VMware User Group (VMUG) are globally hosted events, created to enable customers and end users to interact with the community through knowledge sharing, training and collaboration. I’ve attended a couple of the London based VMUGs over the last couple of years’, but haven’t had the opportunity to attend the UK VMUG, held at the National Motorcycle Museum in the West Midlands.
Due to a late change in work commitments, I was fortunate enough to attend the UK VMUG on Tuesday November 18th. From my perspective, these events provide an opportunity much closer to home than VMworld, to interact with other community members and continue to stay up-to-date with announcements, industry trends and technical content.
The first thing that struck me this year, was the agenda and line-up. I’ve taken note of this in recent years’ just out of curiosity, but I genuinely thought ‘wow’ that’s some line-up in terms of speakers, sessions and content, considering the event is sponsored with no registration fee. It took me around 20 minutes to come up with the sessions I wanted to attend, which showed the variety, quality and quantity of the sessions were of the highest order
After arrival on Monday afternoon, I headed to the vCurry evening (thanks specifically to Jane of the VMUG committee), tucking into some food (yes, a curry!), catching up with colleagues and then awaiting the start of the vQuiz. The quiz was entertaining and fun, 30 questions with a mix of categories, although it took me back in time to my VCP 3 and 4 exams, with expectancy around memorising and knowing maximum supported\configuration numbers. I managed to pluck a few from the depths of my brain, but generally I just lookup this stuff when needed. The table I was located on finished 3rd, but following some technicalities and overrule by VMware EMEA CTO Joe Baguley, we were promoted to 2nd place! As a group on the table, we decided to feed the prize back into the community for the main show.
A cold morning started with a brief introduction from VMUG leader Alaric Davies, welcoming attendees, with the keynote delivered by Joe Baguley titled ‘Rant as a Service’. A high level summary and my interpretation, that today, we (IT) are here to deliver applications to the business, through whatever means, that is our goal in IT. We’re on this iterative IT business process circle of Data, App and Analysis, whether this is a 12 month or 2 year circle to complete projects. How can we reduce this? VMware are continuing the journey towards the software defined enterprise, driven by policy management and automation, abstracting all the physical layer and moving this into software, with the obvious advantages of the intelligence and flexibility of the code within. No longer is the focus specifically on just hardware or infrastructure, but the layer above that in software described as ‘Infrastructure As Code’, and the innovation VMware is rapidly delivering to the market across the datacentre to achieve this.
Breakout Session #1
The first breakout session I attended was around a hybrid storage solution and the upcoming Virtual Volumes (VVOLs) integration, which held particular interest, as this is going to change how we manage storage capacity and provisioning. It’s clearly part of VMware’s overall strategy to define the datacentre by software, and bring policy management to admins, without worrying about the underlying characteristics of the storage hardware.
The interesting thing to note about this vendor is their integration of VVOLs will come using the vSphere APIs for Storage Awareness (VASA) provider on the storage array, plus array firmware updates. In contrast, the presenter mentioned a few other vendors (not all) are going to be using virtual appliances for the integration, so how does this address manageability and availability concerns around the appliances?
Breakout Session #2
vRealize Operations 6.0, commonly known as vCenter Operations Manager (vC Ops), is due for release by the end of the year. Following the announcements at VMworld 2014, I attended this breakout session to gain further insight and clarity into the new offerings. The product has undertaken a massive overhaul (for the better), in terms of architecture, scale, deployment and usability to name a few. Almost 1 million lines of code have been changed, however the core principles and concepts have been ported across into the new product. We still deal with the familiar Health, Risk and Efficiency major badges, for example. A simple migration path from existing deployments does exist for customers (dependent on current version). I’m looking forward to getting my hands on the product and taking it for a spin!
Breakout Session #3
After lunch including nibbles, biscuits and coffee with a few colleagues, I headed to the Horizon Architecture and Design session, as this fits around my core skills and interest. The important message to take here, aside from the various technical input around host, storage and network design for example, was focusing on your specific use cases and behavioural working patterns of the end users (engaging with them) and analysing assessment data before beginning to consider a proof of concept or design of the solution. Depending on these outcomes, you may not require a full Windows 7 desktop for example, perhaps publishing applications or shared desktops are going to meet your requirements, thus drastically reducing infrastructure required and cost.
Breakout Session #4
The final breakout session I headed to was the vSphere Availability Update. This session focused on products such as vSphere Data Protection, vSphere Replication, vCenter Site Recovery Manager and Stretched Storage Clusters. Out of all these, I’ve worked more closely with Site Recovery Manager, and the deployment of the new v5.8 is now quicker and simplified with the optional ability to install SRM using an internal (vPostgreSQL) database, therefore eliminating the need to request Database Admins to setup a database, with the necessary privileges and roles. Also, there is now full integration with the vSphere Web Client, among many other enhancements.
Future versions scheduled for next year, are being completely re-written from the ground up, and barriers will be removed within the code, which should allow SRM to use three sites instead of the current limitation of two, although a topology does exist today for a many to one relationship, which is commonly used more for Service Providers. Further, there are solutions available from other vendors combined with VMware, which could utilise three sites today, if needed.
The closing keynote presented by Chris Wahl (IT industry expert), held the theme of ‘Stop being a Minesweeper’. Generally I didn’t know what to expect from reading the title, but having used some of the training materials Chris has produced, I knew it would be presented in an entertaining fashion. Throughout there were many references to ‘spongebob’ and sandwiches which was rather amusing and took me back to those training materials just mentioned.
Overall, the message delivered was that automation is the way forward, and to begin considering learning some scripting now such as PowerShell, PowerCLI or Python to ‘get the skills to pay the bills’. Finally, vCenter Orchestrator for automation is a ‘hidden gem’.
To summarise, I thoroughly enjoyed the event, providing a chance to meet folks I’ve only communicated with through social media before, having missed some at VMworld. The UK VMUG provides an optimal platform to collaborate with the community, partners or even the VMware staff who have been asked to present. The VMware Global Support Services were also on hand, to answer any pending questions or escalate existing support tickets, overall a fantastic idea. Also, the exhibit hall is worth visiting to speak directly with vendors and learn about new technology to help overcome current business challenges.
I would like to thank the VMUG committee for all the hard work that goes into the preparation and planning, to organise and finalise such a smooth and efficient event.
Slides – You can download all the presentations from the UK VMUG here
Videos – You can also watch a selection of the breakout sessions from here
If you are interested in presenting at a VMUG event for the first time, you are able to register here for London VMUG in January 2015. This will be a lightening talk of 10 minutes, and you will be mentored, prepared and advised by a current community speaker, to provide guidance and wisdom around your presenting skills before delivering this at the London VMUG. There are also some fantastic prizes on offer, as an incentive 🙂