Living Rural and Tech Community (It Really Is Possible)

I had/have the honor today of presenting a couple vBrownBag sessions while here at VMworld. The first of these was about my journey from living in an area with little to know Tech Community resources available to becoming a part of the bigger global community and why that’s a good thing. As I feel this has really changed my career and enabled me to grow my skills as an IT professional in ways I never thought possible this is a subject I’m pretty passionate about.

So does that paragraph sound familiar to you? If so please consider watching the presentation below (it’s only 10 minutes) and start your own journey. If you need help along the way reach out to me on twitter @k00laidIT.

VMworld 2017 US: T -2

I write this while traveling to sunny and amazingly hot Las Vegas for the 2017 edition of VMworld US. I hope to provide feedback and news throughout the conference, highlighting not only the excellent content and programs but also the best the virtualization community has to offer.

Today will be a travel day as well as a day to meet up with friends, new and old. Tomorrow, the Sunday before the conference, is when the real fun begins with things like Opening Acts for me, TAM and partner content for others as well as a number of social events.

What We Know So Far

Yesterday was the day that Vmware went on a killing spree, announcing the depreciation of Windows based vCenter, the flash based vSphere web client and the vmkLinux APIs and its associated driver ecosystem. All of these enter the depreciated state with the next major version of vSphere and then will be gone for ever and ever in the revision after that. Each of these are significant steps towards the evolution of vSphere as we know it, and when coupled with the advances in PowerCLI in version 6.5 the management of our in house infrastructure has been changed for the better.

These announcements came rapid fire on the Friday before Vmworld with the death of the Windows based vCenter coming first. As we have had versions of varying success of the vCenter Server Appliances (VCSA) for over 5 years now it’s been a long time coming. I myself migrated two years ago and while it was good then with the latest 6.5 version, with its PhotonOS base, excellent migration wizard and in appliance vCenter Update Manager support it has show it is definitely the way forward.

The flash client was the next announcement to come and again, we are looking at an depreciation that needs to happen and is most definitely going to be a good thing but does come with some apprehension. With most things that have been depreciated by Vmware we’ve had at least 1 feature rich version of the replacement out and stable before they announced the predecessor’s demise. This isn’t the case with the flash based web client. While the latest builds are getting very, very good there are still major things that either are quirky or simply aren’t there yet. The good news to this is we have been given almost immediately assurances by everyone involved with the product management that we the vSphere admins will never be left without a GUI management ability for any given task we have today and I for one believe them. The last components of what is known as the HTML5 client in my opinion simply can’t come enough, I’m tired of having to hop through multiple GUIs and browsers to be able to perform basic tasks in my daily work life.

Finally the day was finished with the announced depreciation of the non-native Linux drivers. To be honest I didn’t know that these were even still a thing as every Linux VM I’ve rolled for the past many years have been able to work with the native drivers. I’m sure there are those that at this point may still need additional time but the as the removal is still a couple of versions off this should be something can be mitigated now that the end is known.

Conclusion

With all of these preconference announcements related to Vmware’s flagship product is this going to be the year where Vmworld is chocked full of improvements to vSphere. This will be my 3rd one in 4 years and each year I’ve felt their focus was elsewhere. While vSAN, NSX, and the like are definitely where the company’s seeing growth all of these things rely on vSphere as an underlay. I for one would be happy to see a little love shown here.

With that happy thought I’m going to shut it down and land. For those coming to Vmworld this weekend safe travels and for those at home look for more info as its known here on koolaid.info.

A VMworld US 2017 To Do List

If you work in the virtualization or datacenter field (are they really different anymore?) you probably know that VMworld US 2017 is next week, August 27-31. While VMware may not be the only option out there when it comes to virtualization anymore VMworld is still the defacto event for people in the field. This conference’s definition of community is unrivaled in scope with just as much if not more going on outside of the conference agenda as  in it.

As with all things worth doing conference attendance probably needs a checklist. Have you done yours? If not here are the high points of mine. I’m not going to bore you with “Jim will be attending session so and so”; well except for VMTN6699U and VMTN6700U you should totally join me at those sessions, but these are pretty general things I try to do each time.

  • Take Your Vitamins– I hate to say it but the Vegas Flu is a real thing. Between being in the recirculated air of a jumbo jet for any number of hours to bookend event and being in the recirculated air of a Vegas hotel/casino/conference center I always seem to get at least a mild head cold at some point during the week. Start about now taking whatever version of Vitamin C supplement you like and do so throughout the event to help head this issue off.
  • Bring Sharable Power- The average conference attendee has 3 devices on them at all times, phone, tablet and laptop. These things will start to get low on battery about midday and that just won’t do. In theory lots of places will have power outlets but with 25,000+ attendees they are still in short supply. I typically bring a big battery pack, a travel surge protector and USB power cables for everything under the sun so that I can plug in and share at sessions and keynotes.
  • Get There Early and Be Ready To Learn– While the conference doesn’t start in earnest until Monday the 27th I always try to arrive midday Saturday because there is so much going on before the conference starts. One of the highlights of the entire conference to me each year is Opening Acts, a series of panel sessions put on by VMunderground and vBrownBag on Sunday afternoon. These sessions always prove to be insightful and are traditionally more career-centric or more wide-ranging than your typical VMworld session. The fact that this is followed by the always awesome VMunderground party that night is not lost on me either. Also, if you are a VMware TAM customer there is exclusive content for you on Sunday afternoon.
  • Be Comfortable Being Yourself– So what do you wear? My friend Matt Crape covered this well in his recent post but I would like to add that go with what makes you most comfortable networking with your peers. If you are good with shorts and a t-shirt, go for it. Me personally I’m a golf shirt and jeans kind of guy so that’s most of what you’ll see from me. Your days at VMworld are most likely going to be between 15-20 hours so go with what feels good unless that’s naked. Nobody needs to see that. 😉
  • Get Out and Be Social– This is not a “Woo Hoo, It’s Vegas So Let’s Party” topic. Yes, you can do that if that’s your prerogative, but keep in mind some of the smartest minds in your chosen career are going to be here and out at both events in the evening as well as in the hang space during the day. Go meet people as they are typically pretty nice and cool. While the VMworld sessions are what’s being sold as the content of the conference I will book very few of those, choosing instead to spend my time learning from others how they are dealing with many of the same issues that I have and make connections that can prove helpful down the road.
    Where to go be social? During the day the HangSpace/ VM Village is the place to go. In the evenings there is a never-ending list of gatherings to find your way to. I personally will be making sure I attend the Veeam party and VMunderground as they are my 2 evening must do’s each year and are typically among the biggest. Past that I’ll just go with the flow.
  • Be Social Online Too– If you are a tweeter be sure to use not only the #VMworld hashtag but also that of whatever session or event you are currently in. If you look around it will typically be on a wall somewhere. This will help you extend the conversation during the session. If you aren’t on twitter yet you may want to consider that, often this is a great way to see what your colleagues are saying about announcements and such in real time. It also serves a great way to meet up with others at the conference.
  • Get Some Sleep When Possible– I know this sounds counter-intuitive to the previous topic but if you are a 40-year-old like me this week will catch up to you. It is definitely possible to do events and conference from 7:30 AM to after midnight each day and while that’s a lot of fun, by Wednesday there are so many zombies walking around Mandalay Bay it looks like an episode of the Walking Dead. If you’ve been working on the session builder already take a look at your schedule and make room for you to sleep in a morning sometime midweek. You can catch up on the sessions once you get back.

While there’s more than that for me those are the basics. If you are going please hit me up @k00laidIT on twitter, I’d love to have a coffee, a beer or just a conversation with you. Have a great time!

P.S. Wear comfortable shoes!

Tech Conferences in Las Vegas for Newbies

As June is here we are deep into tech conference season already so I find myself behind the curve somewhat with this post, but here we are. I am extremely fortunate to have an employer who understands the value of attending Tech Conferences for IT Professionals and I’ve been able to attend at least one each year since 2014; going back and forth between CiscoLive and VMworld with a sprinkling of VeeamON and more local events such as vBrisket and VMUGs for good measure. As a “Hyper-Converged Admin” my choice of which “biggie” conference is done each year by looking at where my projects land; last year was CiscoLive due to a lot of Voice and Security Projects, this year VMworld due to lots of updates coming down the pike there and a potential VDI project.

The problem when you have a conference with north of 25,000 attendees is that you are limited in where you put these on. While Cisco does tend to move around some, VMworld has typically either been in San Francisco or Las Vegas. With the Moscone Center closed again this year for renovation we find pretty much all of the big guys are back in Las Vegas, with both CiscoLive and VMworld at Mandalay Bay once again as well as AWS re:Invent and Dell/EMC World in town this year as well. If you haven’t been to one of these Tech Conferences before or to Las Vegas both can be both exciting and overwhelming, but with a little help from others and some decent tips neither are that big of a deal.

Las Vegas Basics

So for a small town guy like me Las Vegas is very cool town, but tiring. The common thread I feel and have heard others voice as well is that Las Vegas is deceptively large because all of the hotels on the strip are so massive. While you can see from your Mandalay Bay window that New York New York is just the next block, it is probably about a mile away if walking there. Why this is important is that if you look at the list of hotels on each conference’s list you’ll see lots of options, but getting to that 8AM session may require a 30+ minute walk or even longer shuttle ride if you chose to stay at the Cosmopolitan (my personal favorite of all Las Vegas hotels but prohibitively far away). Couple that with temperatures in the triple digits during summer and proximity becomes more important.

Hotel Choices

So the first tip for any of these conferences is get a hotel as close as possible. For CiscoLive and VMworld keep in mind that you can move freely between the Mandalay Bay, Delano the Luxor and the Conference Center without ever stepping foot outside.  I would highly recommend trying to be in one of these. If you are booking late and the conference is out of rooms it’s worth trying to book directly through the hotel as they don’t let the events have the whole place. That said you are still going to be in for a hike. For example I stayed in the Mandalay Bay last year and it was approximately 1800 steps from my room to the entrance to conference.

Many of the vendor types that seemingly live their lives at these types of events like to opt for either the nearby Marriott Courtyard Las Vegas South or the Holiday Inn at Desert Club Resort for those that like a kitchen. From either of these you’re a quick Uber or Lyft away from the Conference Center entrance but don’t have to deal with the hustle and bustle of staying on the Strip if you don’t want to.

Getting Around

Speaking of Uber and Lyft, getting around with out walking is a bit of a consideration as well, both for the daily commute as well as for the various events. Traffic in the afternoons into the early morning is pretty impressive on the actual strip so to be honest I’ve not heard good things about trying to rely on the conference shuttles when available. Further I’ve heard many complaints from those who are locals that drive in and try to find parking.

Where that leaves you is 1) ride sharing service, 2) using the monorails, or 3) walking. Uber is nice because they are pretty knowledgeable about routing you around traffic regardless of time of day. Keep in mind when it comes to this and Mandalay Bay there are actually two defined Uber pickup/drop off spots, one outside of the conference center and another around the valet area underneath the hotel drop off area. These are impressively far apart so be sure you know where you want picked up before you request a ride.

The monorails are also nice but short. For those of you going to CLUS this is a good way to get to the Customer Appreciation Event as it will drop you off close to the T-mobile Arena.

Finally walking is a decent option, especially after dark for the various vendor events, but I do recommend if you are going to do it find a buddy or 3 or 4. I’ve never personally seen violence on the strip but you hear about it and there are lots of “character buskers” dressed like everything from Michael Jackson to Spongebob that will harass you.

One final note, while first impressions are important there really isn’t any point to being that person in the fancy shoes unless you’ve got booth duty. I typically while go buy a new pair of good running shoes a week or two before the conference so I can break them in and then that’s what I wear. If you are a step tracker kind of person like me expect 20,000 and up each day so take care of your feet.

Things To Do

Seriously, there’s plenty to do even if you weren’t at a conference already providing lots to do. Regardless of your interest if the conference doesn’t have you jam-packed enough you can find something you like here.

If you are new to IT or are just starting to get your name out there the most important things to do outside of the sessions is to get out there and be social. Both of the conferences we are talking about here have a great community that surround it with some wonderful people in it. The first step if you aren’t already would be to get yourself on twitter and follow the hashtag stream for your event (#CLUS for CiscoLive US, #VMworld for VMworld) , not only while you are there but before especially as many outside events will be planned then. Be sure to find the social area for your given conference and go make friends. Outside of the standard conference hours you’ll find that many of the Vendors will have events planned for attendees. If you have partners or vendors you work heavily with its worth asking your SE if they are doing anything.

CiscoLive Basics

CiscoLive will be held this year June 25-29th and promises to be a great show once again. While I have really enjoyed all of the conferences I’ve attended CLUS  was my first and near to my heart. First off of all those I’ve been to this one feels more academic than others. There aren’t really as many softball sessions and the sessions are a bigger part of the focus for the event than other. That said, they do a very good job of supporting the social community by having a Social Media Hub right in the middle of it all with special events for the twitterazzi most days. I highly recommend showing up and if nothing else walking up and just introducing yourself, trust me, you’ll fit right in there somewhere especially if you bring a Kilt. 😉 If you can come in early on Sunday the annual Tweetup Sunday afternoon is always a good time to make friends.

If you are going to CiscoLive you should have at this point booked most of your sessions. A couple of points here. First do not overbook yourself on sessions. While the pressure is always there to make sure you are getting all the education out of it as possible every session these days is recorded and can be watched later. My decision on if I’m going to do a particular session is based on if the subject is directly related to something that’s got me stumped and I want the opportunity to touch base with the speaker. Past that I’ll watch most after the fact. A better use of your time is getting out and networking, soaking up some of the distributed information there and will in many cases serve as a resource after the fact. I’ve yet to leave an event and not come home to do some kind of redesign based on things I’ve learned from the community.

A highlight for anybody who’s been to CLUS is always the Customer Appreciation Event. This year Bruno Mars will take over the T-mobile Arena and I am legitimately bummed that I will be missing it. The celebrity keynotes are always very good as well and usually provide a different view on how technology interacts with the world. I truly enjoyed listening to Kevin Spacey last year and this year they’ve booked Bryan Cranston.

Regarding keynotes, I typically like watch these in the social areas rather than packing myself into the keynote halls. The seating is better, there’s fewer people and usually refreshments are close at hand, plus you can find a surface to put your computer/iPad on to take notes and/or live tweet the talk.

VMworld Basics

As much as the focus on CiscoLive is on the direct educational benefit the focus from VMworld is more on learning from the community. With the conference officially running from August 27-31 there just as many official conference sessions as there are at CiscoLive, but I find there to be more lower level, marketing style sessions at VMworld. What makes up for it though is any number of community learning opportunities surrounding it. If you can swing coming in either Saturday or very early Sunday the vBrownbag/VMunderground Opening Acts is always a great place to learn about what is coming next in virtualization and technology. Speaking of vBrownBag, these guys have a stage running concurrent to the conference with session about anything you can conceive of all week long. Historically the vBrownBag stage has been found in the Hang Space (VMworld for social media area) but this year is still to be determined.

Another thing you’ll find is the potential to have your evenings books is exceptionally high with multiple vendor events every single night, traditionally starting with vBeers on Saturday evening. At some point as we get closer to the conference VMworld will fill a website with information and registration links for many of the gatherings to make scheduling easy. The Veeam, VMunderground and vExpert/VCDX/VMUG parties are always the most talked about. There is also the annual VMworld Party with typically big name acts but at the time of this writing there really isn’t any information about this yet. Be sure to follow along online and on social media to find out soon enough.

Conclusion

With all that being said, just go enjoy yourself as you are meant to do. There’s a reason that Denise Fishburne refers to CiscoLive as “Geek Summer Camp” because it does feel that way, regardless of the conference you’re attending. Everybody does things their own way. As I’ll be attending VMworld this year if you are there and want to say hi feel free to reach out and find me on twitter @k00laidIT.

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.