Why you should join your local VMware User Group (VMUG) – and participate!

VMTools_logoA bit of history:

When I began using VMware ESX 1.5 in the second half of 2003 finding other administrators to discuss ESX with was not easy. I recall being really excited about the technology and after a few demos I convinced the city that I worked for to allow me to test it with non-production servers. Before long we had purchased the software and were virtualizing servers left and right, including a couple of our larger production servers. ESX was very good, even back then, but like with any other software I occasionally had to figure out an issue and would have liked to have someone to bounce some ideas off of. A benefit of figuring things out myself is that I was able to get a pretty good idea of how the product did what what it did. The flip side though is that I sometimes felt that I had spent a lot of time trying to figure out an issue that someone else had surely solved before. Blogging was nowhere near as popular as it is today, and finding VMware-specific information was difficult. I would sometimes find the occasional interesting article, but not as often as I liked.

During the next couple of years I would frequently think to myself that it would be nice to get a group of people together so that we could learn from each other's experiences and maybe even build our own web site with helpful information. But life got in the way. Work was busy. I didn't have time. I had a lot of the same reasons/excuses as the next person for not moving forward. I did not make time. Then I heard of a VMware User Group. It was not the "official" group that one often finds today but it was similar in format. People would meet up a few times a year and VMware or perhaps a sponsor would present on a topic of interest. I attended these meetings eager to meet other VMware administrators, ready to participate, share business cards and contact information, and with a plan to make plans to meet up in between these user group meetings. But I didn't. Perhaps I was introverted, perhaps I was shy, but I left the meetings frustrated with myself for not simply saying hello and introducing myself to others at the table.

Moving forward:

vmug_logo_2Over time that would change. I went to each meeting with business cards and made it a point to hand them out to peers. Many people did not have a card to give in return but that was ok as I would come prepared to write down their contact information. Hopefully I would remember to follow up with a short e-mail telling them that I was pleased to meet them and including my contact info in an e-mail so they could easily add it to their address book. Sometimes this did not progress any further what what mattered was that I was making an effort and was opening up to others. I introduced myself, talked about my environment a little, answered questions from others as to how I handled one scenario or another, and I became more and more comfortable over time. The act of contributing more of myself in turn gave me more satisfaction from going to the meetings.

In 2010 the VMware formally launched VMUG as a global organization. Where VMUG groups were previously local and independent they would now generally fall under one large umbrella. There are differing opinions as to whether this was beneficial to the organization or not, but I think that many would generally agree that this act served to boost the proliferation of VMUG groups around the world by helping get many local VMUG groups started and launched.

At the end of 2011 I was attending the last VMUG meeting of the year when once of the local VMUG leaders announced that he was stepping down. Years of wanting to start a group myself, of going to meetings and wanting to participate even more, and of wanting to help shape the group, and of moving outside of my comfort zone time and time again came to a head and I threw my name in the hat to be a leader. I have since worked to hold 4 meetings a year (1 per quarter) including 1 large regional meeting. I have also since gained an appreciation of how difficult it can be to stay on task with this alone, and so I have set up a steering committee to assist moving forward. It is my hope that the steering committee will provide guidance and assistance moving forward, allowing us to divide and conquer, if you will. And I have learned that while the membership has increased in the last couple of years attendance at quarterly meetings has varied greatly, from 40 people to 100 for the smaller meetings, to 350 and 450 people for the last two regional meetings. I have also had to speak in front of these groups, a sometimes difficult task as I do not frequently speak in front of a large number of people. It gets a little easier every time but will probably always be a work in progress.


The reason why I provide some history is because I think that some of you may relate and are still working to open up to others. For myself, I have personally benefitted a great deal from stepping out of my comfort zone again and again. I have met a number of you and even made some good friends over time. I feel satisfaction in actively participating in and contributing to the community, as opposed to my previously wanting to, without actually doing it. And I feel a sense of pride for all those who come to the meetings because I know that that alone can be an effort for many. I could go on and on so I'll wrap things up with a few bullet more points on why you should attend every local VMUG meeting and how you can participate outside of meetings.

Social and Networking Benefits:

  • Meet your peers.
  • Meet vendors and resellers.
    • I know some of you - myself included - feel like this is too commercial and we do struggle to keep this about the users. The best way to keep things about the users is heavy user involvement and interaction. Every meeting is planned with a pretty large block of time for user interaction - but you need to take advantage of it.
  • Bring business cards.
  • The onus is on you to put out a hand and introduce yourself. We try to encourage participation, and we don't bite.

Step it up a notch:

  • Participate in the forums:
    • This can be as basic or as involved as you want, but get out there, even if it's only a few times a month. Put some content out there, link to interesting news and ask others what they think, ask for help on a problem, or for thoughts on a design issue. I try to do so through my blog and on Twitter. If that's not your thing the forums might suit you better. They can be as interactive as you want them to be.
  • Hold your own smaller meet-ups:
    • Form a smaller group that meets up in between the quarterly meetings. This might make it easier for people to get together and to begin participating. It can be especially convenient for a group which might have a longer commute to larger meetings to get together close to work or home on a more frequent basis. Coordinate coming to every large meeting as well and you will probably feel more at ease. Just remember to break away from the comfort of the group as well and meet new people.
    • These can also be a great way to hold whiteboard sessions and to learn from each other. Use a conference room at your work place if you can, go to a coffee shop that has a meeting space, or book a room at your local library.
  • Blog
    • Really can't get yourself to open up in a public setting? Start with blogging. Share what you know, whatever it is. There is always going to be someone for whom some information you share will be just what they are looking for.


  • Attend a vBeers. These are typically much more frequent than the quarterly meetings and are a great way to keep the conversations going (or to begin in a smaller group). I've been accused of sometimes having them weekly - which I, with only a couple of exceptions, deny.
  • Host your own! You don't have to wait for the group to hold a vBeers event. Anyone can have one! Put it out on Twitter, the forums, and on While some events are occasionally sponsored by a vendor or reseller we generally simply each pay our own way. The real value I get is the social get-together with other similar-minded people who in some way work with virtualization. I've had some great discussion talking shop with other admins and architects and have hopefully learned as much as I have contributed to others.


Go whole hog:

  • Present to the larger group.
    • As a user community what we all really want is to hear from other users. No environment is too small or too large for others to want to hear about. People value a customer story more than anything else. We want to see what others are doing and how they are doing it. It's a great way to share your experience, a great way to learn from others, and we all stand to learn new things and validate (or not) our own approach and experiences.


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