VMworld 2020 is finally here! The keynotes will begin today (Sept 29) at 9 AM PDT. According to a VMware press release, this year’s event will focus on the following areas: “app modernization, multi-cloud, virtual cloud network, digital workspace, intrinsic security and telco – as well as on emerging trends and the future impact of technology in today’s uncertain world and beyond.”

These sound like the standard VMware marketing tiers, so what can we really expect to see this year at VMworld?

VMworld 2020 – Virtual Edition

This year all VMworld content is online. The Premier pass for VMworld 2020 has sold out,  but you can still get a general pass (and they are free!). There are more than 50 sponsors including AWS, Dell Technologies, IBM, Intel, HPW, and Microsoft. There are 900 unique breakout sessions. All in all, a pretty typical VMworld, just online.

As a heads-up, the true bulk of the conference is happening 9/29 – 9/30. The keynotes are happening on the 29th, and the first time they are presented is in Palo Alto time zone. All of the sessions are pre-recorded. I’m going to pretend like the first session playing of the session is actually live. My current plan is to watch “live” sessions on the 29th, and then watch On-Demand sessions on the 30th.

The content calendar is live, so you should schedule sessions that look interesting. You can also schedule the musical act (John Legend!) and other activities like watching puppies. Visiting the puppies is always very calming at in-person VMworld, so we’ll see how virtual puppies works out. Pro tip: don’t forget to download your sessions as an .ics file from the Calendar view of the Content Calendar (for Outlook choose Download iCal).

screenshot of VMworld 2020 content calendar

Once you open the calendar file, you can merge your VMworld session calendar with your other Outlook calendar to see everything in one place (if you have the most recent Outlook). Just click the arrow button on the Untitled VMworld calendar. Don’t worry, it’s not permanent. Just click the arrow in the other direction to unmerge the calendars.

screenshot of outlook showing how to merge calendars

vSphere – the Foundation of VMware

It really is puzzling to me to watch VMware push their bread and butter technology to the background. Compute is at the core of every offering VMware has. In fact, ESXi is still the de facto compute platform for enterprises (by their account over 70 million workloads). It is also amazing that vSphere (the management platform for ESXi) has kept up with every hardware innovation over the last several years.

vSphere has also innovated when it comes to supporting modern containerized apps, such as Kubernetes. Earlier this month  vSphere with Tanzu was announced as part of vSphere 7 Update 1. This vSphere feature gives operators a developer-ready infrastructure; basically a way to run Tanzu on their existing infrastructure.

What vSphere announcements should we expect to hear at VMworld? I predict the good stuff will be buried, and the focus will be on VMware Cloud Foundation. This makes sense since the HCI and core vSphere product teams were combined a few weeks ago. It seems logical that VMware’s focus will continue to be on their entire stack (VCF) instead of their core compute platform. However because of this you may have to dig for vSphere-specific content.

Another pro tip: make sure you search in the On-Demand tab in the Content Catalog, not just the Live tab.

screenshot of VMworld content calendar search

Will Tanzu Be the VMworld 2020 Star?

It’s a pretty good bet that there will be plenty of content and information about the VMware Tanzu Portfolio at VMworld 2020. The vSphere 7 Update 1 announcement of the availability of Tanzu in vSphere happened ahead of the VMworld news cycle. But the Tanzu story seems to get lost in itself. I hear plenty of customers asking “what is Tanzu”?

Tanzu calls itself “a portfolio of products and services for modernizing applications and infrastructure”. To put it plainly, Tanzu is a group of container-based application management solutions. It seems that Kubernetes has emerged as the leader (for now) of the platforms for building containerized applications. Tanzu claims to provide all the tools operators need to provide the environment developers need, on the virtual infrastructure you’ve already mastered.

The question to ask yourself if you are the operator responsible for providing this architecture – is Tanzu the only way to go, even if you VMware is your compute layer? Is it the best way? Heck, is Kubernetes the way to go?

There are 8 live sessions and 98 on-demand sessions if you search “Tanzu” in the content catalog, so I’m sure the answers to your questions are out there. The trick is to ask the right question.

The Future of the Datacenter

I’m very interested in entire concept of Future of the Datacenter, and it looks like that topic will be discussed at VMworld 2020. I believe that the modern applications we keep hearing about are already being developed, and not just in the public cloud. Operations folk will be responsible for building the infrastructure required to run these applications in multiple locations – on premises, the edge, public clouds, service provider clouds, vendor clouds. The trick for modern applications will be a readily available infrastructure, so that the application can be hosted from the location that provides the best experience possible for end users.

I’m hoping there will be an ARM announcement, like the Register teased. I’m also very interested in hearing how AI/ML innovations have progressed since I was at VMware. It must be a focus: there are 35 live sessions and 86 on-demand sessions that are tagged with AI. I’m also interested in hearing about VMware and Oracle Cloud.

The future of the datacenter isn’t how we have built things for the last 20 years, we are in the midst of the disruption. Look for those innovative sessions!

Real Talk

VMworld 2020 is bound to be different since it is completely online, but it sure seems like their focus is going to be lots of the same-old same-old. My advice: make a plan to hunt down the information that is applicable to your organization today, and what you need to start thinking about to be successful tomorrow. It may not be super obvious, but there are folks at VMware who have worked hard on the content you are looking for. They probably have a session that won’t be highlighted, but it will contain the info you need.

Since you can’t wander into a session room, be sure you’ve set aside time to roam the Zoom rooms. And never underestimated the value of community! Use the #VMworld hashtag to find the info you need, either from VMware employees or newer ways the community is gathering this year.

What are you hoping to learn this year at VMworld 2020?