VMware's user groups fuming again, consider deposing leaders

VMUGs placed under new Dell umbrella without consultation

VMware's user groups are fuming at being brought under Dell's wing without consultation, and some group leaders are considering action against the leaders of the organisation overseeing the groups.

Virtzilla's user groups (VMUGs) are unusually large and well-organised: most throw regular meetings plus day-long annual “UserCons” that attract hundreds of attendees and plenty of sponsorship to make the days possible. A discrete entity called “VMUG” nourishes the groups and and offers access to events companies to help volunteer group leaders run their events. VMware sends senior employees as speakers. But the groups have been independent and free to choose their own paths and seek speakers and sponsors from anywhere, even among VMware's rivals.

VMUG sometimes made life hard for leaders of individual groups who worked for vendors, by excluding them from leaders' summits. Then in late 2016 Nutanix employees who led VMUGs were told their services were no longer required, leading to widespread anger.

Now VMUGs are unhappy again because they've been brought under the umbrella of the new Dell Technologies User Community.

Group members and leaders are upset with this for two reasons. Firstly, the decision was made with zero consultation. VMUG president Ben Clayton announced the decision an unheralded email that included the words “This effort is the vision of leaders from VMUG ...”. But no leader of an individual VMUG was consulted about the chance. The Register understands that the board of VMUG may also have found the new arrangements a surprise.

The second reason for ire is that individual VMUG leaders worry that bringing VMUGs under a Dell user group brand will make it harder for them to secure sponsorship. Server and storage vendors have sponsored many VMUG events. Whether the likes of HPE or Pure Storage would be as keen to sponsor a Dell-affiliated group remains to be seen.

The Register understands that some VMUG leaders have penned a joint letter expressing these and other concerns, and that drafts of the letter call for VMUG HQ's leaders to step down. We've been told that the leaders are “mutinous”.

Clayton, for his part, has apologised for not consulting before the change and recorded the video below to explain his vision for VMUGs.

Clayton also responded to emails from The Register and offered the following comments:

There will be no direct change to VMUG. VMUG will not be rebranding, will remain independent, will continue to be customer-focused and led, and will continue our mission of providing our users knowledge sharing, training, collaboration regarding VMware products and solutions.

As part of this Dell Technologies collective, VMUG can provide a deeper, richer experience to our members. We will have access to Dell experts in a variety of areas, will be able to reach VMware customers in new settings and through new channels, and we have the responsibility to provide direction to new customer communities, which will in turn help us to grow and be in the forefront of industry change. VMUG retains all our independence AND gains access to all the benefits that partnership can provide. It’s an honor for VMUG to be recognized by Michael Dell and the Dell EMC organization.

The Michael Dell reference hat-tips the fact that Dell, the man, thinks VMUGs are a great success and therefore should serve as a template for all of Dell's user communities. Which they should because in the past they've offered VMware a strong connection to run-of-the-mill users. But with two blow-ups in a few months, perhaps he needs to revisit that notion. ®

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