19 Scenes That Show VMware's VMworld Conference Is Crazier Than Ever

Live On The Floor

VMware held its annual VMworld conference in San Francisco last week, and the expo hall floor was an even busier whirlwind of activity than it normally is. There were carnival barkers, costumed booth staff, snazzy sports cars, games, prize giveaways, and a general commotion of color, noise and crowds.

If anyone doubted it, VMware is not only king of the virtualized data center, it also has a huge gravitational pull that brings many other technology vendors into its orbit. This year, there were more than 23,000 attendees, and walking the expo hall, it felt like more than that.

Following are 19 scenes that capture the pomp and splendor from this year's VMworld.

1. Back To The Future

Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup Rubrik, which raised $41 million in Series B funding in March, brought VMworld attendees back to 1985 with this "Back To The Future"- themed Delorean. VMworld attendees were permitted to sit inside this piece of cinematographic history and dream about a world in which cars have doors that open upward instead of the normal way.

2. Smash Your Way To Cloud Success

Cloud management startup AirVM, fresh off an $8 million Series A funding round last month, invited VMworld attendees to pick up a rubber mallet and show other attendees their smashing skills. Many folks took AirVM up on the offer, presumably using it as a chance to vent sealed-up frustrations over their organizations' slow move to embrace cloud computing within their environments.

3. Why Passwords Are Like Underwear

Thycotic, a Washington, D.C-based vendor of enterprise password management software, made its debut at VMworld memorable with signage that equates the rules of underwear protocol with those covering the usage of passwords. This was easily the funniest thing we saw on the VMworld expo hall floor, and an unforgettable debut for a company that was founded in 1996 and received an undisclosed amount of venture funding in July.

4. Stages Of Disk Grief

Storage vendor Violin Memory was on hand with its "Disk Is Dead," signage, and in a nod to Elizabeth Kubler Ross, it even listed all the stages one goes through upon realizing this is the case.

What really caught our attention is that this poster is actually a door. Is it a door to a dimension where all kinds of next-generation storage technologies reign supreme?

5. Cohesity's Island Theme

Storage vendor Cohesity set up its VMworld booth as an oasis from the busy crowds on the expo hall floor -- a place where attendees could get away from it all, and even get a free massage. Attendees also could recharge their mobile devices and enjoy a Pina Colada, if they were so inclined.

6. Eaton's Devil Duck And Crazy Monkey

Eaton brought two of its well-known marketing animals to VMworld this year, Devil Duck (who will converge your infrastructure if you cross it) and a crazy monkey that's also hell-bent on achieving data-center efficiencies.

7. VCE Steps Up Its Marketing Regimen

VCE, now part of the EMC Federation, really came to play at this year's VMworld with a marketing campaign centered on the ease with which customers can deploy its converged infrastructure offerings. This sweaty, bearded (albeit friendly-looking) workout enthusiast was all over the VCE booth, connecting with passersby and making everyone feel like exercising.

8. Don't Sweat IT

VCE also gave away these cool headbands with its slogan,"Don't Sweat IT," which refers to how easy it is to buy and use its converged infrastructure systems in hybrid cloud scenarios.

9. Riding In Style With SimpliVity

Hyper-converged startup SimpliVity, which has raised more than $276 million in five rounds of funding, attracted VMworld attendees with a giveaway of a BMX i8 sports car.

SimpliVity's message is that a hyper-converged infrastructure that combines servers, storage and networking is a way to make IT simple to deploy. But the BMW i8 is anything but simple; it is a complex and intricate snowflake of a vehicle -- a masterpiece of automotive excellence.

10. Helium-Filled Hard Drives

Storage vendor HGST, a subsidiary of Western Digital, showed off its hermetically sealed, helium-filled hard drives at VMworld, showing attendees how they can be used while fully submerged in a tank of water. The vendor said this allows the hard drives to be used in "nontraditional environments."

11. Don't Hate Me Because I Protect VMs

Information management software vendor CommVault had one of the funniest campaigns running at VMworld, taking a page from the "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful" playbook. Actually, protecting data on virtual machines is very important for enterprises, but it didn't hurt to inject a little humor into the subject.

12. The Big Kahuna

VMware ascended to its dominant position in the data center thanks to server virtualization. And while the vendor has since branched out into cloud infrastructure, management and end-user computing, virtualization is still its bread and butter. Here, we see a shot from VMware's show floor in the VMworld expo hall.

13. Feats Of Virtualization

Storage startup SolidFire exhorted VMworld attendees to take virtualization to new heights. By that, SolidFire is talking about how storage has traditionally been a bottleneck, something to be engineered around rather than an aspect of technology that can be tweaked to become an advantage to business.

This is a logical marketing angle for SolidFire, whose all-flash storage technology is focused on performance, low latency and quality of service.

14. No More Storage Games

Storage vendor Tintri had a similar marketing approach to SolidFire, touting its ability to get the most out of virtualized environments. But first, it's important to acknowledge there's a problem, which means acknowledging your LUN addiction. Then, it's about challenging the storage quo (get it?) and embracing VM-aware storage, according to Tintri.

15. Stratoscale Aims High

Hyper-converged infrastructure startup Stratoscale was on hand at VMworld to talk about its data center management software, which in some ways competes with VMware.

Stratoscale came out of stealth mode last November with a $32 million funding round led by Intel Capital, with Cisco and SanDisk joining in as strategic investors. At VMworld, there was a steady stream of visitors around the Israeli startup's booth, suggesting that there's plenty of industry interest in its technology.

16. One More From VCE Space

VCE invited VMworld attendees to stop by its expo hall space to learn more about the software-defined data center, and how its converged infrastructure helps to make it reality.

17. Cold, Hard Cash At The Veeam Space

Storage and availability vendor Veeam, a longtime and close partner of VMware, had a huge crowd around its expo hall space for most of the show, in part because this fast-talking MC was flashing the cash to passersby.

18. Dreams Come True

Flash storage vendor Kaminario played on that familiar feeling companies have when they realize that going all-in with flash storage is a bit too rich for their tastes, kind of like owning a Porsche Cayenne sports SUV. Fortunately, VMworld attendees could indulge themselves in both by entering a Kaminario contest in which the car was the grand prize -- on a two-year lease, that is.

19. Searching For Meaning In A Confusing World

This pigeon was seen roaming the VMworld expo hall, apparently trying to figure out the difference between software-defined storage and hyper-converged infrastructure. Or maybe it was merely trying to calculate how much data center spend his company could make toward these areas. In any event, the pigeon looked quite confused, and ignored passersby as they watched it wandering around.