Tag Archives: vExpert

Making the most of VMworld Barcelona 2014

In just under two weeks I’m heading to Barcelona for VMworld Europe. This will be my fifth year attending and I thought I’d pass on my recommendations for making the most of the conference. This isn’t a ‘book flights, wear trainers, collect swag’ kind of blogpost – remember, it’s a conference, nothing more, nothing less. Don’t be bamboozled by the hype.

1. Prepare in advance

  1. Review what was announced at VMworld in August (here, here, and here via Brian Gracely, Kyle Hilgendorf, & LatogaLabs respectively) so you don’t waste your time rediscovering the wheel. While the European show is playing second fiddle we do at least have the advantage that useful analysis is now available (thoughts on EVO:RAIL, Why VAIO will change everything, and thoughts on the Docker and Openstack announcements).
  2. Before you go reach out to people with similar interests and arrange to meet them, even if it’s informal over breakfast or a beer in the evening. The VMworld schedule builder lists speaker details and most people are easy to find via Twitter or LinkedIn and most are more than happy to engage with people (that’s why they’re speakers after all).
  3. Watch some of the VMworld sessions which are online from the US show in August. If you’ve booked time in your schedule for one of those sessions it’s time you can reuse more productively. Watching sessions in advance gives you more time to soak up new information and lets you think of questions to ask while at the conference.
  4. Write a blogpost on getting the most out of the conference and publish it. 🙂

2. Spend your time doing the stuff you can only do at the conference.

  1. There’s lots of opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and make some excellent contacts, but it’s also quite easy to waste time either intentionally or unintentionally (late night parties take their toll). Most sessions are recorded, the keynotes are usually a repeat of the US keynotes with minor updates, and the lazy web provides deeper insight a few days later when full details emerge and people have had time to digest everything.
  2. If you go to sessions, ask questions! Some are designed to be interactive and watching a recording afterwards may not have the same value as participating – the vExpert Storage Game Show (STO2997-STO) and Ask the Expert vBloggers (SDDC1176) are good examples.
  3. The group discussions are an organised goldmine. Go to them and discuss.
  4. There are 50% discounts on taking certification exams during VMworld Europe, but the VCAP ones take a half day each which is valuable time lost.

3. Interact 

  1. The most valuable use of your time is speaking to people who have the same needs as you, along with product experts. The calibre of people at VMworld is second to none, though finding them among the thousands of attendees can be a challenge. See above point about preparation!
  2. Engage with the community via the vBrownBag sessions, TechFieldDay Extra (featuring yours truly),  the bloggers area and the hangspace.
  3. Join the VMUG organisation and find your local VMUG –  you’ll be glad you did.
  4. Tweet, blog, chat, drink!

4. Stay focused during the conference

  1. Set yourself an agenda and know what you want to achieve before you go. Maybe you want it to be a networking event where you meet up with old friends and share a beer, or maybe you want to focus on using the three or four days to soak up new information. Stick to it.
  2. You will suffer information overload during the event. Compensate by taking notes and make clear actions for follow up when you get home.
  3. Follow up when you get home. I have several folders of info, contacts, things to do etc from previous years and I haven’t always used them. That’s wasted opportunities.

More information about what, when, why, along with social media, parties etc can be found on Andrea Mauro’s comprehensive blogpost.

If you haven’t already it’s not too late to register!banner-eu-registerNow

Note that this link will let VMware know you registered via my blog, which may (or may not!) help me get kudos with their social media program in the future. Registrations much appreciated!

Pluralsight training – is it any good?

online-trainingSummary: Pluralsight are an online training provider who offer a comprehensive and cost effective selection of training courses for a monthly fee, with no lengthy commitments. Having used the service for the last few months I’d recommend it.

PluralSight offer online-only training for technology professionals. They recently hit my radar for two reasons – they acquired the well known training provider TrainSignal, and they offered a years free subscription to vExpert’s. Prior to the TrainSignal acquisition their audience was mainly developers but they now have a good (and growing) series of infrastructure content too. Being a vExpert, this has been an unexpected perk and eventually prompted this blogpost.

The course catalogue is available online so if you’re in the market for training check it out. On the cloud computing front there’s quite a bit of good content (search the catalogue for cloud to see a full list);

  • vendor neutral courses covering topics such as cloud basics, REST, patterns of cloud integration, CompTIA cloud
  • some good AWS content including a great introduction to building distributed systems (covering many AWS components such as EC2, EBS, S3, VPS, CloudWatch etc) by Richard Serroter
  • quite a bit of (TrainSignal acquired) VMware content, including three vCloud Director courses (v1.5, v5.1, and one about organisations in particular). Nothing about vCHS yet! Authors include Jake Robinson, Chris Wahl, and David Davis
  • There’s also plenty of MS focused content including Hyper-V, using System Centre 2012 for private clouds, plus Azure fundamentals. Authors include Elias Khnaser & David Chappell
  • Google Cloud also gets some coverage from Lynn Langit

Not all categories get such good coverage though. For instance there’s only one Oracle course (which is actually about optimising SQL queries in databases, so not Oracle focused) whereas MS SQL Server gets 49 courses (and incredibly MS Sharepoint gets over 80)! Inevitably some courses are pretty out of date (XenDesktop 4, vSphere 4 etc) because someone, somewhere, might still need it and once the content exists why remove it? The quality of the courses does vary but most of the ones I’ve seen are pretty good.

Being online only they need to offer choices for user access, and they do. I’ve used Android (phone and tablet) and web access both Mac and PC) plus there’s also an iPad app and even a Windows mobile client (only some devices supported I gather). Your viewing history is retained centrally meaning you can switch devices seamlessly – start watching a course on your tablet on the train then switch to your desktop and continue where you left off when you reach the office. There’s also a variable speed option which is great for courses where you need a refresher or where your brain works faster (or slower!) than the speaker’s usual pace. Offline viewing is available but only on the higher priced subscriptions but if you spend significant periods of time  ‘off the grid’ (which is getting harder with Wifi on some flights) then it might be worth the additional cost. I found downloading courses a bit variable – downloads has a tendency freeze but clicking Pause/Resume always kicked it back into life – just remember to check it’s fully downloaded before you lose internet access (yep, lesson learned).
NOTE: I’ve found that the offline courses don’t seem to update progress centrally even once you reconnect to the internet. This can be frustrating as I watch a course on my tablet and when I go online to finish it off I have to remember where I was. A minor niggle, not a showstopper. I also couldn’t get the offline courses to work on my Samsung S3 when I used full phone encryption but besides reinstalling the Pluralsight app I didn’t troubleshoot further so it’s not a definitive diagnosis.

NOTE: Another frustration – the mobile apps don’t seem to respect your screen lock options – the Pluralsight app rotates regardless. I wanted to watch courses while running and found this very annoying. Respect your user’s choices!

This kind of online, on-demand training is perfect for contractors who Continue reading Pluralsight training – is it any good?

Which VMware certifications should you invest in?

IT is a fast moving industry, and the current shift to cloud computing is accelerating the rate of change. With the forthcoming release of the vSphere5 VCAP exams (VCAP5-DCA and the VCAP5-DCD) I’ve been planning to study my socks off to get both exams under my belt. I’m sure I’m not alone in struggling to make study time, particularly as my day job doesn’t tend to cover all of the material either because we’re only Enterprise level licensing or because we don’t use all the features. On top of that I’d like to update my VCAP-DCA study guide which will consume a significant chunk of time.

This serious case of study contention has made me revisit my priorities. The VMware ecosystem has evolved considerably over the last few years and there’s considerable buzz around VMware View and vCloud Director (not to mention the whole Cloud Foundry and vFabric ecosystem). Maybe these would be better areas to focus on? As John Troyer said about certifications “You don’t have to collect them all!” but it does make me wonder – which VMware certs are most likely to benefit career progression?

VCP or VCAP?

First some facts. The VMware platform which evolved into vSphere was launched in 2001, the first VCP exam was available in June 2003 (@susangude is VCP#1), and the first VCAP exams were launched seven years later in August 2010. Nine years on and the statistics are well known – around 60,000 VCPs worldwide and approximately 600 certified in each of the two VCAP tracks (so 50 VCPs for every VCAP!).

Continue reading Which VMware certifications should you invest in?

vExpert 2012 – so what next?

I’m chuffed to say VMware have awarded me vExpert status for 2012 (although it’s for my contribution to the virtualization community in 2011). In a similar fashion to Microsoft’s MVP this is awarded to people who have helped the VMware community through forums, blogs, conferences, podcasts etc but is NOT a certification based on technical ability. This is where VMware’s program differs from the MVP which also counts significant technical expertise as part of the selection criteria. I was included in the Evangelist path as a blogger and yes I know there’s an official vExpert logo but this one suits my mood better right now. I’m a vExperienced vExpert!

When I started my blog nearly two years ago I expected to be an occasional poster as I’m more of a lurker by nature but I’ve found it to be an addictive pastime.There are 436 vExpert’s worldwide this year (compared to over 4000 MVPs) and the vExpert directory (not yet updated for 2012) includes a brief description of everyone and their background.

I find that having someone say ‘thanks’, which is what I consider the vExpert to be, is disproportionately rewarding. I put a lot of effort into my certification last year (VCAP, RHCSA etc) but value the vExpert recognition more highly. I hope it rounds out my CV – when graduating from college employers were looking for ‘value added’ activities – team sports, running a club etc and this is how I view the vExpert.

One potential downside to the vExpert award could be perception – I suspect it’s all too easy for people to perceive vExpert’s as VMware ‘fanboi”s who simply tow the corporate line and are not objective about the technology. We’ve all encountered the open source zealot and the Apple enthusiast and it’s tempting to ignore advice for fear it’s one sided. It’s important to realise that the vExpert is a two way street between ourselves and VMware – let’s hope we do our job as Geek Herders!

So if this award is for last year, what will I do this coming year? I’m glad you asked! I’m planning to continue and hopefully increase my participation in the virtualization community;

  • Regular blogposts on www.vExperienced.co.uk
  • Update my VCAP-DCA guide to cover v5 of the exam
  • Attend and report from VMworld Europe in Barcelona
  • Attend vBeers and VMUG groups
  • Contribute to online forums (the VMTN communities) and social networks – mainly Twitter (and Google+ if I can work out its value!)
  • I’m planning to cover vSphere Orchestrator, vCloud Director and maybe some Hyper-V action later in the year along with the usual smattering of Netapp and alternative storage technologies.

If there’s anything you’d like me to cover, get in touch!

vExpert 2012 – the mutual benefit of the 1%

Firstly, this is not about the 1% associated with the Occupy WallSt campaign! As widely reported on Twitter and the blogosphere the 2012 vExpert program is up and running – I won’t go into the changes this year as there is plenty of coverage for that. In VMware’s own words;

The annual VMware vExpert title is given to individuals who have significantly contributed to the community of VMware users over the past year. The title is awarded to individuals (not employers) for their commitment to sharing their knowledge and passion for VMware technology above and beyond their job requirements.

Sounds great, let’s fill in that application form right? Before you apply have you ever paused to consider what is it you’re actually doing, and for whom? In an interesting article about ‘going social’ posted just a few weeks ago Dr Michael Hu talked about six myths companies believe are associated with a social strategy, one of which is the need to reach every customer to be effective. He refutes this, stating;

Instead, you need to discover the small number of “superfans” who want deeper engagement and then harness their enthusiasm to manage and strengthen other customer relationships on behalf of the brand. That’s the real power of community – you tend to the 1% who tend the other 99%.

That describes the vExpert in a nutshell – you are the 1%!

You could see this through cynical eyes as VMware using the community for their own benefit but like many of my peers I’ve been working in IT for well over a decade and virtualisation is the first time I’ve found a community that really benefits everyone involved. Maybe it’s the advent of social networking, maybe it’s the convergence of the various technologies or maybe it’s the time and effort expended by VMware (and geek herder extraordinaire @jtroyer)  but for some reason it works where it never did before. I enjoy being part of the VMware community and I  know it adds value for me (and therefore my employer) and many other people. While the 1% add great value on VMware’s behalf they also benefit greatly from the experience themselves. Just bear in mind that much as we’d all like VMware’s recognition, VMware need us too!

I’m already vExperienced and I’d love to be a vExpert. Fingers crossed!

ps. Apologies to Alex Maier who now runs the vExpert program – I’d already made up my ‘poster’ before I knew!