It wouldn’t be VMworld without v0dgeball. On Aug. 28, the day before the conference kicks off in Las Vegas, competitors and friends from around the industry will gather at the Sport Center of Las Vegas to violently throw things at each other for a few hours.
V0dgeball is an adult dodgeball tournament, a pre-VMworld tradition among some of the cognoscenti of data center technology. (A lot of people I know primarily through Twitter show up.) It’s a grass-roots effort that isn’t sanctioned by VMworld, and it’s a charity event that donates proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project.
What I love about v0dgeball is that it’s a community experience. Yes, some teams bring ringers, and there’s always at least one argument with the volunteer refs — who also come from the data center world — that goes a little too far. But most of these folks know each other well and have crossed paths at various jobs. For two or three hours, they put all of that aside, have some fun, and maybe pull a hamstring or two.
“This is one small way we can get people together and not make it about companies and about technology,” says Fred Nix, one of the longtime organizers of the event. (Formerly with EMC, Nix is now at startup Reduxio.)
Talking to Nix, I couldn’t even remember who won last year. “I can’t either,” he said. “You know what? That’s a good thing, because it doesn’t matter.” (The winning team does tend to prominently display the trophy in its VMworld booth, though.)
Spectators are welcome at the free event, which Nix estimates will draw at least 400, “maybe more, based on the vibe I’m getting.” But stay alert if you go. The foam balls don’t hurt if you get blindsided in the head, as I know firsthand, but it’s still something you want to avoid.
Moving to Vegas is a bit inconvenient. V0dgeball’s home had been a community center a few blocks from San Francisco’s Moscone Center. This time it’s near the airport, in a venue suitable for NBA practice that can seat 700. (EMC is hosting the tournament, and it was “not cheap,” Nix says.)
Possibly for that reason, the number of teams is down to 12 from last year’s 16. The teams themselves will still be quite a spectacle, though. Nearly all of them print T-shirts for the competition. (“We try to keep it PG-13,” Nix says.) And the names are improving. Dell calls its squad Dazed & Converged, and Virtustream’s is now Sharks With Frickin’ Laser Beams. You’ve also got the perennial crowd favorites, the Cloud Bunnies, which draw players from around the industry and put them in stylish bunny ears.
Nix and four EMC employees — Erica MacDonald, Jay Marques, and Chad Sakac — have been the driving forces behind making v0dgeball happen this year, but a small crowd of volunteers helps in a lot of ways, from bringing water to keeping track of the double-elimination bracket.
Nix estimates v0dgeball has raised $110,000 for Wounded Warriors over the last seven years, and the goal this year is $20,000. Unlike previous years, donations won’t be collected during the event; v0dgeball’s organizers are instead directing people to an online site. All money raised goes to the charity.