Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Riverbed Steel Fusion: A New Approach to Remote Office Infrastructure

Riverbed Steel Fusion: A New Approach to Remote Office Infrastructure  


Approaching the remote office/branch office (ROBO) deployment can be a more complicated task than it originally appears. Many vendors in this space offer a quick deployment, but fail to look deeper into the needs of the business to provide a well rounded solution. How does a business plan for disaster recovery at a remote site? What about offices in foreign countries? Data location and international laws could complicate the ability to protect intellectual property of the business. Enter Riverbed Steel Fusion. Steel Fusion offers administrators simplified ROBO deployments, centralized management, and provides options for problems that could be easily overlooked when planning for remote offices.   

What is the SteelFusion Solution?

SteelFusion is a Software-Defined Edge solution consisting of a two parts: Core and Edge. In the on-premises data center, the SteelFusion Core (a physical appliance or virtual machine) is connected to the SAN or NAS storage. It should be noted that the SteelFusion core can also be linked to AWS or Azure storage components for those with a multi-cloud solution. The SteelFusion Edge appliance is deployed at the remote site. Once the base network configuration is made, the appliance is remotely managed from the Core.

Riverbed's Parimal Puranik white boarding SteelFusion at TFD15

How does SteelFusion differentiate from other ROBO solutions?

SteelFusion separates itself from the pack by keeping corporate data housed in the main data center. With the data on-premises, planning for backup and disaster recovery is simplified to one site. No need to develop a complicated solution encompassing multiple remote offices. Similarly, since data lives in the SAN/NAS, it becomes less vulnerable to foreign data laws. The data required by the ROBO, whether it be files or VM disks, is replicated and cached to the Edge, and changes are written back to the SAN/NAS at the Core.

Aside from passing the data to the remote site, the Edge appliance can also replace traditional compute solutions with Riverbed’s Virtual Services Platform. VSP runs VMware ESXi to on the SteelFusion Edge appliance, eliminating the need for additional hardware.

On paper the solution seems solid, but does it hold up in the real world? The answer appears to be yes. Based on statistics provided by Riverbed in September of 2017, there are over 10,000 appliances deployed across 1,200 customers globally. From experience in my professional life, installation and management is easy. I have encountered a few enterprises in my area currently utilizing SteelFusion, or with plans to implement SteelFusion in 2018. While it may not be a perfect solution for every ROBO use case, SteelFusion is certainly worth investigating.

For a deeper overview of Riverbed’s SteelHead technology, check out their presentation at Tech Field Day 15 Here.

Disclaimer: I was invited to participate as a Tech Field Day Delegate as a guest of Gestalt IT. All expenses, including food, transportation, and hotel were covered by Gestalt IT. I did not receive any compensation to write this post, nor was I requested to write this post. The above post is written of my opinion and not that of Gestalt IT.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

That's a Wrap: An ExploreVM Look Back at 2017

One word comes to mind as I sit here and look back at 2017 and the adventures I've had with the ExploreVM blog/podcast - Growth. I am thankful to be part of a great community that has provided new opportunities, new ventures, and new experiences. I haven't been nearly as productive on the blog/podcast front in November and December of last year due to some personal matters, getting slammed with work, and the holiday. So, let's kick off 2018 with a review of 2017, and a preview of things to come.

Community Recognition


For the second year in a row, I was privileged enough to be part of the VMware vExpert program. I often tell people that just because I am a "vExpert", it doesn't mean that I know everything about VMware. And man is that true when immersed in the vExpert Slack channels or conversating with vExperts at events. I've learned so much from fellow vExperts in the past year that I couldn't begin to thank everyone who's knowledge I've grown from.

I also took a crack at applying for another community program, and to my surprise I was accepted. I was named one of the 150 Nutanix Technology Champions for 2017. What I like about the NTC program is that it is smaller than similar groups which gives individuals a better experience. There are a great group of technologists in the NTC program which have helped me grow my skill set immensely since I joined. Angelo Luciani runs a great program at Nutanix!  

Blogging and Podcasting


As an accompaniment to the blog I've been running for four years, I dove into the world of podcasting. The first season of the ExploreVM podcast launched in February with15 episodes focusing on various topics in the datacenter realm. It's been great to follow the career journey of my guests after their appearance on the show.

In January I will begin recording episodes for Season 2, which I plan on kicking off in February. The goal is to publish an episode every two weeks. I'm looking for guests, so please do not hesitate to reach out on Twitter or drop me an email if you want to appear. I'd like to bring on some new voices and perspectives in the next season. Let's explore the datacenter world together!

On the blog front, 2017 marked my most productive year with 14 posts. The vExpert and Nutanix NTC program provided lots of great access to products and announcements, which in turn lead to numerous posts. With added posts, comes added readership as well. A bit of a humble brag, but saw a 325% increase in hits from EOY 2016 to EOY 2017. If everything I've got lined up works out as planned, including a new website design, 2018 should see the same growth!

As we look forward into 2018, I have several posts lined up as a result of Tech Field Day. As we go forward, I see the ExploreVM blog taking more of an analyst route.. However, that does not mean that my event recaps or technical posts are going away, they will just occur a bit less often. Diving into technologies, learning what makes them work, and figuring out where they fit in the datacenter world has become not only beneficial to my professional life, but a very enjoyable aspect of my writing.

I have also launched a YouTube channel which I will be publishing videos on various topics. I expect these videos will parallel some of the podcasts, or be informative similar to VMUG sessions. This will be a new venture for me into 2018, but all of my previous podcasts are available there currently for review.

One more thought on the content creation front. As growing the blog and podcast is starting to incur some costs, namely hosting, software, and recording equipment, I am considering doing some sponsored content. This would be done in lieu of running ads. I find sponsored content to be less intrusive than ads on sites and podcasts, and when done properly, the posts can have quality content. If your company or product would like to sponsor a post or episode, please email me, or message me on Twitter.

Speaking and Events


The core of my community involvement has always been attending and speaking at VMUG meetings, and 2017 was no different. This year I added Keynote Panel speaker to the resume on top of my usual community sessions. Indianapolis, Chicago, and Wisconsin VMUGs were all gracious enough to allow me to speak at their UserCon's this past year. I take so much joy in giving back to the community that has helped my career explode. 

If you have never spoken at a VMUG meeting, please consider doing so. Community generated content is always in demand. Many people out in the vCommunity, myself included, are more than willing to coach you on your session. Like I mentioned before, everyone has useful experience, don't be afraid to share. 

This year had two new speaking firsts. March led off with a pre-recorded webinar that was sponsored by Intel and Nutanix. The recording experience was a touch nerve racking as I had no idea how I looked or sounded until the webinar aired. That being said, I would absolutely do it again. Community involvement led to speaking at two conferences during the summer of 2017. 

My final event for 2017 was an invitation to Tech Field Day 15 in San Jose, California. What's unique about the TFD15 experience versus my other events for the year is that the delegates get to grill the vendors and learn about products rather than having to speak on a topic. We were either  brought to the offices of the vendor, or they came to our location, and we were granted access to everyone from engineers to CEOs. While I am slipping a bit in the timeliness department, look for blog posts about these vendors in the coming weeks. Outside of the Tech, I got to meet, chat with, and learn some amazing folks in our industry. They certainly lit a fire underneath me to do more with myself after spending just a few days in their company. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get on to writing other blog posts and working on the website redesign. One last bit of info, I've included some of my goals for 2018, as well as some blog and podcast stats for last year. 

Goals for 2018

  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate & Professional
  • VMware VCIX
  • Attend/speak at 3 conferences
  • Speak at a VMUG in a state that I have not spoken in before
  • Hit 2000 Twitter followers (currently at 940)

Podcast Stats

  • Number of Podcast Downloads: 1149
  • Number of Plays on 288
  • Listeners on 5 Continents 

Top 3 Downloaded Episodes

  1. Making the Move to a Pre-Sales Role / VMware 101 (tie)
  2. IT User Groups
  3. Microsoft Azure

Top 3 Played Episodes (on the blog)

  1. A VCDX Discussion
  2. Making the Move to a Pre-Sales Role
  3. On-Premises Datacenter is Dead, Long Live On-Premises Datacenter

Blog Stats

  • 325% increase in views in 2017
  • Readers From 6 Continents 

I hope everyone had a great holiday, and has an amazing 2018. I welcome any feedback on my previous posts, podcasts, or any of the upcoming ideas I've mentioned in this blog. And as always, if you'd like to be a guest or have an idea for an episode of the ExploreVM podcast, reach out to me on Twitter, Facebook, or Email.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

ExploreVM Podcast - Episode 15: Mathematics of Dataloss with Dr. Rachel Traylor

Today we take a look into a world that I find fascinating and have limited experience with: Mathematics. Specifically the math behind some datacenter functions. We even brought in a real live doctor of mathematics to talk about it!  Let's take a listen.

Listen to "Mathematics of Dataloss with Dr. Rachel Traylor" on Spreaker.

Watch for some upcoming videos done in conjunction with The Math Citadel about various tech topics and the mathematics behind them.

To Contact Dr. Traylor
Personal Twitter
The MathCitadel Twitter
The Article Discussed in this Episode

If you'd like to join the conversation about the show's topic, have any show ideas, or would like to be a guest, reach out to me on Twitter (@ExploreVM), Email, or on Facebook.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

ExploreVM Podcast - Episode 14: Making the Move to the Enterprise with AJ Kuftic

On today's  show I battle seasonal allergies in an attempt to record a podcast about joining the enterprise. Who will win, Paul or the Allergies?

Listen to "Making the Move to the Enterprise w AJ Kuftic" on Spreaker.

Contact AJ
Blog: Virtual Potholes

If you'd like to join the conversation about the show's topic, have any show ideas, or would like to be a guest, reach out to me on Twitter (@ExploreVM), Email, or on Facebook.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Nutanix Xtract Now GA: Simplified migration from ESXi to AHV

Nutanix Xtract is now GA

Originally announced at .Next this past June, Nutanix Xtract is a one click experience to simplify the migration of ESXi VMs to AHV. 

Xtract is agentless and retains the network configuration to the new AHV VM. As data is periodically synced to the target VM during the process, the only downtime comes when you cut over to the new VM. During the migration process, AHV drivers are automatically installed on the VMs operating system. The Xtract migration process also automates several of the manual tasks encountered by other migration tools. Looking to mitigate some of the risks with migrating VMs between platforms, Xtract comes with a roll back feature built in.

Xtract 1.0 is now available to all Nutanix customers for free. You can watch a demonstration of Xtract for VMs here. For more information, check out
If you'd like to join the conversation about Nutanix Xtract, have any podcast/blog ideas, or would like to be a guest, reach out to me on Twitter (@ExploreVM), Email, or on Facebook.

Monday, October 9, 2017

VMworld 2017 Recap: vBrownBag Tech Talks

This year I attended VMworld on a vExpert blogger pass. To document my experiences, I'm writing up a VMworld 2017 Recap in 3 parts: The Keynotes, The Sessions, and vBrownBag Tech talks. I also recorded a couple of podcast episodes during the conference, you can listen to them HERE. With the final post in the series, I take a look at the vBrownBag TechTalks.

What are the TechTalks?

The crew over at vBrownBag run a community driven small scale conference within a conference. More than a few of us have submitted abstracts for VMworld, only to have them rejected. The TechTalks give those who still want to contribute a platform. Volunteer speakers give 10-30 minute presentations, similar to those you would see at a VMUG meeting or in the halls of VMworld itself. The major difference between a VMUG session and a TechTalk is that the TechTalks are streamed live and are available shortly their after on the vBrownBag YouTube Channel.

So, why do I find them so valuable? The answer is simple: The content of each session is relevant. There are no marketing presentations, no sales pitches (there are rules against this), just administrators experiences with a problem or product. Yes, in some cases people will do sessions on a specific vendor, but those sessions go into the technical details of how that product was used. As these presenters are community members like you or I, they are easy to approach after they present with any follow up questions or to strike up a conversation. Outside of the highly technical deep dives and new product sessions, vBrownBag TechTalks have some of the highest value at VMworld.

Sometimes I look like I know what I'm doing.

Wait, what about Opening Acts?!

I'd be remiss if I failed to mention VMunderground Opening Acts! Opening acts are another great community generated event that revolves around VMworld. The multi-panel sessions take place the Sunday before VMworld begins, and you don't need to be a registered attendee of VMworld to participate. I have found great value in the Opening Act panels throughout the years. It is yet another intimate setting you can listen to and pick the brains of some great vCommunity contributors. Much like TechTalks, they are recorded and available on the vBrownBag YouTube Channel.  

Some of my Favorite TechTalks

Unlike most of the VMworld sessions, the vBrownBag TechTalks are available online, on demand. So rather than write up detailed descriptions about the sessions, I've embedded a few of my favorite videos below. (Please don't mind the shameless plug for my sessions at the end).

If you'd like to join the conversation about VMworld 2017, have any podcast/blog ideas, or would like to be a guest, reach out to me on Twitter (@ExploreVM), Email, or on Facebook

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

#Blogtober - A Thank You to Tech Field Day

Welcome to #Blogtober!

With my first post for #Blogtober, I wanted to take a moment to thank the folks over at Tech Field Day for a great experience. But before we dive into TFD, a bit about Blogtober. If you're not familiar, it's a movement started by Matt Heldstab to encourage members of the vCommunity to generate more blogs, increase their visibility in the community, and share what they have learned at conferences. As of writing this post, there are currently 56 bloggers signed up for this years Blogtober, with VMUG contributing prizes to random bloggers. For a full list of the blogs participating, check out the Blogtober Website.

Now, on to Tech Field Day! 

Last week I had the distinct privilege to participate in Tech Field Day 15 in Silicon Valley. Over the course of 3 days, we received demonstrations from 7 different vendors across the IT spectrum. What makes this a unique experience is that, in most cases, the delegates get the opportunity to pick the brains of the engineers, CEOs, or owners who are presenting their product. We have a 2 hour window to learn about the product and deep dive into the nuts and bolts of what makes it work.

The eleven delegates, myself included, came from a range of backgrounds and nationalities. Outside of the United States, Canada, England, Italy, and the Czech Republic were represented. This dynamic provided for some unique perspectives when it came to discussions with the vendors, and discussions among the delegates as we traveled between sites. 

Tech Field Day could not be a success without the hard work of the staff from Gestalt IT. Stephen Foskett was our ringmaster and the face of TFD. Off camera, Nikki made sure all of the delegates had everything they needed during each recording session and beyond. I owe many thanks to both of them, as well as the staff behind the scenes that I have not yet met. Kudos on a well ran event! 

As for the 7 vendors, keep an eye on for posts about each of them over the next two months. I'm looking to do a review of the each session and a deep dive into the products. I already have some post TFD follow up meetings with a few of the vendors to get more information, so these posts will have a lot of content. 

If you'd like to get caught up on Tech Field Day 15 before then, search #TFD15 on Twitter, or check out session recordings at the Tech Field Day YouTube Channel.

Final Thoughts.

I had originally planned on writing and posting this blog on Monday. Waking up to the tragic news out of Las Vegas took a lot out of me these past few days. Many of us in the tech industry are very familiar with the area that the massacre occurred. Even during the shooting, many of our colleagues were at the Mandalay Bay preparing for another conference. As far as I am aware, no one in the vCommunity was harmed during the shooting, but that is of little solace to the families of those 58 killed and 527 injured. Hundreds, if not thousands of people had their lives changed forever that day.

But, we can NOT let fear and hate win. I believe there is far more good in this world than there is evil. We saw it with the long lines of people waiting to donate blood on Monday. We saw it in the millions of dollars raised to help hurricane victims in Texas and Florida. And we see it every day in ourselves and our lives. Stand up to fear and continue to live your life. Keep helping those in need whether it be from natural disaster, a hungry family in your community, or as simple as helping a stranger in a store reach that top shelf. Let's continue to be the good, be the change in the world.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled technical content...

If you'd like to join the conversation about Tech Field Day 15, Blogtober, have any podcast/blog ideas, or would like to be a guest, reach out to me on Twitter (@ExploreVM), Email, or on Facebook.

"You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one"
-John Lennon