up with new deployment strategies, etc.
This is my 3rd year, and I can say that without a doubt, VMworld has been worth it to me. The biggest reasons I go are to sit in on specifc breakout sessions that pertain to me and to speak with vendors about their offereings. I ALWAYS come away with new ideas on how my organization could be using virtualization in ways that we curently aren't - I also always come away with a better understanding of products that I may or may not have known about prior to the conference. The networking opportunities are great, from the VMware hosted open receptions and parties to the private invite receptions, etc. - plus VMworld.com community members will put together their own gatherings, tweetups, etc. The keynote addresses are always entertaining to listen to as well - typically we hear from the leaders at VMware about current state of virtualization and the outlook to the future - they usually show some new technology or products as well.
I'll be honest, I rather enjoyed having session pre-registration so I'm a little worried about how this year is going to go, but we'll all find out in a couple of days!
Personally, I find that for the money you get the most bang for your buck by going to VMWorld as opposed to individual classes. All of the VMWare experts are there and are available to ask questions, get best practices and listen to their sessions. As for the keynotes... i find they give me an excellent chance to catch up on sleep. Seriously though, the keynotes typically don't give you much "new" information unless you aren't keeping up with the products... in which case, you'll learn alot about the direction of the company and its competitors.
I am slightly concerned about the new lab format as well... without pre-registration and with no instructor led labs I'm not sure there will be the depth of instruction that there has been, but I have it on good authority that the labs will actually be better because you'll be able to get into more of them. I'll wait and see but so far, I trust they'll still be good.
I think it's funny that VMworld had session pre-reg (this is my 1st VMword). I've been to MS TechED (2) and EMC World (1) and neither of those had session pre-reg and were fine. Now, if there is a class that a lot of the attendees are really interested in, you will most certainly know it when you arrive at the classroom. One small way you can tell which classe(s) those are is by going through the schedule builder (there are 2 or 3 that are marked as "full"). I'm pretty sure the classes will be fine w/out pre-reg. The only downside is you aren't 'guaranteed' a seat. If the classroom is full (I'm sure there's a capacity limit), you obviously can't sit in on it. I haven't come across that situation in the other Tech conferences I've been to, so hopefully it won't happen at VMword either.
First off, know that I am VMware reseller, but I cannot say enough about VMworld. I find it to be the best of all these conferences that I go to for the products we sell.
The new lab format sound different, but I can tell you that I used the format at the partner conference earlier this year and it is great!! They are very well written and their are so many lab staff available to answer any questions you may have. Lastly you are not bound to the same timing as an entire class in a structured lab. You also get the ability to take many more labs than before and if seating available, you can take the same lab over if you want.
Lastly, everything that the other posts have commented on are dead on and it is a chance to formulate ideas for your company and get the direct interaction with VMware and their partners.
Join us and I think you will find that it is definately worth it.
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