Recently I attended the local Melbourne VMUG UserConn. This is a once a year, full-day event hosted by the local VMUG group and boy do they put on a show. I didn’t have the opportunity to attend last year but thankfully I had to chance to attend for a second time this year. The agenda was packed full of both great global and local leaders from the IT community and as with all great events you can’t see everything so there’s a few sessions which I had to miss out on as it clashed with something else. MVMUG has however uploaded many of the sessions to Youtube. Craig Waters (@cswaters1) has created a Youtube playlist so you can catch up whenever you have some free time.

Before the event I was really looking forward to hearing the keynote speakers and having a chat to the guys at the PernixData stand. I had my day planned out on the VMUG iPhone app which was an excellent way to track my time for the day and it also provided a method to give feedback on the sessions. If you’re going to a VMUG I’d definitely recommend using the app. The speakers for the Keynote sessions included John Troyer (@jtroyer), Chad Sakac (@sakacc) and Vaughan Stewart (@vstewed). These guys are heavyweights in the IT-influencer arena and if you’re on twitter definitely give them a follow.

In order to understand what is happening in IT and what should be focused on you need to know what is likely to happen in the future so you can create your own personal roadmap to get there. John Troyer covered that topic during his keynote speech. He referred to the T expert, where there’s a generalist across the top which doesn’t really progress and will ultimately always be fixing printers and the vertical is a specialist that can become so focused on one task that they don’t see what’s happening in the rest of the business. The recommendation from John is to be a Π (Pi) expert where you’re a generalist, a specialist and you also have side interests. Some of the other takeaways from his keynote were:

  • Vendors need geeks
    • to validate products, marketing message
    • to explain to peers
    • best way to talk to the end users
  • Over 60% of the decision to go with vendor technology has been made before the first meeting from research etc.
  • Social techies have power
  • DevOps skills are highly sought-after and Docker is worth looking into more deeply
  • Read The Phoenix Project

Chad Sakac was the second keynote of the day. His view, being from EMC, was largely based around storage and also the nano-second requirements of applications in the future. He highlighted that there is going to be a change in the way applications are built and that resilience needs to be built-in. Chad also went into a deep dive of the CPU complex which if I’m honest blew my tiny little mind. I’ve since had to go back and watch his video again. The minute scale at which he was discussing things is almost beyond comprehension but it does show just how amazingly quickly technology advances. During his discussion about the CPU complex he listed the below:

  • Register is first place to persist information
  • Can’t fit there it’s in L1, L2, L3 cache (very expensive cache)
  • Can’t fit there it crosses the DMI interface to pool of DRAM
  • Can’t fit there you cross of QPI across NUMA to another CPU (CPU core count relates to amount of memory slots in a server
  • Can’t fit there it goes across the PCIe bus to NAND
  • Can’t fit in NAND it goes across the fabric to All Flash Array
  • 1 or 2 orders of magnitude greater. There’s a system wait at each point. As soon as you leave the CPU complex time escalates extremely quickly.

He also gave a demo of what the time delays between each of these steps would be like in “real-time” and the differences are really amazing, but the speeds he’s talking about ultimately very tiny.

Chad also had a great joke about Larry Ellison being the James Bond villain of the IT industry as he’s got a yacht and calls into conferences etc. Chad covered so much more that is just impossible to cover but if you get a chance to hear Chad speak in person definitely take the opportunity.

Some of more interesting sessions I attended during the day were by Simplivity and Solidfire. Simplivity was presented by Chris Troiani (@christroiani) and he was entertaining and informative. The deduplication and compression they can achieve on their physical accelerator card is impressive with dedupe of 103.9:1 and compression of 1.5:1 on 14.4TB RAW storage. I do realise that it’s a demo lab but those figures are still impressive. The things that caught my attention the most from Simplivity however were the backup & replication abilities. Backups are built in as part of the product and snapshots can easily be carried out through the Simplivity plug-in for vCenter. The replication allows migration of data between geographically dispersed locations across 10Mb WAN links in just minutes. The example performed during the session migrated a 600Gb VM, with 400Gb actual used data, from a data center in London to San Francisco in just over a minute, all thanks to how the product replicates its data. For a global company that requires site resiliency then Simplivity should definitely be a product being discussed. Solidfire was also a good session and the main takeaway from here was the way they performed Quality of Service down to the VM level and how that policy migrated with the VM as it moved around hosts in the cluster. For environments that require quality of service to that degree it’s a fantastic product. It’s also a scalable platform that starts out at a minimum of 4 nodes and grows from there. In a way it fits into the hyper-converged infrastructure market which is well a truly becoming cluttered nowadays.

So what really is the value in attending events like a VMUG? I was asking myself that throughout the day. I think some people do see if as just another day out of the office but I don’t fall into that category thankfully. Others, and I include myself in this, are there to learn from their peers. The beauty of VMUG is that it gives you access to community leaders that you just can’t get in other settings or events. It provides a setting for learning about new technology and easy access to vendors (which does happen at other events) but for me it allows you to find out who the local influencers/experts are and to engage with them in a discussion. It’s really a fantastic opportunity to network and find out more about technology.

One of the best things to happen out of events such as VMUG is that it really gets you thinking. It gives you time to think about issues at work that you’ve been trying to solve and it’s interesting how a change in setting can get the creative troubleshooting/design synapses going. For example I really got to thinking how to implement a global infrastructure that would allow sites in the US, Australia and Europe to have synchronous data and essentially one environment and how this would work with vSphere 6 and branch offices. I’ve no idea right now how to do that but it’s at least a project that I can begin to work on. It also gives you time to re-evaluate what you want from a career perspective and opens your horizon to new tools or technology that you may not have previously considered. In my case it really got me thinking about automation and orchestration and how I’ve been really slack in that area but that I now need to spend some time focusing and skilling-up, if for no other reason than to cut down on menial and repeatable tasks but with the end goal being to improve response times to business requests.

I would highly recommend going to your local VMware UserConn. Meet people, talk to vendors, ask questions, feel lost and give yourself time to think. You won’t regret it!



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