I was unaware of VMworld at this point, but Christine Holland got me in touch with Rob Smoot, who I believe is still with VMware. Rob was organizing a panel discussion at this VMworld conference in Las Vegas and wanted someone to talk about using their products for testing and development. I was excited to be a part of the group that included some much bigger implementations, and I hoped that I could add some value to the panel discussion and Q&A. That year, I also received an award for my part in the Core Customer program. I believe I had the second highest number of ‘points,’ losing out to Steve Beaver, a legend in my mind, at least on the VMTN Forums. Unfortunately, he was not present, so I never got to meet him. However, I was privileged enough to sit next to Diane Greene at the recognition luncheon. Only my first VMworld and I’d already gotten to meet the CEO. How cool was that!
I decided to pursue certification (VCP2), and attended the ESX2 and VirtualCenter Installation and Configuration class. Based on my level of experience, the class was a lot of review, but did a lot to help solidify my understanding of the fundamentals. My instructor, Damian Wraa, was excellent, and I believe he is still with VMware today. I think it says a lot that I remember his name since I only saw the guy for a week during a class over 6 years ago!
VMware was growing like crazy (doubling in size every month, it seemed), and a sales team was built in the southwest region where I was working. Kenon’s responsibilities were directed elsewhere and Shak Malik was assigned as my new VMware SE, along with Eric Rakotz as a local sales contact. Both Shak, who works for HP now, and Eric, now VCE, took good care of me, although I don’t think I required too much care and feeding. I continued my relationship with Chris Holland and the Core Customer Program, became more involved on the VMTN forums (I got my chess piece!) and our little VMUG. The VMUG here in Phoenix was originally run by Jason Ambrose and Josh Wright from Agilysis, and we had meetings in a small conference room at the HP office. Back then, we had a presentation from any vendor who would buy us sodas and sandwiches (for 10 people or so).
By 2006, I discovered that I enjoyed talking to people about the benefits of server virtualization and guiding them through the process of justification, design and implementation much better than my operational IT responsibilities. Through VMware, I worked with the team at OutCast Communications on a few media activities – telling my story to reporters, discussing VMware’s upcoming features, and how I would implement them. Here, I met Andrew Schmitt (OutCast), Sarah Bresee (OutCast), Amber Rowland (VMware), and Karthik Rau (VMware) – all of them are great people to work with and I had a lot of fun promoting VMware's products. It was a tough decision, but I turned in my Customer status at the end of 2006 to become a Partner. The decision was made so I could focus my efforts, further develop my skills, and help more people by spreading the VMware message even more. That year, I was also asked to step in and present a session at VMworld in Los Angeles on upgrading to VI3. It was a last minute thing and I scrambled to come up with the content. I ended up with twice the amount of content than could be presented in a 45 minute period, and a few of my customers and coworkers were there to heckle me. Overall, a great time again.
I had such a great time that I submitted my own session idea in 2007 regarding different infrastructure layers where virtualization technologies could be implemented. Apparently, a few others had a similar idea and a session called “Virtualization Architectures, Options and Approaches” was born. I was honored to be in the company of Scott Davis (VMware), Ram Rao (HP) and Andreas Groth (IBM). That session was incredibly popular: standing room only and a Fire Marshall's nightmare. We ran long and had to be kicked out of the room – it rocked! Each of those guys are amazing in their own way and we could have done a 2 hour session with ease. That year, I randomly had the opportunity to grab a few minutes with Dr. Mendel Rosenblum while he was waiting for Diane Greene on their way out of town and back home. Diane was like a rockstar or the President: she needed people to flank her and extract her from conversations so that she could make it to her appointments on time.
With that kind of start, how could I NOT want to continue to be a part of this community?