A VMUG Response – Clearing the Air

A VMUG Response – Clearing the Air

Many of you read my previous post about leaders being removed from VMUG for working for vendors that compete with VMware. My call to action was to get a response from VMUG about what was actually happening. I recently received a phone call from VMUG CEO Brad Tompkins to discuss what was actually happening and I’d like to pass on some information to clear the air.

VMUG Leader Status

To get started, yes some leaders were removed from leadership roles in their respective VMUG. And yes, some people will not be allowed to become a VMUG leader based on which company is their employer. What I would like to make clear is that this decision was not made to single out Nutanix. Most of the comments that I saw on twitter were focused on Nutanix employees who had been removed from their local VMUGs. While it’s true that Nutanix is one of these companies, they are not the only one so I want to make it clear that this was not directed solely at Nutanix. This was a decision focused on companies that compete directly with VMware’s products and comes down to a decision about business and competition.

The next logical question that comes to mind is, “Which companies are those that aren’t allowed to have employees as leaders?” Well, that is a good question but still not public knowledge. There is no such public list, but if you put your thinking cap on, you’ll probably come up with a few that might be on a list of competitors. Microsoft, Citrix, Turbonomics all sort of jump out in front in my mind but were not confirmed by Mr. Tompkins.

As the 2017 VMUG Leader Guidelines document states:

This leaves all companies subject to a review before any new leaders are added.

VMUG Independence

Mr. Tompkins made it very clear to me on the phone that the decisions that were made were NOT those of VMware but rather VMUG itself which is an independently run organization. This gave me some pause for a second because if it were really an independent organization, why would VMUG care at all about the competitors of VMware? Obviously, my questioning is very black and white here and I’m not naive enough to think that VMUG and VMware aren’t closely tied together. After another look at the VMUG description, I’ve come to grips with the reality that the group is about maximizing members use of VMware and partner’s solutions. This is difficult to do when you’re inadvertently furthering competitor’s solutions, so I can reconcile how the decision comes from an independent organization.

So where are we now?

I don’t feel much better about the situation now than I did before I spoke with Brad. I still feel sorry for the leaders who have dedicated time and effort into their local chapters and are no longer able to keep doing this. It’s not fair to them, or their members, but this isn’t really about “fair” is it? Business is business and thats the way it goes. I’m sure the leaders will land on their feet and maybe start their own independent group that could be about any technology. I’m also positive that Brad Tompkins didn’t like to have to explain to these leaders about the decision either. Brad knows these guys/girls and what commitments they’ve made to the VMUG organization. This was probably a difficult thing to do.

Do I fault VMUG? No. Am I sad that any of this has to go on at all? Yes I am.

I want to also make sure that I show some appreciation to Mr Tompkins for taking time out of his schedule to call a former leader and blogger to explain the situation. This was certainly not required on his part but I appreciate that the information was passed along for more transparency. I hope that you will also respect the fact that he did this whether you agree with the decisions that were made or not. At least the decision was owned, right or wrong and we can all move on with more pressing issues.

My site tends to focus on how to help users learn about technology or provide ideas about ways to build solutions. My goal is not to provide a fake news service for people. I’m hoping the pair of posts on my site have helped to clear up any misconceptions that might have been overheard over social media and I can get back to blogging about nerdy stuff.

2 Responses to A VMUG Response – Clearing the Air

  1. Eric, thanks for posting more information on this and helping clear the air a bit. I don’t think this is unprecedented.

    (Disclaimer: I work for VMware now, but these opinions and experiences are my own.)

    In the early days, I attended VMUG meetings that were run by leaders who worked for VMware partners. These guys were consultants and, arguably, their employers let them have a bit of leeway because their activities could be easily classified as “marketing. One can see the potential for new business for their employers. Even better, they had good access to and relationships with THEIR partners who could be brought in as sponsors to buy sandwiches and present to a new group of users. These guys kept away from the hard-sell, which was great.

    It was my understanding that there was a decision (this was WAY before separate-entity-VMUG) made to disallow VMware partners/vendors from becoming leaders. I don’t know if something happened or if there were complaints, but I remember that this left my local group without “eligible” leaders. Since I had also gone to work for a partner, I was out of the running. Our VMUG basically vanished for a while until some passionate customers revived it. However, when it came back, it was “different.” My VMUG now felt very vendor-hostile, so I figured something really unpleasant had happened. There was one meeting where I was required to wear a brightly-colored badge to let everyone know that I was a VENDOR, not a USER. I was asked to 1) not consume the provided food and 2) refrain from taking to the users unless they approached me. I stopped going for a while and focused on educating people about the wonders of virtualization on my own.

    Anyone who has either been a VMUG leader or who has spent enough time around leaders probably knows about how much personal time the role consumes. If you are “just” a user, it can be a challenge to secure the support of your employer. No doubt, support can be hard to maintain if the time you’re spending is on *their* clock and not contributing to *their* revenue.

    As I met more people at VMworld, I heard stories of some vendors who were still “permitted” to be leaders. I think enforcement of the rules became a little more lax as it was realized that many of the people with the required drive and passion for leading VMUGs now worked for vendors and partners, maybe BECAUSE they had those qualities. These people were generally the ones in the best positions to be able to devote enough time to successfully lead a VMUG. I know that a great many non-vendor leaders have made things work out really well by teaming up and sharing the load. In my experience, this is the rule, not the exception. I think that is very indicative of the kind of community we have all built: even people from competing companies have been known to team up to support VMUGs.

    I do not have more access to the inner workings of VMUG than anyone else outside that organization, but I guess things happen. It is unfortunate when someone who WANTS to dedicate their time is told that their services are no longer needed, and I can’t imagine how difficult that was for Brad to make those calls. I like to think that people are the same, regardless of which company employs them, but I understand that companies can apply pressure to achieve certain outcomes. Perhaps the pendulum will swing back the other way in a few years.

Leave a reply