Toronto VMUG Event – Thoughts and review

Two word review: Well done!

For those who know, the VMware User Group (VMUG) community is a great resource. For anyone who is keen to get to view great presentations, network with peers and to gain access to targeted vendors and other community members, they will find it to be a great bunch of people with some great ideas and great technology. Whether you are a seasoned administrator, a dabbler, or even viewing it from a business perspective, there is a lot of value to be gotten from these events and groups.

The all-day event on February 7th met and exceeded my expectations of what a “local” VMUG event can be. Typically I’ve been to these events which are 1/2 day sessions with 3 vendors and are primarily presentations with one keynote technical presenter who really creates the buzz for the event. So when Angelo Luciani ( who heads up the Toronto VMUG brought the event to my attention I was pretty excited.

The event was held at the Hyatt hotel in Toronto. Great location to get to by transit as a city resident, and hopefully equally accessible for anyone who came in from other locations. While the layout created challenges because the vendor booths were surrounding the main seating area in the great hall, I still believe that it worked out overall. However, in future for such a large event (upwards of 450 attendees from what I have heard!) it may be better suited to a location with more separation between keynote session rooms and the vendor showcase.

Two presentations opened up the session, one from VMware followed by one from Symantec. I found both to be great presentations, although as mentioned with the venue layout, the ambient noise in the room began to overpower the presentation and took away from the impact slightly. I felt that these were great openers though and it was a good lead in to the breakout sessions which began mid-morning.

Breakout sessions were available in 4 different rooms, with a combination of VMware sponsored tracks as well as vendor sponsored presentations. While I generally steer clear of purely vendorized presentations (aka sales pitches), the presenters were technical and it allowed for a more of a deep-dive approach to the information. That being said, it is still designed with some spin towards the superiority of their particular product which is of course why they are there. Again I have to say that for the vendor presentations that I attended, I found them to be technical, and more importantly not boring which is another issue we see with some presentations.

So this brings us to the main event of the day which was the presentation by the dynamic and affable Mike Laverick ( Mike is a leading blogger and author on virtualization technologies ( ), so for those in the community it was great to put together the real voice and face to the man behind such great books as Administering VMware Site Recovery Manager 5.0 from VMware Press and multiple titles available via his website here.

The presentation, named Cloud Journey – Bumps in the Road was an honest, and informative view of the challenges of introducing cloud technologies to the business environment and what the real-life pitfalls and benefits can be. Mike’s conversational style came out in his presentation and provided a great view of what it takes as a technological team to be able to bring a business into a cloud environment. This was neither a sales pitch, nor a scare tactic, but more a no holds barred depiction of what has become a buzzword driven push to migrate towards “the cloud”.

The afternoon sessions had the unfortunate timing with people winding down from a great mid-day presentation and digesting a well put together meal from the catering team at the Hyatt. As anyone knows, the sessions that follow the main act tend to be more subdued, and unfortunately more lightly attended as some customers opt for the early train home or simply to stay in vendor alley and talk tech with the array of technical sales teams who were present at the event. Luckily the 5:00 draws hold the crowd and although I didn’t manage to take home an iPad, I was lucky enough to win a $50 gift certificate from Best Buy presented by Vision Solutions, the team who recently acquired the creators of Double-Take Software.

As the 4:00 hour came I took some time out to chat with Mike Prestion ( about his journey towards VCP 5 upgrade certification and some general tech talk. Mike is a great guy and I highly recommend you look to his blog as it is a great resource for virtualization. Mike also did a presentation at the event which I mistakenly missed as I was moving between sessions and arrived after he had completed but from what I heard it was well done.

I was also lucky enough to be able to attend a dinner event with Angelo Luciani and Mike Laverick after the event which was particular treat. I can say that as a presenter, a technical resource and personally that I was pleased to have had the opportunity to meet Mike and I look forward to future opportunities to do so if they arise. We took the opportunity to chat about lots of technology and share some great stories on music and guitar as Mike is also an accomplished guitarist.

I’ll close by saying as they do in France, chapeau! In other words, hats off to Angelo as well as all the presenters and attendees to the event. I look forward to the next one and I hope to up my own participation in future events. Presentations from the event are available here: so I recommend that you take a look and I hope to see you there next time!

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