Borathon: A VMware Hackathon


susie-flynn-2-230x300Susie Flynn is a Program Manager based in Cambridge, MA. She has been with VMware since 2011 and contributes to a variety of programs in the Office of the CTO. Thanks to Susie for authoring this post!


Borathons, two day hacking events, are somewhat of a tradition here at VMware. Hackathons are excellent opportunities for grassroots, employee-driven ideas to come to the forefront. Teams of up to five people come together to build Flings, features, proof-of-concepts, hacks, or new workflows. Employees are given the opportunity to work on a passion project, something new that sparks their interest, or an idea they would like to see validated.

Why is it called a Borathon instead of a Hackathon? Legend has it that when VMware moved from CVS to Perforce, the new repository had an island theme – “Bora Bora”. The Office of the CTO is proud to foster a culture of innovation, while continuing to remember our historical roots through Borathon. This event accomplishes many things at once. It allows employees to step away from their day jobs and explore creative endeavors, brings together employees across disparate teams for networking and collaboration, gives employees the opportunity to present to senior executives whom they might otherwise never meet, and generates hundreds of bright new ideas (or spins on old ones) every year.

R&D locations around the world participate in Borathon. The CTO office sets a standard format and judging criteria so that employees from Palo Alto to Bangalore have similar experiences. Teams are given approximately 30 hours to hack, with many teams choosing to sleep overnight in the office in order take advantage of as many hours as possible! At the end of hacking, they are given five minutes to present their project and demo to a panel of judges. The judging panel is typically comprised of senior executives and principal engineers from R&D, as well as executives from the field. Judges consider many factors in their decisions, including innovation and impact. The demo itself is heavily weighted when it comes to determining the winners because the demo shows how much each team was able to accomplish in the time allotted.

A total of 13 Borathons around the world have already taken place or are currently underway in 2015. The most recently completed Borathon was held in the Cambridge, MA office. A total of 16 teams and 73 participants hacked from 9:00 AM on December 9 to 1:30 PM on December 10. While there were many worthy presentations, there could only be four finalists:

  • “Rage Shake” for Garnet iOS App: Create a bug reporting flow for users of the Garnet iOS App that can be accessed when the phone is shaken violently.
  • Advanced Workflow Analytics for UI Telemetry: Create a general set of tools or template for doing more advanced analytics on UI telemetry.
  • JIT Dependency Doppelgänger: Tackle hard-to-test edge cases of dependent RESTful API calls with a JIT created “stand-in” service using Spring Boot.
  • Simplified NSX Deployment with vRA: A simple vRO workflow that deploys the NSX ova, does some simple configuration (register with vCenter, create controller, IP pools, enable and configure vxlan for clusters), and creates a vRA vSphere endpoint with NSX.

Congratulations to all the finalists.  The “Best in Show” winner as selected by the judges was “Rage Shake” for Garnet iOS App.

BorathonWinningTeam-2-1024x768The winning team had a very memorable demo and will be rewarded with tickets to RADIO, our R&D Innovation Offsite, which will be held in San Francisco in May 2016.

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