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NVMe for Beginners

Last year I did a presentation on NVMe for Beginners along with Craig Waters for vBrownBag at the Melbourne VMUG UserCon. It was a daunting experience as it was a new cohort to present in front of and NVMe is a topic I had no expertise in. It’s something I wanted to learn more about and I thought that doing a presentation on it would mean I’d have to pull my finger out and really get down to understanding it. Nothing like a bit of pressure to learn something :-). Thankfully with Craig I had someone that had been through the mill a few times when it came to presenting. His mentorship and guidance made the presentation so much easier, and it gave me the confidence to do the presentation on my own a few months later at a normal VMUG.

Unfortunately the presentation contained proprietary information so it cannot be circulated online but I’ll run through the premise of the presentation and hopefully provide a brief introduction to NVMe. If you want to get the best understanding possible about NVMe I cannot recommend enough that you take time to read J Metz’s article on Cisco blogs NVMe for Absolute Beginners. It’s a phenomenal breakdown on NVMe and it’s so well written that even I was able to comprehend it.

I’ll run through the presentation as much as possible here. So, why NVMe?

  • It’s already in consumer devices
  • It’s faster and more parallel that SAS
  • It’s required to take advantage of tomorrows advances
  • NVMe fills a price performance / performance gap between low cost per GB and low throughput vs. high cost per GB, high throughput DRAM

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Melbourne DCUG 2 Years On

This coming June will mark the two year anniversary of the Melbourne Cisco Data Center User Group. The first session was back on June 7th 2016 and as with all of the group sessions there were two, one vendor and one community. The vendor session was presented by Chris Gascoigne from Cisco about ACI and Nexus 9k while the community session was from Will Robinson about GNS3 in his homelab. Both session were excellent and a great start for the user group. Not only that but both have since become core to the DCUG with will taking on the role of an organiser for a good while and Chris working his magic behind the scenes to help us get the vendor sessions locked in every month.

Where did it come from

Back in 2016 I attended Cisco Live for the second time but my first as a Cisco Champion. There were not many Cisco Champions in Australia at that time. I believe it was 4 in total, and three of us were due to be at the Cisco Live. Chris Partsenidis was another Cisco Champion based in Melbourne and I was looking forward to meeting him. Prior to the event Chris reached out to me so we could meet up at some point during the week. Unfortunately for Chris has got caught up with network outage issues (Cisco related 🙂 ) that week so he was unable to attend. I met with a Cisco rep that was over from California for the event and collected the Cisco Champion swag which included a Cisco Champion shirt. Following Cisco Live I arranged to meet with Chris over a coffee to exchange the prized shirt. And this meeting is what led to the Cisco Data Center User Group in Melbourne. Over a coffee Chris and I spoke about how we were both relatively new to Melbourne and how we were struggling to find a user group that covered the topics we were interested in. Chris is a network Cisco Champion and I am a data center Cisco Champion. I had been to a number of other user groups and I really enjoyed the VMware User Group (VMUG) so something similar to that was what I had in mind. Chris agreed and so we reached out to Lauren Friedman from Cisco. Lauren has been trying to get something similar going for Cisco at a global level and so we took on the Cisco Data Center User Group for Melbourne and essentially became a guinea pig. We agreed on a format of a vendor and community session, times for each of the presentations and the frequency of the sessions. Since the initial session we’ve had 19 more over the course of the two years and it’s being going solid since the start. Read More

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Trifecta – vExpert, NetAppUnited, CiscoChampions

Earlier this week I got a great email from the NetApp United team to say I had been accepted for a second time into the team. This followed on from a similar email from the VMware vExperts the week before. Being included as a member of these advocacy/influencer groups has meant I’ve completed the trifecta along with last months Cisco Champions inclusion. I’ve spent the past number of years working with technologies from all three companies and it’s nice to be recognised as a contributor to the community.

Being part of these groups means a huge amount to me. They have all, in particular the vExpert group, been something I’ve aspired to being a part of over the past couple of years and I’m overjoyed about being accepted into each program. Each of the influencer programs is different in their approach but there’s some commonalities too. The common things among the programs are:
* Being able to network with peers across the globe.
* Having access to NDA information before it gets released to the general public.
* Ability to interact with engineers and in some instances leadership within those companies.
* Dedicated comms channels for easier interaction (Slack for vExpert and NetAppUnited and Spark for CiscoChampions)

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The Two and a Quarter Rule

Lately I’ve been trying to get on top of all the things I have going on in life to give myself a little bit of perspective and find a bit more joy in life. Just like anybody else with young kids I find it hard to juggle home and work responsibilities. On top of this I have a number of other things I’d like to personally achieve throughout the year. I wrote a blog post called what’s another year which details all the things I’d like to do this year. It’s a long list and all are time consuming in their own right. What I’ve found though is that I’ve been failing to meet most if not all of these objectives and to be completely honest it’s been getting me down.

I’ve completed some of the list already which is great but I’ve found that we’re nearly a quarter of the way through the year and I’m behind on a lot of them. I regularly frequent a cycling site called Cyclingtips and if you’re at all into cycling I’d highly recommend spending a few hours reviewing the content there. As I reviewed some of the old content I came across two posts which struck a chord. The first was around parenthood and cycling. One of my main goals for the year is to get cycling fit and to build cycling into my routine. In the past three weeks I’ve struggled with this and I was looking to see what others have done to make it work for them.

This lead me to another post on CyclingTips called the two and a quarter rule. It’s a brief post but I found it so bang on. We have the capacity to handle two and a quarter things at any one time. For most people this is normally broken down as 1 being given up to work, 1 being given up to family and the last one quarter being yours to do as you wish. But it’s a finite resource. If you allocate too much to the quarter it will mean you will overflow and impact the other two areas of your life and that will have it’s own consequences. As soon as I read this article it dawned on me that my problem was that I was squeezing too much into the quarter and not getting as much as I wanted done. This is partly why I haven’t been able to keep on top of cycling in the past few weeks, there were other focuses. This is still going to be the case but I’ve decided that the quarter is flexible and I’m going to use it on a day to day basis. So one day the focus will be on getting out for a bike ride, another it’ll be to create a blog post such as this, another day it’ll focus on reading a book or studying for an exam. This way I will be able to get the majority of what I’d like to complete this year finished off and not impact either my family or work commitments. Or at least minimise the impact.

I’d highly recommend spending a bit of time to see if the two and a quarter rule works for you or even fits what you have going on in life. For me personally it fits, but I’d be interested in hearing what others find.

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IT Hero Culture

Two things recently appeared on my radar which got me thinking about the IT Hero culture. One came through the vExpert slack feed and later followed up by a blog post and the other was through a conversation with my sister. In both instances the people suffered health issues due to undertaking too many hours at work in a condensed time period. Following this I began thinking about the issues IT employees face when it comes to time management and finding a balance between keeping systems online 24×7 and actually having a fulfilling life outside of work. The whole IT Hero culture has been an issue for me for a long time, particularly since I suffered from it a number of times myself. I ended up sacrificing family time to work on numerous occasions and only in hindsight did I really see it as being a problem. Before proceeding however I’d like to point out that I don’t have an issue with someone putting in extra time to learn something new, provide shift work support or ensure life-saving services remain online. Or in the rare case that there’s a critical issue that needs to be resolved quickly. There’s also people that want to operate their lives putting more emphasis on work than home life and that’s fine too. My particular problem is more around the perception that you cannot be replaced and that you have to be seen to do extra work all the time in order to show value in your position.

There’s a real problem in IT where employers expect more and more of an employees personal time in order to keep systems up and running or to complete projects. Usually this aligns to work cultures where anyone seeing to leave at a regular time every day is judged to not be part of the ‘team’ despite completing their workload within the allotted time. It is particularly noticeable at smaller consultancy firms but the big ones are just as guilty. But the truth is that it’s not all down to employers. As the employee you really need to set the boundaries and expectations with your employer and more importantly advocate for yourself and your needs. However that contradicts the predominant IT culture of employees that put themselves on a pedestal as the saviour of the day. The combination of lack of boundaries, employee advocacy and embedded perception of self-importance leads to what I think is a negative work-life balance.  Read More

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Serendipity in the Community

Last week was the annual pilgrimage to Cisco Live in Melbourne. Well, normally it is. This year however I was unable to secure a free pass because let’s be honest here, the price of a full pass is extortionate. While the value of the event cannot be disputed the cost to get there can. Cisco Live is the best networking conference in Melbourne for those working in enterprise IT. I also mean networking in both senses of the word, networking technology and people networking. This year there were 7200 attendees and it promised to be an absolute cracker. But I was not going to be there.

I find conferences such as Cisco Live a great way to recharge the batteries and get re-inspired at work. You hear about all the latest and greatest and being out of your normal habitat changes how you approach solutions. Having the opportunity to meet experts and those that have literally wrote the book on a subject is invaluable. I’ve been to the past three Cisco Live events in Melbourne and I had hoped to keep that run going but unfortunately this year I was unable to secure a pass and it was too much of an expense to fund myself.

It wasn’t so bad though. We run our Cisco Data Center User Group (DCUG) on a monthly basis and it falls on the first Tuesday of Cisco Live so we had organised to have two international speakers for that. This would at least give me my fix. We were extremely fortunate to have Lukas Krattiger and David Jansen both extend their schedule to fit in the DCUG and provide a thoroughly enthralling session.
DCUG group

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vNotions Podcast Recommendations

It’s a bit strange writing about podcasts. Up until about three years about I didn’t really listen to podcasts. I started listening to one with my wife in the car and that led to finding some decent tech related podcasts. I spend about an hour and a half on public transport for my commute and it’s an easy way to consume podcasts without too much hassle. And that’s the beauty of podcasts, simplicity. Personally the best thing about podcast is digesting information easily and using what would otherwise be dead time to learn something new.

So what’s on my podcast list? The short answer is loads. I know this blog is tech focused but it’s important to branch outside your career so in my case there’s a few cycling podcasts as well as some that are related to hobbies and general entertainment.
Tech Podcasts:

Podcast Name Frequency Description Link
Datanauts Weekly This is the go-to Tech podcast for me. Ethan Banks and Chris Wahl have a great dynamic. The format is spot on with reflection on the discussion throughout the podcast. It covers enterprise tech, cloud tech and bits in between with emerging tech. If you only listen to one tech podcast make it this one. Datanauts – iTunes
Tech OnTap Podcast Generally weekly This is focused on NetApp technology but it’s a great resource for understanding the storage industry in general and where it’s going. If you work with NetApp technology at all then I’d highly recommend giving it a listen. TechOnTap – iTunes
The On-Premise IT Roundtable Irregular The is run by Gestalt IT and it’s excellent. A bunch of industry heavy-weights that attend the Field Day events hosted by GestaltIT sit around and discuss topics relevant to the future landscape of IT, taking in a business perspective and the impacts also. A truly informative listen. On-Premise IT – iTunes)
Tech Village Podcast Weekly/Bi-Weekly This is a new podcast but so far I love the format. It’s run by Yadin and Lauren and takes over the mantle of The Geek Whisperers in relation to IT career development. It has a very slick production quality and they interview those from the community and looks at distributed mentorship as a way to advance your career. Tech VIllage – iTunes
Virtually Speaking Podcast Generally weekly This is the VMware podcast hosted by Pete Flecha and John Nicholson. Pete used to be on the Tech OnTap podcast and the NetApp communities podcast prior to that with Nick Howell. This is a slick podcast with great guests and looks at not just the technology but also the use cases around it. The podcast is largely, albeit unsurprisingly, based on VMware technology but also deals with community engagement and interaction as well as blogging tips. It’s got some great intro music as well. Virtually Speaking – iTunes
The Geek Whisperers Deprecated This was one my favourite podcasts. It focused on career development and the journeys that people take. It was hosted by John Troyer, Matt Broberg and Amy Lewis. I cannot recommend this podcast highly enough. Sadly, it is no more after the trio decided to stop producing new content back in August 2017. The content they produced though could be considered timeless for the most part so make sure to check out all the back catalog. If you liked the Geek Whisperers then definitely check out the Tech Village podcast. Geek Whisperers – iTunes

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UCS Director Global Deployment

Last year I presented at the local Cisco DCUG to a warm and receptive audience about Cisco UCS Director being deployed on a global scale. At the time I was working for a global pharmaceutical company and following some organisational changes the requirements of the business and in turn IT changed to match. A key part of the changes focused on global standardisation of IT infrastructure to ensure 24 x 7 operational support. The best way to achieve that goal was to look at automation and orchestration. Cisco UCS Director was the tool chosen at the time. UCS Director is an absolute beast of a product and it reflects badly on Cisco as to how they have marketed and managed the product. It has potential to be the one stop shop for infrastructure management.

Concept:

Create a global platform to enable physical and virtual automation based on standardised templates and processes.

Purpose:

  • Drive standardisation across 14 global sites, reduce management overheads and complexities
  • Put the company in a position to leverage follow the sun support for infrastructure to minimise out of hours support at each local site
  • Provide a secure platform that could easily meet strict auditing guidelines
  • Deliver a mechanism to allow end-users to quickly and easily request new virtual machines
  • Streamline the request for infrastructure processes and remove existing bottlenecks
  • Drive the business towards a Private Cloud architecture rather than individual silos
  • Reduce licensing costs across the business for multiple existing automation and orchestration platforms.
  • The ability to provide a cost model and service catalog and quickly inform projects on the estimated potential costs of their projects.
  • Integration into the existing service management tool
  • Integration into HP Quality Control for auditing and quality control purposes. This allowed for installation verification scripts to be completed.

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What’s another year

It’s at this time of year that most people begin to review all that was completed in 2017 and attempt to set some new goals for 2018. A lot of people I respect in the industry have presented their goals for 2018 and I noticed that I hadn’t done a post for last year to say what my goals were. This year however I want to have it documented for both posterity and for accountability.

So, where do I start with goals for 2018. I don’t really buy into just having new years resolutions as these are usually something like “I need to go to the gym more” and then you handover half your years wages for the privilege of sitting on your couch. For me the goals for the coming year need to be something tangible, relevant and achievable. Some of them are stretch goals so there a bit more challenging to reach but that’s part of the joy really. In order to figure out what goals I wanted to set I took a look back at what was achieved last year and what I didn’t get around to doing. If anything was still relevant it could be carried over to the new year.

In general 2017 was a personally outstanding year. I know a lot of people are glad to see the back of it but it provided some great achievements and memories for both me and my family. On Australia Day I was sworn in as an Australian citizen which was an emotional experience and a great way to kickstart the year. I took stock of my career over the previous Christmas holiday period and looked at the opportunities within my role, where the company was going and what my role was morphing into following some heavy organisational restructuring. I had a realisation that I was struggling to achieve a good work-family balance and that something had to change. Due to significant out-of-hours work requirements, as it was a global role, I wasn’t really present for family events or moments and when I was I was just tired and general a curmudgeonly old bastard. While I was enjoying my job I wasn’t enjoying my family time so I pulled the pin and moved into a locally based role rather than a global one and took the opportunity to move into a Solutions Architecture position. I have to say that it’s been an immense change and my own mental health is much better for it.

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CCNA Exam Giveway

CCNA Exam Giveaway

Neil Anderson from Flackbox.com is currently running a fantastic giveaway for the start of the new year and I thought it would be good to share this opportunity with others. If you aren’t aware of Flackbox then sadly you’ve been missing out. Neil has been creating video training content for Cisco and Netapp as well as branching into Cloud Computing over the past couple of years and has now built up an extensive training catalogue. Neil himself is an instructor by profession and holds a number of top-end industry certifications such as CCIE, NCDE etc. so he’s well placed to create training content.

Enough of the fluff, so what do I win in the giveaway I hear you say. The short answer is loads. As part of the giveaway winners will get:

  • Payment for their Cisco CCNA exam
  • Access to the highest review rated CCNA course online
  • Weekly coaching calls with Neil
  • Full access to AlphaPrep test engine CCNA exam bank
  • 400 pages of configuration lab exercises with setup instructions to run on your laptop for free
  • An additional 150 pages of bonus troubleshooting labs
  • Private Facebook study group

To enter go to Cisco CCNA Giveaway over on Flackbox. The giveaway closes on January 13th so get in there quickly.

As a disclaimer I would like to make note that I recently won a competition to get access to Neil’s CCNA training via Udemy and I can personally vouch for the quality of the training and would highly recommend anyone looking to completing their CCNA as part of their 2018 goals to enter and take advantage of such a great giveaway.

All the best and I wish you luck!