If you're into virtualisation, whether vendor or buyer, then VMworld, VMware's annual virtualisation-fest, is the place to go. That has until now been the general ethos in this part of the forest.
But it appears that things are changing fast. Or are they?
VMware won itself a lot of plaudits and general good feeling in the industry when it opened up the first VMworld in 2004 to all comers - including the competition. It sold the event as a virtualisation event, not a VMware event. And it made the company feel a like a good organisation to do business with, something which helped win it both customers and - crucially - development partners, both large and small. The event wasn't just about marketing VMware, it was about talking virtualisation in all its forms.
Not any more.
Could it be that, along with the careers of many inside VMware, including the recently-fired company founders, if you're not with VMware, you must be against - and must be cut down to size - literally?
VMworld 2009 starts next week in San Francisco. Earlier this year, VMware issued a statement saying that "Sponsors and exhibitors [attending VMworld] must market or demonstrate products on the exhibition floor and in the sessions which are complementary to VMware products and technologies." You could take that to mean that, if you're not a partner, don't come.
After some outrage among the community, a clarification was issued, saying the statement reflected standard practice in the exhibition business, and that VMware didn't want to exclude anybody. "Just to be clear, the exhibitor sponsorship contract we are using is standard across the industry. Nothing out of the ordinary or meant to limit the value of VMworld", said the company.
That's all right then. But why include it? It appears that last year, some vendors were actively trashing VMware products - which it's hard to expect any organisation to accept at its own beanfeast. So, according to virtualisation blogger Brian Madden: "VMware wanted to prevent that from happening again this year, but they didn’t have any text in their sponsor agreement that would let them enforce that."
As one commentator put it: "It's easy to say for an independent event that this language doesn't exist right up until the point where someone turns up to your event and heckles you. At that point the rules change."
So it's still being billed as a general virtualisation event, even though some online commentators are raising eyebrows at that description - especially now that VMware competes with a large and growing number of its partners.
But big competitors Microsoft and Citrix - who haven't been the guilty parties - have apparently been limited to booths just 11 square metres in size (10 feet by 10 feet) at VMworld 09.
Microsoft has been bellyaching about it on its Technet blog, saying that it wanted to show off its shiny new System Center Virtual Machine Manager product. "But," comments the Microsoft blogger, "unfortunately, next week at VMworld 2009 we can't show SCVMM 2008 R2, or any other products, in our booth."
Does your heart bleed for the biggest software company in the world? Or do you think VMware is creating a rod for its own back? Or is the truth somewhat more nuanced, as one commentator suggested: "Given the nature of the competition between the two vendors, it could be that Microsoft is using the contract dustup in order to exhibit a little competition by painting VMware as a company that fears competition."
Or as another commentator more pithily put it: "This is BS from MS, they are crying like babies because they cannot beat the market leader."
I'd be interested in some feedback - especially if you're going to San Francisco...