Yearly Archives: 2011

VMworld Copenhagen – Day one summary

Today was officially the start of VMworld Copenhagen even though many people were here yesterday for partner day. The hands on labs are always popular at VMworld shows, and for all the reasons previously covered by others. I’ve done two labs so far (HOL01, Creating the Hybrid Cloud and HOL27, Netapp and VMware) which were both useful in different ways. There’s a good atmosphere and the technology behind the labs continues to evolve – this year vCenter Operations (and I think Netapp Insight Balance) are on display showing how the lab infrastructure is performing. There are more seats and the labs are open longer than last year (32 hours) which is good to see.

I spent fair bit of time in the bloggers lounge, a small dedicated area with power, a separate wifi connection, and facilities for VMworld TV to broadcast live from. This is where you can often find John Troyer, the godfather of VMware’s social media scene along with many of the twittter names you’ve seen but never met in person. VMworld is a vertitable ‘who’s who’ of the virtualisation world – I found myself sitting next to Scott Lowe for ten minutes before realising who he was and saying hi! Many of the people hanging around the bloggers lounds have been at VMworld many times so it’s a good place to get a feel for what’s hot and what’s not at this year’s conference. I got my first taste of VMworld TV via an invite to vSoupTV. Quite a few people mentioned that it felt quieter this year but as the attendance has been confirmed at over 7,000 it must be because there’s more space rather than less people.

The centre of the complex is used as a relaxation zone complete with plenty of seating, food, recliners (for those quick power naps), table tennis, table ice hockey, chess sets etc. It’s a good place to meet people as you pass through on your way from a general session to the labs. Free wifi is available throughout the Bella Centre but unfortunately it’s pretty temperamental – somewhat expected for a large conference with over 7000 people. That wouldn’t be so bad but the VMworld iPhone app relies on internet access so when that’s not working you can’t reference your schedule or register for sessions. When it does work the VMworld iPhone app is pretty good – you can check for upcoming sessions, get a filtered twitter stream for a given session, and even check site maps. Continue reading VMworld Copenhagen – Day one summary

I’m on TV, TV Soup to be precise!

Earlier today I found myself on the vSoup podcast with @eczerwin, @chrisdearden, and @hobbel (though in potato form!) from vSoup. We’d been chatting in the bloggers lounge at VMworld Copenhagen about the sessions, labs etc and they kindly invited me to chat with them live on TV. You can watch the live stream although I can’t promise you’ll learn anything! We discuss the hands on labs and where they might go next along with reasons you might want to be at VMworld.

Netapp certification – the NCDA

I’ve been asked by a few people over the last few weeks about the Netapp Certified Data Administrator certification, better known as the NCDA. I was only exposed to Netapp technology a few years ago so definitely don’t claim any real expertise – I don’t know if these requests are due to an increased demand for engineers with Netapp knowledge or whether I’ve just surrounded myself with like minded people pursuing similar goals. Hopefully both!

When I took my exams a couple of years ago I considered putting together a study guide as there wasn’t much available and it suits the way I learn new material. Hanging out on the Netapp forums I picked up quite a few hints and tips along with some great links to example questions, web based learning and some documents produced by Netapp which summarise the knowledge you need for the exams. I never found the time (or motivation if truth be told) to put together my own study notes but maybe there’s still enough demand to make a collection of resources useful. As always real world, hands on experience is invaluable but the below are worth your time;

NOTE: I took two exams (ns0-153 and ns0-163) whereas you can now take a single exam (ns0-154) instead which covers ONTAP 8 – 7 mode.

In terms of difficulty the NCDA is an entry level exam – I’d put these exams nearer the VCP standard than the VCAP, more like an MCP than an MCSE. They’re multiple choice and while some questions require enterprise design knowledge (I got one on Metrocluster cabling) most are much more basic. Like the Cisco exams your certification expires after two years so I should be retaking the exams if I want to stay current but as not much has changed (ONTAP v8 is out but running in cluster mode means it’s almost the same as v7) it would be a paper exercise only and hence not worth it. Besides there’s SRM, vSphere5, vCD 1.5, Chef, Puppet and more to learn should I find any free time…

vCenter Operations 1.0 – Pros and Cons

As the complexity of virtual infrastructures increases it’s becoming harder to manage using conventional monitoring tools which were built with a more static environment in mind. In March 2011 VMware released the vCenter Operations product (vCOPS) to address this pain point. I’ve been running the 60 day trial at my company and now that the trial’s ending it’s time to share my thoughts.

What is vCOPS?

To quote the product page at VMware;

VMware vCenter Operations uses patented analytics and powerful visualizations to automate performance, capacity and configuration management. It collects and analyzes performance data, correlates abnormalities and identifies the root cause of building performance problems. VMware vCenter Operations provides capacity management to optimize resource usage and policy-based configuration management to assure compliance and eliminate sprawl and configuration drift. (emphasis my own)

The key differentiator is this promise to learn and understand the context of multiple metrics (CPU, memory, storage and network) and provide root cause analysis without you needing to manually define thresholds, benchmarks etc. Bear in mind that vCOPS is an infrastructure monitoring solution rather than application layer (which is more the domain on VMware’s AppSpeed, Quest’s solutions or ManageEngine’s Application Manager). I’m not the first blogger to cover this product so here’s some reading to get you up to speed;

While technically a ‘v1’ release the product comes from VMware’s purchase of Integrien (in August 2010) where it was originally marketed as VMAlive. Integrien have been working on the patented algorithms for several years so while the integration and VMware branding are new the guts of the product are not. VMware have published some YouTube videos or you can listen to VM Communities podcast #119 to get an overview of what vCOPS can offer. Continue reading vCenter Operations 1.0 – Pros and Cons

Mindjet’s new iPhone app reviewed

Since joining my present company nearly four years ago I’ve been using Mindjet’s MindManager to help me manage my job. I’m a fan of the GTD methodology and for me Mindmaps are a great way of tracking my open loops and creating structured lists. Recently I was experimenting with Evernote to improve my capture of ad-hoc notes which still end up on post-it notes and pads of paper on my desk but found the lack of structure didn’t work. Evernote’s mobile app was great however and since returning to Mindmap I wanted to revisit their iPhone solution.

This is where I hit the first hurdle. In June this year they released a completely new, rewritten app which unfortunately was not an upgrade for existing users, along with the following rationale;

Automatically pushing out an “upgrade” from the old one to the new one would actually remove some features you are already using while enabling different ones. It was our judgment that, for most users of the original app, this would not be a good experience so we did not label the new Mindjet iPhone as an “upgrade” on the iTunes store. It is truly a brand new, v1.0 app.

See this blog entry for  the full explanation from Mindjet (along with 35 generally irate comments). £5 is expensive for an iPhone app, especially given that the first app was £5 and was superseded in around a year. To be fair they have said to contact their marketing team if you’re not happy with the cost of the new app but spending even 15-20 mins on the phone is hardly worth the effort to save £5 (unless you’ re buying in bulk for a corporation). Either way I think this leaves a negative impression.

Anyway, what’s the new app like? There is one key (much requested) feature which makes it worth the asking price (for me, maybe not for you!) and that’s integration with Dropbox (although there’s no support for SugarSync, Crashplan or any of the other popular cloud storage vendors). Although it does what it says on the tin it’s by no means perfect;

  • The files are all stored in a Mindjet folder in the root of your Dropbox (over which you have no choice)
  • Synchronisation is a manual process and therefore easily forgotten. It does handle a conflict between the local (iPhone version) of a map and the Dropbox online pharmacy business for sale version but there’s no option to ‘keep both’ (typically via a rename) just in case both have useful content.
  • Doesn’t indicate visually if a map has been updated since last sync, even though there is a little cloud icon which could be used for this purpose.
  • Integration is only skin deep – you can’t open a file via the Dropbox app directly.
  • This does enable cross platform, roundtrip editing. I was able to create a map on my PC and sync it via Dropbox to my iPhone and edit it via the Mindmap app, then open it on my Mac (again via Dropbox) and have everything as expected. Hurrah!

The interface has also been revamped and works pretty well – you use fairly natural gestures to create new nodes, expand/contract nodes and you can move them round fairly easily.Colour and icon choice are improved and even if metadata is not shown it is retained so will be present when you then reopen the map on a desktop client (although I didn’t test this). Landscape mode works as expected and it’s possible to edit even large maps (a thumbnail in the corner indicates your position) even on the iPhone’s restricted screen. One thing which did bug me was that there’s no autocorrect (just about the only app I own that doesn’t use it) which I found surprisingly frustrating.

Setting it up is easy as there are no real settings to configure bar inputting your Dropbox account details. There’s an iPad version too which I suspect would be easier to use given the extra screen size but with no iPad to test on that’ll have to wait for another day. Since it’s first release at the start of July there’s already been a 1.1 release which added a few new features. Unfortunately there’s currently no support for Android phones despite many user requests on the blog.

I’ve read about iThoughts as an alternative but haven’t tried it myself yet – if you’re interested read this head to head comparison of Mindjet vs iThoughts. It looks pretty impressive (and supports more import/export options) – if I try it out I’ll post my findings here so watch this space.

PS. SF Bay area users – get paid to provide feedback on the iPhone Mindmap app (valid until 8th August 2011)