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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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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VMware Integrated Openstack 3.0

At todays VMworld Keynote VMware Integrated OpenStack version 3.0 is going to be announced. If you are like me and haven’t had a chance to learn about the VIO offering as a whole then let me give a basic overview and then what new capabilities and features are coming in the 3.0 release.

What is VMware Integrated OpenStack (VIO) ?

  • VIO is an “Integrated Product” Approach to OpenStack
  • Standard OpenStack Distribution (delivered as OVA)
  • Deploys & Manages Proven Production Architecture on VMware SDDC
  • Fully Supported by VMware

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The features that have been released prior to the this release and the ones in this release are:

VIO 1.0 (Q1 2015)

  • Icehouse Based
  • VMware Platform Differentiation
  • Production Ready
  • Simplified Deploy
  • Day 2 Operation Workflows
  • Automated Patching
  • Fully Supported

VIO 2.0 (Q3 2015)

  • Kilo Based
  • Seamless / Automated Upgrade & Rollback
  • Backup & Recovery
  • Customisations

VIO 2.5 (Q2 2016)

  • Kilo Based
  • Compact Architecture
  • VM Template Import
  • Scale, Perf & Stability Improvements
  • Simplified Monitoring & Troubleshooting
  • NFV Features

VIO 3.0 (H2 2016)

  • Mitaka Based
  • Compact VIO
  • Import existing vSphere workloads

VIO 3.0 Mitaka OpenStack Release

  • Latest OpenStack Release
  • Tons of improvements
    • Improved day-to-day experience for cloud admins and administrators.
    • Simplified configuration for Nova compute service.
    • Streamlined Keystone identity service is now a one-step process for setting up the identity management features of a cloud network.
    • Keystone now supports multi-backend allowing local authentication and AD accounts simultaneously.
    • Heat’s convergence engine optimized to handle larger loads and more complex actions for horizontal scaling for improved performance for stateless mode.
    • Enhanced OpenStack Client provides a consistent set of calls for creating resources no longer requiring the need to learn the intricacies of each service API.
    • Support for software development kits (SDKs) in various languages.
    • New “give me a network,” feature capable of creating a network, attaching a server to it, assigning an IP to that server, and making the network accessible, in a single action

VIO 3.0: Slimmer Full HA Architecture

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VIO 3.0: Compact Mode

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VIO 3.0: Import vSphere Workloads

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VIO delivers AWS Productivity with Private Cloud Control

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If you want to learn more about VIO then make sure you attend the VMware booth in the solutions exchange at VMworld US if you are attending the conference or speak to your TAM/VMware Sales representative for a demo or PoC.

Gregg


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VCDX Spotlight – Kiran Reid

Name: Kiran Reid

Twitter Handle: Apollokre1d

Current Employer: Bank Of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ LTD

VCDX #: 225

How did you get into using VMware?

I started back in 2009 when my previous employer started a large datacentre consolidation project. I quickly did my VCP to ensure I was the main resource on the project.

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

I really wanted to further my knowledge after doing the VCAPs. What I liked about the VCDX program is it makes you stronger in so many different technology areas.

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

About 13 months once I had passed the VCAP’s.

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

Try and enjoy the whole experience, especially the defence. When you stand in front of that panel it is an amazing feeling thinking about where you were when you started the journey and where you are now.

We always find excuses not to do things, for instance, my current employer has strict polices preventing us from emailing stuff out of the bank which meant I had to recreate all of the design documentation at home as well as fund the entire process myself, but this was important so I did not let any of that get in the way.

If your excuse is “you’re too busy” consider this… my mentor has three children all under the age of 6 but still woke up at 5am twice a week (due to the time difference) once my defence was accepted to help get me ready. He did all this while working on his own second VCDX certification and working full-time for VMware… If he found the time we all can 🙂

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

For someone not from a consulting background I should’ve practiced the design scenarios a little earlier on in the process.

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

This has been one of the best experiences in my career and I am really grateful to the VCDX program and community. After a short break I am very much looking forward to completing the VCDX-NV track and helping others achieve their numbers.


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Join Me At VMworld US 2016

VMworld 2016

Yet again I am honoured to have been given a bloggers pass to VMworld US due to my vExpert work but more importantly the vBrownbag TechTalks and opening acts that the vBrownbag crew will be running in the hang space.

VMworld is always an exciting conference to go to and if you haven’t yet booked your place then let me list some of the reasons I think you should attend as they are the reasons I try to attend every year.

  • On the Sunday of VMworld is Partner Exchange and TAM day where VMware partners can attend exclusive sessions talking about everything from future roadmaps for all of VMware product lines but also new solutions VMware are looking to release. The sessions are always extremely interesting and from my experience are the best chance to speak to the “rockstars” who evangelise and breath the various solutions. If you aren’t a partner or are looking for something less formal than PEX then the vBrownbag crew along with the vBrisket and VMUnderground crew are running opening acts with vBrisket for lunch and VMUnderground party at the end of the day. Opening acts has gained popularity with each year and the level of panels as well as those attending has also kept on increasing. The schedule for the day is:
    • 10:45am – The doors open
    • 11:00am – Panel Session 1
    • 12:00pm – Panel Session 2
    • 1:00pm – BBQ lunch by vBrisket
    • 2:00pm – Panel Session 3
    • 3:00pm – Panel Session 4
    • 4:00pm – Fin.
  • Also if you live in the US and want to do a road trip to VMworld then the vBrisket team are doing a road trip, you can see all the details here: http://www.vbrisket.com/vbrisket-bus-tour-to-vmworld-2016/.

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  • My second reason for attending is networking. I know it should be sessions or HOL but the ability to network with like-minded people and make relationships with people doing cutting edge work with the latest technologies has proved so beneficial to me in the past. The ability to network can be done in several places and at several parties but the best place IMO has to be the hangspace where you can sit at the bloggers table or speak to the VMware communities team as well as (and most importantly) listen and watch the vBrownbag TechTalks. If you have never heard of the TechTalks then a brief overview is below:
    • Tech Talks originated at VMworld 2012 where they provided an opportunity for community members, whose presentation submissions were not accepted into the main catalogue, to present the core of  a topic.  #TechTalks are a ten minute presentation by a community member for the benefit of the community. Since almost everyone working in technology has solved problems and learned something almost everyone could present a #TechTalk.  The format can be a slide deck or simply talking, they are usually about how to solve a problem or get the most out of a product. The TechTalk is captured on video and published on the vBrownBag YouTube channel.
    • If the conference Internet connection allows, the talk is also live streamed from the show.
    • #TechTalks are for community members to reach other community members, any topic that will help other people is good.  The one thing that TechTalks are not is an opportunity to present the corporate slide deck about a great product you would like us to buy.  #TechTalks are about up skilling and education, the only marketing should be from the TechTalk sponsors who help make the whole thing happen.
  • Anyone can watch the TechTalks and there are almost always a crowd of the biggest names in the industry,VCDX, vExperts and top 50 vBloggers either watching the TechTalks, Chatting amongst themselves nearby or writing up blogs and uploading videos to their blogs from the bloggers table. The community is very welcoming so please do come say hi and I promise if i am there I’ll try not be grumpy 🙂
  • Next are the sessions. The VMworld Schedule Builder opened yesterday and within 3 hours a whole bunch were fully booked just to show the sheer interest of people to listen to some of the biggest names talking about the biggest technologies such as Duncan Epping of Yellow-Bricks.com fame talking about “A day in the life of a VSAN IO”. The sessions are always engaging and cover technical depth from beginners all the way to veterans so there is always something to learn. the sessions are also recorded so if you can’t make it to a sessions due to a conflict then by registering for VMworld you get access to all the recorded sessions after the conference for you to watch in your own time.
  • Next reason are the hands on labs. the labs cover all technologies and not just from VMware but also partners including the EMC Federation. The labs allow you a brilliant way of working your way through using the latest solutions and technologies so if your boss is wondering what NSX is and if it will fit your companies requirements you can do several labs on it and then can not only help your company understand it’s benefits having gone to sessions around NSX but also know how to do tasks inside NSX due to the labs.

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  • Next is the solutions exchange which is firstly an amazing place to talk to all the top vendors and companies working within the virtualisation arena and secondly to maybe even win yourself a few prizes from the plethora of competitions all the stands are running constantly. I personally love walking around the solutions exchange after grabbing some food so that you can listen to all the vendors explain why their solution is the best fit for you and get in some much-needed sustenance as you will be walking A LOT at the conference.
  • Lastly are the parties, these are normally amazing and seeing as the conference is in Las Vegas the locations are likely to be unbelievable. The parties vary in craziness so you can attend mellow drinks or full or parties in clubs it is entirely up to you. Apart from the VMUnderground party the Welcome Reception kicks off the conference experience with food, drinks, and networking in the Solutions Exchange. The always energetic Welcome Reception is a great way to reconnect with old friends, network, share ideas, and get to know our inviting community of VMware customers, experts, and partners. The parties have only just started getting announced but you can see which ones have been announced on Hans’ blog here. The VMworld party finishes off the conference on Wednesday night and is hosted at the legendary Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the band has been announced and despite what some old farts say about the band selected I can’t wait to listen to Fall Out Boy!!

Hopefully i will see you at the conference and as I stated do come by the hang space and say hello, I will be wearing a vBrownbag shirt with my name and twitter handle on so I should be easy to locate and identify.

 

Gregg


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VCAP6-CMA Design Objective 1.2 – Gather and Analyze Application Requirements.

Due to my decision to aim for my VCDX6-CMA this year and thereby to get it in in time for the only VCDX-CMA defence of the year (so far) I have signed up for the VCAP6-CMA Design beta exam. I’ve been working on a very large-scale vRA 6.2 project for the past 14 months and so I hope this experience of designing and building it as well as my preparations via these objectives breakdown (plus my study resources) and using some of my VCDX5-DCV knowledge will help me. So I thought I would slowly post up each objective for my own benefit but also hopefully help other people looking to pass the VCAP6-CMA Design exam (beta or GA).I will be consolidating all the objectives on my blog page here

Knowledge

Gather and analyze application requirements for a given scenario.

  • What I believe is being looked for here is for you to having spoken to the stakeholders and more importantly the application owners and worked out what exactly they require for their applications and the interdependencies the applications have. Applications can be standalone and require no outside communication or could be multi-tiered and require access to the internet or a public git repository for example. Asking the right questions and fully understanding what the applications do and require will then allow you to provide what is required or if it isn’t available start making plans to make it available.

Determine the requirements for a set of applications that will be included in the design.

  • This is exactly the same as above in my opinion but now instead of just one application you need to get a holistic idea of all the applications in a multi-machine blueprint for example and all the requirements these have to work whilst also not impacting other workloads.

Collect information needed in order to identify application dependencies.

  • This is done by speaking to the application owners and then validating yourself as even though the application owners say they need certain things you need to validate this and ensure that they are correct and that putting it into the vRA solution doesn’t require another method of doing something. For example maybe the physical F5 load balancers can’t be used for load balancing applications deployed within the vRA solution so you either need to open firewalls to allow this or deploy maybe NSX load balancers within the environment to allow this capability. In the blueprint they recommend the Foundations and Concepts document which is good but personally I think you need to know much much more than the foundations to understand application dependencies and how they would fit within vRA.
  • They recommend the vRealize Infrastructure Navigator User-s Guide as a study tool and this is certainly a great method of looking at existing applications and understanding heir interdependencies and what the applications are talking to. This also makes sure that the application isn’t talking to some old database server in the background that Joe Blogs setup before he got retrenched and no one has known about since. VIN is a great tool and there’s loads of free videos and resources you can use to learn about the product like this VMware YouTube video.

Given one or more application requirements, determine the impact of the requirements on the design.

  • Again this is understanding holistically what the applications are talking to and require and then ensuring it is available within the environment or communicable from the environment (services like AD, DNS,IP Management etc). I’m not really sure how you can learn more about this without experience of differing products but understanding how multi-tiered applications work and require resilient back-end resources to function is very important (think of a web applications with multiple web servers, application server and a DB)

VMware Recommended Tools

The VMware recommended study tools for this objective are:

If you disagree with anything I’ve said above then please let me know and if I agree (I’m always open to learning) then I will update the posting. Now onto objective 1.3.

Gregg