My ramblings about all things technical


New Horizons

Almost five years ago I wrote a posting titled The Next Chapter where I was blogging about my leaving the then named EMC Consulting to join Xtravirt as I wanted to spread my wings and test myself against being a consultant and with the dream of getting the experience to attempt the VCDX one day. Well I’m pleased and blessed to say that I went from a Technical Consultant to now a Lead Consultant and after my second defence attempt last October I am now VCDX #205.

So to the part that everyone is more interested in, as of October the 3rd I will be joining Dell EMC as a Global Cloud Architect . The role is far too good to not take and the technologies I’m going to be working with plus the exciting  future from the acquisition by Dell scratches my nerd itch. I am not leaving Xtravirt due to not having loved my time with the company and will be leaving many highly intelligent friends and a fellow VCDX (not that he isn’t intelligent as well 😀 ). Without the experience I have gained working for Xtravirt and the high end projects I have been very fortunate been part of as a white labelled VMware PSO consultant ,the ability to work alongside and learn from some of the smartest people in the industry  I don’t know if I would have had the experience and knowledge to gain my VCDX.

I’ll still be on twitter whenever I have the opportunity and will still try answer and help people on the VMware Communities , try attend the London VMUG’s + vBeers as well attend VMworld US and EU. I will also still be running the unofficial VCDX Study/Mock group and be a VCDX mentor as much as time allows.

Also don’t worry I won’t be posting comments on twitter around “My HCI solution is better than yours and your metrics are rubbish” so you don’t have to unfollow me 😀


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VMworld Day 2

VMworld EMEA day 2 kicked off with the keynote from Carl Echenbach, Ben Fathi and Raghu Raghuram. Unfortunately the keynote was again largely a repeat of the VMworld US day 2 one with all of the same jokes and mock up pictures also. Due to this I’m not going to break down the keynote but rather recommend you watch the keynote recording here.

After watching the keynote and writing up my VMworld Day 1 blog posting I helped the vBrownbag crew with preparations for the TechTalks for which the recordings are now available on the vBrownbag YouTube channel. I would highly recommend watching these as there were some really great presentations from some very big vendors and names within the industry. I then went to the hands on labs and did  HOL-SDC-1420 – OpenStack with VMware vSphere and NSX. The lab was really good and I plan to do the second part of it today.

Talking about containers VMware released a blog posting yesterday around Docker containers performance in VMware vSphere. some of the highlights from the article are that:

  • VMware find that for most of these micro-benchmarks and Redis tests, vSphere delivered near-native performance with generally less than 5% overhead.
  • Running an application in a Docker container in a vSphere VM has very similar overhead of running containers on a native OS (directly on a physical server).

To view the full blog post, you can visit :

After the HOL I attended the Solutions exchange and spoke to some of the vendors whose solutions interest me such as Nutanix, Hitachi Data Systems, PernixData, Simplivity , SolidFire and Colt stalls. Some amazing solution from these guys as well as many others, it’s scary how much the virtualisation ecosystem is changing.

From the solutions exchange I attended session STO2997-SPO The vExpert Storage Game Show EMEA which was really good fun and filled by really smart guys on the stage. I watched the recording of the one from the US a few weeks ago and it too was very informative and is a session I would recommend watching from both VMworld’s.

I then made my way back to the solutions exchange for the hall crawl where Hitachi were serving up sake and sushi at their stand which is two of my favourite things so I had to make sure I got myself some and they even gave us nice sake cups which I will personally use for a double espresso cup. A big thanks to Paul Meehan too for chatting us through their solution.


I stuck around in the solutions exchange until the VMworld party as the party is in the convention centre. The party seemed smaller this year although there was a big roller rink in the middle last year so possibly this was the reason. It was good to chat to very vNerds and even some ex-colleagues whilst waiting for Simple Minds to come on. I’m only 31 so I only knew two or three of their songs but they were hands down better than Taio Cruz last year and most of the crowd seemed to really enjoy it and they even did an encore. From the party I met up with some of my Xtravirt colleagues for a night cap.

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London VMUG 4th July

The next London VMware User Group is only two weeks away and is looking to be jam packed with big names, first time presenters and sponsored labs.

The event is growing from strength to strength and I’m always amazed how many people put their hand up when it is asked who is a first time attendee. If you have not been before I would highly recommend it and the sessions are deeply informative and you get to chat to fellow Virtualisation IT workers who are doing the same kinds of work as you or maybe something you are about to do and can give you some helpful tips. It will be held at the usual local of the London’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 33 Queen Street, London, EC43 1AP.

Fellow Xtravirt colleagues of mine Seb Hakiel and Grant Friend will be doing an interactive session on the approach and pitfalls of a 4000 seat VDI deployment throughout EMEA which is a must attend in my opinion and I believe the first of many sessions these guys have in them.

The agenda for the day is:


Which is followed by vBeers which is held at the pavilion end pub




So far I am planning to attend so should be a great day as always and please come say hi if you spot me at the VMUG or even vBeers.



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2013 vExpert Award.

So Utterly Honoured!

I recognise this is a bit late to the news but due to being on a client site all of last week I have only managed to get this posting up now.

Last week I was humbled and honoured to have been awarded the VMware vExpert 2013 designation and my third time of being chosen as one. For those who don’t know what this means and think it is just another certification I have done (I admit I do sit a large amount of exams) below is a brief description of the award and what it is for:

The VMware vExpert Award is given to individuals who have significantly contributed to the community of VMware users over the past year. vExperts are book authors, bloggers, VMUG leaders, tool builders, and other IT professionals who share their knowledge and passion with others. These vExperts have gone above and beyond their day jobs to share their technical expertise and communicate the value of VMware and virtualization to their colleagues and community.

I’m super pleased to have been selected again and also really pleased for my fellow Xtravirt colleagues Darren Woollard, Sean Duffy, Ather Beg and Paul Davey for also being selected this year. That’s almost a fifth of the whole company that are VMware vExperts!

What did you do last year to get it?

As the vExpert designation is given for the work you did in the previous year, when people ask how they can become one or what did I do to be selected it is always around half a year behind what people should have been trying do to be in contention to be selected. For me I did some of the following:

–  VMware Communities Moderator

–  Co-hosts of the EMEA vBrownbag podcast

–  Presented at the London VMUG in January and July

–  Blog often from this blog on VMware matters and announcements. Specifically around VMware exams and study resources for the exams

–  Beta tester of numerous VMware products

–  Active member of the VMware Communities

–  Active member of the London VMUG

–  Was an active member of the vExpert community and collected and posted all the vExpert Spotlight postings

I did all these things I love doing them and I’m passionate about the technology not because I wanted to become a vExpert though and I would recommend doing it for the right reasons and not because you want to get something out of it.

Massive Thanks

A massive amount of thanks to John Troyer and his team who run the vExpert program and for feeling I was worthy of the designation. Also congratulations to all the other 2013 vExperts!! There are a number of newcomers and as many returning vExperts so it is great to share this designation with so many passionate and amazingly friendly people.

Also for those who may have missed it both Tintri and Trainsignal have already done great promotions for the 2013 vExperts which is always a nice perk of being part of the group.



VCAP5-DCD Design Practice

As some people may know I am currently preparing to re-take my VCAP5-DCD and I have reached the point in my preparations now where I am doing mock designs and also going through the labs from the VMware Design Workshop and so I thought I would follow the same idea and start creating a mock customer design scenario and also put down the same vein of questions I am being asked from the design workshop labs and hopefully if people are interested they can use it, write down what design choices,the justifications for these  choices and the impacts these choices create on the rest of the design and hopefully everyone will learn from this. Below is a company profile that I made up and I also used some ideas from a scenario Matt Mould one of my Xtravirt colleagues sent me as few months back:

Company Profile
•    Safe & Legit, are a global trading company – they specialise in ground defence equipment
•    13,000 physical servers across 9 sites.
o    6k  UK (3 sites)
o    2k  CN (3 sites)
o    5k  US (3 sites)
•    There are two level 4 DC’s per country (for info on DC levels see
•    DC’s are linked by an MPLS cloud from BT, Verizon, Colt and NTT (contracts end Q1 2015)
•    One DC per country is privately owned and Safe & Legit want to retain the real estate, but make room to lease out sought after level 4 private suites, thus providing a new revenue stream, and hopefully make their own DC’s cost neutral in doing so. Therefore they are looking to virtualise as much of their physical estate as possible into vSphere 5.0
•    The remaining DC’s are rented from BT, Verizon and NTT (contracts end Q1 2015) . The CFO has voiced his desire to cut the cost of these rentals and would ideally like to not have to renew the contracts if possible.
•    ERP is centralised in the UK
•    Each country has locally hosted Print, Domain, UC & Messaging
•    Collaboration is centralised, again in the UK
•    Typical/normal file sharing is not permitted, all ‘matter’ is recorded and audited in Safe & Legit’s collaboration system
•    With the exception of ERP, all systems must move to a shared or distributed model. This is following a series of natural disasters in the US and China, that could have been avoided by having a DR and BC plan in place.
•    All communication end points are encrypted, but new legislation is relaxing where encryption is required. This is achievable following an ERP upgrade that separates out sensitive and non-sensitive data.
•    There are up to 5,000 3rd party users, that own a license to trade under Safe& Legit LLC, licensees are dropping as the competition develop newer, faster and cheaper ways to deliver access to their trading systems. Safe & Legit still require you to purchase expense fixed private comms to deliver their trading apps. They do not want these 3rd party users to be impacted at all during the migrations and for there to be a near zero RTO and RPO

•   The UK site has been chosen as the first site to be migrated but due to Safe and Legit’s work on ground defence equipment they have not authorised the running of a capacity planner collection as they don’t want their data to leave the premises but have calculated that for each site to be virtualised the environment must be able to meet the following values:

-The 6k physical servers in the UK are comprised of  2000 Linux servers and 4000 Windows servers

-On average each windows server is provisioned with 20GB boot disk (average used is 15GB) and a 50GB data disk (average used is 30GB)

– Each Linux server is configured with 60GB total storage (average used is 30GB)

– Safe and Legit expect a 10 percent annual server growth over the next three years

-Safe and Legit have a long standing vendor relationship with EMC and Cisco and so have requested the usage of their equipment due to this relationship and in house knowledge of the administration of these vendor products

-They have created the following two tables from internal analysis and monitoring:

CPU Resource Requirement
Metric Amount
Avg # of CPUs per physical server 4
Avg CPU MHz 3,400 MHz
Avg normalised CPU MHz 1,240
Avg CPU utilisation per physical system 5% (170 MHz)
Avg Peak utilisation per physical system 8% (272 MHz)
Total CPU resources req for 1k vm’s at peak 272,000 MHz
RAM Resource Requirement
Metric Amount
Avg amount of RAM per physical system 4096MB
Avg memory utilisation 30% (1228.8MB)
Avg Peak Memory Utilisation 80% ( 3276.8MB)
Total RAM required for 1k VMs at peak before memory sharing 3,276,800MB
Anticipated memory sharing benefit when virtualised 50%
Total RAM req for 1k VMs at peak with memory sharing 1,638.400MB

Business Requirements

From workshops and SME meetings the following requirements were collected

Number Requirement
R001 Virtualise the existing 6000 UK servers as virtual machines, with no degradation in performance when compared to current physical workloads
R002 To provide an infrastructure that can provide 99.7% availability or better
R003 The overall anticipated cost of ownership should be reduced after deployment
R004 Users to experience as close to zero performance impact when migrating from the physical infrastructure to the virtual infrastructure
R005 Design must maintain simplicity where possible to allow existing operations teams to manage the new environments
R006 Granular access control rights must be implemented throughout the infrastructure to ensure the highest levels of security
R007 Design should be resilient and provide the highest levels of availability where possible whilst keeping costs to a minimum
R008 The design must incorporate DR and BC practices to ensure no loss of data is achieved
R009 Management components must secured with the highest level of security
R010 Design must take into account VMware best practices for all components in the design as well as vendor best practices where applicable
R011 Any others you think I have missed from the scenario

Additional Functional Requirements (From Storage Design posting)

-5K 3rd party users will need to be able to gain access into the environment without any impact during the migration and consolidation

-Rented DC’s kit needs to be fully migrated to the privately owned datacenter before Q1 2015 to ensure the contracts don’t need to be renewed

Constraints and Risks

You tell me in the comments Smile

Constraints from Storage Design posting:

– Usage of EMC kit

– Usage of Cisco kit

– Usage of the privately owned DC’s physical infrastructure for the consolidation of all three UK DC’s.

Risks from Storage Design posting:

– The ability of ensuring near-zero downtime during the migration of workloads to the privately owned DC may be at risk due to budget constraints impacting the procurement of the required infrastructure to ensure zero downtime

Additional Questions (from Storage Design posting)

This is something I feel is really important when doing real world designs is trying to think of as many questions around a customer requirements so that you can ensure you have their requirements recorded correctly and that they aren’t vague.The additional questions and the answers to them are listed below:

Q: Is there any capability of utilising the existing storage in the privately owned UK DC?

A: Due to the consolidation and migration of  the other UK DC’s and the current workloads in the privately owned DC a new SAN is a better option due to the SAN being 3 years old now and so it is more cost effective to purchase a new one. Also due to the probable need for auto-tiered storage to meet the customers requirements a new SAN with these capabilities is needed

Q: Is there no way a minimal planned outage/downtime can be organised for the migration of the workloads due to the likely higher cost of equipment to ensure this near-zero downtime?

A: The customer would prefer to try keep to the near-zero downtime and so it is agreed that after the conceptual design of the storage and the remaining components in the whole design further meetings can be held to discuss a balance between cost and the desire for near-zero downtime

Q: With the leasing out of the private level 4 suites in the future will there be a requirement to manage/host other companies processes and data within this infrastructure being designed?

A: No there is currently no plan to do this due to security concerns and the number of compliancy regulations Safe and Legit need to maintain and fulfil. There is however a possibility of internal consumption and charging for usage of the DC’s resources to other departments.


So that is the company profile and my idea around it. I obviously created 90% of the above from my head so there will be additional questions around it but I think this gives a really solid amount of information for people to start thinking. I’m going to do the first posting around Storage Design for Safe and Legit quite soon and will put up what questions and component you normally have to think of but if people want to think of what they would choose prior then hopefully we can get a good discussion going around it.

As I add each section to the design I am hoping to keep updating this posting and then once complete making it all linked on a single page on my blog


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London VMUG May 2012

Just a very quick posting to remind anyone around the south of England or who is willing to come to the south of England for it that the next London VMware User Group (LonVMUG)  is happening THIS Thursday the 17th of May. Also my fellow vExpert, partner in crime and Xtravirt colleague Darren Woollard is presenting which should be an incentive for anyone to go just to heckle him Smile

If you haven’t registered I would highly recommend you do so ASAP . You can register for the event here and there will also be a large contingent of my fellow Xtravirt colleagues attending as well and should be easily recognisable due to them all wearing the shirt shown below (one each obviously Winking smile )


After the VMUG the standard vBeers will take place. If you’ve somehow never heard of vBeers before the below is just for you Smile.


Is an informal get together of virtualisation enthusiasts and professionals to meet and discuss all things IT. It’s a great opportunity to network, learn and meet like minded people.


The following is part quoted from Simon Seagrave’s Website :

Enjoy Talking Virtualization? Come & Socialise at vBeers!

vBeers[7]Fancy meeting up every month with other IT virtualization enthusiasts to socialise and chat over a cold beer, wine or soft-drink? If so, then vBeers is for you! This is a great opportunity to meet with other virtualization enthusiasts and professionals and enjoy discussing all things virtualization, and in fact anything else that comes up in conversation…

vBeers is open to everyone so whether you are a VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer user/fan or none of the above it really doesn’t matter as “it’s all about the virtualization”.

The London vBeers meet-up is held at the Pavilion End Pub . Details and directions below:

When & Where

The London vBeers are held on the first Thursday of every month or after a VMUG meeting starting at 6pm in the ‘pavilion end pub


Location: The ‘pavilion end pub’, London

Address: 23 Watling Street Moorgate EC4M 9BR

Date: First Thursday of every month and after VMUG meetings

Time: 6:00pm





A true honour,vExpert 2012.

After hurling myself out of a plane at 15000 feet as part of a birthday present I came down to the ground to find out I had been honoured as a VMware vExpert 2012 and as one for the second year running.

It was such an amazing honour to be selected as one last year and to retain it is as amazing and I’m looking forward to another year of being part of such a prestigious group of my peers and also with a fair number of my fellow colleagues from Xtravirt. A massive congratulations to Darren Woollard, Sean Duffy and Paul Wood for also being selected, especially Sean and Paul for their first year as one this year.It’s quite an amazing achievement for a company of less than 20 people  to have so many in my opinion.For those of you who don’t know what the vExpert award is, here is the definition from the vExpert site:

The VMware vExpert Award is given to individuals who have significantly contributed to the community of VMware users over the past year. vExperts are book authors, bloggers, VMUG leaders, tool builders, and other IT professionals who share their knowledge and passion with others. These vExperts have gone above and beyond their day jobs to share their technical expertise and communicate the value of VMware and virtualization to their colleagues and community.

A massive thanks to  Alex Maier and John Troyer for selecting me, it is an amazing honour Open-mouthed smile. Also a massive congratulations to all the other people selected especially all the ones from the London VMUG. You can see the list of the other vExpert 2012 awardees on the list here



vCenter Operations Management Suite Resources

Recently I was tasked to get myself up to speed with vCenter Operations Manager and Configuration Manager as part of the vCenter Management Suite for a client delivery we’re doing at Xtravirt. So due to this I have been collecting all the resources I could to help me do this and thought I may as well do a blog posting on it for anyone also looking to implement the suite soon or who are just interested in learning about it. I will be constantly updating this and plan to do two separate postings on the tips and tricks I learnt after deployment for each of the products and my opinions of each.

VMware Operations Manager 5.x

  • The below videos are a great introduction to the product done by VMware via their YouTube channel

VMware vCenter Operations Manager Introduction
VMware vCenter Operations Manager
  • As is standard there are the Administration and Installation Guides which I would highly recommend reading through especially the Getting Started Guide to help you prepare before you deploy it.

  • You can download an evaluation of VCOPS for your own testing and to let you play around with it and learn how it all works. I’ve already done this as actually deploying and working with the solution helps me understand a hundred times better than reading documents on it.

  • The communities are a great place to read a few people problems and make sure you don’t make the same mistakes/prepare so you don’t hit the same hurdles:

  • VMware have done a webcast on Automating Infrastructure and Operations Management with VMware vCenter Operations Management Suitewhich gives a great overview of the whole Operation Management Suite and Operations Manager capabilities:

VMware vCenter Configuration Manager

  • VMwareTV have also done a video covering vCenter Configuration Manager and the change management capabilities of the product. The video gives you a really good overview of the layout of the product too and the extensive amount of data and information you can find and create.
  • VMware vCenter Configuration Manager 5.5 has just been released and the best place for all the information is the Documentation Resources page for the product here:

  • The communities are a great place to read a few people problems and make sure you don’t make the same mistakes/prepare so you don’t hit the same hurdles.

  • I’m very fortunate to work for a VMware partner and so there are a whole load of really great resources for VCM. The ones I have used and would recommend to people who also work for VMware partners are:

VMware vCenter Configuration Manager Essentials [V5.X]

vmLIVE – What’s New with vCenter Configuration Manager 5.5

Both give you a good overview of the product, it’s layout and what it is capable of and with the vmLIVE presentation you will be able to update your knowledge for the latest release.

  • The VMware Operations Management team were nice enough to ReTweet this posting and advised me that there is an official course called VMware vCenter Configuration Manager Fundamentals that has been upgraded to version 5.5 . The course looks to cover everything you could possibly need and I’m hoping I can get myself added onto it as it is self-paced which is perfect for consultant like myself who can’t take the time away from the client to attend a course.

Fellow vExpert and #LonVMUG attendee Ed Grigson has done an amazing blog posting all about Using vCenter Operations v5 – Introduction and deployment and has linked to loads of top VMworld Sessions and podcasts that I had no idea were out there. Make sure you have a look at his posting and keep an eye out for his future two postings on the subject.

vCenter Operations Manager for View


Hopefully these will help people looking to learn about the Suite and as I stated at the beginning I plan to update this with more resources as I come across them. If you know of any other resources out there please do leave a comment or drop me a tweet on twitter on @greggrobertson5



The Next Chapter

Until you spread your wings, youll have no idea how far you can fly.- anonymous

Almost five years ago, I made the decision to make a change or risk the chance of possibly never getting the opportunity to spread my wings. After having worked for my company in South Africa for just over three years and having grown from someone on a three month contract tasked with creating an IT equipment inventory of all the companies IT equipment to being a permanent employee and the Systems Administrator I handed in my notice and decided I wanted to move to the UK to try get a job with a large IT organisation and work with cutting edge technologies. I left my then girlfriend (now wife), parents, lifestyle and comfortable job back in South Africa and make a leap of faith that I could do it. I’m proud to say the risk paid off and five years down the line, I’m working for one of the biggest IT companies in the world, working with innovative technologies and have grown immensely from when I first came over to the UK both personally and professionally. However, the time has come yet again for me to push myself out of my comfort zone and try spread my wings even more. So as of the 12th of December, I will be joining Xtravirt as a Technical Consultant specialising in virtualisation and complimenting technologies. I have loved my time at EMC Consulting and owe so much of my growth to the people I have worked with at EMC and previously Conchango and the opportunities both have granted me to grow and keep advancing my knowledge.

My leaving is not down to disliking my role at EMC Consulting, as I’ve loved it immensely. I’ve felt that the next logical step in my career was to test and hone my skills and knowledge in the consulting arena as a consultant and Xtravirt have given me an amazing opportunity to learn and grow an immense amount while joining a very exciting team of people working on loads of very exciting projects.

If you haven’t heard of Xtravirt before, you should have and I have full confidence you will hear a lot more of us in the future. Some quick facts about Xtravirt:

  • Xtravirt were awarded VMware EMEA Consulting Partner of the Year at this year’s VMworld Europe.
  • Xtravirt are also very well known in the virtualisation community for their tools especially the Free vAlarm application which David M Davis of Trainsignal fame covered in one of his VMware vSphere Performance Monitoring Training lessons and the vLogView application which provides the ability to store, view and search ESX Server log files from multiple ESX Servers, without requiring individual login, navigation and manual file transfer to name but two.
  • Xtravirt is a knowledge-based company that delivers its expertise in virtualization online and in person. They have a reputation for astute leadership and expertise through their work with an impressive array of organisations. It is this real-world experience that drives the ability to provide the best professional consultancy services available

I’m still planning on blogging as much as possible and am actually very confident of being able to blog about a lot more technologies and a much broader base due to Xtravirt having no affinity to any specific vendor or technology. Although I don’t know about any Hyper-V postings clip_image001I’ll still be on twitter whenever I have the opportunity and will still try answer and help people on the VMware Communities and try attend the London VMUG’s and vBeers.