My ramblings about all things technical

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SolarWinds – 4 Skills to Master Your Virtual Universe eBook

Solarwinds’ 4 Skills to Master Your Virtual Universe is an interesting new take on virtualization for someone who is new to virtualization.It’s a new eBook authored by SolarWinds Head Geek of Virtualization & Cloud Practice, Kong Yang. Instead of covering the same material that hypervisor vendors like VMware and Microsoft document for each new release or other virtualization influencers blog about, this eBook details four skills that every virtualization admin needs to develop in order to be successful in their IT career.

The book is like a career skills guide for fellow virtualization pros. It starts with a basic introduction to virtualization. Then, it goes into details about the four skills – discovery, alerting, remediation, and troubleshooting– that any virtualization admin must learn and hone to build and advance their IT career. Discovery is visibility, monitoring, and resource management. Alerting is identifying what matters and cutting through the data noise to surface important system info fast. Remediation is all about fixing things fast. And troubleshooting is finding the root-cause of an issue.

The theme of this virtualization skills book is quite clear – don’t label virtualization admins as a dummy or late to the game.Simply start with DART skills and go from there. At the end, there’s even a nod to SOAR-ingin virtualization as well.

Here’s the link to the virtualization basics blog post, which includes more info on each skill as well as info on downloading the eBook.

Also dont forget to collect your free espresso and Solarwinds swag if you are at VMworld US this week.









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VMware Validated Designs Released

At today’s VMworld keynote VMware will be announcing the availability of Validated Designs for Software Defined Data Center.


As a senior consultant who works for a VMware partner ,who currently does a large portion of my work as VMware PSO and having just submitted for my second attempt for the VCDX I have  been fortunate to have access to materials and templates around almost all of VMware’s offerings. But for people who aren’t partners or maybe even more so are partners but don’t get to do “cutting edge” PSO type engagements it is hard to know where to start doing designs.

Now that the SDDC has been released and is starting to move forward, the amount of information you have to collect and go through that covers multiple reference architectures and white papers that normally have product-specific information is painful. You also come out with different outcomes and this is something VMware’s Validated Designs for Software Defined Data Center is looking to remedy.

What are VMware Validated Designs?

  • Architectures & Designs created and validated by VMware experts
  • Encompass the entire set of VMware’s Software-Defined Data Center products
  • Standardized and streamlined design for each deployment scenario & broad use-case:
    • Datacenter Foundation
    • Single-region & Dual-region IT Automation
    • QE / Demo Cloud
    • Much much more

What’s in a VMware Validated Design?

The contents are a bit like the VMware partner Solution Enablement Toolkits but so much more they are:

  • Solution Overview
  • Design Objectives
  • Reference Architecture Documents & Blueprints
  • Final Design Specification—including specific products and versions
  • Hardware Prerequisites & Preparatory Procedures
  • Implementation Guides
  • Operations Documentation

Reference Architectures based on the VMware Validated Designs Process

VMware are making two Reference Architectures available today based on the VMware Validated Designs Process.

  • Foundation
    • The building block for all future designs
      • Focus is on datacenter, storage, and network virtualization with monitoring.
      • Uses vSphere with Operations Management (vSOM), VMware Virtual SAN, and NSX for vSphere.
  • Automated provisioning with the SDDC
    • Adds provisioning and deeper monitoring to Foundation.
      • Focus is on automating common IT provisioning tasks.
      • Uses vCloud Suite, VMware Virtual SAN, NSX for vSphere and vRealize Log Insight.

Learn More & Early Access

You can sign up for the beta right now to get early access and regular updates and to also learn more about VMware Validated Designs.

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VCDX Spotlight: Eric Shanks

Name: Eric Shanks

Twitter Handle: @eric_shanks

Blog URL:

Current Employer: Ahead

VCDX #: 195

How did you get into using VMware?

I was at a Chicago Microsoft Users Group and a company called Altiris was speaking about virtualizing applications with their solution. The whole idea was pretty eye opening to me so when my boss suggested some enhancements to our infrastructure the virtualization concept was brought up again. After some testing we decided that VMware was the clear leader in the space so we virtualized our infrastructure on 4.0.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

The VCDX certification was a challenge I wasn’t convinced that I could achieve, but I had to know for sure. A few other co-workers already had the credentials and I decided it was the time to find out what I was capable of doing.

How long did it take you to complete the whole VCDX journey?

The whole process took me about six months to complete. I already had my VCAP-DCA and VCAP-DCD before I decided to try the VCDX so that helped, but I left myself plenty of time to work out my design before submitting it.

What advice would you give to people thinking of pursuing the VCDX accreditation?

Talk with your family first about the endeavour. The VCDX is challenging, but more than that time consuming. Expect to spend nights and weekends working on it. The VCDX journey is personal achievement but can’t be done without some support from family, friends and co-workers.

Aside from talking with your family first, the second piece of advice I’d give is don’t be afraid to fail. This isn’t an easy challenge and many really qualified people have stumbled on it. It doesn’t mean you’re not awesome, it just means you need to tweak your design or presentation skills a bit.

If you could do the whole VCDX journey again what would you do differently?

I would have made sure to understand the defense blueprint better from the start. I felt that there were specific sections of the blueprint where I didn’t have enough things in my design to present. Specifically my design didn’t have a lot of “Security” related items so I wasn’t able to talk in depth about it in my defense. If I could have done it over I would have added an additional security requirement and supported it with my design so that I could talk about it in the defense.

Life after the VCDX?  How did your company respond?  Was it worth it?

After the process was over I was recognized at our company’s Tech Summit and given a bonus for the achievement. The feeling of a sense of accomplishment from meeting a personal goal made the process worth it.

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VCDX Spotlight: Scott Norris

Name: Scott Norris

Twitter Handle: @auscottnorris

Blog URL:

Current Employer: VMware

VCDX #: 201

How did you get into using VMware?

After finally scoring a server role back in 2005 I was introduced to ESX 2.5 and GSX, right then while like some kind of black magic I saw the potential and tried to be actively involved when it came to installing, configuring and supporting the platform. Later in 2009 I was leading a team 100% dedicated to VMware technologies that supported local and global accounts right up until 12 months ago when I made the jump to work for VMware.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

The VCDX for me was my own personal challenge which I set some time ago.

How long did it take you to complete the whole VCDX journey?

This question is a difficult one to answer technically I attempted to start the journey in 2011 but unfortunately was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma which put the brakes on for some time.

But after everything I finally found the time to complete it and restarted the journey late 2014. I was ready for PEX defence where I was accepted but was unable to get time off work. So defended in June instead, this gave me a little more time to polish off some rough bits in the design.

All up about 6 months of solid work it took to get across the line.

What advice would you give to people thinking of pursuing the VCDX accreditation?

My advice is:

· Keep the design simple, it doesn’t have to be complicated

· When it comes to the presentation take advice from people but do it your way, do what flows well to you. Just because X worked for me doesn’t mean it will for you.

· Don’t over prepare if you feel yourself losing interest or just want it to end have a couple days off kick back relax and get back into it.

If you could do the whole VCDX journey again what would you do differently?

I don’t think I would have done anything differently as far as the preparation I did, I think if anything I would have dialled back the amount I did, towards the end it was becoming a chore where its meant to be fun and something I want to do. Also I don’t advise writing a book at the same time that didn’t help at all.

Life after the VCDX?  How did your company respond?  Was it worth it?

The response from family, friends, the VMware community and work was fantastic. And for me personally was worth it. Having something to show for all the time and effort was fantastic.

As for life after, nothing has changed but I have noticed at the engagements I’m on my word has more sway than it did before, or I’m just imagining it. Either way I think VCDX will definitely open up doors which would have been shut previously but for now I’m just catching up on sleep.

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VCDX Spotlight: Larus Hjartarson

Name: Larus Hjartarson

Twitter Handle: @lhjartarson

Blog URL:

Current Employer: Nyherji hf.

VCDX #: 192

How did you get into using VMware?

In 2010 when I worked as an IT technician a co-worker showed me vSphere 4.0 and vMotion. I remember asking him repeatedly: “So you moved the server between hardware servers while it was running and it only missed a single ping?”. After that I was hooked. Soon after that I had a chance to finish installing a test environment running vSphere 4.0, and changed jobs to a Server/VMware technician for a large (on an Icelandic scale) IT Solution Provider (Nyherji).

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

As soon as I finished the VCAP-DCA in 2013 the plan was always to go for the VCDX eventually but with no planned date. In the end of 2014, my wife finished her law degree so I presented to her a detailed plan of work required to stick to the VCDX deadline and was accepted :) (might sound strange but I can’t emphasize enough on getting your spouse on board before starting)

But the main reason was to challenge myself and get better at a job I really love doing.

How long did it take you to complete the whole VCDX journey?

It depends on when the journey started; 20 months after the first VCAP, but 4.5 years from the first VCP. But the hard work started on the home straight, when doing the VCDX documentation and defence preparation, and that took 537.5 hours in a 6 months period.

What advice would you give to people thinking of pursuing the VCDX accreditation?

Several come into mind:

-Just do it. This journey is worth all the extra hours after work, all the weekends spent drawing design diagram, all the hundreds of blog posts and installation guides read. But this will have an impact on the time you spend with your spouse, kids, family and friends. But in the end you will end up a much better architect.

-Read the blueprint and make sure to have your documentation represent the subjects from the blueprint as best you can.

-Plan each day until the defence. Plan for at least 25-30% overhead. There will be days you will not be able to tell your brain to do diagrams or work on presentations. Make sure the time off is either spent with your loved ones or to decouple from the process.
-In the last 2-3 weeks before the defence start building confidence for the things you know and your defence and presentation.

-Do not stress going into the defence, the panellist are only architects like you and are there to help you.

-Form a study group. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without a study group. And start joining a study group one VCDX defence in advance. I joined a study group for October defences in 2014 before going for the June deadline in 2015. You will learn a lot just listening to mocks and talking to like-minded people.

-Find a mentor. They will probably differ, but their feedback is invaluable.

-Know your design. I mean everything, every decision, every justification, and all alternatives to each decision and reasoning why that wasn’t taken.

If you could do the whole VCDX journey again what would you do differently?

Absolutely nothing. Things somehow fit into place perfectly and went almost exactly to plan.

Life after the VCDX?  How did your company respond? Was it worth it?

Nothing really changed in the few weeks that have passed. A pat on the back from my company but they were also very supportive during the whole journey. Yes it was worth it. :)

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VCDX Spotlight: Nick Bowie

Name: Nick Bowie

Twitter Handle: @nickbowienz

Current Employer: ViFX Ltd.

VCDX #: 202

How did you get into using VMware?

I’d had exposure back in the earlier days with GSX and ESX Server through David Manconi (@dmanconi), when we worked together previously. I remember he was pretty excited about it, so I figured there must be something to it ;) But I didn’t really have the opportunity to pursue it professionally until late 2009 when I became involved in a large data centre migration project which included establishing an SRM enabled ESXi 3.5 infrastructure.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

I had heard about it through my go-to places like Yellow-Bricks, as I tried to soak up as much as I could about virtualisation. It wasn’t until I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Michael Webster (@vcdxnz001), who had just achieved his and, later in 2011, Travis Wood (@vTravWood) who was so excited to be pursuing it that I started to understand the level it represented. When I joined ViFX I realised the calibre of people I was fortunate enough to be working with and felt I really needed to lift my game.

How long did it take you to complete the whole VCDX journey?

It’s been such a gradual, incremental process it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it started in earnest. If I measure from obtaining the VCP5-DCV in September 2012, it took almost three years. It became a realistic goal after joining ViFX in August 2013 though.

What advice would you give to people thinking of pursuing the VCDX accreditation?

It’s not a race :) Each qualifying exam (VCP, VCAP DCA/DCD) are challenging in their own rights. Focus on the immediate, realistic goals and you’ll find your capabilities grow significantly through those achievements. When you’re at the point where you can submit the design: read the blueprint. Everyone says that, and I must admit I’d get a little frustrated at hearing it so often, but it’s true. Read it, understand it as best you can and make sure you touch on all the points.

If you could do the whole VCDX journey again what would you do differently?

I’m not sure I would do it too differently. The design I based it on was light on some components of the blueprint requirements, due to certain constraints and challenges, which meant some extra work was required on my own time. While working on that project I completed a few others in between that were more “blueprint-friendly”, in BC/DR and vBCA Oracle based engagements, but this was the one I had invested myself into with the goal in mind so I was determined to use it all the way through.

Life after the VCDX?  How did your company respond?  Was it worth it?

It’s only been a week, so it’s early days yet ;) ViFX are extremely proud to have the 2nd VCDX in New Zealand, and the only one in the VMware partner space. We definitely have more VCDX’s in progress – watch this space!

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vRA Enterprise Level Distributed Installation

Recently I was fortunate enough to design and build an enterprise level distributed installation of the vRealize Automation suite of products and integrate it into an enterprise environment. I’ve done several vRA/vCAC deployments before but each time I do a new deployment I like to collate information, read all the latest articles and make sure what worked in the past for me hasn’t changed or more likely has been enhanced so I can provide an even better deployment.

For those unsure of what an enterprise distributed deployment comprises of I have added a logical diagram below (click on the picture to expand it as it is fairly large)


vRA Logical


For my current deployment it was based on vRealize Automation 6.1 due to it being part of an EMC Hybrid Cloud deployment but the architecture and layout are exactly the same for 6.2. (note this is defined after collecting customer requirements based on amount of workloads, NSX load balancing and the requirement of application services so make sure you have reasons for design decisions)


For the resources I used, some are ones I used in the past to learn how to do an enterprise deployment and some are ones I re-read prior to this deployment. I have listed them below to save me looking for them again but also to maybe help other people:

 NB: Make sure when importing the certificate into the appliances remember to remove the bag attributes at the beginning of the PEM file and start from —BEGIN CERTIFICATE—– until ——–END CERTIFICATE————-

NOTE: VMware no longer recommend using an external postgres database. The 6.2 documentation has been updated to reflect this.


Along the way I hit a few errors and spent a fair bit of time with VMware support also on a few of them. The main ones are listed below:

If you are unsure about any of the portions mentioned or want to know more, you can ask VMware Professional Services for whom I did this design and deployment or Xtravirt who are a VMware partner, to come in and help you with the design/configuration of your environment.

Also let me know if you think I missed something or if it helped you.



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