TheSaffaGeek

My ramblings about all things technical


Leave a comment

VCDX Prep Advice Series – The Supporting Documents

For every VCDX round I normally run unofficial face to face mock as the last hurdle and prep for all those defending the VCDX that round in the UK and for anyone wanting to come assist with the mocks and learn from them. I have run these for a number of years and have got really great feedback from them but last year alike to so many things I was unable to run any due to Covid and who knows if I can this year. So I thought I would do an updated series of postings around the advice I normally give in these mocks, advice I give in the VCDXPrepGroup slack channel I founded and run and link to postings where I summarised previous advice. I will break the series into distinct areas along the path to VCDX to try help people wherever they are along the path *NOTE* All advice here is keeping within NDA’s and despite me now training to become a VCDX panelist it is the same as when I hadn’t gone through the training.

I’ve built the design but what are all these other documents needed?

Naturally most people focus on their design as this is what you are defending but the VCDX requires you to also submit at minimum:

  • An installation guide
  • An implementation plan
  • A testing plan
  • A Standard Operating Procedures document

I will break down what each of these are if you’ve never come across them or if you think some of them are the same thing.

  • Installation Guide

The installation guide is a document that shows for someone that is of VCP level skillset how to install the solution. This can have links to VMware documentation but it has to be personalised to your environment/solution as just a plethora of links will not suffice. I always tell people to do this document like you are providing it to a paying customer as they will want it at a level that their staff can follow it if they have to for example build the environment from scratch without you. I get asked sometimes if screenshots are needed and whilst it isn’t likely a hard rule, naturally if the person using the document can see a screenshot that looks exactly like the one they are on it will make it easier for them to follow

  • Implementation Plan

This is your project plan where you have to set out all the roles, responsibilities and the timeframes for each portion of the design. Again this has to be specific to your project so even if you have a generic timeline from your vendor or company you need to amend it to your design and trust me the panelists review all the documentation so don’t put your design being accepted to defend at risk by not doing this or any of the supporting documentation properly.

  • Testing Plan

This is where you now prove your design and components by running it through tests to prove it works. I personally like to number all of my tests as even though it isn’t a requirement for your VCDX submission I find using a Requirements Traceability Matrix and showing how you taken all the requirements from the conceptual design all the way to the testing and validation phase and proven the design you have created meets these helps you ensure you’ve not missed something. Alike to what I mentioned in the implementation plan section you have to provide a testing plan specific to your environment as generic tests of just pulling some cables etc will not suffice.

  • Standard Operating Procedures

The SOP is all the steps and procedures needed to keep the environment running whilst you are away as well as steps your end customer must follow in the event of certain failures. A good design is one where at the end of the project when you leave the end customer can run it with as little effort as possible. If your design is so complex and requires so much continual manual monitoring and tweaking to keep it running then you have very possibly over-engineered it and the project is at risk of failing. This document should be covering places where the end user can do checks on all the dashboards, automated reports, configured alarms and how to troubleshoot and build out the environment once you have left.

 


Leave a comment

VCDX Prep Advice Series – Building your submission

For every VCDX round I normally run unofficial face to face mock as the last hurdle and prep for all those defending the VCDX that round in the UK and for anyone wanting to come assist with the mocks and learn from them. I have run these for a number of years and have got really great feedback from them but last year alike to so many things I was unable to run any due to Covid and who knows if I can this year. So I thought I would do an updated series of postings around the advice I normally give in these mocks, advice I give in the VCDXPrepGroup slack channel I founded and run and link to postings where I summarised previous advice. I will break the series into distinct areas along the path to VCDX to try help people wherever they are along the path *NOTE* All advice here is keeping within NDA’s and despite me now training to become a VCDX panelist it is the same as when I hadn’t gone through the training.

The mysterious VCDX Design

I hear from a lot of people about various challenges and hurdles in building their design and below are the main ones:

  • Ive Never seen a “VCDX Design”

When I defended my first VCDX I received a fair few messages from people asking if they could see my design as they too wanted to submit but said they has never seen a design that got invited to a VCDX defence. What i shared instead was the table of contents so people can possibly understand the flow (in my personal opinion) a good design should have. I have pasted screen shots below of my table of contents from my actual VCDX-DCV submission and there is also the blog posting Derek Seaman posted a while ago around this exact topic. Every person and design is different but outlines like Derek and I’s are relatively the outlines most DCV designs follow that have a good flow from conceptual to logical to physical and cover all the pillars.

  • I’m waiting for the right project before starting my design.

This partly refers to my first posting and how I always tell people to just get started. It is highly unlikely you will find the right project and for most people I’ve spoken to and including my own your design will normally be a merger of two or more designs where maybe for the main design the customer didn’t ask you at that point to add certain features until later phases or not at all but you added them to your design to show you design skills and the lessons you learnt from another project which had those features are now in this design.

Basing it on real world projects helps you refer to those real challenges you had that will come to light when you have to defend your design and I can’t even remember what was and wasn’t in my main project that I based my design on as after a while it became it’s own sole project.

  • I haven’t passed my VCIX yet

Whilst you need the VCIX in your chosen track before submitting there is no reason you can’t start building your design whilst getting the certification as it takes a fair amount of time and effort to build your submission and you don’t want to wait until you have your VCIX and then realise it might take you much longer than you planned to build the design and submit. I have seen far too many people sadly lose the motivation at this point.

  • My customer/company won’t want me to use my current design.

This one is a tough one sometimes and I want to say that for high security customers you should get approval before submitting as my normal advice to people for this is that you can sanitise the design and change all the name to something generic which is actually fairly common for people to do but if it is military or government this is normally not enough so do get it checked. 

Sanitising your design is fairly easy and most companies outside the edge cases I mention above are fine as long as you remove their names and their information from the design and normally if they review it to ensure they feel it has been done sufficiently. The design’s are only shared with those scoring the designs as well as your panelists if these are different people and once your defence is completed these are removed so no one has them.


1 Comment

VCDX Prep Advice – Building your submission

For every VCDX round I normally run unofficial face to face mock as the last hurdle and prep for all those defending the VCDX that round in the UK and for anyone wanting to come assist with the mocks and learn from them. I have run these for a number of years and have got really great feedback from them but this year alike to so many things I was unable to run any due to Covid. So I thought now I have a chance to catch my breath after my first year as a VMware employee I would do an updated series of postings around the advice I normally give in these mocks,advice I give in the VCDXPrepGroup slack channel I founded and run and link to postings where I summarised previous advice. I will break the series into distinct areas along the path to VCDX to try help people wherever they are along the path *NOTE* All advice here is keeping within NDA’s and despite me now training to become a VCDX panelist it is the same as when I hadn’t gone through the training.

I don’t know where to start

Building your VCDX submission can seem a massively daunting task and the more you work on it the larger it seems to get but my first piece of advice I always give people is to just get started as soon as possible. 

  • Start with the conceptual design and ensure your requirements are clear and concise and verified. Far too often I have done reviews for people and sadly they haven’t recorded the requirements very well and have built their design around these but because they aren’t clear it can make their design fall apart fairly quickly with very simple questions. One example I see often is people not recording availability and recoverability correctly where they have a requirement of 99.99% availability but it isn’t clear what this applies to and when. You need to ensure of you have SLA’s, RPO’s, RTO’s and MTD defined that it is very clear where this does and does not apply.
  • Once you have completed the conceptual design get it reviewed before moving onto logical. Like above I see it far too often where people don’t have their requirements clearly defined and to then change it at a review a week before submission deadline is nigh on impossible. Getting someone to have a quick review of them will then help you ensure you have them defined well and is something I see far too often in real life where requirements are defined clearly and then the customer isn’t possibly happy as you misunderstood their requirement. For this I did a Requirements Traceability Matrix for my defence and I use one on all major projects I work on to ensure that the requirements I have recorded and got approval for can be tracked all the way to the verification tests at the end of the project. This RTM is one part I changed about my design after my first VCDX failure as blogged about here: What Changed Between My Two VCDX Design Submissions
  • Get yourself a mentor and into a good group of people also aiming for the VCDX. When I did my first VCDX I didn’t have a mentor and I built the whole design “alone”. By chance when I had to pay for my VCDX design review the link to pay didn’t work and when they sent a new link they included the other people also submitting and even though I knew Bobby Stampfle was submitting I didn’t know Rene Van Den Bedem (Quadruple VCDX) was going for his first. Out of this us three built a study group that became the basis of my now pretty successful VCDXPrepGroup slack channel. The amount I learnt from those two in that first defence is why I made the channel and the amount of people who have benefited from all the help those in the channel provide from NDA permitting advice to mocks to design reviews I personally feel is invaluable. I know there are people who have passed without a prep group but why not use a good group of people who have gone through the process already to soundboard off of and who understand the grind and can show you the journey you are on is worth it (in our opinions). If you are realistically looking to defend within the next twelve months then please contact me and I will add you to the slack channel. (realistically is if you at least have your VCP and one VCAP in your planned track and are planning to do the second VCAP and start your design very soon if not already)

In the next posting I will cover off something I hear often and have heard from numerous people over the years of “I am waiting for the right project”. If you want me to cover something then please do leave a comment or message me on twitter @greggrobertson5 and I will try incorporate it into this series.

Gregg

 


1 Comment

Hello VMware

I have been meaning to post this for a few weeks but between pieces needing to be done around the news, AWS re:Invent and just the holiday period I haven’t managed to until now.

Image result for one of us meme

As of last week Monday (8th of December) I now work for VMware PSO as a Staff Consulting Architect after having been transitioned across along with a handful of others whose skillsets fitted better in VMware than Dell EMC. The move is bitter sweet as I have really enjoyed and grown with Dell EMC and have done some cutting edge projects but with my skillset being pretty heavy in VMware technologies,my being a 9 time vExpert ,a VMware fanboy for so long and having so many really good friends working for VMware I am really excited to join.

I am really looking forward to making my mark within VMware and I love the company ethos and especially the way the company is moving. A massive thanks to all those I worked with at Dell EMC, I would highly recommend the company and special thanks to Tim Gleed who headhunted me just over three years ago to be a global cloud architect.

Gregg


Leave a comment

AWS Cloud Practitioner

This morning I sat the Amazon Web Services Cloud Practitioner exam and I am very pleased to say I passed it. The exam is meant to be an entry level one to introduce people to core products and services AWS offers and what each of them does.

The resources I used for the exam are the following although I do have to say that I passed my AWS: SA Associate a few years ago so I wasn’t starting from scratch:

Now to prepare for my VMware Cloud On AWS specialty and then AWS: SA Professional.

Gregg


Leave a comment

VCP7-CMA 2019 Obtained

Yesterday after a few weeks of studying during my spare time (which is limited due to work and family) I sat the VCP7-CMA and am pleased to say I passed Smile I do have to give a disclaimer though that I was white labelled VMware PSO for a number of years and delivered enterprise level vRA deliveries and attempted but sadly failed my VCDX6-CMA two years ago so I didn’t start with zero knowledge.

Resources used

Due to having worked with and used vRealize Automation in my past my studying focused around reminding myself of pieces seeing as I haven’t touched vRA in almost three years and also updating my knowledge on some of the recent changes. I largely used the study resources listed on my blog here: https://thesaffageek.co.uk/vsphere-6-x-cma-study-resources/vcp6-cma/ but read and watched the “what’s new in vRA7” videos and blog postings out there as well.

The exam I found didn’t really require you to have any real world hands on experience and if someone read all the recommended resources I think you could pass it.

 

The exam

The exam consists of 85 multiple choice questions and you have 90 minutes to do the exam. I got a 355 out of 500 and I know I got ones wrong where it asked you console questions where unless by chance you’ve used it recently you’d have to have an educated guess like I did. The questions aren’t very long and only one or two were worded a bit strangely. I took my time and reviewed a few questions at the end where I had marked them if it took me more than a minute to decide an answer.

Good luck if you are looking to take the exam, I think it’s more than achievable and the recommended resources will give you a good idea what to learn and also set you up in the event you want to start using vRA.

Gregg


Leave a comment

#AWS #ReInvent Day 2 & 3

I miscalculated the time the AWS keynote started (8am) yesterday so ran out of time posting my day 2 blog posting and with my laptop screen disliking me vie had to leave it in a perfect position in my hotel room so that I could at least write a blog posting so here is both day 2 and 3 recaps of AWS re:Invent.

Day 2

My day 2 started with the inaugural AWS vBreakfast. I wrote about my plans and idea to get a whole bunch of people who are part of the VMware community who are also attending re:Invent to meet up and ideally get a bit of the same kind of strong community we have around VMware now around people who did VMware bits that now do both. The breakfast was a lot of fun and the discussions both technical and on-technical were amazing and it’s one of my favourite parts about conferences as being able to hear what others are doing at work and then possibly if it’s something you have or need to do can collaborate and learn with/from that person and you both benefit. The meal was great fun and I hope it can happen every year now and grow even bigger

 

Next was the Partner keynote, unlike with other conference keynotes I’ve been to, customers are actually allowed to attend the keynote as there aren’t any partner only NDA roadmap discussions during the AWS Partner keynote but it is more about what the AWS Partner Network is doing, the growth and successes it has made. There was the announcement of a number of new competencies partners could do as well as a number of partners who had achieved certain elite competencies and what them having these meant for customers.

After the keynote I went around the expo hall and spoke to a number of vendors and bumped into fellow vBrownbag team members and VMware Cloud on AWS guru’s Emad Younis and Kyle Ruddy. We spoke about already released features of VMConAWS and credit to the guys they did not let slip one bit of day 3’s announcements. Make sure to look up their sessions at re:Invent especially after the announcements around VMConAWS.

I attended a session all about Infrastructure is Code with the AWS Cloud Development Kit which was very interesting. I did appreciate that they did the demo’s live although personally I felt some of the time the text they had to write to create the commands and scripts could have been pre-written in a text file that they could have copied across rather than us watching them typing it out word by word.

I met up with other VMware guru’s such as William Lam and Brian Graf and spoke to them about what they were doing (again no NDA’s were broken) as well as what I have been up to at Dell EMC as a Cloud Solutions Lead.

I ended the day fairly early as I knew I had to be up for the keynote on Wednesday and my tiredness from jetlag had really started to set in.

Day 3

Day 3 started with the keynote by Andy Jassy and wow what a keynote, lasting 3 hours and with people lining up several hours beforehand to get in it was amazing announcement after amazing announcement and to Andy’s credit he kept the audience’s attention for the whole three hours.

I’m not going to mention every single announcement but the ones that I was really impressed by and really need to go watch more about and learn (every day is a school day) are:

Glacier Deep Archive

https://aws.amazon.com/about-aws/whats-new/2018/11/s3-glacier-deep-archive/

Amazon FSx for Windows File Server

https://aws.amazon.com/about-aws/whats-new/2018/11/amazon-fsx-windows/

 

Amazon Timestream

https://aws.amazon.com/about-aws/whats-new/2018/11/announcing-amazon-timestream/

Amazon QLDB

https://aws.amazon.com/about-aws/whats-new/2018/11/introducing-amazon-qldb/

 

Amazon Managed Blockchain

https://aws.amazon.com/about-aws/whats-new/2018/11/introducing-amazon-managed-blockchain/

 

 

Amazon DeepRacer and League

https://aws.amazon.com/about-aws/whats-new/2018/11/introducing-aws-deepracer/

 

 

AWS Outposts

(this is the big one I REALLY need to understand for my customers)

https://aws.amazon.com/about-aws/whats-new/2018/11/announcing-aws-outposts/

 

https://cloud.vmware.com/community/2018/11/28/vmware-cloud-aws-outposts-cloud-managed-sddc-data-center/

 

 

After the keynote I went and had some lunch and met up with Adam Post and chatted about his VCDX journey and some of my advice and lessons I learnt and then proceeded to attend a leadership session “ Cloud Adoption and the future of Financial Services” as this sits right with the projects I am working on at present and a number in the pipeline. It was a really good session and one I need to absorb a second time.

I made my way to the Expo hall again and spoke to the Dell Boomi team. It really is an awesome product and one I hope I can possibly even use with my current customer who is doing a DC migration as well as a move to HCI and PaaS.

In the evening I attended the Dell EMC, VMware and AWS party where a number of the vCommunity came along and had a good amount of chats and discussions about the days announcements.


Leave a comment

#AWS #ReInvent Day 1

The first official day of AWS ReInvent kicked off yesterday with the number of people arriving for registration and the Expo hall and sessions open and in full swing. If you missed my Day 0 recap then have a look here.

 

My Day 1 started with me getting up early due to my body clock still being on UK time and going for a run whilst the streets were quiet, its something I like doing and getting some “fresh” air rather than recycled casino or hotel air is really helpful I find. I managed to hit a fair number of steps by the end of the day after my run and the amount of walking around the conference to different sessions and I was careful too book as many as close as possible to each other

 

For a number of these conferences I enjoy meeting up with people in the community who are doing the same kinds of things and through my work and time within the VMware community I am very fortunate to have built a good amount of friends and being able to speak to people doing different projects with the same technology or knowing that person who is doing the same thing you are for a customer helps you reach other and learn from each other. I met up with a few London VMUG, VCDX and vBrownbag crew for breakfast at the non politically correct named – eggslut

 

Next I went to a session all around Amazon Aurora and it’s now GA offering and some lessons learnt from a customer Pagerly who has already used it as well as a preview of what the offering does and enables you to do. It amazed me how many people kept taking pictures of each and every slide when the sessions are recorded where you can see the slides as much and for as long as you want. The offering looks amazing and it certainly has it’s place but I was saddened to hear they weren’t supporting the latest version of PostgreSQL which most of my customer use and would require it to support

 

The next session I went to was unfortunately full by the time I got there as they open up the waiting line ten minutes before the start and my reserved seat got taken so I met up with and chatted to a company who are working with me on my current customer and discussed my thoughts of using them for some customers I have not just doing DC migrations but also to help them move workloads to the cloud and track them efficiently.

 

After lunch I went to a session all around the AWS Well Architected Framework which was a whiteboard session and was very interesting. If you haven’t heard of or used the framework for your deployments then I would highly recommend it as it reminds me of VMware vCAT solution that helps you with a large amount of broad best practices but is pen enough for you to utilise it to your customer/companies requirements.

 

The expo hall was then opened and I walked around numerous times talking to people at the VMware booth all about VMware Wavefront, the AWS booth around security and compliancy and the Dell EMC booth as I had a few friends working on there.

 

I had some dinner with some friends and then was an old man and went to my hotel as my lack of sleep and number of steps had caught up with me and I anted to get a good sleep before the vBreakfast running this morning of around 30 VMware community people attending eh conference all meeting up for breakfast and hopefully starting something we can do annually

 

Gregg


1 Comment

#AWS #ReInvent Day 0

Yesterday was Day 0 of AWS ReInvent for me, I have always wanted to attend ReInvent due to my deep interestes in AWS and being the Solution Lead for AWS in EMEA for Dell EMC.

 

The day started out almost midnight time Vegas time as I flew in from the UK early to try do a day flight to make the ~10 hour flight more bearable. It certainly did make it easier to stay awake on the plane as by the time I landed it was only 8pm UK time. I proceeded to drops my bags off at my hotel and then met up with a number of the London VMUG crew who I have known for a number of years for some drinks and chatting and also to register and collect my badge and hoodie for the conference. I did like that they let you try on the hoodies beforehand so get an idea of sizing’s as American sizing’s can be huge for us from Europe

image5

 

image6

I had signed up for the AWS Tatonka challenge which is a chicken wing eating competition but was also going for the Guinness world record for the number of people participating in a chicken eating competition in one sitting. We had around 340 people and myself, Julian Woof, Chris Porter and George Short all managed to get ourselves into the competition and participating. They gave us numbers, explained the rules to not void the world record attempt and then we got our plates of chicken wings (which were fairly spicy)

image4

The LonVMUG Crew ready to eat some chicken wings

image3

Meeting the AWSCloud Ninja

image2

The Tatonka challenge also allowed us into the Midnight Madness party and first announcement’s session early which was highly beneficial as they supposedly only let in around 6000 people although i don;t thin that many in the end attended. I’m actually unsure if we broke the record as by the time they had done all the calculations the announcements on stage had started with the first one being the launch of Hiber Global and their partnership with AWS and their IoT nework. Next was the announcement of AWS RoboMaker and their opening of the code so anyone can use the code to program robots. Certainly an interesting announcement and one I need to read up more on. There are a number of sessions for RoboMaker although none were showing in the ReInvent planner last night when i looked to register for one.

I for one welcome our Robot overlords Smile

I then made my way home as it was by that time 9am UK time and I had essentially done an all nighter albeit a very nerdy all nighter. Today I hope to do a number of sessions largely around data migrations and financial services opportunities and capabilities within AWS linked largely to my daily work and the work Dell Technologies customers are coming to us to ask for help on.

Gregg


2 Comments

#VMwAWS #vExpert #vCommunity Meetup at #AWS ReInvent

itproawsvmware-logo2

Later this month I will be attending my first AWS ReInvent due to me being the AWS Solution Lead for the UK&I for Dell EMC. As part of my attending I am planning to try kick start a community within the AWS ecosystem that matches the awesome one that the vCommunity has around VMware and supporting technologies. Due to me being a VMware vExpert for the last 9 years and a newly appointed vExpertPro I am looking to call on this community whom are also attending the conference to get together and ideally we can build a crossover AWS and VMware community seeing as most people who have done VMware now also know AWS or are currently using it more and more due to offerings like VMConAWS.

The vBrownbag crew will be attending ReInvent for the first time so please make sure to sign up for a TechTalk and also come watch and meet some like minded people as the community around the vBrownbag is always strong and well worth knowing

So initially and the point of this posting is to find out how many of my followers/readers are attending ReInvent and to then hopefully organise a few meetups and spread the supporting nature of the VMware community into the AWS community and vice versa. So if you are attending then please put your name in the form below and your twitter handle and I will create a way for all of us to start building the VMwAWS community.