Borathon: Fostering Greater Innovation at VMware

More than 100 of VMware’s most innovative minds flocked to this year’s Borathon, a two-plus day hacking and learning event held at VMware’s Palo Alto headquarters, last month.

Borathon is one of many innovation programs at VMware where people get the opportunity to build upon their creative roots and work collaboratively on hacks, new features and workflows, flings and proof-of-concepts. Moreover, Borathon was designed to engage the VMware community to foster creativity and build enthusiasm for our products by working together on future improvements and solutions.

Why is this innovation event called Borathon, you ask? When it was first launched, our engineers wanted it to reflect a bit of our history. Instead of simply calling this event a hackathon, they named it after their last code repository island name: Bora Bora. Thus, the name Borathon was born.

Before this year’s Borathon event kicked off in full swing, a panel of previous Borathon participants imparted their wisdom and experience to the crowd of innovators and future Borathoners.

This year, 22 teams of engineers from business units across VMware gathered to participate. Before the event kicked off in full swing, a panel of previous Borathon participants shared their wisdom and experience to the crowd of innovators. Moderator Mornay Van Der Walt, VP Xplorer Group, Office of the CTO, opened the event by focusing on why innovation at events like Borathon is so crucial for the future of VMware.

“Two years from now, an idea you had today may be at the right time, the right place, we might have the resources [for it],” Van Der Walt said, encouraging audience members to take their ideas to the Borathon floor.

Each panelist praised Borathon as a platform for developing or expanding on ideas that you may not have the bandwidth or resources to tackle in your everyday work.

Xavier Deguillard, a Sr. Engineer and previous Borathon champion, believes Borathon is a great way to experiment with ideas. “If you can distill an idea that is something very simple, one sentence that you can explain to everybody else, it means that you’re onto something and you should probably explore it,” he said.

Essentially, if you’ve got an idea rattling around in your head, bring it to Borathon. “Borathon acts as this launching pad to growing your idea incrementally, which is what I think the holy grail of agile development really is,” Nikki Roda, a UX Lead and previous Borathoner, told the panel.

Collaboration is the glue that holds Borathon together. By bringing people from all different backgrounds and business units together, participants can start to diagnose actual problems occurring throughout VMware and work towards solutions to remedy them.

“Being part of Borathon allows me to tap into a lot of different parts of the organization because I get to meet friends who are in other business units than I am and learn about how they’re positioning their products, or see where the overlaps are,” Roda said. She’s dubbed this combination of networking and innovative collaboration at Borathons “friend-raising.”

For Richard Liu, Sr. Engineer, Borathon has proved to be an inimitable learning experience. “Every single time I join Borathon, I learn something new,” he raved. “I learn some stuff that is not possible, or not accessible, from my daily work. Borathon is a very good proof-of-concept thing where you can get together with people, hack something together and see how people like it.”

The essence of Borathon is that it attracts people who don’t accept the status quo, who actively try to improve things by taking initiative to do so. In most cases, that means the burden of motivation falls solely on the individual seeing it through before, during and especially after Borathon.

“If you haven’t brought a project in and want to bring it forward, it mostly depends on you,” Deguillard said. “Borathon is the one percent – the very beginning of your ideas. But the 99 percent, what it means to get [your idea] into a product, is mostly you and mostly after [Borathon].”

With the panel’s words of inspiration and wisdom dancing in their heads, the teams at this year’s Borathon intensely collaborated for three days. The winning team was “vHackers” with their demo of a new workflow for merging clusters as a native vCenter operation. The runner-up idea was from team “vPTest,” who developed a kernel-tailored unit-testing framework based on the VProbes framework.

 

vHacker                                              vPTest

In the end, all 22 teams developed proof-of-concepts and demos that they can now continue to expand upon and take to the next level with our other innovation programs. No matter who the ultimate victor is at Borathon, everyone can be proud of the fact that they created something that will ultimately make VMware better. Congratulations to all of this year’s amazing Borathon participants.

Follow @vmwocto for more highlights from Borathon 2017 and stay up to date with all the latest news.

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