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VMware’s hybrid cloud – a discussion with customers

December 16th, 2014 No comments
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Summary: Hybrid cloud gets a lot of press and VMware are claiming a stake in a market predicted to grow massively over the next few years. I discuss with customers what vCloud Air can offer businesses and what you need to consider.

On Tuesday 25th November I took part in an online discussion about the hybrid cloud with a couple of vCloud Air customers (Schalk van der Merwe from The Hut Group and Matthew Garrett from Cloud Business) along with VMware’s Rick Munro (Chief Technologist, vCloud, EMEA), and well known blogger Julian Wood. The discussion lasted around an hour and we discussed topics such as;

  • Is hybrid cloud just a stepping stone to the public cloud?
  • Is data sovereignty an issue for customers?
  • Are clouds converging to a global platform or diverging into niches (market verticals like healthcare, government etc)?
  • Is the rapid pace of change a challenge when making a business case for cloud?
  • Does adopting cloud lead to changes in established ways of doing business, from a people/process/technology perspective?

You can view an edited version our discussion below which (luckily for you dear reader) is only 18 minutes;

If you don’t have time to watch, some of my takeaways were;

  • agility is a key driver of cloud adoption, more so than cost savings (which in my experience aren’t always expected or delivered). Results speak louder than RFPs!
  • it’s not a case of ‘private’ OR ‘public’ OR ‘hybrid’ cloud – you can, and probably should, use all three depending on your use case
  • start small and build on success (just as the DevOps crowd advocate!).
  • hybrid cloud may be a stepping stone, but it’s essential to take a first step
  • vCloud leverages your existing knowledge and skills so is an easy first step

Personally I think hybrid cloud is here to stay. Mainframes are still with us (from the 1950’s) and email has been available as a SaaS offering for at least 18 years (Hotmail started in 1996) yet today there are still thousands of companies running their own email systems.  For many enterprises ‘hybrid cloud’ will actually mean a multitude of different clouds including vCloud Air, AWS etc, despite the additional management overheads that will introduce. Time will tell!

 

Categories: Cloud, VMware Tags: , , ,

Transitioning away from vCloud Director – the unspoken plan

December 8th, 2014 6 comments
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missing-piece

There’s something missing…

Summary: vCloud Director, once the flagship product spearheading VMware’s vCloud Suite, is slowly winding down for enterprise customers – potentially leaving some companies with a roadmap challenge.

Having just started work for a cloud service provider in the Channel Islands (Foreshore) my focus has shifted and vCloud Director is a product I’m working with. After VMworld last year I wrote about how badly VMware communicated their product shift away from vCloud Director (vCD) and this year I’ve not seen much sign that communication has improved. At VMworld Barcelona this year only one session out of over 400 was about vCD. Yep. One (although to be fair it was ‘vCD roadmap for service providers’ – more on that later). How the mighty have fallen.

 What do we know about the vCD roadmap?

As announced last year the vCloud Suite roadmap involves the current features moving into other products, both in the vCloud Automation Center (now vRealize Automation) and the core vSphere product. It’s likely that the provisioning aspects will go into vCAC (now vRealize Operations) and some of the network functionality (multi-tenancy in particular) will go into the ‘core’ vSphere product. vCloud Director will continue to exist for service providers but for enterprise customers there is a migration to be done. There was also the following statement;

Yes, VMware will offer a product migration path that enables customers and partners to move from vCD to VCAC…

So far, so good.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is it’s been a year since that announcement and there’s been near radio silence since then. If enterprise customers need to transition off vCloud Director then VMware need to provide information, preferably sooner rather than later, on how that’s likely to work.

Read more…

Categories: Cloud, VMware Tags: , , ,

Visio diagram of an Autolab environment

December 1st, 2014 No comments
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A few months ago I found myself wanting to use my home lab, but the whole environment had become very out of date. Rather than build everything from scratch and by hand it was the perfect excuse to try Autolab, a project which I was aware of (I’ve met the creator Alastair Cook a couple of times at VMworld) but had never found the time to deploy. For those not familiar with Autolab it aims to automate the build-out of a portable lab environment consisting of virtual networking,  storage, and compute using vSphere, and includes vCloud Director, View, and Veeam.

My first thought was ‘Does Autolab do what I need?’ and while the documentation was pretty good the overall environment (in particular the networking) which Autolab created wasn’t immediately clear to me. In the end I did use Autolab and while it did some of what I needed I wanted to see if I could integrate or improve the build using my existing setup (I have shared storage and multiple VLANs in my lab already). While sketching out my options I decided to create a proper Visio diagram of a completed Autolab build for future reference and thought it might be useful to others too. I’ve sent it on to Alastair so it may turn up in the next release (assuming there is one).

You can download it in Visio or .JPG format.

Autolab v1.5

What Autolab is trying to achieve (freely distributable lab build automation) is highly commendable but given the ease of use and free availability of VMware’s Hands On Labs combined that with the rapid pace of development for many VMware products (vCD isn’t even available anymore unless you’re a service provider) and I wonder if Autolab in it’s current form is sustainable. To encapsulate and therefore make portable an entire working dev/test environment, the aim of the Autolab networking, is a perfect use case for NSX although if you want that for free you’ll have to look to open-source equivalents (OpenFlow et al). Time will tell!

Further Reading

http://www.labguides.com/autolab/

Wifi problems with TP-Link’s Powerline Starter Kit (WPA4220)

November 24th, 2014 No comments
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tplink 4220Summary: Powerline adaptors are better than they used to be but they aren’t without their problems.

I’ve recently moved house and didn’t want to go to the time and expense of wiring up my new house with CAT6 ethernet, so opted for some Powerline adapters instead. I’d used an early set of these (85Mbps) back in 2007 but standards have definitely advanced in this area and now we have 500Mbps adapters (well sort of) so I thought it was worth revisiting the technology.

My local computer store had a couple of TP-Link units in stock (WPA4220 Starter Kit) and I bought them on a whim. Plugging them in and getting them working took all of five minutes and voila – connectivity! The speeds weren’t great (around 80Mbps on average, so 5-6MBps on file transfers) but then my house was built in the 70s so it’s not especially modern and that does affect speeds. The bigger variable in my case was the fact I have a three phase power supply, rather than the more usual one. At first I thought this would prevent or greatly hinder my use of powerline networking but my powerline networking works just fine over multiple power phases (apparently a shared consumer unit is key). Speed is affected (my dropped to 60Mbps when crossing phases) but I’m really just using it for web browsing and streaming some video which seems to work fine.

All said I was very happy with my powerline setup, until I’d been running the integrated wireless AP for a few days and started noticing connectivity problems. I’ve got a mixture of tablets (a couple of iPads, Nexus 7), smartphones, Sonos wireless speakers and the odd Google Chromecast and found that within a day or so they’d lose internet access. After further investigation and some Googling I found plenty of people in a similar scenario (here, here, here, and here) but with no acknowledgement or fix forthcoming from TP-Link. Sadly the logs for these units are hardly worth having as you can see in the screenshot below – over 20 hours after powering it on (and with Wifi failing) all that was logged was the initial startup event and even that didn’t have a timestamp;

logs

The problem seems to be certain types of traffic don’t pass through the wireless AP, even through plugging into the wired powerline socket on the same unit works fine. I quickly identified that DHCP broadcasts weren’t being received by wireless clients so devices were failing to renew their leases and dropping off the network. A simple reboot of the TP-Link resolves the issue for a while but it recurs within a few hours. Interestingly setting a static IP seems to be a good partial workaround as the wireless AP is still working and sending most types of traffic, but some devices, like the Chromecast, only support DHCP. For my Chromecast I’ve therefore set my DHCP server to reserve an IP for about a year! To alleviate the issue even further I’ve now bought a mains timer switch and automatically reboot the unit twice a day – a horrible hack, but it works. When the wireless fails I can’t even ping the TP-Link’s IP address wirelessly, even though i can ping my router and other devices on my network, and I can ping the TP-Link via a wired connection. Frustrating.

Without much visibility under the hood (this can’t run the highly customisable DD-WRT as that doesn’t understand powerline networking) the best I can tell is that some types of traffic are not being bridged onto the wireless AP correctly. I’m sure a few Wireshark captures would confirm this in more detail but as I’m relying on TP-Link to fix it one way or another I haven’t drilled down to that level. Unfortunately I believe a software fix (ie firmware update) is required and so far nothing has been forthcoming from TP-Link. On one of the posts linked to above there’s a post from ‘Vincent’, who I believe works for TP-Link, claiming that they’re trying to replicate the issue – I’m not sure why that should be difficult as I’d imagine a software issue would be pretty consistent but I can give them the benefit of the doubt for a while longer. Judging by a blogpost from Alex Boschman it looks like the equivalent Devolo unit’s aren’t immune to problems either, so maybe I’ll have to try D-Link or Solwise instead. Or maybe I’ll just wire up the house after all and use a standard wireless device, it might still be the most quickest way to get reliable access… :-(

UPDATE: 27th November – I’ve now also tried a TP-Link TL-WPA281 which is essentially the older variant which only offers 300Mbps for the wireless AP. Sadly this behaves the same way. I’ve also experimented replacing the TP-Link with an old Netgear unit (WGR614v9) and that seems to work flawlessly so I still think the TP-Link devices are the cause of my issues.

Categories: VMware Tags: , , , ,

Thoughts on VMware’s EVO:RAIL

November 18th, 2014 1 comment
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EVORAIL smallSummary: At VMworld in August VMware announced their new hyperconverged offering, EVO:RAIL. I found myself discussing this during TechFieldDay Extra at VMworld Barcelona and this post details my thoughts having spent a bit longer investigating. I’m not the first to write about EVO:RAIL so I’ll quickly recap the basics before giving my thoughts and some things to bear in mind if you’re considering EVO:RAIL.

Briefly, what is EVO:RAIL?

evorailThere’s no point in rediscovering the wheel so I’ll simply direct you to Julian Wood’s excellent series;

As of October 2014 there are now eight qualified OEM partners although beyond that list there’s very little actual information available yet. Most of the vendors have an information page but products aren’t actually shipping yet and it’s difficult to know how they’ll differentiate and compete with each other. Several partners already have their own offerings in the converged infrastructure space so it’ll be interesting to see how well EVO:RAIL fits into their overall product portfolios and how motivated they are to sell it (good thoughts on that for EMCHP, and Dell). Unlike their own solutions, the form factor and hardware specifications are largely fixed so it’s going to be management additions (ILO cards, integration with management suites like HP OneView etc), service, and support that vary. For partners without an existing converged offering this is a great opportunity to easily and quickly compete in a growing market segment.

Things to note about EVO:RAIL

In my ‘introduction to converged infrastructure’ post last year I listed a set of considerations – let’s run through them from an EVO:RAIL perspective;

Management. The hyperconverged nature should mean improved management as VMware (and their partners) have done the heavy lifting of integration, licencing, performance tuning etc. EVO:RAIL also offers a lightwieght GUI for those that value simplicity while also offering the usual vSphere Web Client and VMware APIs for those that want to use them.However this is a converged appliance and that comes with some limitations – you can manage it using the new HCIA interface or the Web Client but it comes with its own vCSA instance so you can’t add it to an existing vCenter without losing support. It won’t use VUM for patching (although it does promise non-disruptive upgrades) although you can add the vCSA to an existing vCOps instance.

Simplicity. This is the strongest selling point in my opinion – EVO:RAIL is a turnkey deployment of familiar VMware technology. EVO:RAIL handles the deployment, configuration, and management and you can grow the compute and storage automatically as additional appliances are discovered and added. As the technology itself isn’t new there’s not much for support staff to learn, plus there’s ‘one throat to choke’ for both hardware and software (the OEM partner). Some people have pointed out that it doesn’t even use a distributed switch, despite being licenced with Ent+. Apparently the choice of a standard vSwitch was because of a potential performance issue with vDS and VSAN, which eventually turned out not to be an issue. Simplicity was also a key consideration and VMware felt there was no need for a vDS at this scale. I imagine we’ll see a vDS in the next iteration.

Flexibility. This is probably the biggest constraint for customers – it’s a ‘fixed’ appliance and there’s limited scope for change. The hardware and software you get with EVO:RAIL is fixed (4 nodes, 192GB RAM per node, no NSX etc) so even though you have a choice of who to buy it from, what you buy is largely the same regardless of who you choose. There is currently only one model so you have to scale linearly – you can’t buy a storage heavy node or a compute heavy node for example. EVO RAIL is sold 4 nodes at a time and the SMB end of the market may find it hard to finance that kind of CAPEX. As mentioned earlier the partner is responsible for updates (firmware and patching) – you won’t be able to upgrade to the new version of vSphere until they’ve validated and released it for example. Likewise you can’t plug in that nice EMC VNX you have lying around to provide extra storage – you have to use the provided VSAN. Flexibility vs simplicity is always a tradeoff!

Interoperability/integration. In theory this is a big plus for EVO:RAIL as it’s the usual VMware components which have probably the best third party integration in the market (I’m assuming you can use full API access). Another couple of notable integration requirements;

  • 10GB networking (ToR switch) is a requirement as it’s used to connect the four servers inside the 2U form factor given the lack of a backplane. You’ll need 8 ports per appliance therefore. I spoke to VMware engineers at VMworld on this and was told VMware looked for a 2u form factor where they could avoid this but couldn’t. Many SMB’s have not adopted 10GB yet so it’s a potential stumbling block – of course partners may use this opportunity to bundle 10GB networking which would be a good way to differentiate their solution.
  • IPv6 is required for the discovery feature used when more EVO:RAIL appliances are added. This discovery process is proprietary to VMware though it operates much like Apple’s Bonjour and apparently IPv6 is the only protocol which works (it guarantees a local link address).

Risk. This is always a consideration when adopting new technology but being a VMware backed solution using familiar components will go a considerable way to reducing concern. VSAN is a v1.0 product, as is HCIA although as that’s simply a thin wrapper around existing, mature, and best of breed components it’s probably safe to say VSAN maturity is the only concern for some people (given initial teething issues). Duncan Epping has a blogpost about this very subject but his summary is ‘it’s fully supported’ so make sure you know your own comfort level when adopting new technology.

Cost.  A choice of partners is great as it’ll allow customers to leveraging existing relationships. It’s worth pointing out that you buy from the partner so any existing licencing agreements (site licences etc) with VMware probably won’t be applicable. At VMworld I was told VMware have had several customers enquire about large orders (in the hundreds) so it’ll be interesting to see how price affects adoption. I don’t think this is really targeted at service providers and I’ve no idea how pricing would work for them. Having spent considerable time compiling orders, having a single SKU for ordering is very welcome!

Pricing

Talking of pricing, let’s have a look at ballpark costs. I’ve heard, though not been officially quoted, a cost of around €150,000 per 4 node block (or £120,000 for us Brits). This might seem high but bear in mind what you need;

UPDATE: 30th Nov – I realised I’d priced in four Supermicro chassis, rather than one, so I’ve updated the pricing.

  • Hardware. Let’s say approx £11k per node, so £45k for four nodes ie. one appliance (this is approx – don’t quote!);
    • Supermicro FatTwin chassis (inc 10GB NICs) £3500 (one chassis for all four nodes)
    • 2 x E2620 CPUs £400 each
    • 12 x 16GB DIMMs (192GB RAM) = £2000
    • 400GB Enterprise SSD = £4500 (yep!)
    • Three 1.2TB 10k rpm SAS disks = £600 x 3 = £1800
    • …plus power supplies, sundries
  • Software. List pricing is approx £11k per node plus vCenter, so a shade under £50k
    • vCenter (vCSA) 5.5 = £2000
    • vSphere 5.5 = £2750 per socket = £5500 per node
    • VSAN v1 = £1500 per socket = £3000 per node
    • Log Insight = £1500 per socket = £3000 per node
  • Support and maintenance for 3 years on both hardware and software

Once pricing is announced by the partners we’ll see just how much of a premium is being charged for the simplicity, automation, and integration that’s baked in to the EVO:RAIL appliance. There are of course multitudes of pricing options – you could just buy four commodity servers and an entry level SAN but there’s not much value in comparing apples and oranges (and I only have so much time to spend on this blogpost).

UPDATE 1st Dec 2014 – Howard Marks has done a more detailed price breakdown where he also compares a solution using Tegile storage. Christian Mohn also poses a question and potential ‘gotcha’ about the licencing – worth a read.

Competition

VMware aren’t the first to offer a converged appliance – in fact they’re several years behind. The likes of VCE’s vBlock was first back in 2010 and that was followed by the hyperconverged vendors like Nutanix and Simplivity. As John Troyer mentioned on vSoup’s VMworld podcast, Scale Computing use KVM to offer an EVO:RAIL competitor at cheaper prices (and have done for a few years). Looking at Gartner’s magic quadrant for converged infra it’s a pretty crowded market.

Microsoft recently announced their Cloud Platform Services (Cloud Pro thoughts on it) which was developed with Dell (who are obviously keeping their converged options wide open as they’ve also partnered with Nutanix and VMware on EVO:RAIL). While more similar to the upcoming EVO:RACK it’s another validation of the direction customers are expected to take.

Final thoughts

From a market perspective I think VMware’s entry into the hyperconverged marketplace is both a big deal and a non-event. It’s big news because it will increase adoption of hyperconverged infrastructure, particularly in the SMB space, through increased awareness and because EVO:RAIL is backed by large tier 1 vendors. It’s a non-event in that EVO:RAIL doesn’t offer anything new other than form factor – it’s standard VMware technologies and you could already get similar (some would say superior) products from the likes of Nutanix, Simplivity and others.

Personally I’m optimistic and positive about EVO:RAIL. Reading the interview with Dave Shanley it’s impressive how much was achieved in 8 months by 6 engineers (backed by a large company, but none the less). If VMware can address the current limitations around management, integration, and flexibility, while maintaining the simplicity it seems likely to be a winner.

Pricing for EVO:RAIL customers will be key although not all of the chosen partners are likely to compete on price.

You can see our roundtable discussion on hyperconvergence at Tech Field Day Extra (held during VMworld Barcelona) below;

Further Reading

Good post by Marcel VanDeBerg and another from Victoriouss

Mike Laverick has a lot of useful material on his site, but as the VMware Evangelist for EVO:RAIL you’d expect that right! The guys over at the vSoup Podcast also had a chat with Mike.

A comparison of EVO:RAIL and Nutanix (from a Nutanix employee)

Good thoughts over at The Virtualization Practice

VMworld session SDDC1337 – Technical Deep Dive on EVO:RAIL (requires VMworld subscription)

Microsoft’s Cloud Platform System at Network World – good read by Brandon Butler

UPDATED 9th Dec – Some detail about HP’s offerings

UPDATED 16th Dec – EVO:RAIL differentiation between vendors

Categories: VMware Tags: , , ,

Reflections on VMworld 2014

October 27th, 2014 No comments
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VMworld 2014

A familiar sight – blue skies and the VMworld logo

Summary: A recap of the major announcement and my thoughts on both the announcements and the conference. It’s a long post because I use it as a personal record of thoughts – feel free to skim read!

Like last year I arrived in Barcelona on the Sunday so I had more time to settle in. This was my first conference as a VMware Partner but unfortunately Monday, Partner day, was a bit of a wash out for me due to some registration issues which preventing me getting into the sessions (and lunch!). I probably need to allow myself some time to adjust my perspective and learn the partner side of the fence and it’s unfair to judge when I didn’t attend but looking at session titles most of the partner sessions appeared to be sales focused rather than roadmap or vision which would have interested me more.  I guess everyone’s interested in those so they become general sessions. Which brings me nicely to the keynote presentations….

The keynotes

I’ve come to accept and almost enjoy the reality that Europe plays second fiddle to the US conference, which means the bulk of new announcement have already been made at the US show. My first ever blogpost was ranting about why the US show was the obvious one to attend but I now find I enjoy the gap as it gives me time to digest, investigate, and dwell on what’s new. It is a smaller show with less vendors, sessions etc but there’s still no way you can see or learn everything that’s on offer in the three or four days so it’s equally worth attending.

I think the buzz was a bit more balanced across the product suite this year. Two years ago felt like it was all about storage with the mass market adoption of caching, flash, scale out and hybrid arrays whereas last year was all about NSX. This year NSX was clearly still buzzing (top HOL by a mile) and storage continued it’s disruptive evolution (PernixData, VAIO, VSAN) but the announcement of EVO:RAIL got the most column inches. vCloud Air products, vRealize Automation adoption and some of the DevOps focus were also capturing plenty of the discussions and sessions. While VMware may be propping up ‘legacy’ applications until the Web 2.0/AWS crowd take over the world (;-)) it’s still a vibrant, exciting, and quick moving place – and therefore enjoyable!

I’ll recap the major announcements that caught my eye. When you look past the vRealize rebranding itself there are new releases – though most aren’t available until later this year (not too long to wait though);

  • SDDC (core infra)
    • EVORAIL smallEVO:RAIL (and later EVO:RACK) will allow VMware’s partners to compete with the existing hyperconverged vendors, while also selling more VMware licences.
    • vSphere 6 was NOT released but continues as an open beta. I’m on the beta and there are some great new features on the way (vSMP could be a game changer, vVOLs are an improvement but have taken too long to arrive) but this is somewhat overdue given VMware’s previous two year per major release lifecycle.
    • NSX 6.1 was announced (and released). NSX continues to grab mindshare but I think it’s going to be a long adoption cycle (as I’ve written previously).
  • Hybrid cloud
    • vCloud Air continues to evolve at a rapid pace. New services such as vRealize Air Mobile and vRealize Air Automation are the first to be announced but more will no doubt show up in short order.
    • vRealize Automation is being released on an aggressive six monthly release cycle which everyone is struggling to keep up with but it reflects the importance VMware attach to this product.
  • dockerMisc
    • VMware purchased CloudVolumes and rebranded it to AppVolumes. I first came across this technology last year via CloudCast episode 87 which is worth a listen as background. Interesting stuff and one to watch.
    • Docker integration was announced (the cynics would say to keep the DevOps crowd happy).  I agree that containers and VMs complement each other but I think containers are still a threat to VMware  in some use cases – after all containers run on any hypervisor so they level the playing field somewhat and containers without VMware are largely free….

If you want them all Latoga Labs have posted a comprehensive list of announcements at the US conference and you can supplement it with this list of announcements at Barcelona.

Reading between the lines – my thoughts

VMware’s entry in the hyperconverged space is both a big event and a non-event. It’s big news because it will increase adoption of hyperconverged infrastructure, particularly in the SMB space, through increased awareness and because EVO:RAIL is backed by large vendors. It’s a non-event in that EVO:RAIL doesn’t offer anything new other than form factor – it’s standard VMware technologies and you could already get similar (some would say superior) products from the likes of Nutanix and Simplivity and others. I’ll be posting my (generally positive) thoughts on EVO:RAIL soon (now posted).

NSX is here to stay. A cutdown version, NSX Lite, looks set to become a core part of vSphere at some point in the future, probably towards the end of 2015 (my guess). It may not have mass market adoption yet but there’s a lot of interest and actual customer deployments. It’s already baked into vCloud Air and will be part of the EVO:RACK stack when it’s released. VMware are clearly ‘betting the business’ on NSX succeeding.

The introduction last year of VMware’s own vCloud Hybrid Service, now known as vCloud Air (part of this year’s rebrand) makes it clear that even VMware’s partners weren’t keeping up so VMware have decided to compete their own way and create a public cloud where they can integrate the latest and greatest on a schedule they control. For some partners this evolution may be a challenge in the long term (is there still enough scope for adding value?) but for now it seems the partner network is alive and well. vCloud Air feels already gets as much focus from VMware as the vSphere suite, despite being only a year old, so I imagine we’ll see this pushed even more in the future. Whether they can really compete with the big four (AWS, Azure, Google, Rackspace) is yet to be seen – for Cloud IaaS VMware are still in the ‘niche’ quadrant according to Gartner.

Competition is forcing VMware’s hand. The tagline for this year’s conference was ‘No Limit’ and the keynote was peppered with references to being ‘brave’ (and last year’s tagline was a not too dissimilar ‘Deny convention’). I think VMware are trying to encourage their customers to accelerate their pace of adoption and change. In 2012 I wrote about customers struggling to keep up and still think it’s a problem today. Likewise competition is forcing VMware to release products throughout the year rather than at the conference. Five years ago everything was released at VMworld whereas the last few major releases have come outside conference time – VSAN, vCHS, even the vSphere 6 beta. VMworld is still a great marketing platform but major releases can now arrive at any time of year.

I’ve not very familiar with OpenStack but VMware’s development of an OpenStack distribution feels like they’re hedging their bets. If OpenStack adoption increases VMware have a stake in it and if not then there’s less competition. Time (and more educated folks) will tell.

This year I noted more of my peers developing code (for vRealize Automation – OK, vCAC) than ever before. vCenter Orchestrator has been ‘the best kept secret’ for about four years but the swing towards ‘infrastructure as code’ is actually taking hold in VMware-land.

Breakout Sessions/Hands On Labs

hols2014

The HOLs were as popular as always

I only attended a few sessions this year – frankly I don’t know where the four days went! As all the sessions are online after the event I don’t prioritise them as much as I probably should, given that I rarely find time to watch them later! I was also more focused on work related technologies rather than new features as I was attending on company time rather than on my own time.

  • Site Recovery Manager 101: What’s New (BCO2394) – this was an introductory session which frankly I attended my mistake! I did learn a few new things and there was a nice tip at the end to check out another session (BCO1916.2 – Site Recovery Manager and Stretched Storage: Tech Preview of a New Approach to Active-Active Data Centers) which was covering a new SRM use case in combination with a MetroCluster. I didn’t have time to catch that session live but will be downloading it later.
  • Multi-Site Data Center Solutions with VMware NSX (NET1974 ). When I attended the NSX ICM course there was a lot of discussion around NSX being a single datacentre solution so I was curious what this session was going to cover. This was a great session, and covered both enterprise and cloud use cases and was surprisingly easy to digest for a complex topic – that’s the sign of a good speaker (Ray Badavari). Well worth a watch.
  • Veeam Availability suite v8 deep dive (STO2905-SPO). This session highlighted the new features in the upcoming v8 release along with some useful best practices. The failover plans look useful (very similar to SRM failover plans) and I can see a use case for SureReplica (test/dev sandbox for replica VMs) although many of the other features are just ‘nice to have’ rather than revolutionary – WAN acceleration for replication jobs (backup-copy jobs only in v7), network traffic encryption, Netapp integration etc.

I only found time for a few labs although I did find them useful (see also the full list of HOLs available in Barcelona). You can now take these labs online.

  •  HOL-SDC-1423 – vCloud Suite Networking. I need to improve my networking knowledge and getting more familiar with vCNS and NSX is high on my list. I found this lab hard going – not technically difficult, just boring! Note to self – don’t take labs at the end of a long day when tired as it’s not productive!
  • HOL-SDC-1428 – VMware EVO:RAIL Introduction. I enjoyed this lab, simple though it is. It gives you a chance to get hands on with the simple GUI available with the EVO:RAIL.
  • HOL-SDC-1429 – Virtual Volumes Tech Preview. This provided hands experience and helped me understand how actually administering vVol’s might work rather than just the theory of how they advance profile based management. Now we just have to wait for vSphere6 to be released…

The Solutions Exchange

chad at vmworld

Chad Sakacc pulls in the crowds

I didn’t make it to the vendor side of VMworld until late Wednesday and even then I spent less time than in previous years. The usual vendor enticements were on offer although I felt like the gimmicks and giveaways were slightly abated this year – less iPads, more t-shirts. This is a good thing, provided they can also provide technical information! I challenge myself every year to ‘take the pulse’ of the vendor ecosystem – who’s new, who’s thriving, who’s struggling, who’s going to be the next big thing? This year I thought the developments in the I/O path were one to watch so I checked out a few related vendors;

  • Pernix Data. I first saw these guys via Storage Field Day 3 back in April 2013 – that might not seem too long ago but in this industry it’s an age.Their ‘flash virtualisation platform’ is a read and write cache which operates across distributed hosts in a cluster to accelerate your I/O. I’ve also met with their CTO Satyam Vaghani on several occasions as I’m always impressed but both their technology and ambitions. Along with Proximal Data (who I saw at SFD2) these companies have been talking about the I/O path’s potential for a couple of years. There’s a reason it’s called a platform not just a product. Prior to VMworld this year PernixData launched v2.0 of their FVP platform which includes using RAM as a distributed cache. Good stuff!
  • Diablo Technologies. These guys deliver ultraDIMMs which essentially embed storage into your existing DIMM slots, facilitating blazing fast access in the process. In this thoughful introduction to Diablo by Justin Warren he tackles the technology and possible use cases. It’s certainly an interesting idea but are there enough use cases? I was hoping to see Diablo at TechFieldDay Extra but sadly they presented on the Thursday when I couldn’t attend – time to watch the videos I guess.
  • SanDisk. I spoke to FlashSoft (a division of SanDisk) back in 2012 when server side SANs were just getting started and PernixData etc were just coming out of stealth. Since then server-side caching has grown in popularity and this year SanDisk have partnered with VMware on the upcoming VAIO filters. FlashSoft never stuck me as the most popular flash cache solution so it’s interesting that VMware choose them as a partner. I wonder what this opening up of the APIs means to PernixData?

Here’s some further info and thoughts on some of these developments from Chris Wahl, Niels Hagoort, and Cormac Hogan. I was surprised that Proximal Data weren’t in attendance but their news page and twitter feed have been very quiet lately – maybe all is not well. I should also have spoken to Infinio and Atlantis Computing (as they operate in this space) but ran out of time.

For the first time (that I’m aware of) Oracle were in attendance. Given their licencing and certification/support stance on VMware it was brave to say the least! I’m familiar with their ‘converged’ infrastructure offering, the OVCA, having had some exposure to it at my previous employer but I didn’t find time to have a chat about it. I was surprised when Gartner put Oracle in the ‘leaders’ quadrant for converged infrastructure a few months ago (along with VCE, Netapp, and Cisco) but they must be doing something right. Whenever I mention OVM to anyone it gets short shrift though I’m not sure if that’s owing to actual knowledge or just because it’s ‘clever’ to bad mouth Oracle in the VMware world – personally I’ve never used OVM.

One of the interesting stands I always take time to visit is the VMware R&D team, now wrapped under the banner of ‘the office of the CTO’. They tend to pick a couple of ongoing projects and this year was no exception;

  • autoscaleAuto-scaling applications (Download the full PDF here).  I spoke to Xiaoyun Zhu who explained that they’re working on allowing applications to automatically scale out either vertically or horizontally based on a set of criteria. I remember trying to do something similar with dev/test environments and quickly found that while amending VMs is trivial that’s the tip of the iceberg – the application may need reconfiguring (buffers, caches etc) as will middleware and determining the ‘trigger’ for the initial memory upgrade is not always simple. How do you determine when to scale up vs out? What’s ‘typical’ performance for an app? What if only one tier in a multi-tier application needs to scale? What if scaling one tier has a knock on effect and you need to scale out every tier? The kind of machine learning used to create dynamic thresholds in vRealize Operations is probably being used here and I can see great value in the ability to adapt a whole application on the fly. On the other hand much can already be done with the publically available APIs and I can’t see how VMware would keep up with application revisions.  This was also on display last year with a slightly reduced scope so it’s obviously not a quick win!
  • http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00I9PVKKC/ref=s9_simh_gw_p351_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=0R9D23NVWYH3S7MY7NPV&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=455344027&pf_rd_i=468294High Performance Computing (Download the full PDF here). The last release of vSphere came with some specific features aimed at low latency applications but they come with considerable constraints to core features like vMotion. VMware aren’t resting on their laurels and are continuing to find ways of supporting low latency without constraints. High Performance Computing refers to Grid Computing and is often used in the sciences where crunching large numbers is commonplace. I had a good chat about the challenges and progress with Josh Simons from the HPC division.
    In these environments milliseconds count – if you want to understand why and enjoy a good read try Michael Lewis’s FlashBoys which tells the story behind high frequency trading! I read this on the flights to and from Barcelona so it won’t take too long but is recommended.

I also visited the VMware shop and found the selection of books now available to be very sobering! Compared to the early days of VMware there’s been an explosion in the complexity and breadth of topics you need to know. Two books caught my eye and are now on my Xmas wishlist – Cloud Computing by Thomas Erl  and cloud networking by Gary Lee.

Community Events

The blogger/community lounge (where I spent quite a bit of time) was nicely placed near the hands on labs and by the hang space. The vBrownBags (US agenda and sessions, Barcelona agenda), Engineers Unplugged (with guests Nick Howell and Gabriel Chapman), and VMworld TV crews were all in attendance doing their thing although sadly theCube wasn’t present as they only cover the larger US show. Lots of good content as always but sadly I missed this year’s vSoup VMworld podcast due to a clash with TechFieldDay Extra. This is the first time I’ve missed it since it started running in 2011. Instead they got John ‘the dude’ Troyer as a guest so it’s probably safe to assume I’ve lost my place for next year! Sad panda. :-(

TFDx

Yours truly debating EVO:RAIL

Taking my own advice I also went to the Meet an Expert sessions and had a couple of one on one sessions with VMware experts (Ninad Desai and Gurusimran Khalsa). This gave me the chance to put my question about the future of vCD directly to VMware staff although I had to go through quite a few people before I found someone who could give me a satisfactory answer (thanks Scott Harrison)! I’ve got a blogpost in the offing about this particular topic.

They often run one in the US but for the first time GestaltIT ran the TechFieldDay Extra event at the EMEA conference and I was invited as a delegate. I only saw two sponsors (X-IO and VMTurbo) as I could only attend one afternoon but both were interesting and as always there were good conversations both on and off camera with the other delegates (Andrea Mauro, Joep Piscaer, Arjan Timmerman, Marco Broekken, Martin Glassborrow, Nigel Poulton, Eric Ableson, Hans De Leenheer, & José Luis Gómez). It was fairly brief compared to a full event over a few days but still enjoyable and nice to meet a few new people who I’ve followed on twitter for a while. I was familiar with VMTurbo but X-IO were new to me – I’ll be posting my thoughts on both shortly. There was also a roundtable discussion on converged infrastructure which centred on EVO:RAIL – you can check out the videos by clicking on the logos below;

VMTurboLogoSm                             XIO-logo-wpcf_100x43

baby VMworld

For my 5 week old VCDX in the making…

I watched a few of the vBrownBag sessions – one on SSO by Frank Buechsel (@fbuechsel) and another good one from Gabriel Chapman on converged infra which was commendable for including actual customer numbers. I also caught, more by chance than design, the vExpert daily which is always fun if not overly informational. The vBrownbag sessions felt a bit unloved stuck to the side of the hangspace and I wonder if it wouldn’t be better within the Solutions Exchange, given that people are used to watching presentations there? I expect that wouldn’t work as it would have cost implications. I should also mention the portable whiteboard I got from vBrownBag – maybe it’s a novelty but at least potentially useful! The vBrownBag sessions were recorded and are all online via their YouTube page.

I didn’t party as hard this year as I’ve got a newborn at home so sleep (and a VMware vest!) was more of a priority – I skipped the vExpert/VCDX party, the Veeam party, and the official VMworld party. It also gave me a chance to write up notes, something I’d promised myself I’d do a better job of. I did kickstart the conference with the vRockstar party at the Hard Rock Cafe, which was great. I’ve got to know a lot of people over the last five years and it’s great to have a catch up over a drink and some tech chat. I spent much more time chatting about industry trends and canvassing opinion than previous years. I did make the PernixData party (great venue) and had a good chat with Ather Beg from Xtravirt and Chris Dearden, Ricky El-Qasem from Veeam and Canopy Cloud respectively.

UPDATE: 12th Nov

I also spent some time recording some sessions for VMware EMEA, talking people through what to expect at VMworld. It makes me cringe seeing myself on camera (that’s why I’m a blogger – I can write rather than talk) but you can watch it on the official VMware blog.

VMware certification exams – 25% discounts (2014 offer)

October 13th, 2014 No comments
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Igreenf you’re in the market to take a VMware certification exam, there’s some good news – provided you’re quick. For the next couple of days (while VMworld Barcelona is running, Oct 13th-17th 2014) you can book the VCP and VCAP exams at a cool 25% offeven if you’re not at the conference! This isn’t quite as good as last year’s 50% discount but every little helps. If you want to blitz some of the new certification tracks recently announced you’re not limited to just one – study your little legs off and you could save even more by taking multiple exams….

The codes you need to register with are;

  • 2014VW25 – for the VCP exams (VCP-DV, VCP-DT,VCP-Cloud,VCP-NV)
  • 2014VWADV25 – for the VCAP exams (VCAP-DCA, VCAP-DCD, VCAP-CID, VCAP-CIA, VCAP-DTD, VCAP-DTA, VCIX-NV)

Conditions:

  • You MUST book the exam while VMworld Barcelona is running. You don’t have to be attending the conference, it’s just the period of time the offer is valid.
  • You MUST take the exam by the end of the year.

What are you waiting for? Head over to VMware Certification and get registered certification junkies!

Categories: VMware Tags: , ,

Making the most of VMworld Barcelona 2014

September 30th, 2014 No comments
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vmworld2014-tag-cloud

Tag cloud generated from the content catalogue of VMworld 2014

In just under two weeks I’m heading to Barcelona for VMworld Europe. This will be my fifth year attending and I thought I’d pass on my recommendations for making the most of the conference. This isn’t a ‘book flights, wear trainers, collect swag’ kind of blogpost – remember, it’s a conference, nothing more, nothing less. Don’t be bamboozled by the hype.

1. Prepare in advance

  1. Review what was announced at VMworld in August (here, here, and here via Brian Gracely, Kyle Hilgendorf, & LatogaLabs respectively) so you don’t waste your time rediscovering the wheel. While the European show is playing second fiddle we do at least have the advantage that useful analysis is now available (thoughts on EVO:RAIL, Why VAIO will change everything, and thoughts on the Docker and Openstack announcements).
  2. Before you go reach out to people with similar interests and arrange to meet them, even if it’s informal over breakfast or a beer in the evening. The VMworld schedule builder lists speaker details and most people are easy to find via Twitter or LinkedIn and most are more than happy to engage with people (that’s why they’re speakers after all).
  3. Watch some of the VMworld sessions which are online from the US show in August. If you’ve booked time in your schedule for one of those sessions it’s time you can reuse more productively. Watching sessions in advance gives you more time to soak up new information and lets you think of questions to ask while at the conference.
  4. Write a blogpost on getting the most out of the conference and publish it. :-)

2. Spend your time doing the stuff you can only do at the conference.

  1. There’s lots of opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and make some excellent contacts, but it’s also quite easy to waste time either intentionally or unintentionally (late night parties take their toll). Most sessions are recorded, the keynotes are usually a repeat of the US keynotes with minor updates, and the lazy web provides deeper insight a few days later when full details emerge and people have had time to digest everything.
  2. If you go to sessions, ask questions! Some are designed to be interactive and watching a recording afterwards may not have the same value as participating – the vExpert Storage Game Show (STO2997-STO) and Ask the Expert vBloggers (SDDC1176) are good examples.
  3. The group discussions are an organised goldmine. Go to them and discuss.
  4. There are 50% discounts on taking certification exams during VMworld Europe, but the VCAP ones take a half day each which is valuable time lost.

3. Interact 

  1. The most valuable use of your time is speaking to people who have the same needs as you, along with product experts. The calibre of people at VMworld is second to none, though finding them among the thousands of attendees can be a challenge. See above point about preparation!
  2. Engage with the community via the vBrownBag sessions, TechFieldDay Extra (featuring yours truly),  the bloggers area and the hangspace.
  3. Join the VMUG organisation and find your local VMUG –  you’ll be glad you did.
  4. Tweet, blog, chat, drink!

4. Stay focused during the conference

  1. Set yourself an agenda and know what you want to achieve before you go. Maybe you want it to be a networking event where you meet up with old friends and share a beer, or maybe you want to focus on using the three or four days to soak up new information. Stick to it.
  2. You will suffer information overload during the event. Compensate by taking notes and make clear actions for follow up when you get home.
  3. Follow up when you get home. I have several folders of info, contacts, things to do etc from previous years and I haven’t always used them. That’s wasted opportunities.

More information about what, when, why, along with social media, parties etc can be found on Andrea Mauro’s comprehensive blogpost.

If you haven’t already it’s not too late to register!banner-eu-registerNow

Note that this link will let VMware know you registered via my blog, which may (or may not!) help me get kudos with their social media program in the future. Registrations much appreciated!

Categories: VMware, VMworld Tags: ,

Thoughts on VMware’s NSX ICM course

September 26th, 2014 No comments
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trainingSummary: My thoughts on the new NSX Install, Configure, Manage (ICM) course, based on sitting the beta course (the usual beta caveats therefore apply).

Back in June I sat the beta of the VMware NSX Install, Configure, Manage course at VMware’s head office (at Frimley in the UK) and I thought it would be worth detailing my thoughts and experiences now that the course is publically available. This post won’t describe the course agenda in detail as you can read the official course description (along with prices, booking info, schedules etc) but from a quick look at the agenda I’d say the content hasn’t changed much.

Do I need to be a network guru?

Before booking the course, my first concern was the target audience. For those unfamiliar with my background I’m a compute and storage guy, not a network guru, so I was curious how well I’d cope with the networking material. I spoke to the trainer in advance (Paul McSharry, who I knew from my Design Workshop a few years ago) who advised that CCNA equivalent knowledge would be fine, and even pulled a few strings to add an extra place and get me on the course after it filled up. Thanks Paul! :-)

Although the intended audience is described as “Experienced system administrators that specialize in networking” we were told that VMware are targeting the course at vSphere admins, not network admins (apparently there will be a different course released in the future). This is borne out via the official, minimal,  prerequisites listed below which have very little network focus;

  • System administration experience on Microsoft Windows or Linux operating system
  • Understanding of concepts presented in the VMware Data Center Virtualization Fundamentals course for VCA-DCV certification

Despite meeting those quite happily I found some sections challenging, particularly around VXLAN. Knowledge of network overlay concepts, and VXLAN in particular, is essential. I’ve done lots of work with vSphere but not much with vCloud, so hadn’t really worked with VXLAN in any depth and there’s a lot of terminology to understand – VTEP, UTEP, MTEP, and LIF to mention a few. VXLAN is also used in Cisco’s competing ACI product (as explained by Gary Kinghorn from Cisco) so it’s well worth learning even if you’re not going down the NSX route. Some background knowledge of routing protocols such as OSPF and BGP etc would also be beneficial. If you’ve worked with the vCNS interface, you’ll have a good headstart as NSX looks very similar.

What does the course cover?

The course content is 50% instructor led and 50% lab time and in summary covers the following topics (much of the content is available publically, and for free, on various blog series – see my links at the bottom for more info);

  • NSX Manager/controllers/clusters
  • NSX Edge Gateway appliances (basically upgraded vShield Edge)
  • Logical switching, routing, VPNs, load balancers, and firewalls (including microsegmentation)

nsx-featuresFor me the biggest benefit was access to hands on experience with NSX – unless you’re lucky enough to work with it via your company the only option is the two online HOLs (NSX for vSphere and NSX for multi-hypervisors). I believe access will become more widespread soon but it’s been frustrating many people while they wait for access to a product that’s supposedly GA.

In my case I was very lucky to have an exceedingly well educated bunch on the course with me, including Michael Haines (who works for VMware and helped create the vCloud Architecture Toolkit among other publications) and some guys who were doing the bootstrap program towards the VCDX-NV. This stimulated some great debate and meant someone in the room could answer any question I threw at them (probably in their sleep). Most courses won’t benefit from this level of expertise but it’s always worth learning from other candidates on courses regardless.

The 17 labs do a good job of slowly building up an internal network, adding multiple networks with routing, integrating it with external networks and adding VPNs, firewalls etc. As you’d expect it showcases the flexibility enabled by virtualising networks, such as the ability to move L3 networks around and microsegmentation (a killer feature say VMware). I found the labs short on context and too focused on ‘click here, type this’ rather than scenerio based – you weren’t always encouraged to think about what you were achieving and why. Overall I enjoyed the labs and felt they were very useful.

Disappointingly there was minimal coverage of the multi-hypervisor version of NSX – our instructor dug out an NSX-MH (multi-hypervisor) introduction document (including a feature comparison) for us but it would have been nice to see more included upfront.

One noticeable change compared to previous courses is the use of online course notes, rather than a printed book. The notes are provided to you before the course starts (which is good) although you do need to install an application (rather than cloud availability) which is not so good. Like most people on the course I’d taken a laptop which allowed me to have the course manual on one screen while you work on the provided desktop, much like the VMworld HOLs. Personally I still prefer a printed book that I can stick on a shelf. A year from now when I want to reference something from the course I probably won’t be able to find the application/content (VitalSource Bookshelf) because I’ll have a new laptop etc, whereas a book would still be sitting on a shelf. That’s because I’m an old dog though – your mileage may vary! ;-)

Obviously this course is also the recommended learning path if you’re intending to take the new VCP-NV certification. If you’re already a VCP then the course is optional. I’m not sure if I’ll bother taking this exam as aside from the course I’m not using NSX day to day but if you are Paul has created a series of multiple choice NSX quizzes in similar style to a VCP exam – it’s worth taking to test your knowledge after the course. A couple of people have written up their VCP-NV exam experiences here, here, and here. There are aslo some videos over at the vBrownBag site covering objective 1 and objective 2 and I’m sure there’s more to come.

Final thoughts

I think it’s well worth taking the course even if you’re not a network guru. As the virtualisation landscape has evolved everyone has needed to learn more about compute, storage, and networking and this looks likely to continue. I’ve heard that vCNS (in many ways a predecessor of NSX) is no longer being developed and that going forward NSX (in some form) will be the core networking component for vSphere. If that’s the case then everyone needs to be familiar with it, just as they need to understand vSwitches today.

Having said that I can’t see it being a quick adoption for NSX, and therefore there’s no immediate requirement to learn the product. VMware are promising that NSX will simplify your operations, but in the short term that’s not what I see. You’ll likely be running NSX plus ‘legacy’ physical networks for a long time, plus NSX will lead to new management toolsets (think vCOPs for networking) and integration points which will take time to mature. You still need to adjust your underlying MTU settings and despite being part of the ‘software defined’ world some hardware issues will no doubt need to be tackled (think VSAN-like teething issues).

Having spent a bit more time with NSX I do now have a better understanding of where it fits. Most of the course delegates felt it was largely beneficial to large enterprises and service providers as the automation it enables requires coding and a high degree of competency. It’s also a bit rough round the edges – for example you have to have full administrator access in vCentre to use NSX, so forget delegating limited rights to your network team. Previously I’d thought NSX offered network virtualisation that would allow a layer 2 network to span datacentres (ie layer 3) but NSX only works within a single datacentre (largely a VXLAN limitation I believe). That’s set to change in the future apparently so watch this space.

As an incentive for early learners you get a 50% VCP-NV exam discount if you take the exam before the 19th of December.

Where to find more information on NSX

Most of the information in the course can already be found online (for free) although unless your company is deploying NSX, and you therefore have access to the binaries, hands on experience is limited to the two HOLs (NSX for vSphere and NSX for multi-hypervisors);

As a further alternative you can search Google for  SDN, NFV, NSX, OpenDaylight, Pyretic etc and say goodbye to any spare time for years to come….

Categories: Cloud, VMware Tags: , , , ,

Evolution of the IT Pro (staying relevant in 2014 and beyond)

June 9th, 2014 1 comment
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Bob-the-BuilderSummary: The IT function is becoming a broker of services but, until that happens, infrastructure engineers will likely to fall into the ‘builder broker’ camp – you’ll need to be able to ‘stitch together’ different services but you’ll also need to build them and understand what’s ‘under the hood’.

For a few years now infrastructure engineers have been hearing how cloud computing is going to change their jobs, potentially putting many out of work. Plenty has been written about whether this will result in a net gain or loss of IT jobs (here, here, and here plus in one my first blogposts I talked about changing roles) but whatever your stance it’s undeniable that the nature of IT jobs will change – technology never stands still for long.

This isn’t theoretical or a shift that’ll start in ten years – changes are happening right now.

Gartner recently identified ‘IT as a service broker’ in their top ten technology trends for 2014 and I’d agree with those that say skills such as virtualisation are no longer enough. Here’s a few things I’ve being asked for in the last few months which is why I’m adding my voice to the ‘service broker’ trend;

  • Knowledge of alternative virtualisation/cloud platforms. “Should we be considering Hyper-V? Openstack? Oracle VM?”
  • How can we integrate Amazon’s VPC with our internal dev/test environments?
  • If we buy into a third parties managed services, what’s the impact on our production platform and technology roadmap?

The news columns are filling up with articles about changing skillsets;

Still not convinced? VMware’s flagship cloud product, vCAC, exists to orchestrate resources across multiple clouds from AWS, RackSpace, Azure and others so this talk of ‘brokering’ across heterogeneous systems is also where VMware see the future.

The requirement for inhouse engineering expertise isn’t going to disappear overnight so you’ve got time to adjust, but for many the future may be more about integrating services together than building them.

How do you stay relevant?

That’s the million dollar question isn’t it? I’ve listed my opinions below although for alternative advice Steve Beaver wrote a great article for The Virtualization Practice at the end of last year (“Get off the hypervisor and into the cloud”) which mirrors my thoughts exactly. If I’d read it before writing this I probably wouldn’t have bothered!

  1. Focus on technical expertise. As the industry coalesces towards service providers and consumers the providers need the best people they can find as the impact (at scale) is magnified. Automation is a key trend for this role as self-service is a key tenet of cloud. Luckily, while ‘compute’ has already been disrupted by virtualisation both storage and network are just getting started which will generate demand for those who keep up with technology developments.
  2. Focus on becoming an IT broker. This means getting a wide knowledge of different solutions and architectures (AWS, VMware, OpenStack, understand SOA principles, federation, integration patterns etc) and know how to implement and integrate them. You’ll also have to get closer to the business and be able to translate business requirements such that you can satisfy them via the available services. Some would argue that this is crossing over to the role of a business analyst, and they may be right.

If you’re going to go deep on technology, go work for a vendor, ISP, or big IT consultancy (sooner rather than later).

If you’re going for the broker/business analyst role make sure you’re building up your business knowledge, with less focus on the low level nuts and bolts.

Pick one or the other, but don’t stand still. Taking my own advice I’ve just taken a role with a service provider. Let’s see how this plays out! :-)