TheSaffaGeek

My ramblings about all things technical


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Why do you want the #VCDX accreditation?

A recent twitter comment or should I say declaration by Craig Kilborn reminded me that I wanted to write a posting about doing the VCDX for the right reasons (Disclaimer: this is my opinion and if you disagree then that is perfectly fine). Also I am really looking forward to the posting Craig is going to put out as he was and still is one of the most prepped people I know for the VCDX defences yet sadly failed it.

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When people come up to me at conferences or VMUG’s and chat to me about my VCDX journey and my achieving the VCDX accreditation and state they are looking to start the journey towards getting a VCDX number I always ask them one initial question: Why do you want the VCDX accreditation? The VCDX and path has been an amazing experience and learning curve for me and I know many many others and I personally feel you should do it for the cliché reason of “for the journey and not the destination” as the amount you need to learn and the breadth of not just technical skills but also public speaking, white boarding skills, stress management skills and the biggest one I had – realising how little you actually know and still need to learn is the best reason to do it. I know I ruffled a few VCDX feathers on a Geek Whisperers podcast appearance I did where I stated that getting the VCDX won’t always mean you will get a top role at VMware or get that six figure salary or automatically get that promotion. But the skills you have learnt and perfected along the way to obtaining your VCDX might bring some of those. I still believe this and if you do it for those reasons you might be disappointed once you get your number.

I use certifications to force myself to learn new technologies and for me the VCDX track was something that was going to push me to learn VMware technologies to a level only a certain amount of people globally had “proven”  this level of knowledge. What I didn’t realise was that the VCDX was going to force me to not just know VMware technologies to an expert level but also all the supporting technologies around it and how the VCDX requires people to have a very strong holistic understanding of all the technologies in a solution and how differing decisions can/would have impacts on the success of the design/solution. So even though this might sound a level that is daunting to you (it was certainly for me and to be honest it still is a work in  progress due to the ever changing landscape of IT) the amount you learn about all the supporting technologies, from people also aiming for the certification as well as the community around it is priceless and for me has been the main “prize” of doing the VCDX.

Last year October I defended a vRealize Automation design I had done in my spare time for a real world customer along with the infamous Rene van den Bedem and Andrea Siviero to hopefully obtained my VCDX6-CMA. I was ultimately unsuccessful in this attempt but gained an untold amount of experience not just from building a VCDX level design for vRA along with the required supporting documentation but again realising where there were gaps in my knowledge that needed to be filled. One of these was NSX where I knew a certain working level but in hindsight I naively  should have realised the amount NSX played a part in our solution and even though the defence was about vRA the impacts on the decisions and design we had made for NSX was a direct influencer on if the solution succeeded or failed. From this I have been up skilling on NSX and last week Friday I passed the first step in this by obtaining my VCP6-NV. I will also most likely resubmit for my VCDX6-CMA in the future because 1. I seem to be a masochist and 2. I fully believe a quote from a video I used to watch in prep for my VCDX-DCV second defence of “Pain is temporary, it may last for a minute, or an hour, or a day or even a year but it will subside, if you quit however the pain will last forever” and I can’t help myself but want to complete what I started or else I am accepting the failure. From needing to better my knowledge of NSX I have seen a direct impact and benefit to my role as a Solution Lead in Dell EMC’s Cloud Practice and the methods I learnt and used for my DCV and CMA submissions have proven untold benefit on the deliveries I have had to produce on projects I have worked on.

I’ve possibly been as clear as mud in this posting but my main personal thoughts and opinions about wanting to go for the VCDX are:

  1. Do it as it has been an amazing learning experience and continues to be for me.
  2. Don’t be afraid to fail it as for me it has been the best way to truly show me where I need to be better.
  3. Do it to be a better architect and have a more well rounded knowledge as the IT landscape is forever changing and you never know when one of those supporting technology skills will maybe get your foot in the door to a new exciting opportunity
  4. The community around the VCDX is amazing and 98% of VCDX’s are more than willing to help you along your journey but you have to take the initiative as no one is going to carry you. As Rebecca Fitzhugh a relatively recent VCDX wrote about, a good mentor never coaches you but challenges, encourages and provides “wisdom” when needed.
  5. There is a fair likelihood that once you achieve the VCDX your company and/or boss will have no idea what it really means and most recruiters are more excited about someone being a vExpert than a VCDX but the skills you learnt in the journey towards VCDX will be what might get you that new role or promotion but don’t do the certification for those reasons as you might be disappointed that not much changes initially if possibly at all once you get a VCDX number. It’s actually one of the reasons I ask “ Life after the VCDX?  How did your company respond?  Was it worth it?” in my VCDX Spotlight postings as for most the change is minor and might only happen a fair time later.
  6. There is a substantial amount of personal time and effort that goes into the journey and if you don’t use it for all the lessons along the way then once you achieve it you might be saddened by what is behind the Wizard of VCDX’s curtain.

If you are realistically aiming for the VCDX(You have the VCAp’s/VCIX in your chosen track or are on the cusp of having them) then I run a VCDXPrepGroup slack channel where people also aiming for the VCDX can work together and where we have almost a dozen VCDX mentors covering all four of the tracks. Message me and I’ll add you to the group but be warned the group won’t give you anything that will break the NDA’s and you won’t be supplied people’s VCDX submissions so you will have to put in the work, the group just provides the platform to get some valuable feedback and link you to fellow VCDX Wannabe’s.

Lastly good luck to those that defended VCDX this week (a fair few from the slack group) and for those aiming for future defences good luck on the journey.

Gregg


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VCDX Spotlight – Rebecca Fitzhugh

Name: Rebecca Fitzhugh

Twitter Handle: @rebeccafitzhugh

Blog URL: technicloud.com

Current Employer: self-employed

VCDX #: 243

How did you get into using VMware?

I was voluntold! I learned VMware while serving in the military. My direct supervisor instructed me to upgrade an ESX host; I had no idea what VMware, ESX, or virtualization even was at the time.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

It seemed like the next logical step. I had achieved multiple VCAPs and VCDX was next. It was more of a self-validation than anything. I also hoped that it would help open up doors in order to take my career to the next level.

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

A little over three years. I attained both VCAP certifications on v5 in 2013. As for actively pursuing VCDX, it took 10 months. I began rewriting my design (had briefly started the previous year) with my VCDX partner in February 2016, submitted in May, unsuccessfully defending in July, resubmitted in August, and succeeded in November.

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

If you are considering pursuing the VCDX, I would recommend doing a self assessment and evaluating your strengths and weaknesses. Work to shore up the weaknesses because as an architect you must be well rounded in many technical areas. Secondly, practice public speaking. Your soft skills matter as much as your technical expertise. And lastly, set realistic goals for yourself and find a study group that will hold you accountable.

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

Generally speaking, I wouldn’t change much. Failing was a huge learning experience and helped me get a clearer understanding of what the panel was looking for. I would spend more time up front doing mocks with more people and working on my presentation earlier.

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

My company was super supportive because I own it! Ha! As for post VCDX life, it has mostly returned to semi-normalness. But, I would say that the process and my preparation have changed my perspective and how I approach the design process. I’d say it was worth it for the personal growth and the people you meet along the journey.


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vSphere 6.5 Operations Management Announcements

At today’s VMworld Europe conference in Barcelona VMware are announcing vSphere 6.5. There are a plethora of new features and fixes in this series of postings I plan to cover the ones that caught my eye and so for the first second one let us cover the updates to vSphere 6.5 Operations Management.

vR Ops – New Home Dashboard

The vR Ops home dashboard as part of vSOM has had a makeover where you can now filter and find important things to the environment easily such as

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Quickly identity top problem objects

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Filter by severity

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Condensed alert and information and remediation guidance

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Enhanced vSphere DRS Cluster settings dashboard

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Conveniently monitor each cluster workload

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Updated Workload Utilisation Dashboard

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Easily visualise separate workloads

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Quicker access to rebalance plan

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vR Ops – Additional Improvements

vCenter Configuration

  • Combined Configuration of vCenter and Action Adapters
  • One-button ease of enabling or disabling actions
  • Create and apply global monitoring goals to multiple vCenters

Automation

  • New CaSA public REST API interface
  • Documentation available@ <vrops>/casa/api-guide.html
  • Allows for cluster and node management

Security and Compliance

  • Added support for the vSphere 6.0 hardening guide
  • New certificate validation checks
  • Import certificates via CaSA REST API

Log Insight Integration

  • Log Insight management pack comes pre-installed
  • Improvements of Log Insight alerting to vR Ops

Log insight – New Clarity UI

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Log Insight – Additional Improvements

vSphere Content Pack

  • New vCenter Server Dashboards
    • Overview
    • Performance
  • Updated Dashboards
    • General- Problems
    • vSphere – vMotion

Widget Updates

  • New Event Widgets
    • Event Types
    • Event Trends
  • New vSphere widgets:
    • Replicated VMs
    • Recovered VMs
    • Upgraded VMs

Other Notables

  • Added PSP PhoneHome Support
  • API-Based Improvements
    • Install
    • Upgrade
    • Query API Enhancements
  • Streaming Support Bundles

Make sure you attend one of (if not all) the multiple sessions by Kyle Gleed to learn and see more if you are at the show or watch once the recordings have been released

Gregg


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vSphere 6.5 VCSA and Clients Announcements

At today’s VMworld Europe conference in Barcelona VMware are announcing vSphere 6.5. There are a plethora of new features and fixes in this series of postings I plan to cover the ones that caught my eye and so for the first one let us cover the vSphere 6.5 VCSA and Clients announcements.

Overview

  • Native high availability – An all new HA solution that reduces RTO and is easy to configure. No dependency on expensive 3rd party database clustering solutions of RDMs while eliminating the single point of failure for vCenter Server
  • VMware Update Manager – is now integrated into the vCenter Server Appliance. Simple, enabled by default, and removes the requirement for a separate Windows VM.
  • Improved appliance management – an improved vCenter Server Appliance Management Interface (VMAI) brings more CPU, Memory, Network and Database monitoring right into the UI. Reduces reliance on CLI for simple monitoring tasks.
  • Native Backup and Restore – Simplified backup and restore with a new native file-based solution. Restore the vCenter server configuration to a fresh appliance and stream backups to external storage using HTTP, FTP or SCP protocols (Only available on the vCenter Server appliance)

VCSA Deployment

  • Installer support now for windows, Mac and Linux
  • An updated menu where you cannot just select to install or upgrade but also migrate and restore.

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  • VMware vSphere Update Manager included
  • VCSA and PSC install is now a two stage process
    • Stage 1- Deploy OVF
    • Stage 2 – Configuration
  • The benefits of the 2-stage deployment are:
    • Improved validation and checks
    • Manual snapshot between stages for rollback
    • Create a template for additional deployments

VCSA Migration – 6.5

  • 6.5 support for Windows vCenter 5.5 or 6.0 -> 6.5
  • Migrations for both embedded and external topologies
  • VMware vSphere Update Manager included as part of migration
  • Assumes the identity of the source Windows vCenter (UUID, IP, OS Name, Certificates)
  • Embedded and external Database support: MSSQL, MSSQL Express, Oracle
  • Migration Assistant pre-checks
  • Option to select historical and performance data

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VCSA Monitoring

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  • New vCenter Server Appliance Management Interface
  • Built in monitoring: Network, CPU and Memory
  • Visibility to vPostgres DB
  • Remote syslog configuration
  • vMon: Enhanced watchdog functionality

Native vCenter Server Appliance Backup & Restore

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  • Removes dependency on 3rd party backup solutions
  • Restore vCenter Server instance to a brand new appliance
  • Supports backup/restore of VCSA & PSC appliances
  • Includes embedded and external deployments
  • Supported protocols include:
    • HTTP/S
    • SC
    • FTP/S
  • Option for Encryption
  • Restore directly from VCSA ISO

Native vCenter High Availability

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  • VCSA Only
  • Active/Passive with witness
  • Required network configuration:
    • Eth0 – Public network
    • Eth1 – Private network (added during configuration)
  • Two configuration options: Basic and Advanced

Client Integration Plugin Deprecation

  • In 6.5 CIP is no longer required
    • Replaced by native browser functions
    • Optional plugin called Enhanced Authentication Plugin for smart card and Integrate Windows Authentication login capabilities.

vSphere HTML5 Web Client

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· Clarity UI standard

· No browser plugins

· Integrated into vCenter Server 6.5

· Fully supports Enhanced Linked Mode

Make sure you attend one of the multiple sessions by Emad Younis and Adam Eckerle to learn and see more.

Gregg


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VCDX Spotlight: Byron Schaller

Name: Byron Schaller

Twitter Handle: @byronschaller

Blog URL: vbyron.com

Current Employer: RoundTower Technologies

VCDX #: 231

How did you get into using VMware?

I started with VMware Workstation in 2000 when I was writing code for a living. I started working with ESX in 2005 with version 2.5.1. VMware products became my main focus with the release of VI3.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

This is complicated. Mostly the challenge and to prove I could. In seeking validation, I ended up gaining far more. I’m easily twice the architect now compared to when I started.

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

I completed my VCAP-DCD in February 2014. I guess I was passively preparing from that point until I began in earnest writing my design in May of this year (2016). I submitted in July and worked on my deck from the day I submitted until 2 days before I defended in September. In all I probably spent 200 hours this summer between writing, revising, and raw study.

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

Three points:

1. Get a mentor.

2. Get a study group of people you respect and trust. Mine was fantastic and I’m sure we will be friends post VCDX for a long, long time.

3. Understand your use case. What the workloads you are running on your clusters actually do for the business matters. Understanding the business impact of the applications leads to justifying design decisions. If you design an infrastructure for it’s own sake without taking this into account, I’m almost sure you will fail the defence.

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

I would have used a real use customer design. Mine was entirely fictional. The upside is I’m pretty sure I’m one of the only folks to pass on the first attempt with an entirely fictional design and without working with a partner(s).

The downside is that it made the process significantly harder. I had to make up all my performance and sizing data and make it feel real. That was very hard, and I still think I could have done a better job of it. If I had those numbers collected, because they were real, it would have saved me significant time.

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

My goals around learning include knocking out all 5 AWS certs by the end of the year and then starting on my VCDX-NV.

My company has been pretty great about everything, however with Rene (VCDX #133) as my boss I would expect no less.

In the end was it worth it? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes.

The friends I gained and the skills I cultivated were well worth the effort. Without a doubt the VCDX journey changes you in ways few things can.

Byron


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#VMworld Day 2

My VMworld day 2 started with getting into the VMvillage so that I could write up my #VMworld Day 1 posting as well as make sure I was near the vBrownbag presentation area so that I could setup whilst the keynote was displayed over the screens in the VMvillage.

I am not going to go over over the keynote point by point as to be honest I was half setting up for vBrownbag and also only paid full attention when Kit Colbert was presenting around cloud native apps as that is the bits I am extremely interested in and with VMware supposedly stopping their licencing/agreement with SUSE and planning to “drink their own champagne” and use their own code moving forward.I strongly believe this is the next step in the journey of those who were server admins, then virtualisation admins and now holistic/full stack Virtualisation admins. If you want to watch the keynote then you can watch it here.

After setting up for the vBrownbag TechTalks I attended an invitation only vRealize Automation workshop in the Hands on Labs hosted by Jad El Zein which was amazing and has certainly shown me the amount of progress VMware has made and will be making with containers and reigning in the management and lifecycle of DevOps for their customers.

After the session I made my way back to the vBrownbag area where we ran sessions consistently for the rest of the day. you can watch all the recordings from Day1 and Day2 on the the YouTube channel here

I also wandered into the solutions exchange as I had heard a rumour that Anxcient had a VCDX gift of a poker set. The poker set gift rumour was true and it is certainly a great bit of swag and a good way of alerting a group of highly skilled people about your company

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I ended the day fairly low key after getting a wholesome meal at a restaurant nearby the conference and then made my way to the Bellagio fountains which was really awesome and is something I always wanted to see as I don’t know when or if i will be back into Las Vegas.

Today the vBrownbag TechTalks continue from 11am PST. You can watch the live stream here and as per usual they will be recorded and uploaded as quickly as we can upload them.

 

Gregg


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#VMworld Day 1

Yesterday was the official first day of VMworld for those that are not partners. The day started for me with a bit of breakfast at the conference with Rene van den Bedem (VCDX133) after which we made our way to the bloggers area which had already started to fill up with bloggers and those deciding to not venture into the keynote hall but rather watch the keynote on the big screens in the VMVillage.

I’m not going to do a blow-by-blow analysis of the keynote but would rather recommend you  watch the keynote recording here. Some highlights from the keynote for me were:

  • 23,500 attendees (I wonder if cheaper hotel rooms helped this number)
  • 21 alumnus get lifetime passes for them and their spouses
  • By 2021 June 29th 3:57 the enterprise with be 50/50 in the cloud
  • By 2030 52% of all workloads will be public cloud.
  • Tech Vendors are #1 for embracing the Cloud.
  • The Cross Cloud Architecture was announced. You can see the whitepaper for the Cloud Foundation here
  • VMware Cloud Foundation as a Service first partnership is with IBM
  • A pet hate of mine that both Pat Gelsigner and a number of others used on premise. As Smeagol would say

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After the keynote the #vBrownbag TechTalks kicked off with the vExpert Daily and ran almost continuously for the rest of the day with a new session every 15-20 minutes to finish up with us having streamed and recorded 20 sessions which we are very pleased with. You can see all the recordings on our YouTube channel here.

I also snuck out during the day to pick up some exclusive #vExpert Swag like the VMworld Survival Kit from Cohesity with was a Timbuk2 bag with a portable charger, usb stick, water bottle and multi charger cables. A very good idea by their marketing, so much so they are having to mail a whole bunch as they ran out by lunchtime.

We finished the last vBrownbag near 5pm after which I made my way back to my room to drop off my bag then went early to the VMware Code Hackathon. I purposely didn’t bring a laptop so that i could just watch without showing my lack of programming knowledge but i still managed to have loads of brilliant conversations and numerous discussions around the VCDX Study/Mock group I run for those realistically looking to obtain the VCDX. The hackathon was a great success and certainly linked up like-minded people where everyone could learn and make connections whilst having some nice food and drinks.

Today the vBrownbag TechTalks continue from 11am PST. You can watch the live stream here and as per usual they will be recorded and uploaded as quickly as we can upload them.

Gregg