Pivot Point

Several (more like eight) years ago, I started a blog.  I was encouraged by other members of the vCommunity to jump in and start sharing.  There was much encouragement along the way, and I loved the idea of contributing, even if I thought I was an inexperienced voice with little to add.  But as with most things, I discovered that unless one is truly intentional, our “best intentions” end up never really hitting the mark.  Consistency is not practiced and goals are not achieved.  I’ve learned and relearned this lesson many times in life.  I am a life-long learner, but I prefer to learn something once and then move on – not having to relearn my previous mistakes.  In any case, I’m trying to exert some new intention and kick this off blog off once again – with a pivot in mind.

Years ago, I started a journal.  It was just over 30 years ago to be more specific.  I still have every page from that journal of which I was consistent with for part of those first 10 years.  Incredible growth in my life occurred during this time and I had some amazing experiences.  This period of time included my college years, my big adventurous summer in Alaska, my starting (and ending) a small business, and most importantly, my embrace of a deep faith.  I even started my IT career with a software training company during this time.  My first IT role would most certainly become one of the big pivots in my life.  This set me off on a new trajectory in life that would provide some great professional rewards and on a personal level, lead me to my future wife and family.  But with my journal writing, when I had the most to write about, I had the least amount of time to do so, and my writing often waned.

About 11 years ago, when I was still working in Windows Server administration, I hit another pivot point when I discovered virtualization.  VMware VI 3.5 had just been released, I saw the changes it would provide in our day-to-day operations and I was hooked.  I embraced virtualization since the industry was clearly adopting this technology and would soon become the de facto standard for on premises data centers.  A year later, I attended my first VMworld and I came back with my face glowing ready to go all-in on this new phase of my career.  I saw the community at large for the first time, and thousands who were just as passionate about embracing this technology.  I set out to learn as much as I could and had some intention of contributing to the community.  I had lots to write about…

Over the last several years, I’ve had other growth spurts where so much was going on and I had so much to write about, but little time or energy – or simply lack of intention – to write.  Shortly after my previous blog post, I started working for a managed services provider in RTP, NC.  I took on a role as Sr. Virtualization Engineer in an enterprise-scale, predominantly VMware environment.  I had been managing and consulting in VMware focused roles for many years, but the demands and experience of the enterprise environment brought very different challenges within configuration, performance, and management.  Not only did my skill set have to sharpen very quickly to meet the demands of a large environment, they had to downright transform to break from my old habits.  Automation and scripting, extreme performance tuning, massive scale configuration management, and deep forensic analysis were all part of the my day-to-day existence.  Lots to learn and so much to blog about… but, most of my documentation ended up in company wikis, internal technical docs, and emails to customers and colleagues.

This brings us back to now… I’m once again facing what I believe is a new pivot point in my career.  I love virtualization and the world of technology this has opened to me.  It has even provided a spring board to other technologies that will clearly continue to transform our data centers and the way we process data.  Data center virtualization enabled the rapid growth of cloud with its abstraction of pools of resources and provided the ability to place into the hands of customers the power to spin up workloads in minutes.  Coding became the new skill for system admins to learn to manage vastly larger environments that grew out of the enabling technology of virtualization.  And lastly we have a newer technology that has become very popular over the last few years: containers.  The nature of containers has taken this idea of portability and abstraction from the underlying resources to another new level.  Most technology vendors have invested so much into each of these three areas:  cloud, containers and code, and for good reason:  this is not just the direction, but the road itself that our industry is speeding along.

So my mantra these days is “Cloud, containers, and code”.  It sums up the skill set that I’ve embraced as my focus for this next phase in my career.  So much to learn, so much to write about… so… I’ll see you back here in a few years for my next post.  : )  Stay tuned.



VMworld 2015: Are you Ready (for Any)?

VMworld 2015 - Ready for Any

With VMworld just 4 short weeks away, I thought it best to jump in and give some pregame thoughts about the conference. I personally have so much to do to get prepared. I’ve been so busy working on customer projects lately, I’ve had little time to focus on the event. But with the theme for this year’s conference, Ready for Any, I need to do my part to be ready! Time is ticking!

So, first of all, a little pre-VMworld guidance. Without redoing my post from last year, you can view my Lessons Learned about VMworld from last year. A few folks have put out their tips and tricks for this year. You can view them here:

A couple more from last year:

I also highly recommend following the official bloggers this year. These have been preselected by VMware to contribute content related to the conference. There should be some great posts by these individuals. Some are well known; some are up and coming. I look forward to catching their coverage this year during the event.

Speaking of that, Nigel Hickey, one of the official bloggers this year, is putting together some vExpert Spotlight articles. Make sure to catch these. This is a great effort to shed some light on select vExperts who might not be as well known in the community. I’m definitely hoping to meet more of these folks this year.

Of course, VMware has their official page of links to various resources. Check the Social Media and Community Resources page for links to the latest in community content.  VMworld is community rich, so there will be plenty of valuable information fed through these outlets.

Be sure to book some time in for vendor and community events after hours. These are great ways to unwind and meet up with other folks passionate about the community. There is something going on every night of the conference. This is hands down an action packed week, so pace yourself. There is so much going on from early morning to the wee hours of the night. It’ll be easy to get run down, so pick and participate responsibly and conserve yourself for the next day’s events.

If you haven’t already spent hours chipping away, molding, and then tweaking your schedule, I recommend you get over to the Schedule Builder now and sign up for those sessions. Many of them are already booked up, but there are always no shows.  You can still usually get into hot sessions by standing in line at the door. Typically most people who wait eventually get in, so don’t fret if you didn’t get your favorite session. It’s just far easier if you’ve already registered to get in, grab a good seat, relax, and meet a neighbor before the session starts. And remember, these sessions will be recorded.  If you still don’t get in, you can always catch the recording later.

And on that last note, I’ll echo what I mentioned last year. Priority should be on the things you can’t do after the conference. Things like meeting folks, spending time in the Hang Space or on the Solutions Exchange floor, attending the non-recorded sessions like the Group Discussions, attending the various community events…  All of these are super valuable and should not be sacrificed for the content that will be readily available after the event. Even the Hands on Labs, as awesome as they are, will be available at some point after the conference (see VMware HOL Online).

And with that, let’s get ready.  Looking forward to seeing everyone this year!

VMworld 2014 – Day 4

Thursday was the final day of the conference and thus it was the last day to meet up with Scott Lowe and the other believers I had met this week. I also had the pleasure of meeting Scott’s wife Crystal that morning, which was a treat. Both she and Scott make up a great team in their efforts to support the community at large. Crystal puts together the Spousetivities each year for tech conferences, a collection of activities for family and friends of conference attendees. This has always been a hit and will continue to be held up as a shining example of contribution to the community. Since this was the last time our group would get together, we said our farewells. I really hope to be back and join this group again next year. This had been a very meaningful way to start each day. Much thanks goes again to Dave Hewitt for coming up with the idea, to Scott for coordinating, promoting and leading it, and for all those who attended for supporting the effort and for their example of faith. You guys meant a lot to me this week.

Thursday’s schedule ended up being a very tight for me. I had to catch the Thursday General Session since this is traditionally a hit with innovative ideas being showcased. It’s also usually not recorded so there is no option to see it if one decides to skip it. After that was over, I made a beeline to the user conference, Tintriticy, already in progress.

Trent Steele, one of the SE’s for Tintri, told me about Tintricity, and since we might enter into a partnership with them, I wanted to find time in my schedule to make it there. I made it in time to hear Kieran Harty, Co-Founder and CTO of Tintri, deliver the Tintri vision, and Eric Burgener, Research Director for Storage at IDC, give an industry analyst view of storage trends. Of course this was great marketing for Tintri. I then bumped into Luke Gray and met Alexander Nimmannit and Justin Lauer. Justin’s name rang a bell and I soon discovered he is a very active contributor and evangelist in the community. He’s given VMworld presentations and is their principle evangelist, so no wonder I’d heard his name. I was getting ready to leave after Eric Burgener’s talk when I heard a customer share their experience with a traditional storage vendor, whom I was very familiar with. The customer experience was unfortunately, negative but Tintri solved their challenges by delivery better performance and easier management at 1/3 the cost. Very compelling story. I ended up staying much longer than I planned because I wanted to know more. I then chatted with their CTO, their channel manager and then spent extended time talking with Alex, who happens to be a very happy customer. These were great conversations to help solidify our views of the Tintri solution.

After that, I grabbed lunch and then headed over to Pure Storage’s user conference, Evolve. The main reason I went to this was because Diane Greene and Mendel Rosenblum were slated to speak at the event. They are two of the cofounders of VMware, legendary in our world, so I was eager to hear them speak. It turns out that only Mendel spoke but it was worth it. It was quite a treat to hear this brilliant visionary speak.

After that, I headed back over to Moscone to spend the last couple hours of VMworld in the Alumni Lounge. I started working on these posts and then had a rather unexpected conversation with Josh Atwell. Apparently, my conversation with him earlier in the week made him rethink his involvement with the community in relation to time devoted to the more important things in his life: his family, home and career. He shared with me he wasn’t even following the advice he had given to me the other day and was getting ready to take a break for a while. I just saw his blog post earlier this week where he publicly announced his hiatus. Sorry Josh for being the impetus behind this. I admire him for following through on his values and making the hard decisions to stand by them. I love these meaningful conversations and this really got me thinking as well. As much as I want to get more involved in the community, I want to make sure never to lose sight of my values and priorities. I felt pretty fortunate for having been exposed to some key insights by mighty folks in the community around this topic this week.

At 5:00, the Alumni lounge closed and that marked the official end of VMworld for me. That was bittersweet. It was an amazing week, as it always it, but good things like this do come to an end. Thankfully the impact will live on. And… the day was not completely over yet!

After that, I headed back over to the Pure Storage Evolve event to check out their last session. They managed to pull in SNL’s Jay Pharoah for a hilarious wrap up to their event. Jay was funny – definitely had his moments, managed to stay clean, and delivered some good fun to the crowd. That was a nice bonus for me to wind down with this after VMworld.

After that, I did some requisite trekking through town for some gifts for the family. I did not do any sight-seeing like I had in previous years. Primarily because I feel like I’ve seen the big sights and really, I had more important things to knock out before packing and getting ready for my 6:30AM flight out of town. Perhaps, the biggest non-tech highlight was yet to come…

Last year, I came across a homeless man who happened to be a talented wire sculptor who earned his keep by selling his creations on the street. I was impressed with his sculptures last year and even bought a couple items. My daughter loved the wire turtle and gecko that I brought home to her so much that she asked me to find the man again this year and have him make a fish. So… not wanting to disappoint, I went out searching for the “copper man” (he used copper wire). I figured my chances of finding him were almost zero and I made sure to set my daughter’s expectations low. She understood that I might not find him and if I couldn’t that I could just find something else really nice for her. Since I wanted to at least tell her honestly that I really searched for him, I really did search for him. And bordering on miraculous… I found him!

Unbelievably, he was right where I found him last year. I honestly couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw him. Initially, I couldn’t remember the street where I found him last year. It turns out he was on Powell St. just south of Union Square. As I approached the spot, I recognized the pizza joint I ate at last year, at which point I realized that I finally found the spot. And then lo and behold, I looked down on the sidewalk and there was the copper man! He was in the exact same spot where I found him last year – almost like he never left in the entire year that passed.

I chatted with him and reacquainted myself with him. His name is David Rodgers and has been making these wire sculptures for years. He started as a kid and quickly knew he had a talent for this. He’s also made other things – he told me about a guitar that he made out of two cigar boxes. I asked him to make a fish and he quickly set out to turn a piece of aluminum wire into a fish. I think it took him 15 minutes to knock it out. I swear this guy has amazing talent and should be able to sell his creations in a shop somewhere. I wish I had the sense at the time to take a few pictures of the rest of his creations and post them to give him some extra publicity. He lives on the street, but manages to pay for hotel rooms many nights from the money he collects selling his sculptures. With that kind of talent, he should be able to get off the street and have a decent lifestyle.

David made my night. I couldn’t wait to share the news with my wife that I found him. What a great way to end a phenomenal week at VMworld. And what a treat for my daughter to exceed her expectations and bring home exactly what she was hoping for. Now she wants to meet the copper man. And I have no problem introducing her to him. I just need to be able to find him again…

Nice way to end a very impactful week!

VMworld 2014 – Day 3

Wednesday was incredibly productive. After a good start to the day with Scott Lowe and the gang, I headed to breakfast and then into the “What’s new in vSphere?” session. This was mainly about enhancements to come out in vSphere 5.5 Update 2. There were also some forward looking views into vSphere 6, but not much more than what we already know about FT and vMotion improvements.

After that, I went to another partner session, “SDDC Toolbelt”. This ended up being one of the most valuable sessions for me. It was all about utilizing several tools by VMware to help build the business and drive revenue. Some of it overlapped with the vSOM session on Monday, but there was much deeper content especially around the toolkit product to be made available for partners. It was remarkable information which really spurred some thoughts about how to incorporate these tools within my company to grow our data center business. I made a note to reach out to the presenters to leverage their expertise with these resources.

After that, I was motivated to learn more and made a beeline toward the Partner Lounge to gather even more tips on valuable resources. There was so much to pick up. I can’t believe all the resources available to us partners that we might otherwise be unaware of. The Partner Central site is chock full of tools for account managers, presales, and implementation engineers. While in the Partner Lounge I managed to make some great connections with a couple personnel who offered to facilitate the sharing of the material to my staff to help everyone get on board. How cool it is to have a team behind us. I guess all vendors do that to some degree for their partners, but VMware really has put together a solid force and set of tools to make it easier for their partners to get out and make an impact. Of course, the bottom line is still the bottom line and it’s no secret this is to drive more sales. But when we consider the value these technologies bring to our customers, we’re simply looking at better ways to educate and deliver these solutions to help drive their business.

I did hit one more session that day which was the, “What’s new in VMware Workstation” session. This was a sneak peak at some of the advancements coming to the next release of Workstation, version 11. There are some neat features coming, but mostly around support of the latest OS platforms. Here’s a secret though for anyone who has never attended the Workstation or Fusion sessions at VMworld. The presenters typically offer free license keys for these respective products. I usually make it a point to make it to these sessions, primarily for this reason. Both products are remarkable and I especially use Workstation quite heavily on my loaded up laptop.

After that, I hit the floor again and spent the rest of my day meeting some of my vendor contacts and checking out some new vendors. I missed speaking with Data Gravity, but I heard they had an amazing product and won “Best of VMworld” for it. I will definitely have to look them up. One particularly cool meeting was with PluralSight. I love their training and try to evangelize the value of their product to anyone who has an interest in training. I loved TrainSignal before they were acquired by PluralSight last year and that acquisition just multiplied our choice of courses without costing a dime more. Not only do they provide infrastructure training (networking, virtualization, systems, etc.) but also programming, scripting and development courses, AND soft skill courses, like public speaking, career building and blogging. I sang their praises and they gave me half a dozen 30-day trial licenses. I plan to distribute these to my coworkers in the hopes of getting them hooked like I am.

After the floor was closed, I grabbed a small bite before going back for the big party. As expected, VMworld really set the bar high last year with their knockout event at AT&T Park. At that event they hired two hit bands, Imagine Dragons and Train, which were a huge draw for most attendees. So… in comparison, this year’s party paled a bit. The Black Keys performed this year and I got the sense that I was in the majority of folks who were either unfamiliar with them or simply not fans. Nevertheless, the band choice never pleases everyone and it was still fun to get out and mingle and enjoy a night of entertainment with 22,000 of our new friends. And in the interest of keeping this positive, I thought one good thing that came out of the party was the number of people who ended up in line to help with vGiveBack. There was a long wait to throw paper airplanes to help the VMware Foundation’s vGiveBack initiative. With the additional donations made on behalf of all the airplane builders and flyers, the VMware Foundation raised almost $250,000. Not too shabby. Great job community!

VMworld 2014 – Day 2

I started the day again meeting up with Scott Lowe and other faithful attendees. After that and some breakfast, I headed back to the hotel room to lay low for the morning. My TechTalk was coming up at 12:30PM so I wanted to make sure I was good and fresh for that. I missed the General Session that morning but I did catch the replay online.

Some key points that came from it:

  • Sanjay Poonen laid out innovations in the EUC space. He spoke about the three pillars of the EUC vision: Desktop, Mobile, and Content. Under Desktop, he announced the partnership with NVidia and Google, bringing rich user experience to desktop delivery. Under Mobile, he talked about the acquisition of AirWatch and the new partnership with SAP to securely deliver mission critical apps to all mobile devices. Under Content, he boasted of unified access to all content anywhere, anytime, on any device. Together these are now wrapped into the new Horizon Workspace Suite: Horizon Desktop, AirWatch Mobile, and Content Locker.
  • Kit Colbert then came up to strengthen the EUC message. He demoed solutions around Workspace Portal, AirWatch Locker and CloudVolumes. He also showed off Project Fargo, mobile cloud architecture for desktop, showing off lightening fast provisioning of desktops with apps. He emphasized three messages as takeaways: 1. Unified experience, any device, anywhere. 2. Customers driving industry change. 3. Optimized for the Software Defined Data Center.
  • Raghu Raghuram then boasted of the momentum seen in each component of the SDDC over the last year:  Compute – the released beta of vSphere 6.0;  Storage – VSAN enhancements;  Network – Adoption and industry accolades of NSX;  Management – the rebranding as the vRealize Suite.  He and Ben Fathi then discussed the latest platform choice to be offered: hyperconverged infrastructure and VMware’s answer with the EVO family. We got to see a much more detailed view of the new EVO:RAIL and EVO:RACK solutions. Raghu also provided further detail around the OpenStack partnership, the vSphere innovations around multi-CPU Fault Tolerance, cross vCenter vMotion and long distance vMotion, and then the partnership with Docker, Google and Pivotal around containers. We were also treated to demos and deeper information around the vRealize suite. And finally the one thing that most of were waiting to hear: improvements coming to the Web Client user experience!
  • Simone Brunozzi wrapped up the session with an fascinating demo of vCenter Operations Manager.

Around noon, I headed down to the Hang Space to get ready for my moment on the community stage. I was so excited about this. My talk was, “vCOps and vCO: the Power Duo” and was essentially about how to integrate the two products for automated remediation. I thought it was a neat concept and was something I had been playing around with. I’ve been using vCOps for quite a while but am still fairly new to automation, so this talk was a bit of a stretch for me, but still a blast to work on. It gave me a taste of automation in general and the talk gave me a taste for technical presentations – both of these are areas I would love to pursue further. I felt like the talk went well, although maybe a little bumpy in spots. I can certainly see areas to improve, but overall, it was a great experience for me. I loved the challenge of deciding on a topic, putting the content and demo together and then of course, the excitement of delivering a presentation at VMworld. What an awesome experience to get under my belt. I did have quite a bit of positive feedback from my onsite friends who showed up and from my remote friends who watched the LiveStream. There were a few virtual high fives. Feel free to watch the recording below.

After that, I was spent. I did attend one session, DevOps Demystified, and after that I hit the Hall Crawl. I mainly wanted to spend time on the floor to meet some of the folks I had spoken with over the phone but had not met in person. I did get to meet some folks from Infinio, Tintri and VMTurbo. These are great companies, all with innovative technologies. VMTurbo in fact has a product that performs automated remediation, which is exactly what I discussed earlier in my TechTalk. Looks like I’ll be downloading the full product and giving it a test drive. I’ve so far only played around with the free version. I’m really curious to see how deeply the automated remediation goes and how much it impacts the readings within vCOps. I’ll perhaps write up a post after I fully evaluate it. Stay tuned for that one.

After the Hall Crawl, I headed back to the hotel and crashed. The TechTalk took a lot out of me so I decided to call it an early night; no customer events for me. The temptation to head out and hit a party or two was strong, but I had to resist in order to recalibrate. And I’m glad I did. The early night to bed did wonders for me so I was ready to hit Wednesday strong.

VMworld 2014 – Day 1

The day started off in a very different way than all other VMworlds that I’ve attended. Scott Lowe had organized a very informal Christian meet-up for anyone who wanted to gather and offer up any thoughts on their hearts before hitting the ground running each day. I should pass credit to Dave Hewitt as it was he who had the idea and reached out to Scott since Scott had the influence that Dave did not. Scott shared it with the community and ran with it. And what a gift it was for those of us who came out. On Monday morning, about ten of us showed up and had a very uplifting time getting our head and hearts on straight for the day and lifting up in prayer our families, fellow attendees and victims of the earthquake.

After this, I headed over to the first keynote. Some of the major announcements from the keynote:

My first breakout session of the day was a vSOM Partner session. This was hugely beneficial as it revealed to me tools to help customers find value in vSOM/vCOps. It’s such a great product with its monitoring, smart alerting, predictive analytics and intuitive dashboards, that it’s hard to deny its value when running a trial in one’s environment. However, learning the tools to help with these opportunities and show this to customers is key. I am truly impressed with how much VMware pours into these types of resources to educate their partners. Their Partner Central site is loaded with tools and resources to assist these opportunities and help small partners like ours accelerate our VMware business.

Later on, I attended the Jason Nash/Chris Wahl NSX in the Real World session. Those guys are out of this world. Besides the fact they are among the first two VCDX-NVs, they are amazing talents in the community – very smart, quick-witted and remarkably comfortable with off the cuff banter in front of hundreds of folks. They laid out some real world knowledge on real practical uses of NSX. It was as much entertaining as it was informative.

In between sessions, I stopped by the Community stage in the Hang Space to get a feel for where I would be “performing” the next day. I did manage to catch a couple of the TechTalk sessions – Brian Graf’s and Sean Massey’s sessions – both great CLI sessions. I have much to learn in the ways of scripting and automation so these were incredibly informative. My talk the next day would be about vCO automation, but primarily from the perspective of someone who is just waking up to these solutions and test driving them.

I did spend more time in the Hang Space, trying to grab some valuable downtime to polish up my TechTalk presentation for the next day. I felt the energy in there, but I soon discovered it was fairly distracting for me as I just wanted to either watch a presentation or grab a moment to chat with one of the notable folks walking by. I did manage to steal conversations with some influential guys like Josh Atwell and Hersey Cartwright.

Josh has been quite a character in the community for the past several years. And by quite a character, I mean that in a good way. Let’s face it, he’s a rock star. Everyone knows him – he has connections all over the place, he’s been involved in many of the big community efforts, he’s been published, interviewed, podcasted, spotlighted, referenced, you name it… His name is out there everywhere. And yet, he’s just an all-around normal guy and family man, trying to maintain balance in his life. So when I had the opportunity, I laid out my burning question for him – “How do you do it all?” His response: “B minus”. OK, fair enough – I should’ve expected such a response from him. But, he simply meant he doesn’t do it all very well; he does just enough to get by. In a nutshell he shared with me his adherence to compartmentalization. On certain nights, his family knows he’s doing vBrownBag, other nights he’s doing virtual Design Master. He then makes sure he has specific time set aside for them. He spent quite a while sharing with me his approach and the wisdom behind it. Fantastic conversation. Thanks for the great insight, Josh!

I’ve also followed Hersey’s contributions to the community since he gave a vBrownBag session on VCAP-DCA preparation a couple years ago. I felt I could relate a bit with Hersey’s more low-key approach within the community. That said, he’s hugely involved, very well known, he’s an author as well and is VCDX #128. Watching him move through his VCAPs back in 2012 to VCDX earlier this year has given me real hope that I might actually be able to pull this off myself. He’s really spurred my belief and openness to making the decision to just go for it! And with his book, vSphere Data Center Design Cookbook in hand to help me finish out my VCAP-DCD, his contributions will continue to have a significant impact on my personal success. Thanks, Hersey!

After some meaningful conversations with these guys, I then headed over the vExpert bloggers session. This year the panel consisted of Scott Lowe, Chad Sakac, Duncan Epping and William Lam. As in previous years, it was nothing but amazing insight from these guys. The questions from the audience were mostly technical, but my favorites were the non-tech ones. The one that came up this time was, “With all your dedication and energy you give to the community, what keeps you from getting burnt out?” Sakac’s answer was simply that he drives hard for a while and then has to completely disengage for a few days to recharge and find balance. Duncan talked about the need to have real dates with his wife and put his phone away. Good answers about balance – something we all need in this line of work.

I then grabbed dinner in Chinatown with my old coworkers and then headed back to polish up my TechTalk presentation. I knew the next day would be a huge day for me so I had to be sure to get good sleep and keep good focus.

VMworld 2014 – Day 0

The week of VMworld started with an opening act to put all other opening acts to shame (except one of course!).  The big vEarthquake, which registered 6.0 (or was it 6.1?) on the Richter Scale 40 miles north of San Francisco,  awakened many of us early arrivers in the wee hours of Sunday morning to what sounded like a train coming through the room.  Nice way to welcome us to the earthquake capital of the US.  And it seemed like a very fitting opening to the week and tip of the hat to the seismic waves that VMware has been sending throughout the technology world for the past decade.  One couldn’t help to also notice the graphic for this year’s VMworld theme is a crumbling wall.  Just a little coincidental, I might add.  And as one tweeter commented, the Richter rating of 6.0 seemed to be a fitting, albeit unintended, promo for the upcoming vSphere 6.0 release.

Enough said about that – off to the event!  Partner Day was good – as expected, a little generic – but good.  It was fun to get the ball rolling early and get a sneak peak on some of the announcements that would be made the next couple days.  I believe this was the first year that VMware scheduled a whole extended series of sessions on Opening Day so that was a nice treat to have an entire day of sessions to get warmed up.

Then of course there was the Opening Acts.  And yes, not to be outdone by the earthquake, VMunderground and vBrownBag consolidated their efforts this year and put together a phenomenal series of panels on Storage, Networking, Architecture, Social… I haven’t yet seen if the recordings have been uploaded, but can’t wait to check these out.  I only got to see the Networking one moderated by Chris Wahl, but I heard the others were just as great.  Lots of very candid comments.  The one I saw had the inimitable Joe Onisick on board who never fails to deliver very lively perspectives.

After that, the Welcome Reception on the Solutions Exchange floor kicked off.  Great to see some of the vendors I’ve been vetting the last couple months as we’ve looked for companies and solutions to bring into our partnership fold.  I had productive conversations that night and throughout the week with companies like Tintri, Infinio, VMTurbo, Veeam, NetApp and Nutanix.  The opening reception has always been an exciting event since that seems to be the real official kickoff event for VMworld.  Food and drinks were flowing, vendors were eager to talk to customers, and attendees were looking forward to the week ahead.  I also had the pleasure of  running into buddies of mine from my former job – so great to hook up with them again.

After that was of course the legendary VMunderground party – the must-attend event to rub shoulders with vCommunity notoriety.  Again, not to be outdone by their Opening Acts or even their WUPassS parties in years past, the VMunderground crew hit a grand slam on this one.  Amazing venue, plenty of room, spectacular view, great food, lots of notable folks in the community….Well done guys! Good times and great conversations.

Great way to kick off the first day!

Goals – VMworld 2014

Here I am on board the flight heading to the pinnacle event in the IT world, VMworld 2014. Yes, that’s a big claim, but when 23,000+ of our closest friends converge on Moscone, it becomes an event to be reckoned with.  Then again, I am biased.

This year I wanted to set out some personal goals for myself. I have not written these down prior to the conference in years past, but instead, I’ve usually just gone with some general idea of what I wanted to get out of the show. And as expected, each year I’ve come back feeling like I probably missed out on some great opportunities to learn or network. Make no mistake – I have always left with massive new knowledge and experience to take back to help both my company and my own understanding of virtualization and cloud technologies. But this year, I intend to make this even more purposeful by having very specific goals, SMART goals with which to keep me on track to maximize my experience. After all, the conference is several days of absolutely obscene amounts of exposure to technology, training, labs, people, events, vendors, giveaways, swag, parties, meetups, tweets, blogs, etc. There is a massive amount to take in in such a short period of time. How does one navigate through it all?! By having goals – what specific objectives do I have? So, without further ado, here are my goals for the week:

1. Get registered  —  It’s always important to start off with an easy one!


2. Learn three new partner strategies to spur our virtualization business

This is my second year attending VMworld as a partner. Last year, I think I was just getting used to making the transition from customer to partner status and probably missed some of the opportunities for leveraging the partner resources. I plan to hit Partner Day strong and glean as much as I can from that side of the community.

3. Discuss partnership opportunities with at least five vendors

My employer is a small consulting organization and we’re looking to expand our data center offerings this year. I’ve already started having discussions with a number of vendors about possible partnerships. This week, I’ll be solidifying the relationships already established with some key vendors and looking to speak with some new ones

4. Schedule a meeting with at least two of those vendors

This is a more specific action item than the previous one. I expect to sit down and talk about more immediate steps into moving into a partner relationship with a couple of the key vendors we’re currently looking at.


5. Publish at least one blog post each day

Well, here’s a post for Saturday! Off to a great start! I’m really excited about getting my blog site off the ground this year and I’m so looking forward to sharing with the community some of my perspective of the awesomest tech event of the year. So, here goes…

6. Deliver a TechTalk presentation

Super excited about this one! I am confirmed to take the Community Stage in the Hang Space this year. I’ll be sharing my experience about playing around with the automation capabilities of vCenter Orchestrator as it integrates with vC Ops. It’s been a whirlwind trying to prepare for this, but I’m excited I have the opportunity to share on this platform.

7. Publish blog post to supplement TachTalk presentation

Since the TechTalk is limited to about 10 minutes of actual speaking time, there’s no way I can cover what I feel needs to be covered in such a short time. So I decided to put together a blog post to accompany it. Not sure if I’ll have this ready prior to the session, but that’s a goal too.

8. Meet 20 new people

Each year, I meet lots of people. I never know how many and I don’t want this to appear like I have a target on each person I sit next to in order to meet my quota for this goal. What I do want to do is to make an extra effort this year to meet the people around me. I will try not to keep a count so this doesn’t come across superficial, but I’ll know at the end of the week if I feel like I established enough new contacts. And truly, it is all about what can I do for my neighbor, brother, or sister in the community.

9. Meet five influential folks I have not yet met

I often shy away from going up and talking to the big names in the industry. Partly out of my shyness, but also partly out of wanting to give them space. Some of these folks are rock stars and I never want to be that guy who pesters them while they’re minding their business, just so I can shake their hand. But, I’m also encouraged and emboldened by all the comments shared in blogs and tweets about just saying Hi to these guys and how they look forward to meeting others in the business.


10. Learn NSX from the masters

With my networking chops strengthened this year on my Cisco cert pursuit, I’m even more eager to check out the SDN side of things. I’ll be sure to check out a session or two by the latest double VCDX’s, Jason Nash and Chris Wahl. I also plan to pop in to see the head master himself, Martin Casado.

11. Sharpen skills around automation and management

After spending the last few weeks fumbling around Orchestrator, I’m determined to get enlightened on the ways of the automation Jedi. I’m on the wait list for the highly acclaimed Alan Renouf and Luc Dekens session on Thursday. I expect there to be enough attrition from the VMworld party and from folks checking out early to free up some space.  And with my deep delve into vC Ops this past year, I have to hit up some vC Ops sessions.  And then of course there’s vCAC, and… too much to take in!

12. Learn design mojo from the experts

I’ll be preparing my run for VCAP5-DCD over the next few months. It’ll be good to get some expert advice from the VCDXperts themselves!


13. Make it to breakfast each day

This essentially means getting up early enough each day and starting the day right. Last few years, I’ve stayed up too late at times and made it out the door just barely in time to hit the General Sessions. I’m determined to be much more disciplined this year which also means being smart with sleep time.

14. Join Scott Lowe each morning for some prayer and reflective time

I love that Scott is doing this. Mon-Wed at 7:45, he’ll be out in Yerba Buena Gardens to have a time of prayer before the day begins (details on his blog site).  I love even more that he’s not afraid to put his faith out there. I’m excited to take part and support an activity like this… and not to mention, start the day truly preprayered!

15. Brisk exercise each day

I just mean low key exercise – probably some pushups or a brisk walk. I’ll need to do something to take care of the body during what is typically a brutal week of endurance.

16. See at least one thing I’ve yet to see in San Francisco

I’ve already been to Golden Gate, Coit Tower, Embarcadero, the Wharf, Sea Lions, AT&T Park, the Trolley… How about something off the beaten path? Actually, I might not get any significant sightseeing time in this year since I plan on hitting Pure’s mini-conference, Evolve, after the close of VMworld. I’m sure there will be some social gathering after that and then… I have a 6:30AM flight out of SFO in the morning. Talk about brutal!

So that’s it! Shouldn’t be too difficult, right? It’s always good to aim high, but still keeping it realistic. I think I can hit the majority of these if I just stay on point. So to help with that, here’s one more goal:

17. Look at this list each day to stay focused.

Remember, there are “No Limits” to what we can achieve when we put our minds to it.  Hope everyone has a very productive, enlightened and enjoyable week!

Speaking at VMworld!

Last week,  I was ecstatic to receive the confirmation that I will be speaking at VMworld this year – that is on the vBrownBag TechTalk stage.  If you’re not familiar, the TechTalks are 10-15 minute “lightening” talks given by anyone in the virtualization community who has a technology or tech-related strategy to share.  These are completely coordinated by the folks at vBrownBag (huge applause to them!!) with the blessing and help by the VMworld conference crew (again, huge applause!!) and driven by the community at large (yep, here’s to the community!).  These guys are so committed to community and sharing the knowledge and this is a perfect extension of their weekly webcasts.  Two years ago I saw the kickoff of the TechTalks and the enthusiastic reception that followed.  I’ve since watched its popularity grow as the platform has been taken to other conferences (OpenStack Summit) and to the regional VMUG’s (most recently, the Indy VMUG User Conference).

The TechTalk schedule for VMworld 2014 is now online and there are some really neat topics by some amazing folks in the community.  I encourage anyone to check out some of these sessions.  Come support your fellow peers, see the enthusiasm and the passion within the community and learn some cool things.  It’ll all be happening in the VMworld Hang Space.

This year, I will be stepping way out of my comfort zone and stepping up to the plate to offer what I believe is a very exciting topic.  I’ve been delving into vCenter Operations Manager a lot lately, impressed with its rich features offering deep visibility into the VMware infrastructure, monitoring and reporting features, intuitive dashboard displays, capacity planning tools, efficiency and risk analysis, and predictive analytics.  It really is an amazing product.  However, it is only a monitoring and reporting tool – no changes to the environment can be made from vC Ops.  Which means that when it discovers a fault, no action is taken.  This is where vCenter Orchestrator comes into play.

vCenter Orchestrator is a rich automation tool, capable of executing complex workflows.  These workflows could be configured to remediate faults that show up in vC Ops, however there is no native integration between the two.  Not to worry as VMware has come to the rescue and created the vCO Remediation Workflow Package for vC Ops.  This is a plug-in that integrates the two products together.  This allows vCenter Orchestrator to kick off workflows when prompted by SNMP traps initiated by events detected in vC Ops.  Very powerful.  What I will be sharing in my TechTalk is a demo of a use case of this integration.  Of course, squeezing a demo of this remarkable tool into a 10 minute talk will be terribly difficult, but I’m up for the challenge.

Look forward to sharing!

Lessons Learned from the Halls of VMworld

Last week, Session Builder for VMworld 2014 went live. This is always an exciting time of year and seems to mark the beginning of the highly anticipated ramp-up to the conference. This is when I start to ponder what each day will look like, what I’ll be focusing and how I’ll utilize my time. There is so much crammed into this conference: general sessions, breakout sessions, hands-on-labs, Solutions Exchange, Hang Space, Tech Talks, media events, conference events, customer appreciation events… the list goes on. Many attendees will run non-stop from early morning to… early morning. This will be my fifth VMworld this year (wow – five years!) and I must admit, I’m still trying to figure out how to squeeze everything I want to accomplish into five very fast days. But I have learned a few things that I can share to get the most out of this event.

Put off today what you can do tomorrow

This is the biggest lesson I’ve learned.  And no, I’m not promoting procrastination. What I am promoting is prioritizing one’s time based on what is available after the show and what is not. The breakout sessions and hands-on-labs make up the biggest draw for conference attendees and obviously create the central focus of training at the event. But the recordings of most of the sessions and even the labs will be available online after the event. We’ll have the opportunity to take them at our leisure at any time. These are absolutely incredible training resources, but if we’re spending all of our time focusing on them during the show, we’re missing out on other activities that will not be available once the show is over, such as all the incredible networking opportunities (see below).

Just an added personal note – I’ve spent year after year trying to figure out my breakout session schedule, and it never fails that I end up switching around my sessions at the last second. I often end up in one session and then I spend part of that session second guessing my choice for the next session and thus missing out on some of the content in the session I’m currently in. This year, I plan to minimize that.  I will still make it to a select number of these sessions, but it will primarily be to hear a particular speaker or pick up information on a critical topic. Otherwise, I will be spending more time in the Hang Space or on the Solutions Exchange floor meeting up with other folks and chatting with product experts. I’ve discovered that some of the best education takes place one-on-one. And those opportunities cannot be put off until tomorrow.

Speak up

As I said, some of the best ideas will come from our conversations with our peers and experts in the industry.  Advice to anyone: Spend time in the Hang Space, talk to your neighbor while dining or in the breakout sessions, attend the customer appreciation events… It really pays to strike up the conversation. It’s so much more enjoyable when we connect with others and there is so much to learn from our peers’ experience in the trenches. But we need to open our mouths. For introverts like me, this can be uncomfortable, but there are so many attending that would welcome a conversation and would love to share what they’re doing in the data center. Feel free to approach a speaker after a session. They love to share what they’re doing and what has worked for them. And take full advantage of the industry experts in the Solutions Exchange. That’s why they’re there!

Tweet up

I joined Twitter prior to VMworld several years ago and quickly discovered the real value of this social media outlet.  I realized that so many announcements and insights come across the Twitter feeds. It’s also a great way to connect with other folks at the event. So many folks have conversed on Twitter and then come to meet each other in real life at the conference. “Tweetups” for example, are informal gatherings where those active on Twitter meet up and enjoy the real face to face interaction. You can find a list of folks here who will be tweeting from the event. Or you can simply follow hash tags such as #VMworld or the hash tag for a particular session. These hash tags are usually listed with the description of the session in the Content Catalog. There is so much to be discovered by simply following the constant feed during the show.

Get comfy

Wear comfortable shoes. I hear this over and over again, but it’s solid advice. You’ll be on the move for 16-18+ hours each day. Wear what’s most comfortable while still being professional.

Travel lightly

This goes with dressing comfortably.  Leave the bulky laptop in the hotel.  I know we’re IT pros and need to stay connected.  There are no user workstations these days at the conference so if we want to get online to solve a problem back at the office, we need our laptop to connect.  I get it and I’ve been there.  However, if you have a light-weight laptop like a MacBook Air, make that your companion or even a simple tablet.  There’s nothing like lugging the extra weight of a huge laptop when you’re on the go from 7AM-7PM.  And there’s not as much room for all the trinkets.  Of course, if your hotel room is a block away, that helps if you need to run back and hop online.

Keep home base close by

This has been another huge lesson for me. This will be the third year I’ll be staying at the Mosser Hotel, just a block from Moscone West. I love the convenience of the super short walking distance from my hotel to the event. I will warn anyone though, the rooms are tiny and if you go with the economy class, you will be sharing a bathroom with your hall mates. But if you need to drop off an overloaded bag of swag or retrieve something during the day, it pays to have your room just two minutes away.

By the way, I find it interesting that this hotel is never on the list of recommended hotels with the reduced conference rate. However, here’s a secret tip: Year after year, I’ve been able to get a cheaper rate at the Mosser than the conference rates for the other nearby hotels. Granted there are a couple more convenient options like the Mariott right across the street, but the cost is at least 2-3x the nightly rate. The lower rate at the Mosser helps me get the budget approval for this trip each year. Another trick I use is booking my room early in the year (Jan-Feb) before the rates start going up. I know that if I end up not going, I can always cancel with no penalty. I just wish I could do that with airfare too!

Party on

There is something going on every night of the conference (besides Thursday) – the official list of community gatherings and events can be found here. Take part and register for these events early as some of the more popular events will get sold out (like the hugely popular VMunderground event, traditionally held on Sunday night before the conference gets under full swing). These are additional great networking events and of course allow us to unwind after a day of hard training and “drinking from the fire hose”. A couple big notes of caution: be professional and exercise moderation. Believe me, you will need the physical and mental stamina the following day.

Roam around

Finally, making the most out of this trip means getting out on the town.  I always try to venture out to explore after the show is over.  What a great way to wind down.  San Francisco is a neat city.  It’s a little shabby in spots but so rich in character and history. The Wharf, Alcatraz, Embarcadero, Coit Tower, Golden Gate Bridge, trolley rides… there are so many sites to see and things to do.  It’s not a complete trip to San Fran without hitting some of these spots.  And for the family, Crystal Lowe has organized Spousetivities each year — exciting activities around town for spouses, family and friends of conference attendees.  This has been a tremendous success each year and has really gained quite the following.

So there it is.  Just a few lessons I’ve learned over the years to get the most out of every minute at VMworld. Although, in the end, you really can’t go wrong with whatever you do. There is so much to take in and there’s no way to leave at the end of the week without a gathering a massive amount of knowledge to take back to your team at the office. It’s just an awesome event and it keeps getting bigger and better each year.  Can’t wait!