Tech vendors live and die, not on the strength of their technologies alone, but rather on the strength of their loyal user bases. Helping to lead the charge for virtualization vendor VMware is the independent VMware User Group (VMUG) with more than 80,000 members. VMUG had a strong presence at the VMworld event this week in San Francisco, and its leadership is generally supportive of the new products and initiatives that VMware announced this week.
VMUG's Executive Director Victor Bohnert explained to eWEEK that his group is an independent, not-for-profit, customer-led organization. The goal of the group is to give VMware users access and insight into solutions and VMware engineers.
"We want to make VMware users more effective in their deployment of VMware technologies," Bohnert said.
On the second day of VMworld (Aug. 28), VMUG organized a session with its members and VMworld's top executives, including CEO Pat Gelsinger. Bohnert said the questions were unscripted and ranged from specific product questions to broader ones about how users can work more effectively with VMware.
"A lot of our members have got computing down cold, so they wanted to talk about roadmaps and get more information from VMware so they can be effective advocates for the new strategies," Bohnert said.
One key item that emerged from the VMUG meeting with VMware's executive team was a suggestion to provide enhanced exposure to VMUG on future roadmaps and product direction.
"Advocacy is central to what we do," Bohnert said. "People often confuse user groups with being adversarial, but fortunately we don't have that kind of relationship with VMware."
One of the key new product announcements made by VMware during the VMworld 2013 event was the release of vSphere 5.5, VMware's flagship server virtualization platform, which Bohnert said is in fact delivering on what users want. VMware also announced its NSX network virtualization platform, which Bohnert and his membership see as a more forward-looking trend.
"Our members want to learn more about what those trends [network virtualization and cloud] mean to their organizations," Bohnert said.
During his VMworld keynote, VMware's Gelsinger explained his company's strategy for embracing the open-source OpenStack cloud platform. Bohnert commented that OpenStack is hot topic at VMUG.
From an education perspective, VMUG does recognize that OpenStack and VMware integration is a reality, and the group provides whatever information it can on the topic to its membership.
As it turns out, VMUG played a key role in that whole debate. "The vRAM episode was a high point in our relationship with VMware," Bohnert said.
Bohnert recounted that within hours of the initial vRAM announcement, VMUG was on the phone with VMware executives, who were already getting negative industry feedback. VMware got some consolidated user feedback from VMUG and then ultimately killed the vRAM pricing model.
"From a user perspective, the VMUG mission is to be the collective voice of the customer," Bohnert said. "The vRAM situation illustrated our ability to do that as well as to help VMware quickly and efficiently gather feedback and respond to that feedback."
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.