I Don’t Like it When Mommy and Daddy Fight – VMUG Edition

January 7, 2017 6 By Eric Shanks

VMware Users Group (VMUG) has been an important part of my career and an institution that has been close to my heart for many years. I’ve written about my experiences before and served as a leader for several years here in Chicago. Thats why there was some concern when I saw this tweet from Anton Zhbankov last week.

Now, at first this didn’t surprise me too much because there has been a rule that each VMUG chapter is supposed to comprise of more customers than partners as leaders. So, naturally I assumed that this was just fixing an imbalanced VMUG chapter. But as I asked more questions found out that it really was because Anton worked for Nutanix and working at this specific company excludes you from being a VMUG leader. Fellow blogger Matt Crape also wrote a post about this on his site. So now this tweet that had me concerned, has just simply made me sad.

Let me be up front with you. I’m a VMware vExpert, a Nutanix Technology Champion, and a former VMUG leader. I have ties to each of these organizations and feel about as impartial as a person could be about these companies. I do however want to see the best thing for the virtualization community, no matter what that means for these two companies.

Why is this a sad thing?

VMware and Nutanix have often been at odds, and this is no big secret. Nutanix built their own hypervisor (Acropolis) and VMware built their own Hyper-Converged storage platform (VSAN), so the two companies have overlapping customer bases. You can certainly see why they would consider each other competitors. Competition can be healthy, but in this case, the community members are the ones who will suffer.

I can tell you that it is difficult to find passionate people willing to sacrifice their time to put together meetings and organize a group like this. It’s even more difficult to find customers willing to lead. In my experience it’s tough to get customers willing to stand up in front of people to talk, let alone organize meetings and conferences. So partners help to fill that void. Unfortunately, in some cases the partners have used the groups as a platform to see their own product. Maybe Nutanix was guilty of this and VMware had to put a stop to it, but my guess is that this isn’t the reason. If specific leaders were using the platform to sell their own solutions, VMUG should expel those leaders instead of an entire company. Excluding passionate people just because of who they work for a certain company can only hurt the user group.

Is VMUG Really Independent?

From the VMUG website, here is the description of the organization:

From what I’ve read on social media, VMware has made the decision to ban Nutanix employees from being leaders. If this is the case, then is VMUG really an independent organization?

Why am I writing this?

Generally, I write posts to comment on things or educate, but in this case I really hope to see a response from VMUG. What are the rules for being a leader? Why did you make this decision? Are there other companies with restrictions on VMUGs?

If VMware is mandating this change about their competitors’ involvement with the group, then fine. I disagree with it, but this is VMware’s prerogative. If there are companies with restrictions though, be transparent about it. Own the decision that was made and make it clear to everyone what the rules are. If you are confident in your decisions, there should be no problem making a statement about it. The lack of any public statement about this is making the situation worse and breeds distrust of VMware in my opinion.

VMUG has a specific Leader Guidelines document that was update on January 1st of 2017. There are no mentions of any companies being denied the ability to be leaders unless there are violations which are clearly listed:

There are guidelines for partners being leaders which does speak to the customer/partner ratio but there is a disclaimer in it:

The disclaimer does not mention any specific companies but does say it could be anyone:

I’m not defending VMware nor Nutanix and clearly don’t know the whole story but sunlight is the best disinfectant so I’d like to see a formal explanation.

What is the future of VMUG now?

Like I said, VMUG is near and dear to my heart and I don’t want to see something bad happen to it. I also don’t want to see members leaving because of a loss of good leaders or bickering. It’s uncomfortable to see people fighting and people just don’t want to be around that kind of atmosphere.

Last year I saw a significant drop in attendance for many VMUGs across the US and we certainly had more difficulty securing sponsors for our meetings. I worry that excluding other companies will make the group meeting even more difficult to organize.

Please work this out so nothing happens to this group that has taught me how to speak in public, share ideas, and learn from complete strangers who work in my profession. #SaveOurVMUG