You want the short version:
Empower is the technical enablement event for VMware Partners, there is currently no better place to network, get insights into all products, get envisioned with short and long term road map overview and even get a free exam to make the next step towards a higher partner level.
But let's start with the past…
As far as I remember the last Partner Exchange (PEX) outside VMworld was held by VMware in 2015 and I attended all of them in the first year(s) as a pure participant, later I was there as a speaker as well as to run preconference bootcamps with the comdivision team. Some might remember the bootcamps we did on vC Ops, vCAC, vRA and NSX. Even today years later I meet old participants from those days who ask when those days come back… With PEX becoming part of VMworld the focus moved from a mixed sales and tech conference for partners towards a more and more sales oriented event, which also due to reduced timeframe reduced the interest in the partner tech field.
Last year (2018) VMware came up with the surprise: VMware Empower in Atlanta in April, due to the short notice and the long travel my team decided that only two of us would go. Jens Hennig to cover the EUC space and myself for all things cloud. Based on the reduced technical depth of VMworld we expected not much but were pleasantly surprised, adding the LiveFire content (although condensed) and other technical deep dive sessions into the content was a great learning experience. The free exam voucher which came with the ticket was more or less the cherry on top. While the first event had clearly it's bumps VMware also made clear that they wanted feedback, still during the conference I was in two roundtable sessions to cover both from a CEO and also tech perspective what was missing, what was good, what can be improved… And VMware listened… OK our feedback we need an EMEA event was already planned at that stage, but it was good to see events show up in each GEO.
Empower 2019 in Atlanta:
While the city stayed the same VMware moved locations which I must say was a very good choice, as the Omni was not a good event location, the Hyatt did a much better job from rooms over food over everything…
Let's talk content: When I saw first that Empower now having a Sales track I was worried, could the content be watered down? Do we loose the depth we had the year before? And I must say: No, the level was kept even improved in many sessions. I have attended all kinds of sessions from the entry to deep dive, although there was 1-2 which were maybe classified wrong in general the level was appropriate in most of them. Especially the ability to cover so many topics in a short time frame is great. And clearly VMware listened to If you want to go deeper attend one of the LiveFire sessions (although cut down from 4 days to 1/2 day) they give you a lot of hands on experience, or listen to your peers, there were VCAP sessions this year (one which I did on CMA), VCDX war stories and also the Ask the Experts zone was filled with VCDXs from partners as well as VMware folks ensuring that most questions would be answered. Also no one had to skip sessions for networking as there were each day evening events allowing people to network and also the lunch and breakfast times were great to meet new folks or get together with long known ones.
Looking at it from a business perspective:
Yes there is the fact that people are off the billable list for 4 days (plus there are travel costs involved) and depending on your status (if you don't get MDF funds for the event) you have to pay the ticket. But overall I would say as a partner you get a good return of investment for sending your tech people here, if they take and pass a VCAP it's an even better ROI. Participants have a multitude of sessions to pick from covering all products VMware which does not only provides in-depth knowledge it also gives time to network with peers and VMware folks running the sessions. This is nothing you get at any other VMware event in such short time frame with this depth level.
I'll stick with it… As a partner VMware Empower is the partner conference to send your team to… And if you are in EMEA there is still time, it's a bit later this year in May in Lisbon, so if you are not signed up ensure you do. comdivision will be onsite again with a few team members and as always we like to connect, so find us and meet us at Empower 2019 in Lisbon.