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Forget Facebook -- VMUG is virtualization's social-networking king

VMUG, a VMware user community, has grown substantially in six years. In response, its leaders have implemented a board of directors and regional conferences to reach more members.

If you're one of the 55,000 members of a local VMware User Group, you may have noticed some changes recently -- most notably the creation of a board of directors that distributes monthly newsletters.

VMware User Groups (VMUGs) provide forums for VMware users to socialize, network and discuss virtualization. Many VMUG members view the presentations and technical discussions at meetings as valuable resources -- especially during these times of lean training budgets.

Each regional VMUG is led by customers, creating an "independent, customer-driven focus," said Jodi Shely, co-leader of the Omaha, Neb., VMUG. This structure is essential for VMware users who want to openly network and collaborate with peers, she said.

 Historically, VMware sat at the top of the VMUG structure, and it supported local group leaders. But over the past six years, this model has become unsustainable because of the groups' exploding popularity. In response, VMware created a VMUG board of directors, comprising leaders from chapters around the world.

"Creating this organization allows the leaders to tap into a wealth of resources that they had not had before, giving them the ability to drive a better meeting," said Joe Adams, a leader of the Kansas City, Mo., VMUG.

The VMUG board also produces the monthly VMUG Voice newsletter, which covers community news, global sponsors and best practices from other VMUGs.

More regional VMUG events have also popped up. These are like mini-VMworlds that attract attendees from smaller geographic areas.

"These meetings offer the promise of one or two compelling general sessions, the choice of many different breakout sessions covering a variety of special interests and the invaluable opportunity to network with peers," said Jim Millard, also a leader of the Kansas City VMUG.

The virtualization community, especially when it comes to VMware users, is one of most tightly knit in all of technology -- which can be seen on the VMware Technology Network forums, Twitter and the vast array of virtualization blogs, and at the annual VMworld conference.

"The VMUG is a huge customer base that is passionate about virtualization," Adams said.

I have led and been a member of a VMUG for more than four years, and this passionate base makes the VMUG the most intimate and worthwhile part of the virtualization community.

About the expert
Brian Knudtson is a system engineer for a large Midwestern enterprise technology provider with more than a decade of IT experience. He is a VMware Certified Professional, vExpert and co-founder and former leader of the Omaha-area VMware User Group, and he maintains a VMware-related blog called knudt blog. Follow him on Twitter @bknudtson.

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