North West England VMUG – Meeting Report

Yesterday was the summer get together of the North West England VMUG chapter at Rosylee in Manchester. A somewhat quirky venue, it offers an intimacy you don’t really get with other conference venues. We even had vRockstar Duncan Epping with us for the first time to cover off the latest and greatest in Virtual SAN. He seemed to like the venue too!

Although the event was planned as a vSphere 6.0 themed meeting, it seemed to err more towards the storage side of things. As well as event sponsors Pure Storage and Tegile, there were the usual sessions on “What’s New” and vNews. A new addition to the agenda was an “Ask the Experts” panel which seemed to work really well. Lots of questions about licencing! Anyway, without further ado..

VMware What’s  New – Ashley Davies


Long time chapter contributor Ashley Davies took us through the usual start of what’s new in the VMware world:-

– IT is in transition, stage 3 after mainframe and client/server
– New type apps coming to market like Uber etc
– How to bridge the two worlds between mobile and client server?
– VMware working on Cloud Native applications (docker, containerisation etc.)
– Photon and Lightwave are the first steps on the container engine development track
– Lightwave is the SSO solution, SAML, Kerberos, LDAP, OAuth, scalable architecture, multi tenant
– Open sourced both items
– Increased scalability in vSphere 6, at least x2 on everything
– Windows vCenter now same scalability as the appliance, VCSA supports Postgres and external Oracle
– Long distance vMotion, up to 150ms latency – migrations, disaster avoidance, multi site load balancing
– Fault Tolerance now up to 4 vCPU, requires 10Gbps networking
– Instant Clone – rapid cloning, Horizon View integration coming
– Data Protection based on Avamar and included from Essentials Plus and above
– Content Library – store and sync VMs, ISOs, templates
– NVIDIA GRID vGPU integration
– Enterprise Plus customers get Integrated OpenStack for free, but support is a paid option

Tegile Systems – Aaron Bell


We then had a session with Tegile, who are a storage startup with a presence in the UK.  Main points of the presentation were:-

– All Flash or Hybrid solution – Same O/S using IntelliFlash
– NAS and SAN protocols out of the box, block and file from the same system
– De dupe and compression (inline)
– Hybrid storage array for price per gig, all flash for performance
– Founded in 2010, launched Feb 2012
– 800+ mid-range enterprise customers
– 1900+ systems deployed
– Privately owned – Sandisk and Hitachi backed
– Best of VMworld 2012, Cisco, Citrix and VMware certified
– Partner with Microsoft, Oracle, Veeam and Zerto
– Citrix develop on Tegile, Apple develop iWorld on the platform
– Ferrari and McLaren
– 85% data reduction in VDI deployments, 10x performance improvement
– Boot and login storm mitigation
– Databases 33% data reduction
– Server virtualisation 50% data reduction, 5x 7 x performance improvement
– Hot data cached into top two layers of storage
– 5-10x less cooling
– 5-10x less power
– WAN efficient replication, just replicating new and changed blocks
– Set up ad hoc or automatic replication
– Web UI management
– REST API for automation, no Orchestrator plugin right now
– SCVMM support for Hyper-V (coming in next few weeks in new OS release)
– vCenter plugins available
– Call home alerts
– Opt in cloud analytics reports back twice daily and customer can access performance trends. Tipping point analysis not jusy yet
– VVol support on the way, September time. Native support, not an appliance
– IntelliCare Flash 5 guarantee

An interesting takeaway from the session was that the support/maintenance costs are flat across the five year term, making budgeting a whole lot easier. I’ve seen it previously where this figure can vary a great deal and really squeeze budgets. There is also an offer to replace the controllers in the array at the end of the five year term should you renew further past that. I didn’t note the full details, but I’d be happy to make any corrections where I’ve missed something off.

vRealize Operations 6.01- Matthew Steiner, VMware

Next up was Matthew Steiner with a session on what’s new with vRealize Operations Manager 6.01 (the product formerly known as vCenter Operations Manager). Although I’ve only had a quick play with it, it seems my assumption that it wouldn’t be a big change from 5.x was quite a common mistake. Even Matt admitted it took him a little time to get used to some of the differences.

Key points from the session:-

– vROPs 6 major change from 5.x series
– Don’t stand it up against a lab environment, can’t see the value. Needs to see “real world” examples
– Analytics, adapters, management packs and collections still the same
– Badges still the same (Health, Workload, Risk), numbers gone
– Dashboards and widgets still the same, super metrics
– Linux appliance or Windows
– Completely rewritten and re-architected from the ground up, 2 years development
– Single VM deployment, no longer Analytics and GUI VM
– Gemfire – in memory database
– Clustering – scale up, out, in, HA
– Scales to 64K VMs
– Use VCM to harden your hosts against hardening guidelines
– Improved reporting engine (major complaint of the 5.x product, apparently)
– Capacity modelling across all objects
– Capacity projects can forward plan resources needed for a deployment
– Action Framework – Symptoms, Recommendations, Action


VSANs and VVols – “Goodbye SAN Huggers” – Duncan Epping, VMware


Next was the session from VCDX and all round vRockstar Duncan Epping. He took us through the current status of the Virtual SAN product, it’s capabilities and use cases. There were also some important notes from the field around ensuring the hardware you use is HCL certified and you don’t just cobble together any old junk and expect it to fly like an eagle. To the sea, presumably. (My words, not his. Well, Peter Frampton’s words. Well, you get the idea.)

– Disk I/O has to go through the through kernel anyway, so why not position Virtual SAN within the hypervisor?
– Enables workload awareness
– Storage policy based management (SPBM)
– PowerCLI, perl, python can be complex, policy driven via vCenter much easier, lower learning curve
– VVols provides a framework for third party vendors to use
– Policy based framework means engine knows best place to put VM based on features of VVol enabled storage (dedupe, compress, striped etc)
– Virtual SAN fully integrated with vSphere stack – DRS, HA, etc
– Brings data closer to compute
– Granular elastic scale out. More resource needed, add more Virtual SAN nodes
– Virtual SAN needs a minimum of three hosts, all three must contribute storage
– 10Gbps Ethernet preferred, dedicated VLAN for Virtual SAN traffic. 1Gbps works, but should you?
– Theoretical max of 9 PB per cluster based on current sizing
– Up to 90K IOPS per host, sub milli second latency
– Linear scaling across nodes, predictable performance gains as cluster scales out
– All flash or hybrid model with vSphere 6.0
– Zero data loss in the event of hardware failure – VM copies placed elsewhere in the cluster – If you build Virtual SAN node from HCL components, SKU list is big – Virtual SAN ready nodes from partners, pre-built and tested, single SKU
– EVO RAIL pre built hardware appliance, EVO RACK not yet available
– Always pick components from HCL, picking a good disk controller is key
– Dell FX 2 and IBM flex being certified
– Impact of any Virtual SAN changes shown in vSphere Web Client
– Virtual SAN is object based product. VM is an object and VMDK is a component
– Most customers using SAS drives
– 60 minute wait on failure before recopying component to another host
– Virtual SAN is maintenance mode aware
– Fault domains introduced in Virtual SAN 6.0 to make it rack aware
– Better performance on snapshot using Virsto technology
– Content based read cache (View Storage Accelerator) coming for server workloads
– Compression and dedupe on the way but issue is overhead on host in doing this
– Virtual SAN monitoring available in vCenter. VSAN observer? Management pack for vRealize Operations Manager on the way
– VDI is a good use case for Virtual SAN

Pure Storage – Adrian Clarke


First up my sincere apologies to Pure Storage. I didn’t capture many notes about the company and the product as I had to take a phone call and missed the vast chunk of your session. If anyone wants to provide a brief summary or a link to the slide deck, I’d be happy to post it on this blog. As much as I got was the following:-

– All flash storage solution
– Gartner magic quadrant leader
– All Flash Array with consumer SSDs, always on encryption and dedupe from 2011
– FlashArray M is the new product. 6 watts per TB, reduced number of cables
– 100TB in 3U – Product designed and manufactured from the ground up, so Pure control not only the software but the hardware also which is unique with this type of solution

VMware Certification Roadmap – Community Session

Next up was me! I was asked by Steve and Nathan (VMUG leaders) to do a presentation last year, but due to having to take a contract at short notice I had to let them down and I hated doing it. I was asked back a second time yesterday and delivered a session on VMware certification and the roadmap for version 6 of products. I hadn’t presented for a couple of years, and although a little apprehensive at the start, within a couple of minutes I got into my stride and actually felt fine. I think it probably helped that it wasn’t a presentation on storage!

A quick straw poll at the start of the session was really interesting. I asked for shows of hands as to who had VCA, VCP and VCAP. VCA had a few hands, VCP had lots of hands and VCAP had no hands! I was very surprised at this, I was expecting at least a couple! It seemed Duncan and I were the only two in the room that I could see.

Key takeaways from the session:-

– VCP certification has been going since 2003, there are now more than 100,000 worldwide
– VCAP introduced in 2010
– VCDX introduced in 2010, around 200 worldwide (of which Duncan is 007!)
– Traditionally, VCP requires one exam to pass the certification, but this requires the ICM course to be sat first
– As you rise up the “Pyramid of Power”, the bar goes higher and there are fewer candidates
– Differentiate yourself in the market by achieving higher levels of certification, pimp your LinkedIn profile – you have a 10 second window of opportunity to impress people looking at your profile!
– Traditionally, VCAP track has multiple skills (Cloud, DCV, Desktop) and design or admin tracks, this being simplified to Implementation Expert (VCIX). Two exams, one certification. Multiple VCIX grants “Elite Implementer” status which sadly current multiple VCAP holders can’t have!
– VCDX requires a panel defence of a design document, can result in hundreds of hours of work and can be expensive to get (£1500+)
– Achieving VCAP status helped me feel less intimidated about working with vRockstars at top partners such as Xtravirt, helps validate your skills to others
– VCP-NV (network virtualisation) exam is half price until the end of June
– If you plan on sitting an exam or two at VMworld, don’t bite off more than you can chew and leave yourself exhausted. VCAP exams are 3 hours plus

To finish off we had some vNews from Ashley Davies and a new addition to the agenda, “Ask the Experts” panel. There was a lot of good interaction between the panel and the audience, a few questions on licencing but a lot on Virtual SAN. Thanks to the VMware guys for doing this, and oiling them with a beer during the session obviously helped!


The next meeting is planned for Wednesday 9th September back at Rosylee, keep an eye on the chapter Twitter feed for further information.



The Open Road


I know I haven’t blogged for a while, but you’ll probably see now why. I recently left ANS to join a consulting and services company called Frontline Consultancy, who are another VMware partner in the North West. I realise I wasn’t at ANS too long, but to be honest, this new role was an opportunity not to be missed.

I wasn’t on the lookout for a new position, but it was nice to be spotted and once I found out what the role was about, I couldn’t say no. This blog has been EUC centric for quite a long time, and while there will still be some EUC content, I will be moving into a more general VMware space in terms of content. I’m headed back into the data centre and adding vCloud technologies to my bow (or vRealise, or whatever it’s called today!).

Obviously I’ve been doing DCV activities for some years, but cloud was the major missing piece of my personal skills jigsaw. Now I have the chance to close this gap and get involved with some automation projects that take me out of my comfort zone and force me to adapt once again. Ultimately, I do believe variety is the spice of life and as the picture above would suggest, the road is open for me and the chances appear to be limitless.

As I left ANS, they were recently awarded the Converged Infrastructure gong at the NetApp Partner awards, so they continue to go from strength to strength and I wish them well. As for my new role, it’s a good chance to for me to get stuck into a really high profile projects and become a better and more rounded techie.

One more thing, I have accepted the invitation to speak at next month’s North West England UK VMUG where I will be discussing the new VMware certification roadmaps and the recent changes made. Please do come along and give it a whirl, I believe we also have a vRockstar there in the shape of Duncan Epping. An event not to be missed! More details and registration are available at the event page. We’re back at Rosylee in Manchester, with the ubiquitous (and free) vBeers available afterwards.

Hope to see you there!



UK VMUG Event Review

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the fourth UK-VMUG annual conference at the National Motorcycle Museum in Solihull. For those that didn’t make it, I’ve put together an event review for your viewing pleasure. Apologies for the crapness of the pictures, taken with my phone unfortunately!


Joe Baguley Keynote


After a brief introduction from VMUG leader Alaric Davies, the day started with the now usual keynote from Joe Baguley, CTO for EMEA. This year the keynote was entitled “Rant as a Service” and after setting the scene for around 30 minutes, the key message is still around software defined enterprise. It was my interpretation that there was a small pop at a hyper converged company whose name may or may not contain nuts on the basis that EVO:Rail and EVO:Rack can give you the same level of support and performance without having to buy into a single vendor. I’ve been feeling for a while that there isn’t a lot of love lost between the two parties, and I don’t know if that’s true, but I don’t find it particularly helpful when constant implied barbs are being traded. Just my opinion!

The point of EVO:Rail is to have the infrastructure up and running within 15 minutes. The value here is that you can go to 8 partners and pick which stack and value add you want. It’s not a single vendor lock in as such, as most customers already have an existing relationship with the likes of Dell, etc. EVO:Rail is 2U in size and has four blades installed. Not dissimilar to Nutanix and UCS in that respect, though of course the UCS chassis has a larger form factor. For larger installations or special use cases such as VDI with NVIDIA graphics, the bigger EVO:Rack will be required.

One interesting line was the ongoing idea now that abstraction and obfuscation takes place in as much as key components such as disks and raid controllers are being replaced by software and public and hybrid cloud solutions. This of course is becoming transparent to the “end user” as we move towards a hybrid cloud type of world. If a disk controller fails, it’s OK, software can take care of that. Lose a data centre? That’s OK too, we’ll just move to another one in the background. I’m not sure we’re totally there with that one yet, but it’s an interesting concept none the less.

Then we had the discussion about what is “Enterprise Scale” these days? As consumer electronics demands increase exponentially (photo uploads, data requirements, data production, etc) then most things these days really are “Enterprise” grade as they have millions of people using them daily, not just the tens, hundreds or even thousands in an “enterprise” environment.

White boxes are also now are taking the place of large monolithic proprietary solutions. EVO:Rail again was mentioned as an example of this, where you get a pre-built, predictable and validated vSphere environment from whichever hardware vendor you prefer. The irony that you’re still locked into VMware technologies was missed at this point, but I think I see where the point is here.


VMworld Update – Julian Wood

I then went to the VMworld Update session with Julian Wood. One thing I’d have to say is that there was too much to fit in for 40 minutes. That’s not Julian’s fault – as he noted, once you look into it, there are so many product releases, updates and acquisitions to keep track of that you could spend all day talking about it! There was some discussion around the vRealise suite (I’m not spelling it with a “z”!),  what that means and how there is on and off premises solutions for that now. vRealise is essentially the management and automation tools bundled into a suite, so products such as vCloud Automation Center, Log Insight, vCenter Operations Manager etc.

CloudVolumes was also discussed, where applications are installed to a VMDK and then this VMDK is connected and presented to desktops in a fraction of the time it takes to do ThinApp etc. As I was listening to this, I started to think “what are the storage requirements though?  Read intensive, or are blocks cached.  How does this work?”. “Do we require any back end infrastructure such as MS-SQL etc.?”

On the EUC side, big strides continue to be made and VMware are really competing with Citrix in the application presentation stakes, as well as adding further improvements to the core View product, including Cloud Pods (or Linked Mode for View, as I like to call it!), where you can break the current scalability limits but also provide an additional site failover for virtual desktops if required, plugging one gap in the previous product set.

vSphere Futures – Duncan Epping

The next session was with Duncan Epping. His sessions are always well attended as he’s usually on the bleeding edge of what the company is doing internally, plus I’ve found him to be pretty honest in his responses to some issues that have cropped up, especially around Virtual SAN. I made quite a few notes around what was discussed, and it’s probably easier to break them down into bullet points:-

  • All flash Virtual SAN coming, to increase the configuration options for two slot blades, where currently you need flash for cache and spinning disk for content
  • Virtual volumes (VVols) policies coming that will based per VM
  • This functionality will be based on an array that supports virtual volumes
  • IO filters directly in the hypervisor for those arrays not VVol aware
  • Storage DRS VM IOPS reservations, so we can migrate workloads to other storage if reservations are not met
  • Storage DRS has better awareness of thin provisioning, dedupe and replication
  • Resource and Availability Service is a new web based tool that uses exported DRS settings to simulate failure of resources and ensure design is correct, validating such things as Admission Control settings
  • FT support for up to 4 vCPU
  • No more vLockstep or shared VMDK for Fault Tolerance,  10Gbps networking will be required
  • The ability to vMotion “anywhere”, requirement is that both vCenters must be in same SSO domain
  • vMotion has a 10ms latency tolerance now, working on 100ms tolerance for long distances
  • The vCenter Appliance will scale as well as Windows version now, and will be the future of vCenter releases
  • SQL server supported externally for the vCenter Appliance
  • Task pane will be coming into bottom of Web Client
  • Less nested right click options to make the Web Client interface cleaner
  • Task  concurrency, performance  charts and other features will be introduced into the Web Client
  • Linked Mode will be available for the vCenter Appliance
  • Content library for ISOs etc, replicated across sites. Also includes templates, OVFs etc. Same as Hyper-V Libraries, by the sounds of it


One very interesting thread was around Project Fargo. This in essence is a “re-imagining” of the snapshot process and will allow for the creation of Windows virtual machines in around 2 seconds. In the lab, Linux VMs were spun up in less than that, the overhead on the Windows side was mainly down to customisation and joining AD etc. Another way of thinking about it is “Linked Clones on steroids” in the sense that you have a parent virtual machine and lots of child virtual machines. Duncan’s blog entry as linked above goes into some good detail on what you can expect from this initiative.

Horizon View Architecture and Design – Barry Coombs & Peter Von Oven

I then went to the session by Barry Coombs and Peter Von Oven about Horizon View Design and Architecture. This session wasn’t really a “death by PowerPoint” session, but more a key points and brief discussion at a high level as to what you should be looking for in a good Horizon View design. There are always little nuggets or anecdotes that can be useful that maybe you haven’t come across before that only really come out of experience. One good point from this session was that you should never let the IT team speak on behalf of the end users, so in other words, don’t assume IT know necessarily what the user experience is like, because they can’t know every individual use case.

The key point of performing a desktop assessment phase and also a proof of concept was also re-iterated, and I can’t agree with this enough. To chat to IT and some end users is not enough. It’s useful as part of the whole engagement, but you also need key performance metrics and also a proof of concept to see what works and what doesn’t work. Think of a PoC as the first draft of a document that requires lots of iterations to get it “just right”. To perform a desktop assessment and some stakeholder interviews and then think you can roll an effective VDI environment first time out of the gate is total fantasy.

Any VDI deployment (whether it’s View or AN Other solution) should be an improvement on the current “physical” end user experience. Again this is a given. If you’re spending time and money replacing a solution people are familiar with and comfortable with, it needs to be visually an improvement on what they already have, or the solution will simply acquire a “bad name”. One interesting idea was the notion of having a “Departmental Champion” – an end user who wants to positively influence the outcome of the project. They can interface with other users and help cascade information and feedback backwards and forwards. This can give you a view inside the PoC that you would not normally have.

Some other brief points included not forgetting to factor in VM and graphics overhead when right sizing a solution, these are commonly forgotten about (guilty!) and user concurrency should be measured in advance. Generally I use the rule of thumb of 80% concurrency, but in an organisation that has shift patterns, this may not be appropriate. Make sure the solution scale!


EUC Update – Peter Von Oven

My next session was another EUC session, this time with Peter Von Oven from VMware. Again, a lot of key messages came out pretty thick and fast, so a bullet point summary is included below:-

  • VMware’s strategy is still the three pillar strategy of SDDC,  EUC and Hybrid Cloud
  • AppVolumes (formerly known as CloudVolumes) will be available in December
  • Horizon Workspace can disable icons based on physical location. It’s context aware in that sense. So for example, R&D portal is not accessible from Starbucks, but is from a corporate LAN
  • Horizon Workspace provides a central point of management
  • AppVolumes will be in the Enterprise Edition of Horizon View
  • View 6 makes it possible to co-exist and transition from XenApp environments
  • Windows 2008 or 2012 server required for RDSH Application Publishing, and can mix and match if required
  • Easier than upgrade to XenApp 7.5 in the sense that a new infrastructure does not need to be stood up
  • Seamless application remoting,  even on Mac
  • Use vCOps for View and do a 60 day assessment of your environment – though I’m not sure you get the same level of information as you do with say Stratusphere FIT
  • Use thin clients not zero for unified communications in VDI
  • Fully supported by Microsoft for Lync over PCoIP
  • Webcam and mic done using USB redirection
  • Use case for Thinapp is portability and isolation, AppVolumes for performance
  • Application catalogue allows user self service of applications, can remove after 30 days etc
  • Workspace Suite is Horizon + AirWatch, includes Horizon Advanced for Workspace
  • vGPU like Citrix,  coming Q1 next year – vGPU is covered here and is essentially dedicated hardware VGA acceleration but with the consolidation ratio of sVGA. Still uses NVIDIA driver for application validation and support
  • Horizon Flex out in December, delivers containerised desktops in much the same way as the old VMware ACE product
  • No dependency for Horizon Flex on Mirage at the back end
  • Requires Flex policy management server and provides time limits, grace period, remote lock and wipe, USB lock down, etc


Cisco and VMware – Chris Bashforth

For my final breakout of the day, I went to the Cisco partner presentation on UCS and VMware View. I have to say I didn’t find this session all that useful. I don’t know if it was due to the graveyard slot at the end of a long day or if it was just the general dryness of the topic, but I never really felt like the audience engaged with the speaker and the atmosphere fell a little flat. We were given a brief overview of UCS for those who have never seen it before and then a quick run through of the blade and chassis models available and which are recommended for VDI deployments.

I’m still quite new to UCS having been a HP guy all of my career, so there were some interesting items in there but I didn’t feel I got a lot out of this session and left a little disappointed. For those folks wanting to use NVIDIA GRID cards in their UCS deployments, you will need to use C class rackmount servers for this purpose, with two slots available per server for this purpose. B class blades are densely packed and simply do not have the space to accommodate this card.

One thing to correct is the speaker’s comment that NVIDIA vDGA will support 8 users per server – this isn’t true. Direct passthrough means that you connect the physical VGA card to the virtual desktop on a 1:1 basis. I can only assume he got mixed up with the upcoming vGPU which will be a similar passthrough arrangement, but with the ability to get a higher consolidation ratio of up to 8. If I misinterpreted these comments, please feel free to let me know.


Closing Keynote – Chris Wahl

The closing keynote was from Chris Wahl, industry legend and double VCDX. The force is strong with this one! The session was entitled “Don’t Be a Minesweeper”. I went into the session wondering what the correlation was between stealing bits of beer from tables (my definition of a Minesweeper) and the IT industry, but it turns out he was referring to the cheesy clicky clicky game of previous Windows’ vintages. The general gist was that automation is the way forward, we’re seeing that now, and it pays dividends to be ahead of the curve by learning some scripting now. Whether that be PowerShell, PowerCLI, Python or anything else.

I did particularly enjoy Chris’s attempt at using British slang. Top marks to him for differentiating between bollocks (bad) and dog’s bollocks (very good). It’s not always easy for an American to grasp such as concept depending on whether or not said objects are canine connected, but I think he did pretty well!



Overall it was a very good day and a hearty well done to the VMUG committee who put it all together. This was my third VMUG-UK and each time it just keeps getting bigger. I don’t know how many showed yesterday, but I heard on the Twittervine that nearly 600 had pre-registered, which is absolutely fantastic. I did wonder if the event is now starting to outgrow the venue – the solutions hall was packed and difficult to navigate and lunch and brew breaks got quite cramped for space, but that’s a relatively minor thing.

I didn’t get much chance to look at the booths in the solutions hall, but it’s difficult when you’re a partner with long standing relationships with vendors to have something new to talk about sometimes. I did however get to see some old ex-colleagues as well as chatting to some folks I hadn’t seen in years, which was great.



Why the VMUG UK conference is not a “poor man’s” VMworld

Miss VMworld this year? Yep, me too. I seem to attend every other year, and this year was when I missed out. That being said, what did you miss? Well the keynotes were streamed live and can be played back again now on demand. Hands On Labs? Well you can use them any time you like via the magic of the interwebs. OK, so you don’t get access to the Solutions Exchange and there were lots of really cool breakout sessions that you can only view if you have the appropriate access to the VMworld website.

Did you know that on November 18th there is the UK VMUG User Conference? It’s at the National Motorcycle Museum in Solihull, a small journey away from Birmingham airport. I’m here to tell you that this event is not a poor man’s VMworld and the two should not really be compared. Here’s why.

I’ve been to VMworld twice and the UK VMUG twice, so I feel pretty well qualified to comment on both events. The UK VMUG is obviously a much smaller event, but remember that old saying “small ones are more juicy?”. Even though it’s a fraction of the scale of VMworld, you can get just as much out of the single day at the UK VMUG as you can from VMworld.

For starters, the keynote is by Joe Baguley. For those that don’t know, he’s the CTO for EMEA at VMware. His keynotes are often quite thought provoking, witty and a little left field. They’re not a typical dry keynote of numbers and bar charts, roadmaps and gratuitous slides with customer logos on them. They’re probably in there too, but this event is a little different. It’s for users by users.

As well as there being several parallel breakout tracks, you can decide which areas you want to specialise in, such as EUC (obviously where I’ll be!), SDDC, NSX and partner sessions. You don’t have to register for the breakouts in advance, just turn up. If you don’t feel like going to the vRealise session, don’t. Go to the Horizon View one instead! There’s a much easier flow to these events than you get at VMworld.

In terms of partner support, pretty much all the main guys are there. Veeam are platinum sponsors and then there is an array of gold sponsors with household names such as Brocade, Cisco and SanDisk, as well as up and coming partners such as Nutanix, Atlantis and Tintri (apologies if I haven’t name checked you!). The point being is that all the main partners will be there, in a much smaller and more intimate setting and in a more techie based environment than you might get at VMworld. Plus there’s a better chance of having a decent conversation with one of the aforementioned vendors! At VMworld, the large scale of it all doesn’t always make it easy to sit down with the appropriate person at a vendor booth.

So why else should you go? Here’s an abridged roll call of the confirmed speakers so far :-

  • Chris Wahl
  • Joe Baguley
  • Cormac Hogan
  • Mike Laverick
  • Matt Steiner
  • Alan Renouf
  • Barry Coombs
  • Peter Von Oven
  • Jonathan Medd
  • Lee Dilworth
  • Ricky El-Qasem

All well known names in the community and excellent presenters all. There are also several more informal sessions taking place throughout the day, including an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session with VMware GSS (so I’ll be asking my stock question of “if you were a dinosaur, which one would you be and why?”) and the now traditional design session with my former colleague Darren “Grandpa” Woollard. Sit down with him and whiteboard out some design discussions around deployment of VMware and associated technologies. Just remember to SPEAK SLOWLY AND LOUDLY! ;-). The latest event agenda is available here.

There are also the usual slew of event giveaways and prizes, and if you ask him nicely, Darren may autograph your left pectoral.

So then, there you go. I will be along there, feel free to say hello if you see me, I don’t bite. Unless you’re slathered in Nutella, obviously.

Did I say it was free? Register here now, and get yourself along!



VMUG North West England meeting – 18th June




That time is upon us again and the next NW England VMUG meeting will be taking place as usual in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Manchester on Wednesday 18th June. The agenda at time of writing is listed below :-

Morning Design Workshop – Darren Woollard, Xtravirt
PernixData Presentation: Re-Think Storage Performance – James Smith
Community Presentation: Home Lab Storage and Lessons Learnt – James Kilby
Calyx MS Presentation: Hybrid Cloud and Calyx Silver Lining
Community Presentation: VMware Certification – Chris Beckett
vNews – Ashley Davies
Raffle and vBeers at Tiger Tiger Printworks

You may notice yours truly at the bottom of the agenda. It will be my VMUG debut as a presenter and my session will basically cover the VMware certification tracks, mainly focussing on the VCAP exam formats. My hope is that I can demystify it a little bit and offer some words of guidance on the best way to prepare for them as I’ve passed three of them now.

To register, please visit the VMUG group page. Looking forward to seeing you there!



VMware related offers of the week – be quick! Just another quick post to bring to your attention a couple of offers that might be of use to fellow virtualisation professionals. Firstly, the new book from Chris Wahl and Steve Pantol “Networking for VMware Administrators” is currently 50% off cover price at Pearson IT Certification. I haven’t read the book as yet, but you can read reviews from my friends Ather Beg and Seb Hakiel to see what it covers. Quite apart from anything else, it fills a notable gap in the market and should be a useful addition to anyone’s library. This offer expires this Sunday, 20th April. ShowCover The other deal is for VMUG Advantage membership. If you are already a “free” VMUG member, you can upgrade to VMUG Advantage status with a 20% discount when you use the code ADVSALE at the checkout. This offer expires a little sooner, at 12pm Central Time tomorrow. Don’t ask me what that is in “real money”, aka GMT 😉 nvvyrqmf As Maury Finkle would say – “Do it!”


vExpert 2014 Announcement




So Tuesday saw the announcement of the 2014 list of vExperts and I’m delighted to say that I made the cut this year (after checking of course it wasn’t an April Fool!). Actually, it’s the first time I’ve applied and looking down the list, it’s a “who’s who” of vRockstars from around the globe, including around a dozen or so of my ex-colleagues at Xtravirt  who continue to add a lot of value to the community.

A big thanks of course go to the team who make vExpert possible, getting through 700+ applications in a month can’t have been all that easy! Thanks too to Jason Gaudreau, our TAM at VMware, who suggested I should go for it in the first place. When I look back at the last year, I’ve done a lot – 3 VCAPs, a load of blog content, study guides, plus the work I’ve done with VMware PSO and the account management team since I’ve been at MMC.

You’d think that I might sit back now and rest on my laurels, but if anything, it’s actually making me want to do more. I’ve already offered to present at our local VMUG, I’m blogging as often as I can and there will be more VCAPs this year I’m sure, as I start on the vCloud path once I’ve got NetApp, VCAP-DTA and Hyper-V out of the way!

Looking forward now to getting started and continuing to spread the gospel of virtualisation. Congratulations to all 2014 vExperts both new and returning and thanks for making the community awesome!



North West England VMUG Meeting Review – 26th March

I had the pleasure of yesterday attending the latest North West VMUG meeting at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Manchester. As usual, the event was a half day event but this time with the added extra of some free training in the morning provided by community stalwart Mike Laverick. I didn’t attend this myself, but I’m sure it was very well recieved by those that did attend.

Owing to the late withdrawal of local community hero Ricky El-Qasem, there was a slight rejig to the schedule. Dell basically provided a “twofer” session, showing off their DVS solution stack and also the new VRTX (pronounced “Vertex”) all in one server stack in a single 5U unit. We then had a session from local cloud providers 1st Easy and to round the day off, we had an interesting session from Mike Laverick around the concept of “FeedForward”.

So Dell kicked off with Simon Isherwood discussing their DVS model, and I was immediately wishing they’d call it something else as a DVS is something totally different to me – a Distributed Virtual Switch! Such is life in the IT industry that many acronyms overlap, so we just have to live with it. Not Simon’s fault, I’m sure. The purpose of the DVS is that it provides a reference architecture for deploying not just Horizon View, but Citrix XenDesktop and other solutions atop Dell hardware and services.

As many will be aware, Dell have been on a bit of an acquisition spree in the last few years, notably picking up Quest and also Wyse in that time.  That’s significant because Quest have vWorkspace, which is also a brokered VDI solution. Wyse is significant as you could argue it’s the “de facto” choice for thin and zero client solutions in a VDI deployment.

As always there were a raft of facts and figures, but some of the more telling stats were that it has been forecast that by 2016 there will be 200 million employees taking part in BYOD initiatives and Dell have noticed anecdotally that there are many more clients coming forward now looking to do something in the VDI space.

What was good to hear was that Dell are as agnostic as possible in their stack, so obviously they would prefer you to go down the all Dell route of Dell servers, professional services, networking and storage, but where brownfield sites have existing arrangements for any of the previous items, Dell can work within these boundaries to design and implement a VDI solution. The DVS model provides white papers on compatibility and scalability testing, to remove those time consuming steps from a VDI deployment project and give you some confidence on what sort of scales you can achieve.

There were other discussion items around the use of nVidia Grid and Lynx cards to provide high end graphics for VDI solutions but the thing that probably turned heads the most was the Cloud Connect stick. This is basically a stick not much bigger than a regular USB stick that has an MHL port, USB on the go support and a slot for additional SD storage. What you do is basically plug the stick into a HDMI socket (and you can loop the USB on the go cable for powered support), attach a bluetooth mouse and keyboard and it essentially becomes a thin client. The stick is around £130 and is an Android device with View, XenDesktop and Google Play support. Dell have rubbed some awesome sauce on this device!

All the thin/zero devices are managed via Cloud Client Manager, which is a web based service that provides MDM services such as device wipe, firmware updates etc. As a matter of fact, you cannot use a Cloud Connect stick unless it has access to Cloud Client Manager, according to Dell. Well worth checking out if you get the chance.

We then had a quick run through the development of the VRTX platform. It seems the main driver for the design of this solution was smaller businesses or branch offices where the server room was generally a cupboard with random bits of hardware, some four gangs stretched across the room and sone strategically placed desk fans. The purpose of VRTX is to take all of these components and shrink them down into a 5U form factor chassis. It can be rack mounted or free standing and takes up to 4 half height blade servers or 2 full height blades. It also has internal DAS storage and comes with a variety of options around configuration choices.

One feature Dell was particularly keen to emphasise was the volume of the chassis itself. Usually you would expect enterprise grade server platforms to sound like a plane taking off, and that’s usually the case, but the VRTX itself has been designed to be whisper quiet for a small office setting, so theoretically you could have it powered on in an open plan office and nobody would ever know. Dell switched it on during the presentation and I can verify it was indeed a very quiet piece of kit!

For large scale geographical deployments, there is a web based management tool with a management map so administrators can drill down and manage VRTX devices. A proof point for the solution is Caterham F1, who have consolidated their track side kit down from several flight cases down to just a few VRTX devices.

Two sneaky pictures of a powered on VRTX unit!
Two sneaky pictures of a powered on VRTX unit!



Then came Stephen Bell, the MD of local cloud provider 1st Easy. This presentation was slightly more abstract with the title “From waterwheels to cloud”. The premise of this presentation was that during the industrial revolution, choices were made around how power was generated and the waterwheel was a fixed solution that had inherent flaws. This then lead on to the discussion on energy costs, which these days seem to be the primary driver for virtualisation.

I seem to recall Stephen said their energy costs had gone up three fold in eight years, and that trend is only set to rise. As such, they made the strategic decision to consolidate servers into VMware technologies such as vSphere and vCloud Director, to allow them to provide the same level of service but at a much smaller footprint and therefore cost. Also, as opposed to the concept of a waterwheel being a fixed and rigid design model, virtualisation and cloud had allowed them to become more agile as a service provider, and this was a key business driver from the word go.

The final main presentation was from Mike Laverick, discussing the concept of “FeedForward”. He started the session by discussing how user groups tend to be dominated by vendors, mainly because attendees fear presenting themselves. This can be for a variety of reasons, for example :-

  • “I only have a few hosts”
  • “Nobody is interested in my small project”
  • “My project failed, who wants to hear about that?”
  • “I’m boring!”
  • “I’m not confident enough to present in front of an audience”

A few years back, I was part of the Novell community in the UK and Europe and we had similar problems trying to get customers to present to the UG. The fact is, when a customer presents, it re-invigorates the audience. Instead of the same old faces and voices, and presentations about similar storage solutions for example, you get some “real world” insight into what worked, what didn’t worked, what we learned etc.

The drive now is to try and engage VMUG members to present more frequently by employing the “FeedForward” mechanism. In essence, what this is is a mentoring system, whereby a senior member of the community will help you design and present your slide deck, offer guidance on what works and what maybe doesn’t and even maybe stand up with you when you do it.

The naming as it suggests means you get constructive dialog going before you present rather than after, so it’s not feedback as such. So when you come to the big day and you present to your local VMUG, you can have confidence that what you’re presenting is interesting, factually correct and has been proof read by a different pair of eyes.

So for my sins I volunteered to present at the next meeting on June 11th, I’m thinking about discussing VMware certification. I’ve done a bagful of VCPs and VCAPs, so it seems like something I can talk about for 45 minutes!

To round things off, we had the usual vNews update from Ashley Davies. This covered topics such as vSAN and there was also some discussion on a bug with Windows 2012 when using E1000 that causes data corruption. As we use VMXNET3, we haven’t seen this thankfully, but one to be aware of.

As usual, thanks to VMUG leaders Steve Lester and Nathan Byrne and sponsors Dell and 1st Easy for another super event. The vBeers afterwards were good fun and those mini fish and chips portions were very popular!