A how-to on cold calling from the customer perspective

Now that I’m back from my second tech conference in less than two months I am fully into the cold call season and I am once again reminded why I keep meaning to buy a burner phone and setup a Gmail account before I register next year. It seems every time I get back I am destined to months of “I am so glad you expressed deep interest in our product and I’d love to tell you more about it” when the reality is “I am calling you because you weren’t nimble enough to lunge away from our team of booth people who are paid or retained based on as many scans they can get. Most often when I get these calls or e-mails I’ll give each company a courteous thanks but no thanks and after that the iDivert button gets worn out.

The genesis of this post is two-fold. First a cold call this morning that was actually destined for my boss but when informed he wasn’t here went into telling how glad the person was that I had personally expressed interest in their product, WTF? This first event reminded me of a second, where a few months ago I was at a mixer preceding a vendor supplied training when I was approached by a bevy of 20 something Inside Sales Engineers and asked “what can I do to actually get you to listen?” From this I thought that just in case a young Padawan Sales Rep/Engineer happens to come across this, here are those ways to make your job more efficient and to stop alienating your potential customers.

Google Voice is the Devil

I guess the first step for anybody on the calling end of a cold call scenario is to get me to answer the phone. My biggest gripe in this regard and the quickest way to earn the hang up achievement is the currently practice of many of startups out there to use Google Voice as their business phone system. In case you don’t know with Google Voice they do local exchange drop offs when you call outside of your local calling area, meaning that when you call my desk I get a call with no name and a local area code, leaving me with the quandary of “is this a customer needing support or is this a cold call?” I get very few of the former but on the off-chance it is I will almost always answer leaving me hearing your happy voices.

I HAVE AN END CALL BUTTON AND I AM NOT AFRAID TO USE IT, GOOD DAY TO YOU SIR/MADAM!

You want to know how to do this better? First don’t just call me. You’ve got all my contact info so let’s start with being a little more passive and send me an e-mail introducing yourself and asking if I have time to talk to you. Many companies do this already because it brings with it a good deal of benefits; I’ve now captured your contact info, we’re not really wasting a lot of time on each other if there is zero interest, I don’t have to drop what I am dealing to get your pitch. If this idea just absolutely flies in the face of all that your company holds dear and you really must cold call me then don’t hide behind an anonymous number, call me from your corporate (or even better your personal DID) with your company’s name plastered on the Caller ID screen so at least I have the option to decide if it’s a call I need to deal with.

A Trade Show Badge Scan List Does Not Mean I am (or anybody else is) Buying

I once again had an awesome time at VMworld this year but got to have an experience that I’m sure many other attendees have had variants of. There I was, happily walking my way through the show floor through a throng of people, when out of my peripheral vision a booth person for a vendor not to be named literally stepped through one person and was simultaneously reaching to scan my badge while asking “Hi, do you mind if I scan you?” Yes, Mr./Ms. Inside Sales person, this is the type of quality customer interaction that happened that resulted on me being put on your list. It really doesn’t signify that I have a true interest in your product so please see item one above regarding how to approach the cold call better.

I understand there is an entire industry built around having people capture attendee information as sales leads but this just doesn’t seem like a very effective way to do it. My likelihood of talking to you more about your product is much higher if someone with working knowledge of your product, say an SE, talks to me about your product either in the booth or at a social event and then the communication starts there. Once everybody is back home and doing their thing that’s the call I’m going to take.

Know Your Product Better Than I Do

That leads me to the next item,  if by chance you’ve managed to cold call me, get me to pick up and finally manage to keep me on the line long enough to actually talk about your product, ACTUALLY KNOW YOUR PRODUCT. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received calls after a show and the person on the other end of the line is so blatantly doing the fake it until you make it thing it isn’t funny. Keep in mind you are in the tech industry, cold calling people who most likely are fairly tech savvy and capable of logical thought, so that isn’t going to work so well for you. Frankly, my time is a very, very finite resource and even if I am interested in your product, which is why I took your call, if I’m correcting the caller that is an instant turn off.

I get that the people manning the phones aren’t going to be Senior Solutions Architects for your organization but try this on for size; if you’ve got me talking to you and you get asked something you don’t know, don’t be afraid to say you don’t know. This is your opportunity to bump me up the chain or to loop in a more technical person to the call to get the discussion back on the right track. I will respect that far more than if you try to throw out a BS answer. Meanwhile get as much education as you can on what you’re selling. I don’t care if you are a natural sales person, you aren’t going to be able to sell me my own pen in this market.

Employees != Resources

So you’ve got yourself all the way through the gauntlet and you’ve got me talking and you know your product, please don’t tell me how you can get some resources arranged to help me with designing my quote so the deal can more forward. I was actually in a face to face meeting once where the sales person did this, referring to the technical people within the organization as resources and I think my internal response to this can best be summed up in GIF form:

obama_kicks_door

This absolutely drives me bonkers. A resource is an inanimate object which can be used repeatedly without consequence except in the inevitable end result where the resource breaks. What you are calling a resource is a living, breathing, most likely highly intelligent human being who has all kinds of responsibilities, not just to you but to his family, community and any other number things. By referring to them as this, and therefore showing that you think of them as something that can be used repeatedly without consequence, you are demeaning that person and the skill set he or she has, and trust me that person is most likely who we as technical professionals are going to connect with far more than we are with you.

So that’s it, Jim’s guide to getting me on the phone. I’m sure as soon as I post this many other techniques will come to my mind and I’ll have to update this. If you take this to heart, great, I think that is going to work out for you. If not, well, I still hope I’ll remember to buy that burner phone next May and the Gmail account is already setup. 😉

VMworld 2015: What We Know So Far

As the first general keynote is wrapping up here in San Francisco I’ve been trying to keep track of what’s been announced this morning both in the keynote but also by way of the blogsphere. Long story short my take is there isn’t any thing new for the traditional vSphere customer, but if you are ready to start moving some of those workloads to the cloud there is going to be plenty of new things to enable what VMware is calling the hybrid cloud (repeatedly); the ability to support both your legacy apps (you know what we’re actually using) as well the new, shiny cloud native apps your developers are deploying at the speed of light.

Please forgive the notes based format found below, but I wanted to get the information out there.

Announcements so far:

  • Picture2-1024x475EVO SDDC Manager
    • “Single Pain of Glass for managing all the hardware in your datacenter racks including
      • EVO:Rail for compute, storage
      • Partner networking devices for management, spine and top of rack
      • Rack power distribution
      • Covers vRealize Suite, NSX 6.2, VSAN 6.1, vSphere 6
    • Is this the EVO:Rack they hinted at last year?
    • http://www.vmware.com/radius/vmworld-2015-the-end-of-the-beginning-lets-go/
  • Vmware Integrated OpenStack 2
    • Updates to the Kilo release, enabling features including
      • Expanded language support
      • Multi-region, multi-hypervisor support
      • Load Balancing as a Service
      • Autoscaling
  • vSphere Integrated Containers & Photon Support
    • Enables the truly hybrid cloud, with Photon/Bonneville/ESXi handling life under vCenter and Photon Machine powering your Cloud Native Apps
  • Project SkyScraper; hybrid cloud capabilities for vSphere allowing for extending DC to public cloud while supporting on premises standard concerns like security and business continuity ideas
    • Cross Cloud vMotion & content sync between on-prem and vCloud Air
    • vCloud Air Hybrid Cloud Manager- free download behind fee based capability
  • NSX 6.2 update allowing for deeper integration with the physical devices below it
    • Allows for the microsegmentation of physical servers, big differentiator past when compared to Cisco ACI
    • Will need partners, not known at this point but I’m guessing not Cisco
    • Also now supports cross vCenter vMotion over VXLAN
    • Has a TraceFlow capability allowing visability to what data is passing through
    • Announced late last week that there are now over 700 NSX customers, about double what was announced at Vmworld last year
    • Greater reliability through support for a secondary NSX manager that will take over if the primary fails
    • http://www.crn.com/news/networking/300077934/vmware-gets-physical-with-latest-nsx-software-defined-networking-update.htm
  • VSAN 6.1
    • 3rd total release
    • VSAN Stretched Cluster support, can now have geographically diverse clusters with synchronous replication between sites
    • VSAN for ROBO- Seems interesting, can have large number of 2 node VSAN clusters at your Remote Offices that are then centrally managed through vCenter.
      • Does it make use of stretched cluster for for data protection per site?
    • Now supports native Windows and Oracle clustering methods, WSFC and RAC
    • New high performance hardware supportd in ULLtra DIMM SSDs and NVM interfaces
    • New management features such as a Web Client Health Check plugin for VSAN and a management pack for vROPS
  • SRM 6.1
    • Stretched Cluster as well, seems to be the theme this year
    • Storage Policy Protection Groups; uses tags 1. tag a VM; 2. tag a datastore; protect the datastore with SRM
    • http://www.viktorious.nl/2015/08/31/vmworld-2015-srm-6-1-whats-new-stretched-cluster-support-and-more/
  • Other:
    • vSphere Content Library will be able to sync content between on-prem and vCloud Air bidirectionally
    • Vmware identity services, VMW’s assault on Active Directory

Where In The VMworld Is Jim?

Two weeks from today the official start to VMworld 2015 begins and to say I am excited to head out is a bit of an understatement. VMworld is a great place to learn more about a different branch of virtualization, see the bleeding edge of this technology and meet new people or renew conversations with some of the brightest minds in the industry. I myself will be focusing on VDI, specifically in the case of Disaster Recovery, and looking at Hyper-Converged systems this year along with all the other fun stuff. While this is only my second year going I’ve found that one of the biggest challenges to VMworld is schedule management; if you are interested in the social/community side of things you can very well go 20 hours a day Sunday through Thursday. Even with that you are going to be challenged to hit all the things you want because there is a great deal of overlap. With a paid conference attendance you (or VMUG Advantage membership) you will be able to view the vast majority of sessions online after the fact, but that doesn’t help with the get out and meet people stuff.

Since by nature I am a schedule driven kind of guy I took some time this weekend to kind of map out the whats and the wheres to what I want to do and in hopes of getting to meet up with the 5 people who may read this blog I’ll throw a copy of it out here. The sessions are still in flux because there a few that are full that I still  hope to make it into, especially a couple of the Expert Led HOL Workshops, but I think I’ve got the rest of it worked out. Hope to see you there!

Sessions (So Far:)

8/31 10:00-11:30 Keynote General Keynote
9/1 10:30-12:00 ELW-MBL-1651 Horizon 6 Advanced Workshop
9/1 12:30-1:30 INF-4535 5 Functions of Software Defined Availability
9/1 3:30-4:30 INF-5211 Automating Everything VMware with PowerCLI
9/2 9:30-10:30 STO-6552-GD Meet the VVols Engineering Team with Patrick Dirks
9/2 11:00-12:00 INF-6396-GD Platform Security with Mike Foley
9/2 2:30-3:30 INF-5123 Managing vSphere 6 Deployments & Upgrades, Part 2
9/3 10:30-11:30 EUC-5067 NSX and Horizon Ref. Architecture
9/3 12:00-1:00 INF-4529 VMware Certificate Management for Mere Mortals

vBrownBag TechTalks in the VMworld Hangspace

8/31 1:15 Gina Minks- Why you need to #BackThatSaaSUp
8/31 2:00 Jaison Baily and the vBrisket Community
8/31 3:00 In Tech We Trust Podcast

Socially:

Saturday: Inbound
Sunday: Aug. 30
8-11 AM vBreakfast Mel’s Drive-In
1-4 PM Vmunderground/vBrownBag Opening Acts City View at Metreon
4-7 PM Welcome Reception VMworld Solution Exchange
8-11 PM Vmunderground WUpaaS City View at Metreon
Monday: Aug. 31
5-6 PM SolidFire vExpert VIP Dinner Thirsty Bear Brewing
6-9 PM SolidFire Pursuit of Hoppiness Thirsty Bear Brewing
7-11 PM vBrisket Party Southpaw BBQ
Tuesday: Sept. 1
2:30-4 PM VMworld Bloggers Meetup VMworld Hang Space
4:30-6 PM VMworld Hall Crawl Solutions Exchange
7-10 PM vExpert Party Julia Morgan Ballroom
8 PM-12-AM Veeam Party City View at the Metreon
Wednesday Sept. 2
5-7 PM Red Hat Happy Hour Restaurant LuLu
7:30-10:30 PM VMworld Party AT&T Park
Thursday: Sept. 3
3 PM- ? vFootball Pete’s Tavern

So You’re Heading to VMworld 2015

Congrats on getting to go! Let’s start with that. VMworld 2015 along with the other major tech conferences are a very cool thing for the geek inclined in that they provide you, the geek, the necessary environment to mix business, pleasure and the absolute cutting edge of our chosen field.  Last year was my first VMworld and I have to say what I find very compelling about it is the element of community that seems to be everywhere surrounding the conference. It is not at all unusual to start your day at the conference in the morning and end it in the early hours of the next morning after a full night of community events and shindigs, many of which contain content just as valuable as what you get at the actual conference.

If you are a first timer then this post is for  you as I’d like to pass on what I learned last year to save you some pain points and give you a heads up as to what I found valuable. If you are a veteran then maybe you’ll find something new here too, but in any case it’s always worth sharing information.

Geography 101 (Click for full map): First off understand where you are staying and where you are going. Last year was my first time in San Francisco and while I found it a beautiful city the information provided on the VMworld hotel options list isn’t the fullest, frankly it needs to be topographical. If you are lucky enough this year to get a hotel that is south of Market Street, congrats! you are a rare breed. If not, and you are north of Market know that everything from Market to the north and west is impressively vertical. Downhill in the mornings, uphill in the evenings. While there are shuttles, I never saw a single one last year. If you’ve been looking for a reason to buy or use a step tracker such as a Fitbit or simply using your iPhone this is it. Even with a close hotel expect anywhere from 15-20,000 steps a day.

This Is Training, Right?: Next let’s talk about session scheduling. The Schedule Builder opened up two days ago meaning that if you haven’t already got in many of the sessions you may want already show as full. By all means do not be afraid to add yourself to the waitlist or click the “Add to Interests” star icon as VMware will move sessions to bigger rooms or even add additional sessions to meet need. The flip side of the sessions argument is also don’t freak out if you don’t get what you are wanting, but because included in your conference pass is the ability to watch all the sessions online after the fact. These will generally be available online a couple of weeks after the conference.

What this leads to is my personal philosophy this year. I am planning to only do a couple of sessions a day this year, with the priority being doing the group discussions where you have the ability to interact and the Expert Led Hands-On Workshops, a new feature this year. The former allows you to bang questions off of subject matter experts and start a dialog that you may be able to expand on later in the week on topics that you are really needing help with. The latter takes the concept of the Hands On Labs and puts it more into a classroom setting where instead of here’s a lab and go freeform , everybody works through a task together. While my interests will be larger than what I actually sit in, it’s easier to find time to watch the videos the other 51 weeks of the year.

So what will I be doing with the rest of my time? Well…

VMworld Is All About Community: One of the things that I find VMworld really gets right is that for every valuable thing directly related to the conference itself (sessions, the show floor, certification, etc.) there are a great many community-led things surrounding it.  Last year brought us the inaugural VMunderground/vBrownBag Opening Acts as a precursor to the VMunderground gathering and it had some great technical content in a smaller setting, allowing for great interaction. There will be vendor events galore throughout the week, if you have a particular company or set of companies you are wanting to evaluate for a solution reach out to them and see if they are doing anything special for the conference, most likely they’ll give you an invite. Are you wanting to get certified? There are even community led certification workshops going on through the week.

The Social Media Lounge is a great place to head when your brain gets fried from the sessions and even check out some sessions yourself. To start with you’ll find there is never enough room in the main auditorium for the major keynotes so I find it better to head over to the lounge, grab a table and watch on the big screen. Go early for that as well because it will fill up too. Also there if you can’t handle another 1.5 hour session, the vBrownBag (follow #vBrownBag) guys have a dedicated area with a full plate of 15-20 minute sessions on just about any topic you can think of. Want to talk about something yourself? Be sure to reach out to the guys and they may be able to accommodate you.

To find all of the above be sure to follow the various VMworld social media methods. Adding a #VMworld column in TweetDeck is probably the first place to start, these things are being announced all the time. At some point in the near future the Gatherings page will come back and that will be a pretty full listing as well. The key, especially for us locked in the dungeon SysAdmin types, is to not be afraid to be social. You are going to be at a gathering of some of the smartest thought leaders in your chosen profession, don’t be afraid to reach out and say hi as they are generally pretty nice people.

Well, that will just about do it for me. If you are going and you see me, please do say hi. In any event enjoy yourself and be ready, it’s a great week!

VMworld 2014 Rollup

Ok, so yes, it’s been more than a month since VMworld  2014 ended here in the US. I realize I’m a little late to the game in trying to get these thoughts down, but still necessary if for no other reason than for my own memory’s sake. In the mean time since getting back I’ve been a little busy; rolling out a whole new Veeam Backup infrastructure, completing my presentation for the inaugural VeeamON conference (more on that in a post later this week), and just this past weekend completing the rollout of 10 GbE for my lil’ datacenter.  All in all September has been a very busy month, but back to the matter at hand.

There have been a bunch really great write ups about what happened at VMworld 2014 such as Dan Barber’s full series and Tom Hollingsworth’s post on why Moscone just might be outgrown (it is). Because of this I’m not going to completely go down the road of covering things, but with this being my first time attending I’m going to talk about some of my key takeaways about what interested me and my impressions of the conference.

20140825_174802000_iOSBe Brave Young Admin- Pat Gelsinger opened up the conference by telling us all that we must be brave, unafraid to explore new worlds, to boldly go where no man has go… Sorry got derailed there. In short we as admins must not be afraid to branch out and try new things; stop thinking about ourselves as being the virtualization person or the network person or the storage person, etc. Instead we need to open up our tool box and be all these things in the new hyperconverged world. Now the cynic in me says we need to be brave so we won’t be afraid to buy VMware’s forays into the turf of traditionally other folks such as NSX and VSAN, but there’s a small vein of truth there. Once these technologies become more mature, and I don’t think they’re there yet, at a bare minimum we as admins are going to have to support them in some capacity.

In the Land of NSX the Network Turned vGuy Shall Be King– Last year when I went to CiscoLive I was absolutely awed by converged brain power there; not only in the networking fields but the breadth of knowledge of other technologies from virtualization to voice was amazing to me. At VMworld there were also a great deal of very, very smart people but what I found funny is almost all of them in the course of the discussion would have one portion or another of the virtualized world that was their self proclaimed weak spot (mine’s storage for those keeping track at home). Of these people it amazed me how many really didn’t have a good, fundamental knowledge of networking. In the course of one conversation with a few VCDX preppers there was a discussion of troubleshooting a particular issue in their design build out and they didn’t understand the concept of troubleshooting up the stack, something I consider day 1 type stuff.

Because of this, I continuously got the feeling the entire week that the person who came to virtualization via a networking background as opposed to a systems background is going to be a pretty desirable dude (or dudette). If nothing else I highly recommend those who come from the systems side either pick up a copy of the Chris Wahl & Steve Pantol’s Networking for VMware Administrators or check out some form of CCNA level training.

banner_LP_EVO_RAILEVO:Rail Seems Neat But Constrains Itself– In my humble opinion the big announcement of VMworld 2014 was that of a new line of products called EVO and it’s first product, EVO:Rail. EVO:Rail is developed entirely by VMware to be the drop in hyperconverged system you need to get up and running and creating VMs quickly, in 15 minutes as the boasts go. Each system will have 13 TB of usable VSAN storage backed by 4 compute nodes each with dual Ivy Bridge CPUs, 192 GB of RAM and 2x10GbE NICs, all of which tucked nicely within a 2U package. This is visualized to the admin through a brand new, HTML5 interface backed by vSphere Enterprise Plus and Log Insight.

As it was being announce this very much so excited me; aside from the storage one of these could power all my core needs. My enthusiasm waned though when I realized that you would have to go outside of the nice and simple interface to be able to access any additional storage other than what’s in the box. The official answer is that if you run out of any of the above resources you just drop in another EVO:Rail unit.  By all means though if you get a chance it is worth taking a look at. You can even play around in the interface via the EVO:Rail Hands On Lab.

I will say that I think one of the ways that VMware really go the idea right is that they aren’t trying to use this to get into the hardware business themselves, instead they create the spec and have already partnered with a handful of vendors, most notably Dell and SuperMicro, to actually build and sell the boxes.

20140824_153146365_iOSCommunity Really Does Equal Good– Yes, I know I keep harping on this but one thing VMware REALLY gets right with their conference is creating an environment where community driven side events can not only happen, but flourish. Between providing a significant chunk of valuable real estate in the Hang Space for the vBrownBag crew to do a  great deal of sessions throughout the week and things like the various tweetups or other networking events there is no shortage of things that are conference related but not necessarily created by VMware themselves. Heck they even have a sanctioned 5k race to go along with the event (29:04 finishing time for yours truly.)  Frankly, one of the most valuable chunks of time I spent all week was in the VM Underground/vBrownBag Opening Acts, a series of 6 1 hour sessions that covered the gamut of career and social media to storage and networking. All of these sessions were recorded and I would highly recommend checking them out.

Conclusion– All in all I very much enjoyed and felt I learned a great deal at VMworld 2014. The sessions that I attended, which were plentiful, were top notch and led by many of the brightest minds in the industry. I currently have an active project going on selection of our next wave of storage for our virtualized infrastructure so it was great to be able to hit the show floor and do direct comparisons between those on my short list. From an organizational standpoint I still feel like VMware still doesn’t quite have its act all the way together. With my only points of reference being the extremely mature CiscoLive events and the inaugural VeeamON event it seemed to me that VMware event staff are in a perpetual situation of playing catchup, even more so than the others. The website didn’t get updated from the previous year’s edition until right before registration opened up, and even then up until a couple of weeks before the event there were still “Coming Soon” sections to be found. Maybe a better example is the case of the ever popular VMware party. It seemed evident from the lack of announcement until right before the event that VMware was trying to find a good location where you could hold everybody for the annual VMworld Party and wasn’t having much luck. AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants is the usual choice but the Giants had a homestand. Because of this they essentially cleared out the keynote and hangspace locations, crammed as many people as possible into the room to watch the Black Keys, and whoever couldn’t fit got to watch on a big screen out on the lawns of the Yerba Buena Gardens.  In any event, I really hope they get it worked out and have a better plan for all of the above for next year.

VMworld 2014, Day 1

This morning was the opening Keynote with Pat Gelsinger and the gang and while there were some announcements (more on that later) the key take away is that the time is upon us IT folk to be brave. It is a time to cast aside concerns about cloud and your job as it currently is done because your role will be automated and start giving all your money for VMWare. No need to concern yourself with hardware, that can all be white boxed, but only think about things such as networking and storage as just small components of the greater Hyper-Converged compute nodes regardless of location. I tended to look upon this with great skepticism as I don’t think we’re quite ready or should be ready to put the network guys out to pasture, replaced with new shiny Virtualization Admins who know what an IP address is and most of the time understand what a VLAN does for you.

large_imageBut intermingled with the Mierda of Info Tech talk there were some new announcements, the biggest of which was that of a new product line, EVO, who purpose to be be the hyperconverged boxes you are looking for, putting Vmware into direct competition with the likes of Nutanix and what sounds like their own partnership VCE vBlock. In the case of the former the EVO:Rail is the ready for primetime product, with actual hardware available here to look and see through any of their partners on the product. The idea is that within a single 2U enclosure you have a series of mixed flash and spinning disks, 4 blades each containing 2 6 core CPUs, 192 GB of RAM, and 2 10 Gbps uplinks augmented by a 1 Gbps link for IPMI and remote management. All of this is powered by a vSphere Enterprise Plus level environment utilizing VSAN and distributed vSwitch masked out with a shiny new HTML5 based web client like interface. I have high hopes this means the end is near for the flash based vSphere Web Client.

The second announcement of the EVO line is EVO:Rack which is coming soon, but it is essentially a roll in rack based solution with everything you need to start up or exand your data center. If that sound familiar to you you’ve probably seen systems such as vBlock and FlexPod.  In all the take away regarding the EVO product line is get your system up and running and start deploying VMs in an exceptionally small window of time. I will say  was a bit disappointed when I actually met with the Dell folks regarding their version of the EVO:Rail product in that it provides an effective 13 TB of available datastore space and the system provides no ability to add external datastores at all.

Back into Vmware’s bread and butter in the software space there was a good deal of announcement of new versions and rebranding of their product line including vSphere 6 being in beta which we already knew, the the vCloud Hybrid product being rebranded as vCloud Air, and vCloud Automation Center (vCAC) was renamed vRealize, both of which with a few noticable upgrades.

In the training space we now have a Vmware certification track for us network folks centered around the NSX product. These certifications include the now available VCP-NV and the soon to be released VCIX (Vmware Certified Internetworking Expert) and VCDX-NV.  Interestingly they are providing horizontal opt outs for those of us already network certified by for a short period time allowing CCNAs and CCNPs to take the exam without a course requirements. If you are a current VCP you will also be able to take the exam without course requirements.

VMWorld 2014, Day 0

I arrived here at VMWorld 2014 in San Francisco yesterday (Saturday) and the conference doesn’t actually start until tomorrow (Monday) so for the sake of organization I’m going to refer to the events of the past couple of days as Day 0. Yesterday after arriving and getting checked into the hotel I found myself right on time for registration to open up so I walked down. One of the nice thing about the conference being here in SFO is that most hotels are within a 1/2 mile walk to the Moscone. I was very surprised when I got there in that I believed myself to be coming very early and found a pretty significant line. It seems everybody comes early for this one. After that Jet Lag for the most part won and the rest of the day was given to getting past that with the notable exceptions of checking out both the vBeers and Community Kickoff events. Neither of these were sponsored events but well worth the time for the conversation.

So today evidently started with a Bucket List for many that in true Jim form I slept through. At approximately 3:20 AM Sunday a magnitude 6.0 earthquake shook the Bay Area, the largest since 1989. I’m not sure if my sleeping through it is a measure of how tired I was or how comfy Marriott beds are, but nonetheless I missed it entirely and learned about it as friends  back home started checking on me. Once up is when the schedule got crazy and I will use today to illustrate just how busy these things are.

  • 7:30-9:45 – Catch shuttle from Moscone West to the VMWorld Fun Run 5k at the beautiful Crissy Field, literally in the shadows of the Golden Gate Bridge. Included in the time is the shuttle back and forth in addition to actually running the race (29:04 was my time for those keeping track).
  • 10:00-12:00 – I had a few months back scheduled both the run and my VCP5-DCV at 11 AM without thinking about the time constraints. So I found myself going in and taking my exam, successfully (yay!), stinky and still in my running clothes.
  • 12:00-1:00 PM – Clean up quickly from the morning’s activities and grab some food. Both days so far I haven’t been able to make it past this food truck right on the route to Moscone called Señor Sisig, great food and I highly recommend it to any of my fellow attendees
  • 1:00-4:00 PM – As I mentioned in my last post VMWorld seems to do a great job of facilitating the community to interact. New this year to VMWorld the guys from vBrownBag and vmUnderground came together to create Opening Acts, a series of 6 panel discussions with some of the brightest minds in the fields including Social Media & your career, Storage, Networking, Cloud, Automation, and Infrastructure. I have to say I learned a great deal from these sessions and when the videos get posted I highly recommend them.
  • 4:00-6:30 PM – The welcome reception of in the vendor area for any conference as best I can tell is when the swag free for all is in full force. Vmware’s is no different. I tend to take the conservative approach of only hitting booths that a) I’m already a customer of or b) have a legitimate interest in the products so I won’t mind hearing from them. Even with that my backpack was heaping.
  • 7:00-8:00 – Writing this and getting cleaned up again. 🙂
  • 8:00-? – The evidently legendary VMUnderground party is tonight in the same space as Opening Acts today. I’ll be attending hoping to blow off some steam and reach out and meet some new people in our industry.

With all that said, it looks to be time to go and I’ll try to update with some pictures tomorrow.

VMWorld 2014 Expectations

A little over one week from now I will be hopping a flight to San Francisco for VMWare’s VMworld Conference, my first, held at the ever popular Moscone Center. Last year I had the privilege of attending Cisco Systems’ Cisco Live but from everything I’ve seen, read and heard as well as my experience in getting even to this point VMWorld seems to be a bit of a different animal. In this post I’ll cover some of my impressions so far and things I’m looking forward to as well as a list of the sessions that I’m (at least at this point) scheduled to attend.

Costs

In terms of the price of the conference and directly related matters (outside educational events, community shindigs) VMWorld is pretty reasonable with a standard cost of $1995 knocked down to $1695 if you register early.  There also a variety of ways to even get discounts under that. In my case I was supposed to be eligible for another $100 off either because I am a VCP or from my VMUG Advantage subscription, but because of a computer system flub on their part they showed me as an Alumni of VMWorld giving me another $100, making the final $1495. I offered it up as a mistake and they said to let it go. Further I opted for the $55 5k fun run Sunday morning which isn’t bad as well as the vBrownBag/ VMUnderground Opening Acts panel educational series Sunday afternoon at the great value of free.  I highly recommend these as the line up looks great, filled with a who’s who of the virtualization social world riffing on a variety of topics.

Past that the costs get a little nuts when compared to my experience last year for Cisco in Orlando, FL.  You really couldn’t even get in the door of the conference hotels for less than $270 a night and even then many of the available options filled up within the first two weeks of registration being open. Compare that to the $139 a night I paid for the Courtyard 2 blocks from the venue in Orlando.  Further I’ve been told to expect higher than normal costs for food (the conference food is evidently atrocious and I shouldn’t really consider that an option) as well as flight cost for going across country and it really starts to add up.

Community Focus/ Party Party Party

To truly condense what I think I know about VMWorld in comparing to CLUS so far is while there is a healthy dose of outside get togethers available at CLUS VMWorld vendors seem to take the sponsored events to a whole other level.  Every single night, including Saturday when I get in there is multiple vendor or community sponsored events going on, almost all of which start with a “v,” vBreakfast, vStogies, vBeers, vFlipCup vOdgeball, etc.  They even go so far as to provide a iCalendar with nothing but theSocial Events. Further one of the nice things that I’m not personally going to be able to utilize this year is a regular’s wife organizes a variety of sponsored activities for the spouses who decide to travel as well called, aptly, Spousetivities.

All of this lends itself to the basic idea that one of the things that VMWare has fostered very well is the sense of community; that while the conference itself provides a trove of education through its sessions and such the true value of the conference is the uniting of a community that is already integrated through social media. Last year I dutifully attended a large number of sessions at CiscoLive where I truly learned a great deal, but it was the time just casually discussing things in the Social Media Hub where I truly felt enriched by the experience. VMWare seems to understand this as well.

Where in the World is Jim

As I sat down to write this and dumped the list of sessions which I’ve scheduled to do so I realized that I’ve scheduled more than I thought I had.  Another thing that I learned last year is that sessions that seemed like a great idea before hand don’t seem that great when you are in the middle of a conversation regarding a topic you are very much so interested in with people you consider far smarter than yourself.  I had this thought a number of times with people such as Chris Wahl, Jody Lemoine, Amy Arnold, and Jake Snyder.  So for that reason I don’t think I’m going to find myself shy this year to hop on the VMWorld app and dump myself out of sessions if the timing isn’t right.  The beauty of these major conferences is that all the sessions are recorded and later access is included in the cost of attendance.

Anyway, for now this is what I’m looking forward to seeing:

  • NET1214  —  NSX Certification – the Next Step in Your Networking Career
  • OPT3021-SPO  —  Size Does Matter: Performance, Uptime, Growth and You
  • INF1469  —  Extreme Performance Series: Monster VM Performance
  • INF1212  —  Best Practices in Virtualizing Remote Offices and Branch Offices with VMware
  • SDDC1600  —  Art of IT Infrastructure Design: The Way of the VCDX – Panel
  • STO3162  —  Software Defined Storage: Satisfy the Requirements of Your Application at the Granularity of a Virtual Disk with Virtual Volumes (VVols)
  • STO2754-SPO  —  New Kids on the Storage Block, File and Share: Lessons in Storage and Virtualization
  • STO2496  —  vSphere Storage Best Practices: Next-Gen Storage Technologies
  • INF1192  —  Ask the Experts : Design Advice for Small and Midsize Business
  • INF2336  —  Separating Fact from Fiction – ESXi Hypervisor Security
  • NET2745  —  vSphere Distributed Switch: Technical Deep Dive
  • INF2427  —  DRS : Advanced Concepts, Best Practices and Future Directions
  • BCO2701  —  vSphere HA Best Practices and FT Tech Preview
  • SDDC1176  —  Ask the Expert vBloggers
  • EUC2621  —  Storage Overload: How to Make Sense of Storage Choices in a VDI.next World
  • INF1601  —  Taking Reporting and Command Line Automation to the Next Level with PowerCLI
  • STO3247  —  VMware VVOL Technical Preview with Dell Storage

As you can tell my focus this year is really on storage, something I know I’m a bit weak on but also a topic that is currently my employer’s greatest need at this time.  Other than that I’m really looking forward to a lot of the panel discussions with many of the names I’ve come to know in the community.

First Impressions Are Important

While I am very much so excited for the trip for all of the reasons listed above, I really do feel like I need to put the bad out there with the good. Keep in mind that the only thing I have to compare VMWorld’s setup against is CiscoLive, a conference that when you include it’s earlier versions has been going on for 25 years, so when I talk about how the lead up to the conference experience has gone for me I really do feel like I am comparing against the gold standard.  With that disclaimer made, from a organization standpoint I feel like the conference is a bit of a mess.  With Cisco’s annual get together before you leave the conference floor for the last time registration is already open for the next year, VMWorld didn’t even have an updated website until about 3 months before the event begins. Even with that up until a couple of weeks ago there were still portions of the site labeled “coming soon.”

I could really go on and on with things that have irked me a bit, but my take on it is that the organization of VMWare’s conference really doesn’t seem to ramp up on the same time frame as Cisco, I feel like Cisco at any point in time is working at least a year or two in advance on all facets of the get together, where the feeling for me with VMworld is about 6 months out somebody went “oh crap, we forgot to plan the conference!”  It might be completely off base but that’s where I’m at.

Conclusion

All in all though I am very much so looking forward to the event. Truthfully I’ve never been further west than Minnesota so the idea of California is appealing in and of itself, but the opportunity to get together with some of the brightest minds in virtualization today as well as seeing what next both from VMWare as well as their related vendors is appealing to say the least.

If you’re going I hope to see you there and if you want to get together feel free to reach me @k00laidIT.

Thoughts on the vSphere 6 Open Beta

Ahead of its annual Vmworld conference (which I will be attending this year, yay!) VMware has announced the version 6.0 of its vSphere line of products including ESXi, vCenter and just about every other VMware related topic I’ve written about here.  The company has chosen to mix it up a little bit this year in that they have made the beta program itself public, but in joining the actual program you are required to sign a NDA keeping anything you learn private. To me I take this to mean that while the wire structure is there this is still very much a work in progress, with the community at large having the opportunity to greatly influence what we are going to be seeing in the final product.

As I cannot directly talk about anything I’m learning from the beta itself I highly recommend anybody with a little space to lab go sign up for the beta, start providing feedback and try it out for yourself. Instead what I’m going to discuss here is my wish list for things to be included when 6.0 finally hits gold as well as the basics of the long discussed Virtual Volumes product that was released into beta along with vSphere.

Wish List

As I mentioned above, the beta for vSphere 6 requires a non-disclosure agreement, even if it is open to the public.  To learn what is actually coming in vSphere 6 I urge you to go join the beta for yourself as there is a great deal of information in there for those who wish to really learn and understand the product(s).  Below is a list of things that generically myself and a great many others very much so wish to see as this release comes to be.

  • Bye Bye VI- Consider this your warning, the desktop Virtual Infrastructure client should be no more this time around.  We’ve been warned for a couple of years ago that when the next major release of vSphere comes the Web Client will be the only option. While it’s a great idea and vendor integration to it seems to be becoming very handy it does make me wish for…
  • HTML 5 based web client- Seriously VMware, 2005 called and wants its website back.  The current iteration of the web client is based on Adobe Flash which means proprietary code, security bug and no iPads. In a day and time when you have available open standards to allow for similar functionality, why aren’t you using it?
  • A full featured vCenter Appliance- with vSphere 5 we began to start to see the vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA) presented as a viable option to the application running on top of a Windows Server. That said it’s got some major drawbacks that in my opinion are deal breakers in terms of replacing my Windows vCenter boxes. These include
    • Update Manager support
    • Linked Mode
    • Greater database support (at a bare minimum MS-SQL)
  • Fix SSO/ Directly utilize AD/LDAP for an identity source-  SSO got better with vSphere 5.5 as compared to 5.0 and 5.1, but I am still flummoxed by the idea that Vmware feels that they need to reinvent the authentication wheel.  I would guess that the implementations they are in where there isn’t already some form of available authentication source such as Active Directory or Kerberos are few.  Please leverage those system and cut out the middle man.
  • Virtual Volumes- see below but this is a pretty good bet to be there
  • Greater IPv6- IPv6 support has been around for a while but if utilized in vSphere 5 it will break some things and still requires you to at least have a IPv4 loopback configured.
  • Marvin related things- VMware has been hinting at this all summer, the super-secret “Project Marvin.” There is a little real information and a lot of speculation going on around the internet. Essentially it is described as “the first hyperconverged infrastructure appliance” leading many to think that either VMware is about to get into the hardware game or is partnering with somebody to do the same.

Virtual Volumes

large_VVolsVirtual Volumes is storage centric feature that has been discussed and released to the public as a technical preview since at least 2012 and is a spin off idea from the original concept of VAAI. Typically when creating a new VM a VMware Admin needs to either contact the Storage Admin carve out a LUN each time, do so themselves, or what many, myself included do, create impossibly large LUNs and then have multiple VMs within which is actually pretty wasteful and negatively impacts system performance.  The goal of VVOLs is to make storage VM-centric rather than LUN-centric by leveraging that vSphere API for Array Integration (VAAI) to make the deployment of storage just a component of deploying a VM in whatever manner you choose to do so.  Put as simply as possible…

VVOLs is the storage of VM files directly on the storage system without a LUN middle man.

If you think about all the different ways you utilize storage with your virtualization strategy this makes even more sense.  You can take snapshots and create at both the VM and LUN level, what if they are one and the same?

Of course this is not going to be possible without some support from vendor ecosphere and that apparently is coming in droves.  As VVOLS enters into the beta program alongside vSphere 6 we are seeing  demonstrations of support from a variety of storage providers including Dell, NetApp, EMC, HP, Nimble Storage, Solid Fire, Tintri and open beta programs from HP, NetApp, IBM and Dell.

To really take the deep dive into what VVOLs is and how to implement I recommend reading these posts from Cormac Hogan and Duncan Epping as well as enrolling in the beta for yourself if you have some supported hardware.