This VMworld Thing is Like Watching a Train Wreck

Watching VMware destroy their public image over this VMworld exhibitor agreement is like watching a train wreck: you want to take your eyes off of it, but it’s just so awful and so terrible that you’re mesmerized.

In case you don’t have any idea what’s going on, jump over and give this post a quick read. Done? OK, let’s continue.

In the update to that post, I said that VMware had clarified their position and that competition would be allowed at VMworld. Being the person that I am—I tend to take people at their word and trust that they are as honest and straightforward as I am—I left it at that. I was a bit curious to know why the exhibitors’ agreement contained language that was specifically targeted at their competition if all they wanted was a way to prevent exhibitors from behaving in an unseemly fashion, but rather than stirring up waters that had already been muddied I would just let things settle and see what happened.

Well, what happened was that Brian Madden—whom I have no reason not to trust, but at the same time I don’t know him personally—reports here that VMware is restricting the size of the booth that both Microsoft and Citrix are allowed to use. According to Brian, only VMware TAP Partners are allowed larger booths.

Alessandro Perilli—whom I do know personally, and I whom I know wouldn’t publish anything unless he was quite certain of his sources—also refers to Brian’s post in his own post here, lending further credibility to the claims of VMware’s actions.

So, let’s sum it up:

  • VMware adds language to their exhibitors’ agreement that is specifically targeted at their competitors in an effort to prevent unseemly behavior at VMworld.
  • VMware claims that competition will be allowed and they want to encourage a rich ecosystem of partners and competitors.
  • VMware limits their two key competitors, Microsoft and Citrix, to a 10 foot-by-10 foot booth, and further states that exhibitor employees must remain in the boundaries of their booth. (To be fair, VMware is also refusing to take their money for a larger booth.)

I tell my kids all the time, “Actions speak louder than words.” What would you derive from VMware’s actions?

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  1. Eric Siebert’s avatar

    I’d agree that it is a rich ecosystem of partners but not competitors. VMworld started when there really was no competition for VMware and back then it truly was about virtualization in general. Now that VMware has fierce competition it’s mostly about VMware but they haven’t bother to change their theme which they really need to do.

    I have no problems with the 10 x 10 booth thing, 90% of the booths are that size. VMware chooses it big sponsors carefully and strategically as they have every right to do and giving them the largest booths is a reward for the money those sponsors pay.

    As far as the boundary thing it just empowers VMware so they have some legal backing to protect themselves if they happen to take action on an unruly vendor. I doubt it will be enforced unless their is an extreme circumstance.

  2. Simon Andersen’s avatar

    Well, i see the problem VMWare has been facing. They are launching and continue to launch a number of different products centered around virtualization (more or less). Among these are:

    - vCenter Data Recovery
    - VMWare View
    - CapacityIQ

    As well as vCenter Server is capable of doing more and more things. Stuff which 3rd party has been providing for some time.

    I am not to declare that any of the third parties have better products than VMWare (neither the other way around), but it would be STUPID to say that Veeam, Vizioncore and Leostream (… and others) doesn’t make very good products. They do!

    When talking vSphere, VMWare is facing more and more competition on their core product. Hyper-V and XenServer is getting better and better, and new players are joining the line as we speak.

    I don’t think that VMWare wants to deny access (or limit space available for competitors *cough*), but i think marketing, members of the board etc. might have been in a situation where they think this is needed.

    I would have rather seen VMWare taking up the competition, inviting the whole range of 3rd party providers, direct competitors etc. instead of denying them access.

  3. John’s avatar

    I’d say that they’re behaving like a monopoly.


  4. R. Stacy Sneeden’s avatar


    I saw Brian Madden’s original tweet and blog on this new contractual language. I also saw the blogs from you and others on this as well, calling them to task over it.

    I think VMware’s “clarification” is NOT clarifying. It’s the contract and what it specifically states that matters here. The contract is the governing document. A blog “clarification” has no legal bearing at all and the blogs are just spin doctoring. If VMware wants to “clarify” then they should change the language of the contract and for those contracts already executed, addendum’s should be issued and countersigned.

    Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your own political view (read: socialism vs. capitalism), since VMware is the “owner” of VMWorld, it’s their right to do what they did.

    Is it a good business decision? Arguably not, given the responses I’ve seen thus far.

    It is also within every ISV’s rights, as well as any person planning to attend, to NOT attend this event. If enough vendors and attendees opt out, then that sends a much more powerful message to VMware than any blog post on the matter – including my comments here. :)

    Does that mean that we don’t have as rich an experience at VMworld as past events? Most likely.

    Does it mean that some ISVs will not get this platform by which they may exhibit their products and gain new customers? It does if they opt out or are disallowed by the language in the contract.

    For some exhibitors, it may be a blow to the marketing plan and some may suffer because of it.

    The ISVs and the attendees hold the power here.

    So I say, if it bugs you that much, don’t go.

    Just my $0.02.


  5. Mike DiPetrillo’s avatar

    For what it’s worth, the VMware booth has always been restricted to a 10×10 at every Microsoft and Citrix event as well. And you want to know where some of this “industry standard” language came from just grab one of their exhibitor agreements. Not saying if things are right or not but this isn’t just a VMware thing.

  6. slowe’s avatar

    Thanks for sharing that, Mike. It’s funny–my wife and I were discussing this matter earlier this evening (rather passionately, I might add), and she asked me, “Is VMware’s booth limited at Microsoft’s and Citrix’s events?” I guess now we know. :-)

    I guess my problem lies in VMware saying they “are totally committed to making VMworld the leading virtualization conference in the world,” but then giving the appearance of something totally different.

    I would expect Microsoft and Citrix to limit VMware’s booth at Tech-Ed and Synergy–but then Microsoft and Citrix don’t claim for Tech-Ed and Synergy to be anything other than Microsoft and Citrix user conferences, respectively. Likewise, if VMware wants to say that VMworld is now a VMware user conference, that’s fine. But don’t say one thing and then give the appearance of doing something else.

  7. Doug’s avatar

    Not sure what the big deal is. This is a VMware event. Not a Microsoft of Citrix event. Why would they allow their competitors to have huge booths showcasing competing products. Those vendors have their own events and can pick and choose their vendors as well. VMworld is not a vendor agnostic Virtualization conference, its VMware!

  8. Scott S’s avatar

    Citrix and Microsoft especially fight really, really dirty on the competitive front with VMware. Microsoft’s stunt with the “VMware costs too much” was asinine, and while Citrix doesn’t do anything quite so grandiose, their SEs lie through their teeth to wrench business from VMware.

    In my opinion, they should be grateful VMware gives them an inch of space at their trade show.

  9. acuny’s avatar

    Gentlemen… sometimes I read these stories and get the impression that the writers haven’t been in the game for very long… although they SEEM to have history and credentials, they act like this sort of thing is BRAND NEW… VMWare and Microsoft, Citrix and Microsoft, and Citrix and VMWare… for years, if you happened to put these pairings together in a sentence it was likely a result of your intent to compare their relationships to that of oil and water… to whom can we attribute this quote: “We believe that we are being progressive and fair with our existing licensing and use policies and creating a level playing field for partners and customers.” A quarter to the first person to answer without using a search engine…

  10. Gabriel Medrano’s avatar

    Is it safe to say there would be no VMWorld without VMware? It seems that the issue has gone from not allowing competitors to allowing them with smaller booths. Is it that big of a deal? You would have to be born on the moon to not know Microsoft and Citrix are major competitors and have their sights on Vmware.

  11. Nate’s avatar

    I’ve never been to a Citrix shin dig, so I can’t speak for that, but at Tech-Ed VMware is most certainly not confined to their booth. Doug, VMware doesn’t tout this as a VMware event, they claim it to be a ‘virtualization’ event. I think that’s where a lot take beef. Tech-Ed is about Microsoft for Microsoft folk and everyone knows that, no secrets. VMware claims VMworld to be all about virtualization in relation to everyone, but then tries to tweak it against their competition.

  12. Chad’s avatar

    I believe that is a Microsoft quote. ;-) and I am a Microsoft guy .. no Googling or Binging …. just a quess.

  13. Tim Stephan’s avatar

    Actually I can remember at Microsoft TechEd 2008 in Orlando – Microsoft threatened to shut VMware down because we were handing out I (Heart) VMware stickers from our 10×10 booth. Microsoft cited some clause that said vendors couldn’t distribute any materials with an adhesive…we couldn’t find that clause. And then of course Microsoft went on to launch at our VMworld event and gave away the casino chips etc.

  14. Nate’s avatar

    Tim, did you catch any flack for the I heart VMware t-shirts? I snagged one of those from your booth at Orlando last year without altercation or issue.

  15. slowe’s avatar

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but I snagged a T-shirt from the VMware booth without any notable incident.

  16. Brian’s avatar

    The virtualization vendor catfights are turning out to be almost as good as the storage vendor catfights.

    Almost :-)

  17. Dave’s avatar

    A company trying to have a booth at an event targeted towards your competition, you really don’t expect to have the biggest booth do you? Do you expect to be able to evangelize from the walkway? MS and Citrix are pushing the boundaries, just like my 14 yr old trying to get a 2am curfew. Maybe 9:30pm, and if you keep complaining, 9:00pm…. you wanna go earlier?

  18. Scott S’s avatar

    But your t-shirt wasn’t adhesive-backed! ;)

  19. Nate’s avatar

    Dave, is it an event targeted towards VMware or Virtualization? If it were targeted towards VMware as you are saying then alright fine, Microsoft and CItrix are ‘pushing the boundaries’ just like your 14 year old. Here’s the issue. Vmware claims it is an event targeted at virtualization. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. My advice to VMware, either man up and call the event a VMware one and drop the entire BS about it being about the greater good of virtualization, or actually walk your talk.

  20. Roger Klorese’s avatar

    As John Fanelli pointed out in Keith Ward’s blog (, Citrix does not restrict the size of partner booths, does not chain them to the borders of their booth, and does not restrict the demonstration of competing products at its events.

  21. slowe’s avatar


    Thanks for your comment.


    I received an e-mail directly from John Fanelli of Citrix with the same information. Quoting from the e-mail I received:

    “I would like to officially correct the record by confirming that our sponsorship contracts at Citrix Synergy contain no language prohibiting competitive exhibitors. Citrix does not restrict the booth size of any exhibitor or include restrictions that prevent them from demonstrating competitive products. While some competitors may choose to purchase only a 10×10 booth at Synergy, that decision is entirely their choice to make.”

    I’m with Nate on this one–if it’s going to be a VMware event, fine–I have no complaints with VMware’s actions. If VMware is going to call it a virtualization event, then VMware’s actions and words are contradictory. That’s my primary issue–don’t call it a virtualization event if it’s going to be a VMware event.

    VMware: Just be upfront, honest, and straightforward, and call it what it is. A lot more people will respect you for it.

  22. JE’s avatar

    It’s VMware’s party and they should be able to invite who they want. Who can tell how many times Microsoft has stomped on someone?

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