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.