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 www.nutanix.com/xtract.
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 ExploreVM.com 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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

ExploreVM Podcast - Episode 13: IT User Groups with Nick Korte

We've spent a lot of time talking about VMUGs and community involvement. But believe it or not, there are other groups out there! Today we look into IT meet ups and developing user groups.

Listen to "IT User Groups with Nick Korte" on Spreaker.

Our vBrownBag Tech Talk videos:
2 1/2 Free Tools: https://youtu.be/h9wvV4q4ut8
From CNC to VCP: https://youtu.be/3qmdMyOYye4
If vSAN Powered the Matrix: https://youtu.be/EHJlHPu6h0Y

To contact Nick:


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, September 19, 2017

VMworld 2017 Recap: The Sessions

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 second post in the series, I dive in to a few of the sessions I attended that I feel had a lot of value.

Architecting Data Protection with Rubrik

Rubrik is a product I have been following for a while. While their technology is intriguing, what I like about their presentations is that it's not just marketing mumbo jumbo. They provide content that's useful and thought provoking, so I knew this would be a good use for my time in an already packed schedule.

You knew from the moment you walked in the session would not be like the rest.
The session, presented by Andrew Miller and Rebecca Fitzhugh, took a look at not only what constitutes a disaster in IT, but also how to assess and prepare for one. Given recent events, hurricanes and natural disasters are an easy place to start when thinking about disasters. Rebecca presented lessons learned from 2005 when Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, and Hurricane Rita struck Texas just a few weeks later. Sure, the DR site is in another state, and what are the odds that massive hurricanes would strike both locations so close? Using Houston and New Orleans should be fine! Until that once in a lifetime perfect storm of events comes together. Deeper thinking about location planning could have helped prevent many IT headaches.

But what about the other types of disasters? Ones not so obvious like power outage, or the most common type of disaster, human error. Business impact analysis is a crucial step in helping to prepare for disasters. For those who may not know what a BIA consists of two components:
  • Technical Discovery - data gathering and documentation
  • Human Conversation - Speaking with people about:
    • What IT systems they rely on?
    • What is the monetary impact of a disaster/failure?
    • What are the most time critical and informational critical business processes? 
 All of that information is collected and used to help decide what availability or recovery capabilities are justifiable based on the requirements, impact, and costs. The reports generated classify data and systems with priority tiers.

When moving forward with planning after a business impact analysis, be sure that the details and requirements are fully understood. Many places say they need four or five 9's of up time without truly knowing what goes into delivering that type of availability. Also, when planning out Service Level Agreements (SLA), is planned downtime for maintenance and upgrades included in the agreement? Failure to adequately account for those outages could push you into violation of your SLA while trying to keep the environment up and running. One more thought about SLAs. When does the SLA reset? Is it a yearly on January 1st? Quarterly? Weekly? Be sure to have a solid understanding of when the SLA resets so you don't violate it.

Another thought on SLAs; make sure your Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) fit within the constraints of the SLA, and vice versa. It should also be noted that the shorter your RTO (the target amount of time to restart a service after an outage) and RPO (the acceptable amount of data loss from an outage), the more expensive the backup solution will be to implement and maintain.

And the final take away from Rubrik's session is that Business Continuity (BC) is different than Disaster Recovery. In environments with developed and deployed BC plans, an outage can occur and the end user will not experience any loss of productivity. Business Continuity tends to focus on the smaller, day to day issues that could arise such as the loss of a piece of hardware and are smaller in scale than a full disaster. BC events should have plans documented so they can be recovered from quickly.

"Complexity is the enemy. Whatever you do. Whatever you buy. Simplify your architecture and expect more." - Andrew Miller

Official Recording of the Rubrik VMworld Session
Rubrik Slide Deck

HPE vExpert Briefing 

One of the benefits of the VMware vExpert program is access to exclusive content and meetings from vendors. At VMworld, HPE held 2 sessions for vExperts to discuss current and upcoming product information. In my professional world, I work for a VAR that partners with nearly all major vendors in the datacenter space. As I have limited exposure to HPE products, I felt this would be a good session to help me learn more about their offerings, see where they could help our clients, and give me a working understanding should I need to deploy HPE in the future. Plus it didn't hurt that Calvin Zito also lured us with the promise of food and beverages.

While HPE has a large portfolio of products, the part of the session that stood out the most to me revolved around their hyperconverged and automation offerings. Dubbed "Project New Hybrid IT Stack", we were told the actual product name is pending, HPE combines Simplivity with Synergy to create an integrated cloud solution for on premises and public clouds. One of the goals is to be able to assess cost and decide where the application best fits in the environment, whether it's on premises, cloud, etc…

Details of the stack are still being flushed out, including how they will handle the migration between on premises and public clouds. It was said "Given the great partnership with VMware, it wouldn't be surprising that NSX would be utilized". Although no official timeline has been released, we were told to expect the product to be GA in the "nearish-term".

Continuing with the cloud theme, we moved on to Private Cloud Express with vRealize Automation. PCE comes as a pre-integrated hardware and software solution on HC380 hardware with Helion CloudSystem. The solution is currently in beta with relationships being built with public cloud providers for cross platform integration. HPE has certainly put themselves on my radar with this session.

Links provided by HPE:
HPE Hyperconverged Whitepaper
Scott D. Lowe's Gorilla Guide to Hyperconverged Infrastructure
Private Cloud Express

 The Future with Dr. Michio Kaku

In an IBM sponsored session, theoretical physicist Dr. Michio Kaku discussed where science and technology is taking the future of the human race. In what he called the "Fourth Wave", Dr. Kaku called out that humanity's next greatest advances will be in Artificial Intelligence + Cloud Computing, Nanotech and Robotics, and Biotechnology. There was one prediction and one observation that stuck out to me above the rest. His prediction is that one day in the future we will be able to send our connectome, the mapping of our brains, into space on a laser which will give us the ability to explore the world at the speed of light.

Dr. Kaku's observation is on technology and business. To become the next billionaire take a look at a business, any business, find the friction and digitize it. He went on to point out how companies like Amazon and Uber used technology to totally revolutionize their respective markets. As a technologist, this struck me as if he was issuing challenge. How could I make an impact? How could I revolutionize a field; become the next Bezos or Musk? The session certainly left me feeling motivated.
It was a valiant attempt to get my picture with Dr. Kaku

VMworld Daily Top Rated Sessions

While not all sessions are available online, VMware has posted a few of the top rated sessions online for the public to watch. You can find those at the link below.


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

Monday, September 4, 2017

VMworld 2017 Recap: The Keynotes

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.

Day One General Session

Day one kicked off with VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger taking the stage. After a short call to action for donations to help in the recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey, Gelsinger dove into the progression of IT trends lately. Focusing on the decentralization of IT, automation, Internet of Things, and disruption for the improvement quality of life:

"We're not about bringing jobs back, We're about automating them away so that we can create higher value roles, and changing the industry...We're about creating higher value, higher paying jobs and changing the quality of life as a result" - Pat Gelsinger 

He goes on to call out that apps are the technology reshaping customer experience. Using this as a segue, Gelsinger transitions to VMware's vision. This vision is "any application, on any device, on any cloud.". With technologies such as network virtualization, and edge, tech is "breaking out of tech" and reaching further with IoT. So how does this tie into VMware's vision? Workspace One.

Workspace One is VMware's offering to bring all of the pieces together in a way that's "consumer simple, but enterprise secure". Workspace One consists of three main pillars:
  • Apps and Identity
    • Consistent environment across all apps with Single Sign On and Mulitifactor Authentication
  •  Management and Security
    • Consistent management and security with IT in control
    • Available either on premises or as-a-service (such as Horizon Air) 
  • Desktop and Mobile 
    • Airwatch 
Compounding on the existing relationships VMware Airwatch has in the ecosystem, the next announcement was a partnership with HPI. President & CEO Dion Weisler appeared via video statement to announce that VMware's Unified Endpoint Management (by Workspace One powered by Airwatch) will be incorporated into HP's Device-as-a-Service offering. This is the first partnership for Workspace One/Airwatch and a major hardware manufacturer that does not focus on mobile devices. Press release here.

Next up Gelsinger yielded the floor to Sanjay Poonen, COO of Customer Operations to chat with Jennifer Manry about Capital One's use of mobile management and transformation.

Moving on to private cloud, VMware Cloud Foundation 2.0 is announced as part of the keynote. More can be read about Cloud Foundation HERE. Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) is also a big part of the announcements made on Monday morning. Per Pat Gelsinger, vSAN has hit over 10,000 customers and is picking up 100 new customers per week. He also stated that VXRail is now the number one HCI appliance at Dell EMC.

Finally came the information that I was most looking forward to, VMware Cloud on AWS went GA on Monday, August 28th. At this time it is only available in the Oregon availability zone. To talk about the partnership in further depth, Pat introduced Andy Jassy, CEO of AWS. VMC on AWS allows administrators to utilize the public cloud without having to re-architect their applications and datacenters by using the same VMware software and application they already know inside and out. Andy states that the road map for future product development will come from customer input. So as this partnership gains traction, look for growth in feature sets outside of just geographic locations.

Despite my overall excitement for what VMware Cloud on AWS can offer, there is one thought that still keeps popping up, it's a fine line between enabling INTEGRATION to AWS vs MIGRATION to AWS over longer term. As your VMs will be running vSphere inside AWS, it's not a true method of migration to Amazon, there is still a lot of development that must be done for true migration.

Sticking with the cloud theme, VMware's next product announcement comes in the form of the first seven pieces of VMware Cloud Services:
  • Workspace One
  • NSX Cloud
  • Network Insight
  • Cost Insight 
  • Wavefront
  • Discovery
  • AppDefense
The goal of these services is to give consistent operations across all clouds with the following four pillars for VMware's Cloud strategy:
  • Consistent infrastructure across clouds
  • Consistent operations across any cloud
  • Rich network of VMware based global cloud providers
  • Delivering IT agility while reducing complexity and risk
The integration with all offerings of VMware and integration with NSX is being stressed highly this year. Gelsinger referred to it as the connective tissue that ties everything together, and it's central to what VMware is doing with private cloud, mobile, IoT, and soon, public cloud.

"NSX has become secret sauce behind most everything we do. And maybe, what vSphere was to the first 20 years of VMware, NSX is becoming to the next decade or two. It's that important" - Pat Gelsinger

The Monday general session wrapped up with a discussion on security. The question is how do we protect applications and data as we expand out into IoT and a mobile workforce with attack vectors increasing daily? VMware's answer is a three part strategy:
  • Secure Infrastructure, build security in natively 
  • Integrated Ecosystem, work with key players to standardize solutions
  • Cyber Hygiene, return to the basics 
"Fundamentally, we the tech industry have failed you the customer. It is simply too hard, too complex, and breaches are growing too fast. We need a new approach." - Pat Gelsinger  

The "five pillars of Cyber Hygiene" are basic practices that we should all be doing already, but they are often overlooked or ignored in practice. On the national scale, there is now a big push to get back to practicing some of the security basics, which when ignored, have lead to many of the breaches in recent history.

 VMware AppDefence has been introduced not only as a component of Cloud Services, but as another way to help secure corporate data. I will be breaking down AppDefense in a future deep dive post, but you can read more about it now from the VMware Press Release.

Day Two General Session

Day two keynote opened with Pat Gelsinger and Michael Dell sitting down for a fireside chat with questions submitted over the previous day by community members. The first topic brought up was VMware support. Gelsinger requested that we do submit feedback based on our experiences, and he is disappointed with the amount of concerns around GSS. To counteract some of these concerns, VMware has announced two new developments to help with support, including VMware Skyline. Skyline offers proactive and predictive recommendations to help with environmental stability and performance. The product page for Skyline is located HERE.

Personally, I am not a fan of fireside chats as part of a keynote, so you can watch the full session below. 

After the fireside chat, Rob Mee, CEO of Pivotal joined Gelsinger and Dell on stage to announce Pivotal Container Service (PKS). Pivotal Container Service offers two new services for VMware & Pivotal users: a simple way to deploy and operate enterprise-grade Kubernetes, and more importantly, seamless mechanism to migrate to container-based workloads to run on-premises on VMware vSphere and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Google Cloud's Sam Ramji joined Mee on stage to discuss the future of containers. During the keynote it was announced that both VMware and Pivotal are now both platinum members of Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

VMware's CTO Ray O'Farrell took over the keynote to discuss the breadth of the VMware product suite and how they can be utilized to propel a company. This led to a video series about a fictitious pizza chain named "Elastic Sky Pizza" who's story line feels like a mashup of The Office and The Phoenix Project. Rather than deep dive into each product and segment of the videos, I've embedded the link below.

It is an interesting story to watch and to see how each VMware solution fits. However there was one trend I noticed on Twitter during the videos, the restrictive cost that would be incurred by a company trying to implement every VMware product mentioned.

Final General Session

The final keynote occurred on Thursday morning. This keynote had a major focus on the future of technology in medicine, what is currently being done with technologies like bio mechanics and 3D printing, as well as a look at how scientists are working towards incorporating feelings into AI. Unfortunately, it does not appear that this keynote is currently available online, so cannot include any clips or screen shots of this session.

Hugh Herr took the stage to discuss the severe frostbite he received while mountain climbing which led to the amputation of both of his legs below the knee. He also discussed his engineering of custom prosthetics that allowed him to climb again, and the advances in bionics that are allowing amputees range of motion and reactions in their prosthetic limbs which are more and more like the original limbs. Below is a link to a Ted Talk Herr gave on the subject.

The next presenter was Rana El Kalioubi from MIT's Media Lab. Their current projects are around helping AI to understand human emotions. She dove into MIT's Affectiva project, which can be read about HERE.

The final presenter was Dr. Peter Weinstock from Boston's Children's Hospital. His session focused on how doctors are now using 3D models and simulations of patients bodies to practice complex procedures numerous times before actually operating on the patient. This is leading to higher success rates and changing the future of medicine.

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, August 30, 2017

ExploreVM Podcast Live - VMworld 2017

I'm out at VMworld 2017 and chatting with community members about the various announcements and products. I will be embedding the sessions in this blog and uploading them to your favorite podcast providers.

In the first session I talk with Melissa Palmer (@vMiss33) about her new book "IT Architect Series: The Journey". You can learn more about here book at https://itarchitectjourney.com/.

Listen to "ExploreVM Live VMworld 2017 - Melissa Palmer & IT Architect Journey" on Spreaker.

Next up is a talk with Angelo Luciani (@AngeloLuciani) and Tim Smith (@TSmith_co).

Listen to "ExploreVM Live VMworld 2017 - Angelo & Tim" on Spreaker.

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.

Monday, August 28, 2017

ExploreVM VMworld 2017 Live Twitter Feed

Below is my live Twitter feed from VMworld 2017. Full recaps and updates will be posted throughout the conference.

And as always, if you'd like to join the conversation, have any show ideas, or would like to be a guest on the ExploreVM Podcast, reach out to me on Twitter (@ExploreVM), Email, or on Facebook.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

ExploreVM at VMworld 2017: Blogging, Podcasting, Speaking, & More!

The Summer is winding down, football season is closing in fast, and the days are getting shorter. It's that time of the year again: VMworld! Once again, I will be headed to the desert wasteland that is Las Vegas, Nevada to join a few (tens of) thousand(s) of my closest data center gurus for the conference of the summer! For the first time I will be attending as a blogger, which means I should be kicking out lots of content around announcements and products. Keep an eye here on the blog and Twitter for updates. I also have plenty of ExploreVM pins and stickers to hand out!

This year I will be presenting at the vBrownBag Tech Talks. These talks will be broadcast live Here, and posted to their YouTube channel shortly thereafter. The schedule for my sessions is as follows:

Two and a Half Free Tools to Help Troubleshoot vSphere Problems
Monday 08/28 1:30-1:45 Pacific

From CNC to VCP: A Journey of Professional Growth
Tuesday 08/29 1:30-2p Pacific

 I will also have my trusty Tascam audio recorder with me at all times looking to lock down some interviews for future episodes of the ExploreVM Podcast. If you see me at any time and would like to chat, feel free to stop me! I've also signed up for 2 blocks of time in the VMworld Community Podcast Booths and would welcome anyone to join me for some sessions:

Tuesday 08/29 @ 2:00 - 3:00p Pacific
Thursday 08/31 @ 12:00 - 1:00 Pacific

Finally, for those attending VMworld and will be in town Sunday, I am running vHoldem Sunday night. The location is currently in limbo as I need to find a casino willing to work with our numbers, but follow vHoldem on Twitter as well as the vHoldem Eventbrite Page for updates. 

And as always, if you'd like to join the conversation, have any show ideas, or would like to be a guest on the ExploreVM Podcast, reach out to me on Twitter (@ExploreVM), Email, or on Facebook.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

ExploreVM Podcast - Episode 10: A VCDX Discussion

This week we have another episode of ExploreVM live!
I was fortunate enough to pin down 4 great people at the Indy VMUG UserCon in late July to discuss their VCDX journey.

Listen to "ExploreVM Live - A VCDX Discussion" on Spreaker.

Contact my guests:

Rebecca Fitzhugh - Twitter
Sean Massey - Twitter
Eric Wright - Twitter
Mike Burkhart - Twitter

For those attending VMworld 2017, I will have my recording equipment, and I have two time slots for the VMTN Podcast booths. Let's meet up and create some content!

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, July 19, 2017

ExploreVM Podcast - Episode 9: Microsoft Azure with Thom Greene

So we've discussed making the move from VMware to AWS, but it seems we have forgotten about our friends over at Microsoft. Let's take a look at what its like to dive into the world of Microsoft Azure

Listen to "ExploreVM Podcast" on Spreaker.

To Contact Thom:
Twitter: @tbgree00
Twitter: @LexingtonVMUG

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.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

From CNC to NTC: A Journey of Professional Growth

Below is a rough transcript of my "From CNC to NTC: A Journey of Professional Growth" session I presented at the 2017 Nutanix Next conference. The slide show is embedded below, and I've included some links which could be helpful on your journey. I hope you enjoy!

So, what are we going to talk about today? Today’s post is one about growth, living up to your potential, and getting out of your comfort zoneIt's a story about that guy in the green, that's me 6 years ago.

Working as a CNC operator for an envelope factory in Milwaukee. Yes, envelopes are still made here in the United States, I was surprised to find that out in 2004 when I started with the company. I started working right out of high school instead of pursuing a college degree. After bouncing around from a couple of part time jobs, I landed a rather nice paying full time gig at 19.
In high school I was an above average student, but honestly, I lacked motivation and focus. So, when the opportunity to make $12 an hour at 19 years old presented itself, I thought, “Wow, it’s my lucky day”. And the first couple of years, I was doing alright. But after those first couple of years, the day to day monotony of the factory work coupled with minimal increases in wages began to take its toll. It’s that point that my wife suggested I go to school and learn something new.

Tinkering with and repairing computers was always fun for me, so I thought taking the leap into an IT career would be a logical step for myself. But where would I even begin? Did this move make sense for my life? My family? As this was a huge paradigm shift, I wanted to be sure I was prepared. Logically, leaving the factory life would certainly lead to better pay, and an overall improvement in quality of life. Standing in one spot, pressing the same button over and over again, and repetitively lifting certainly takes its toll on a person. I read through everything I could find online about career change. I spoke to the people in my life who already worked in the field. I talked to the IT manager at work. Their consensus was an associate’s degree was the best place to start given that I had no professional IT experience.

Okay a starting point, a 2 year degree, excellent! Where I lived at the time was nestled between two different technical colleges, so again, wanting to make sure I was making the right choice, back to the research. The college I chose turned out to be pivotal in shaping who I became, so I’m glad I took the time beforehand. School picked out, I then I sat down with my wife and looked over the class schedule. As we did not have any children, and my work schedule was set at 7a-3p daily, I was able to easily plan out my evenings of class, studying, and homework. Wanting to make up for lost time by not starting sooner, with my wife’s blessings, and friends motivations behind me, I scheduled class Monday through Thursday, 5p-8p.

Yes, 40 hours of work each week and 12 hours of class. Should be easy, right? The first month or so, cake walk. The motivation of where this would all lead coupled with the excitement of learning something new kept me going like a machine. I set the bar high for myself as well. Since I slacked in high school, nothing less than A’s would suffice in college, especially since I wanted to transfer to a 4 year school after the associates. But, that excitement would wear off and the days would get longer, and longer, and longer. With my weekends getting filled with studying and homework, taking time away from my family, I started staying up until 1 or 2am during the week to get it all done. And, as a diehard Green Bay Packers fan, there was no way I was missing a game on Sunday afternoons.
It became evident to myself and my wife that I had bitten off more than I could chew. That is an important lesson to learn and to be able to admit to yourself. Honestly, it was a big learning moment for me. Knowing that feeling and still being able to tell to this day when things get to be too much, it helps you keep your sanity. There’s a level of professionalism in being honest about not having the availability to take on additional tasks. It does not show weakness or an unreliability. It shows you are dedicated to what you’ve already committed yourself to and care about the quality of work put into it. And, since I committed myself to 4 nights of class this semester, and I wanted to see it through, it became a matter of time management and organization.
Whether you’re pursuing a certification, a degree, or running a project, staying organized and time management are an integral part to success. I cannot stress this enough. Honestly, I hate being micromanaged, as I’m sure many of you listening do as well. But to make it through the remaining half of the semester, I had to sit down and chart my time hour by hour. 8 hours for work, 9 including commute, 7 hours of sleep left 8 hours to divide up between personal responsibilities and schoolwork. Home at 3:30, shower, snack, clean the house, whatever needed to be done until 4:30. Drive to class, class from 5-8, drive home, hang out with the Mrs. for a little bit and decompress. Then it was homework time from 9:30-11:30p. Sleep. Repeat. Monday through Thursday. By Friday I was exhausted, but I could take the night off and do whatever I wanted. Saturday left time for the family and homework if needed, and Sunday, Sunday was football. My reward for sticking to my schedule for the week.
Okay, so timings sorted out, now what to do about 3 classes worth of homework, projects, and exams. It’s funny, that syllabus thingy that’s handed out at the start of class really comes in handy if you’re trying to be organized. I, personally, am a visual person. I needed to see my week and month laid out before me, so like any good IT professional, I turned to a whiteboard. In my living room (I was living in a 1 bedroom apartment at the time) was a whiteboard, with a calendar grid taped to it. I took out that syllabus, well 2 of the 3 as I had to get one that I lost from the professor, and wrote down all of the exams and project deadlines on the whiteboard. Now I could SEE exactly when things were due in relation to my other courses and adequately divide up my time. I also kept a daily planner on me as well. As this was a time JUSSST before smartphones, a trusty pen and paper were always nearby. Should any new tasks arise, it was noted, should I need to rearrange my schedule and I didn’t want something to fall by the wayside, it was noted. For a long period of time, I could have told you what I was doing on the 3rd Tuesday in November 2 years prior by reviewing my schedules.
On that same whiteboard, I kept notes about each project. Those notes were fairly high level, but as I made progress towards completing each one, I would post at what percent complete I felt that project was at. Seeing this in front of me, coupled with the deadlines, was an easy way to keep myself accountable towards getting it done. If the deadline grew closer and that percentage was not going up, I knew I needed to adjust my schedule and focus on that project. This is a process I still incorporate into my larger work projects today.
There’s another piece to my success in that first semester of school, and it happened organically. I ended up with not one, but two people mentoring me. One was a classmate from my CCNA course. He had spent many years in networking and was pursuing the certification as his employer requested. We hit it off right away. He could tell I was new to all of this, so as we worked on labs in the class, or even during lectures, he took the time to explain concepts in greater detail than the professors. We studied together, we worked on labs after hours together. It was an amazing experience. The other mentor was my English professor. All through elementary, middle, and high school, I excelled at writing so I was excited to see how that translated to the collegiate level. I got my first paper back with an “H” written on top. As he was explaining to the class about their grades, he said “Anyone with an H on their paper, see me after class”. Instantly, my heart sank. I thought “H is two letters after F in the alphabet, how bad did I do?”. Reluctantly, I sat in my desk as everyone left. I scanned the room and noted only 2 other students remained. Preparing myself for the worst, the professor began “I bet you’re all wondering what H stands for?” and we nod. He continued, “The three of your papers stood out leaps and bounds above the rest of the class. I would like to submit you for the honors program.”.
I probably should have been pulled over for speeding on the way home after hearing that. I was so excited, I knew I was capable of more than just menial factory work, and now I knew I could actually do this. From that day on, the professor and I would chat quite a bit before or after class. He pointed out that my writing style would make me an incredible technical writer, and helped me craft that into a skill so I could easily communicate across the full spectrum of business audiences. That’s something to this day that I am grateful for, as I use it more than you’d think.
Finding a mentor is something you’ll hear me mention twice in this post. Having someone who’s willing to guide you that’s not emotionally involved, that’s willing to steer you in the right directions, and help you learn from their experiences. That it worth its weight in gold. In this case, I was fortunate that mentors happened upon me organically. You may not have as easy of a time as I finding a mentor, and that’s okay. It’s also okay to openly ask for someone to mentor you. There are many people in our industry who are more than willing to be a mentor. All you’ve got to do is ask.
So, after all of that micromanagement, stress, and reorganizing of my life, how did I do my first semester back to school in 5 years? Straight As, 4.0. Learning from my mistakes, the following semester I lowered my course load to two nights a week. I’m pretty sure that first semester is when I started getting my first grey hairs, and I did not want that trend to continue.
It wasn’t an easy road. Life can throw you some curves during this process. I bought a house. My father passed away, my wife and I divorced, and my full time job went from 40 hours a week to 60+ mandatory. It took me going to school part time in the evenings several years to complete that degree.

But here I am, graduation day. I was so proud of myself, and I felt so accomplished. All I could think about was continuing my education into a bachelor’s degree. I had worked so hard to ingrain the drive to succeed that I didn’t give myself a moment to breath and enjoy what I had done.

Alright, so now I’ve got my degree. Time for that new job, right! Right? I must have applied for 50 jobs and was offered a handful of interviews. Turns out it’s pretty hard to enter a field you have no professional experience in.

This is something any number of you could see in your current situations. It may not be a complete career change, but how do you get your foot in the door at that company you’ve always wanted to work for? How did I finally get that 1 interview that started my career? Networking. Lots and lots of networking. I hate to admit it, but it’s not always what you know, but sometimes it who you know.
In my case, it was a close friend’s sister’s husband’s friend that was hiring for a position. We had chatted a few times in passing on the rare occasion we were in the same place. I knew what he did professionally, and that he could be a good resource to me in the future. Turns out that investment paid off. Letting people know what you’re about, what you’re looking for, and keeping up that image can go a long way in helping you with your career.
I interviewed with a large, multi-national company who was willing to take a chance on a kid fresh out of college who seemed to have the right attitude and motivations. They offered me a position. A three month contract, with a strong possibility of being extended to six months.
So here I sat, job offer in the field I was dying to get into with a place that would provide great experience and growth potential. Do I give up my job of 9 years? 9 years of union seniority, fully vested in the 401k, great benefits, and steady income for what? A 3 month contract that could be thrown out at any moment? What about my bills, my mortgage? How much was I willing to risk to make that leap?
Times like these, you really need to analyze your risk / reward threshold. As you make any decision in your career, thinking about the balance between risk and reward is a great tool to help you make choices that best suit not only your plans, but style as well. What was I looking at? Yes, I could be in dire financial straits if I ended up unemployed at the end of those three months, but, I was also fortunate enough that the VP of the company I was leaving said I could come back should things not work out.
There was still a pretty great deal of risk in choosing to take the contract. What if my former employer rescinded that offer?  And more frightening, what if I did take the offer and I completely failed at the new job? To take such a big leap, you’ve also got to be able to stare down any fears of failing. It’s almost cliché to say, but look at times when you fail as learning experiences. If you’ve learned something new, if you’ve grown from the experience, is it truly a failure?

So I did it, I accepted the position and put in my two weeks. If I wanted to enter the world of IT, I needed to take that chance. Just about one month from graduation, I started my new career. Identity and Access management. A fancy title for password resets and creating Active Directory accounts. Nothing glamorous, but it was the foot in the door I needed.
The first few weeks were fun and exciting, but I could see that I would be siloed in this position. I had to keep growing. As I quickly mastered the original duties of my position, I asked to be taught additional tasks that were performed by our team. This provided an opportunity to show management I was worth more than just a 3 month contract. I did everything in my power to show that I wanted to be a full time part of their team and they could trust me with additional work. And guess what, that persistence paid off. Two months into the contract, the 3 other people who were brought on at the same time as I had their contract terminated early. As I was proving to be a vital resource, my contract was extended.

The goal I set for myself when I graduated was that I wanted to be making six figures in seven years or less. A pretty lofty goal.  Clearly, I needed to continue to learn and grow outside of my position to make that happen. One of the first things I did was stayed active in the VMUG community. One of the last classes I taken before graduation was “emerging technologies”, which was the colleges VMware certification course. The concept of virtualization blew me away, and thankfully, was a technology that came easy to me. I immersed myself in reading books, blogs, and articles about ESXi and Hyper-V. And this led to another defining moment. I started to build my brand.
We are, as IT professionals, are well versed in the importance of networking with each other and getting your name out there. I took it to the next level, not only did I start networking, but I built a brand. Armed with a name, I created a Twitter account, blog, Instagram, and purchased the domain name ExploreVM. I also locked down my personal Facebook and created a “Professional” account that was public. Because let’s be real, how many of us have photos on Facebook they are not proud of? Lots of work went into making ExploreVM and my professional persona, the image I wanted to portray publicly, highly visible. How many of you currently use Twitter? Twitter can be a great tool for networking, keeping up on technology trends, and a pool of resources when you’re in a bind. If you’re not currently using it, I highly recommend you sign up and start to build your brand.

Remember, this is a very public facet of yourself. Refrain from rants and getting too political. I’ve muted or unfollowed several bright IT minds in the last year on Twitter as they’ve went from meaningful technical content to political tirades and name calling. We’ve all got our viewpoints, and you’re very much so entitled to yours, but a professional brand is not the place for those opinions.
As I Tweeted and blogged, I started to gain a following and was being recognized at events. One of my favorite stories of being recognized was at VMworld in San Francisco. I was walking between vendor parties in the evening when, from across the street, I hear someone yell “Paul Woodward Jr!”. They walked over and joined our group and we had a blast. I made new friends in the industry thanks to being active on social media.
Oh, a quick piece of advice. In building a brand, make sure to lock up your name on every platform you can think of. By doing this, it helps people locate you easier when Googling your name and it prevents anyone else from using the same name in a way that could hurt your brand. Think outside of the box as well. Start with the obvious sites: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, but don’t forget about some that might be less obvious such as Instagram, Pinterest, and even outliers like Google+. I know, Google+ is dead, but when running searches, Google gives priority to Google generated content.

You can see here that explorevm.com is the first result, followed by Twitter, and what’s that? A share of my blog on Google+ is the 3rd result. All of this helps you stay in the top of the first page.
Alright, so now we’ve got a brand, it’s getting recognized, what’s next? In my case, I decided it was time to give back to the community that helped me grow. In 2015, I began speaking at VMUG events. Now, this wasn’t entirely just to give back. Speaking allowed me to continue to grow my brand and earn vendor recognition through programs such as VMware vExpert and Nutanix Technology Champions. The fact that I was able to speak at the .Next conference has a lot to do with my involvement in those programs.
The first time I presented I was nervous, stuttered, and was terrified of any sort of audience questions. I suffered from Imposter Syndrome pretty heavily. If you would have told me in high school that as part of my profession I’d be speaking at 10+ events across 4 states, I would have thought you were crazy.  Now, I won’t say I don’t get nervous before I speak, but I love to present and look forward to interactions with the audience. I also find it very rewarding having someone approach you after your session, or at a different conference, and tell you that your session helped them address issues they were having.
The ability to speak in front of people, and speak with confidence is, I’d say, a crucial tool that we all need in our toolkit. If you’re looking to move up in your company, change careers, or even just pitch your project, solid communication skills are a must. Small user groups and local meetups are a great place to begin. And, despite what you may think, people in the audience are not judging you, there not waiting for you to fail so they can make fun of you, they are IT professionals just like you with a desire to continue to learn. Or at least I hope none of you are judging me too harshly.
Well Paul, can you provide us with a real example of how all of this brand building has helped you? Sure! I left that IAM role for a systems administrator position with a small managed services provider in Milwaukee, Wi. Within 6 months, I worked my way into a systems engineer role by passing the VCP, having the desire to always want to learn more, and my rapport with clients. But, despite your best efforts, when the company’s money gets tight and changes need to be made, even the best of us can fall victim to a layoff. In my case,  18% of the workforce was let go, and I was part of it. This happened mid-day on a Friday. As I was pulling out of the parking lot, I was calling all of the recruiters that I had met at various events or that had found my LinkedIn. By Tuesday I was already interviewing with companies. That Monday afternoon I sent out this Tweet.

Within minutes I received a direct message from someone who had been following me since before graduation and whom I’d interviewed for my blog several years prior. His company was in need of a datacenter systems engineer and he was wondering if I’d be interested. Thanks to that Tweet, staying social, and building the brand, I was employed again one month to the day of being laid off.
I’m glad I took that interview, because Presidio has been a great place to work that has provided me many amazing opportunities to grow. Does that mean I’ve stopped my desire to grow and learn? No way! I’ve taken the brand further. This year I kicked off the ExploreVM podcast, I’ve had stickers and pins made to give away at events, and I seek out larger and larger events to speak at (although it’s going to be tough to beat speaking at .Next!). I still continue to give back as well. I have a few people in my life that I consider mentors, but now I’ve also taken to mentoring people early on in their careers as well.
To continue to grow and climb, you need to stay on top of technology trends. We all understand the need to continue to educate ourselves. I entered the field as a Windows admin, migrated to a VMware admin, and now, I’m focusing on datacenter, cloud, and automation. If you’re not learning, you’re leaving. You have to keep up with what’s coming in your field to stay relevant, otherwise you’re going to find yourself on the outside looking in.
Now, not all employers prioritize them, but certifications are a great way to learn about new technologies. The training for the exams provides a solid foundation into the tech. And, if you happen to take and pass the exam, that new found cert could be the differentiator between you and a co-worker when it comes to a promotion.

Here are some tactics that I’ve used for many years to help me approach learning new tech and certifications. Obviously not everybody is the same, but these tips have been the most beneficial. Listening to various podcasts during my commute has provided terrific exposure to new technologies. Also, I’ve started using something called the Pomodoro Technique.
Image stolen from Chris Wahl, linked below.

I actually learned this technique years ago from Rubric’s Chris Wahl (at a community speaking engagement; the value of staying involved pokes its head out again). Spend 25 minutes in a highly focused state with no distractions, silence your phone and mute email. This will give you enough time to achieve measurable results without burning out your brain. Remember, your brain can only stay focused for short bursts at a time. After 25 minutes take a break. Run to the restroom, grab a snack or beverage, clear those messages, something to relax your brain for the moment. Then, repeat the process. This is a simple method to help you absorb new information.
And before we wrap up here, I’d like to offer up one more piece of advice. Help your co-workers strive. “Iron sharpens iron. So one man sharpens another” – Proverbs, I think. Some of the best people I’ve worked with are those who are willing to take their co-workers under their wings and help them. It doesn’t need to be a full mentoring relationship, but at least be pleasant and willing to answer questions. I’ve had co-workers come to me with questions, and after a while, they were apologizing for bugging me so much. My response? “It’s not a problem at all. I’m here to help. And frankly, what would you rather have, a coworker who’s annoyed that you’ve asked them so many questions, or a client who’s mad at you for doing something wrong or incomplete because you didn’t know what to do?” The decision seems simple.
Take what you’ve learn online or from conferences and share it with those around your office. Help them stay ahead of the curve and grow technologically. You’ve got the power to help your teammates grow.  This will also help you to be looked at as a leader within your company, even if you don’t actually have a leadership role.
And, if or when you do make that jump…
As you move into this leadership role, whether it be titled or not, be a confident but compassionate leader, but also be willing to be a great teammate. We’ve all worked on great teams in our jobs, and we’ve all worked on terrible teams in our jobs. Recall what made those teams great and apply those traits. Look back on the bad team experiences, what was the cause? Refrain from those traits. Ease co-workers away from those traits. Take charge when needed, but also be ready to follow someone else’s leadership with a smile. Remember, everyone’s ultimate goal is the business’s success. It’s hard to grow at a company that’s failing or no longer exists.

Paul woodward jr From cnc to ntc .next 2017 session from Paul Woodward Jr

Update, 07/10/17: Sign up to watch my session here:

Pomodoro Technique
Chris Wahl's Blog - Bulid your Technical Tool Chest

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