Starting a vExpert Blog : Some tips and advice.

Just do it. Start a Blog. Today.

Stop procrastinating right now and start your vExpert Blog. This is the quickest way to get involved in the vCommunity. It doesn’t require any travel, and you don’t have to conquer your fear of public speaking. You only need to find a place to publicly share your ramblings and there is lots of choice there. From using a service like Medium, or publishing directly on LinkedIN you can get started almost immediately. If you want a little more control of where your content is hosted, then maybe starting a WordPress blog is for you. That’s what I ended up doing and I never looked back! Here is my advice on why I did it and some tips on the most useful Plugins i use for my vExpert Blog and why I use them.

Why I started a blog.

VMware vExpert

Why did I start writing a blog in the first place? The main reason I started a blog was to complete the #BlogtoberTech 2018 challenge. I had always threatened to start a blog and this gave me the motivation i needed to buckle down and get it done. Secondly I was looking for a way to publicly give back to the vCommunity in a way that was measurable. I wanted to include it in my vExpert application and improve my own personal brand. What I did not realize was how much I would enjoy doing it. I have found blogging to be a great tool for organizing my ideas, and capturing key concepts that i will later present to customers. Before i started blogging my ideas were lost on the back of napkins, buried in A4 diaries or spread out across multiple OneNote entries.

Blogging to help your presenting.

Strangely enough I find that blogging actually helps my public speaking. The best advice I ever got around how to give better presentations was to start with an agenda. I used to just get on stage and wing it. I was notorious for drifting from one idea to the next with very little structure and no beginning, middle or end in sight! If you get up in front of an audience, you only have a few seconds of attention span before their eyes start to glaze over and they get that far-away look. When you write or blog, your audience is similar, you just don’t see them when they get bored and click past! I find blogging is one way to organize my thoughts and to put some structure around my ideas.

Capture ideas in WordPress not OneNote.

I have started writing directly in WordPress. Once I started writing directly into WordPress I found it much easier and quicker to get the blog to published status. Write it and walk away, save it in drafts. Sometimes you will come back to it and delete it, other times you will finish it. The default WordPress editor interface is simple to use. You don’t want to get distracted with lots of tools for formatting and layout, just a quick way to get your ideas down on the page. Sometimes all you need to kickstart a new vExpert blog is editor time. There is a handy WordPress app for mobile devices that you can use when on the go.

5 Best Plugins for WordPress Blogs

There are a ton of free and paid WordPress plugins available in the marketplace. You can browse directly from the WordPress Admin console. They have lists of Featured, Popular and Recommended Plugins, or you can search for a topic and see what is out there. For example I needed an SSL cert solution for my WordPress site and I didn’t want to pay for a Certificate.

Free SSL Certificate for WordPress

Using this plugin you can finally setup your site to be secure. You may not be reaching all your audience if you don’t enable SSL as many browsers will not even let your readers in. This Plugin enables you to use the free Certificate Authority from LetsEncrypt.org. The process to request and renew certificates can be handled directly from the Plugin interface. It’s free to use, but the author gives you a button to donate coffee. No self respecting vExpert blog is complete without https!

JetPack by WordPress.com

This is a very powerful plugin for your WordPress site. It has features to help prevent unwanted spam, security against brute-force attacks and has site accelerator for serving your images through a global CDN. Some of the basic features are free but you can upgrade paid-for options as well. There are Personal, Premium and Professional options with different features.

reSmush.it Image Optimizer

Do you like to include pictures with your blog writing? Then I highly recommend using a plugin that will optimize your images. reSmush.it is a free plugin that automatically compresses your images so that your site doesn’t start to crawl. If it takes too long for your blog to load, then your visitors will not hang around waiting.

Yoast SEO

Even if you are a total novice and have no idea what SEO is – you are going to want this plugin. Search Engine Optimization is a vast topic. Some people make their living providing services to help websites rank highest in searches. You don’t have to spend hours keeping up with the latest techniques if you install Yoast. The plugin will make suggestions and recommendations on how to simply improve your content. This will help to get that blog ranking to the first page in google search results. Must have!

Google Analytics Dashboard for WP

How can you improve if you don’t measure? I use both JetPack and Google Analytics to report on my blog site traffic. The detail that google provides is immense and lets face it – if you don’t show up there than it is very unlikely your blog is going to ever be read by anyone! Using a combination of Yoast and Google Analytics you can even write blogs to target specific search terms from your audience. This is a great way to get noticed.

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VxRail ACE in Continuous Development

New VxRail ACE features arriving fast and often

Did you know that VxRail ACE dashboard has had 4 updates since the soft launch in May this year? As customers log into the Ace dashboard they are first presented with the latest updates that have been released since their last visit. So far there is roughly a monthly cadence between updates. This rapid development is down to the ACE solution being built on the Pivotal platform. Since the soft launch of VxRail ACE in I have been talking to customers about ACE and showing off this first phase of capabilities. Have you had the chance to check out ACE yet?

Customers dont need to install ACE, the data lake is on our side.

A big advantage for customers is that the ACE Data lake sits on our infrastructure. The customer requires no resources to collect and process the data. This data lake is swelled by the 6200+ customers of VxRail. We want to enable as many customers to use ACE since more data gives better results. The next phases of ACE will begin to introduce AI technologies like machine learning. This will give customers options to have VxRail self-drive and auto-repair their clusters.

How do i setup VxRail ACE?

Getting connected to ACE is even easier with the 4.7.300 update for VXRail . We now can deploy SRS directly in vSphere with just a few clicks. Customers need a Dell EMC support logon and the plugin will auto deploy the srs appliance in seconds. Just provide the Support account credentials and an ip address for the SRS appliance(s). The new appliance will be deployed in the VxRail cluster. You can still point SRS at an existing external SRS appliance that is already running in your network.

Dell EMC Secure Remote Support SRS

Remind me. What is VxRail ACE?

How can customers take advantage of new technologies without requiring a heavy lift on their internal IT resources? Firstly offer an appliance rather then DIY build for infrastructure helps (VxRail). Then give customers a choice to subscribe to premium services that add value beyond the simplified HCI experience. “VxRail ACE (Analytical Consulting Engine) is a centralized data collection and analytics platform that streamlines monitoring of your VxRail clusters, improves serviceability, and helps you make better decisions to manage the performance and capacity of your pre-engineered hyperconverged infrastructure. ” – From the ACE overview.

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Deleting a Workload Domain in VCF on VxRail

Warning: Check Solve before reading.

This Blog comes with a health warning! This is not to be consumed by customers directly. This is not a procedure for them to use in VCF on VxRail environments at this time. I wrote this as a reminder to myself and for other engineers that might need to perform the task in demo or POC environments. Always check Solve Online and download the current procedure for any tasks you might want to perform. If there isnt a procedure to perform the tasks in Solve then you may need to check if you are authorized to perform the task.

Always check Solve Online for the correct procedure for any tasks. If its not listed, you many not be authorized to perform the task!

VCF on VxRail is a white glove experience.

One of the advantages of using VxRail as the infrastructure for VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF on VxRail) is the simplified and automated processes that the engineered appliance brings to bear. This solution is a white glove experience for customers as only qualified and experienced installers perform the Day Zero deployment activities. Configuration is automated and validated to remove the chance of human error. Once VCF is deployed, many of the manual tasks that could be difficult are automated by SDDC Manager. Deleting a Workload Domain is one of those workflows.

Once a Workload Domain is deployed, you will see the option to Delete the Workload Domain, ever wondered what this does?

Warning! Deleting a WLD is permanent.

Once you select the Delete Workload Domain workflow from the current inventory, you are presented with a popup warning. I highly recommend you read carefully exactly what this message says as the process is irreversible. As the warning suggests the entire Workload Domain will be removed and deleted. This includes VSAN as well as the vCenter and NSX Manager and NSX Controllers associated with this Workload Domain.

Don’t click past this warning message!
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Kubernetes and Kommunity!

Ireland VMware User Group: Kubernetes, k8s, Kubernetes!

I will give you three guesses what the September Ireland VMware User Group meeting in Dublin was all about. The VMUG event was packed with updates on Kubernetes, vSphere, and VMworld. It was standing room only from the start. The VMUG organizers moved everyone to a bigger room after the first session! Cormac Hogan began his own session by reminding everyone that VMUG is all about the community, all about the users. He would rather see end-users on the VMUG stage presenting how they used VMware solutions to solve problems, rather than only vendors sales pitches. All of the VMware presenters sessions were excellent, but i have to agree, the best session of the day came from the vCommunity.

VMUG is about vCommunity

The VMUG community session was presented by two community members from AIB. It was the last session of the day and the room was still full. The presenter from AIB asked the room, “How many of you look after infrastructure?”. I think almost every hand in the room shot up. This was in contrast to an earlier VMware presenter that had asked, “How many people are using Kubernetes?”. Very few hands went up that time. The presenter acknowledged Kubernetes was like teenage sex, it seems like a lot of people are talking about it but few are implementing it. Yet!

Ireland VMUG VMware User Group

The presenter from AIB went on to describe how they had considered many different vendors and solutions on their digital transformation journey. AIB needed a new modern infrastructure strategy that worked for both Developers and Operators. They would need to maintain legacy applications they had and be able to pivot to new app development methods. They had decided that HCI was the answer for their infrastructure and they choose VxRack powered by VxRail. The best part of the session covered how they sold this new vision back to the business and were able to convince the board to make the new investment needed. It was very interesting to see how a business oriented session drew as much engagement as technology deep-dive one.

@edhoppitt says #RunAllTheThings

Ed Hoppitt from VMware kicked off the opening keynote. Ed works on the Modern Apss & Cloud Native Platforms team. He began by talking about innovation and how companies need different skillsets to innovate. He detailed the Pioneers, Settlers and Town Planners concept very well. I had read about this originally from the great Simon Wardley.

consistent infrastructure vS[here VMware

Ed had an excellent one-slide that illustrated how VMware is enabling customers Digital Transformation journey from traditional to cloud native applications. The slide described how vSphere and Consistent Infrastructure could cover everything from traditional to micro-services and cloud native. Ed talked about how a UK Finance company was using multi-cloud to satisfy governance rules. They needed to leverage multiple clouds and be able to shift from one cloud to another in less than 30 days. This is the true multi-cloud nirvana and a really great use case.

VMworld 2019 Recap by @rsudding

Project Pacific and VMware Tanzu
Build ! Run! Manage!

Ryan Sudding from Vmware was up next. He is a regular Ireland VMware User Group advocate and supporter. Ryan had the mammoth task of breaking down everything that was announced at VMworld in San Francisco. Ryan talked about VMware’s strategy to transform how customers Build, Run and Manage software on Kubernetes. He talked about the new acquisitions that complement this strategy including Bitnami, Pivotal and Heptio and the announcements around Project Pacific and Tanzu.

At VMUG if you aren’t networking your doing it wrong.

At the break I got the chance to sit down with Cormac Hogan for lunch. We were joined by Jason Pearse and Dean Lewis from VMware. We are all in the Dell Technologies family now so its great to chat about what is going on in VMware and Dell EMC. Dean is active on twitter and has an excellent blog running here.  The conversation at lunch was really all about Project Pacific, Kubernetes, and VCF on VxRail. The future is bright! I also met up with Rob from Asystec as well as a friend I had not met up with my Y2K IT days. Small world, small vCommunity.

@CormacJHogan vSAN and Kubernetes

VMware User Group Dublin

Cormac Hogan continued the trend of the day by talking about Kubernetes in his session. Cormac is a well known speaker and expert on vSAN. He started by covering the What’s New in VSAN 6.7u3. This included new features for Enhanced Performance, Intelligent Operations and Unified Management. The second part of the session was a high-level explanation of using vSAN as persistent storage for Kubernetes. He pointed out that everything in his session can be accessed on Storage Hub which is a great resource.

Cormac continued to give an update on vSphere Cloud Native Storage (CNS). He was sporting a CNS t-shirt therefore he must know his stuff. The content of this session is covered here in a blog. He finished up with a demo of CNS and briefly covered vSAN Native File Services. Cormac asked the audience what protocols they would like to see made available for vNFS next. The audience answers fell roughly inline with expectaions; NFS v3 then SMB followed by S3.

@opowero Kubernetes: Smooth Operators

Kubernetes Operators

Olive Power worked formerly at Heptio and now works at VMware. She presented the last session which was titled Smooth Operators: A rough guide to Kubernetes Operators. Olive blogs a bit about Kubernetes and Operators here. Olives session covered why we use Kubernetes; to reduce complexity, shorten release and test cycles. This is done by breaking up monolithic application architectures into micro-services and requires different/better tooling. The role of Kubernetes is to maintain the desired state. That way it can be self-healing for Containers and Applications running on K8s. Olive explained how Kubernetes is extensible and the role that Operators have on making it easier to deploy applications. She referenced a couple places to learn more about this topic: Awesome Operators and OperatorHub.io.

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I was rejected (again) for vExpert, should i just give up?

My rocky road to vExpert

vexpert advice
Rejected this time for vExpert? Don’t give up!

I wanted to tell my vExpert story. It is not a nice story about how I submitted the perfect application and nailed it first try. Its about how I was rejected on my first and my second attempt. Its how i kept that rejection secret and told no one, instead of getting vExpert advice. I really felt i had let myself down. The story has a nice ending for me. Because after getting a lot of help from the vCommunity, i was finally successful on my third try! I figured it was a good time to write this blog on the anniversary of my first (or was it my second?) failed submission.

Attend a local VMUG

What I learned was that being a vExpert meant you should be party of the community. If you aren’t participating in the community then why would you want to be a vExpert in the first place? I had not attended a VMUG before my first application. Seriously, what was i thinking? I had plenty pf excuses for why I had not gone to one. Its too far away. I don’t know anyone going. I have a meeting scheduled that day. Stop. These are terrible excuses. Go to a VMUG. Speak at a VMUG. Help out at a VMUG. Join the community and play a part in it. No matter how small, there is something you can do. The best part of attending the VMUG is the people you meet. This leads on to the next bit of advice.

Look for a Sponsor

I started my vExpert journey in total secret for fear of rejection and public humiliation. I look back on my first pitiful application and realize i would have rejected me too. Although I had friends in VMware I refused to ask them for help at first. When I was trying for the third time I finally decided to ask for help from a sponsor and get a reference. I waited for the reply nervously and was over the moon when i got back a positive response.

Contact a local vExpert Pro.

On my third attempt, I also reached out to one of the vExpert Pro’s for my country (Ireland). I asked them to review my draft vExpert application. They gave me really great vExpert advice and encouragement. Leave this task until after you have put together the final submission. Do not expect the vExpert PRO to write your application for you. The best advice he shared was make sure my focus was on helping the community.

Study the example vExpert Application.

There is a great example vExpert application up on the vExpert portal. Read this application and think about how your own application might look. Obviously do not try and copy this content word for word. Anything you write about will be “checked out” so stick to the facts. The example is a good guide for the level of detail that you should include. I realized that my bullet point list was too short, and i needed to expand on the impact of things i was claiming credit for. The advice i still remember was to focus on the community. You can always be doing more, you just need to find your niche and what way you are naturally good at helping others. Then tell them about it in the application!

Read Blogs. Listen to Podcasts.

What I didn’t realize is vExperts want to help you out. They really want you to succeed. It doesn’t take much searching in the blogsphere to find great tips and advice to get you started from these people. One of my best bits of vExpert advice when you starting out your application is to listen to the VMware Communities Roundtable Podcast. Episode #451 is literally “How to do a great vExpert application” with Corey Romero. This is well worth a listen as it gives specific detail into the voting process and how much weight they assign to different content. Speaking about content…

Create a Blog. Join a Podcast.

I chose to start a blog. Well this blog actually. I wrote my first few blogs as part of the #BlogtoberTEch challenge. This was just the kickstart I needed just before my third application. You might not be a blogger, that’s OK too. You might not be a blogger, that’s OK too. Have you made any podcast recordings yet? You don’t have to start your own Podcast. It is easy to get invited as a guest to a podcast if you try. I have been lucky to have made a few podcast friends and been able to go on as a guest. One of the best ways to do this easily is to volunteer to present a topic you are an expert at. They can only say no!

More options for content.

There are lots of options for content creation. I cannot list them all. You may even think of a new and unique way to create something that the community is lacking. Seek out opportunities to join in the community and help out in other ways. You could always contribute to public forums. Slack channels are another way you could potentially be active. There is of course twitter and social media options. But as the podcast above will tell you, you don’t get a lot of points for retweeting other vExpert advice. Talk about your own opinion based on your experience. If you have content that is not public you can always submit offline content example’s, agendas, etc. If you think you have enough content already, then start that vExpert application.

Apply again and improve it.

My final word of advice should be obvious. If you are rejected do not give up. Take pause and look back objectively on your contribution to the community. Could you have done more? Keep track of your past applications. Start a list of goals and look back monthly. What more did you do since last month? Can you do more next month? Write your application offline, keep a copy of the online application, improve it every time you submit. Best of luck to you and hit me up with a tweet or a comment if this blog helped you at all.

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Let’s get technical and Meet The Experts at DTW 2019

So you went to Vegas on (airquotes) a work trip yeah?

What on earth was I doing in Vegas last week? My friends and family think I’m off on a holiday without my wife and stare blankly in disbelief when I say i was there for work. Anyone in the Tech Conference business knows about Dell Technologies World, however I still need to be able to elevator pitch exactly what my role was for the week. The answer essentially? I was working the Meet The Experts Zone for Hyperconverged solutions and delivering Design Sessions on Smart Fabrics and 2-Node for VxRail. Sound interesting? If you want to hear a little more I give you two options. Listen to the podcast myself and Paul Wynne recorded with Barry Coombs Live at the show, or read on and Ill try and make it real for you.

Meet The Experts and Hands on Labs

The Hands on Labs area needs little introduction. Want to get Hands-On with the solutions sold by Dell Technologies? The Demo Center team have taken their Demo catalog on the road to Vegas. You can choose from the extensive catalog and sit down at a station and follow a guide or explore a new technology at your own pace. This is a pretty amazing capability that is also available post-show and the team that bring it all together are some of the hardest working and darn clever people I have met at DT.

If you look to the left of the HOL zone entrance, you cant help but notice a newly re-designed and well branded Meet The Experts area developed by the Customer Solutions Center team. Here there exist two offerings the Meet The Experts “Guru” Bar and the Design Sessions rooms.

Meet The Experts “Guru Bar”

On the far wall facing the HOL zone you can see 6 high tables with what looks like bartenders waiting for customers to place orders. The tables are made of whiteboard and the bartenders are holding pens serving knowledge not cocktails. This area is first come first served and staffed round the clock by various experts across topics like Storage, Data Protection, Hyperconverged, Multi-Cloud, VDI, IOT, A.I. and Surveillance solutions. Most of the time the sessions were quick and the customers questions were deeper and technical in nature. The experts had no idea what or who would walk up looking for info so the atmosphere was pretty electric and fast-paced.

MTE Design Session Rooms

In addition to the adhoc sessions at the Bar, several of the Customer Solutions Center experts designed a powerpoint-free session for up to 12 people that could be booked in advance. These sessions were focused around specific topics and leveraged a digital whiteboard. The sessions were interactive because the audience was small and the presenters were able to answer questions from the customers in attendance. Quite often the questions would dictate the direction the session would take, rather than following a set path.

So how did we do?

The team that designed the area put a lot of thought into creating an experience that was a living breathing example of what happens 365 days a year across the Customer Solutions Centers. The data is still flowing in but by all accounts we smashed last years numbers and the feedback we are hearing from all across the organization is that the conversations were deeper, more focused and better serving to Dell Technologies customers right across the board. Personally I am well proud to have played a small part in the success of the event and I am excited to see where the brand and vision takes us.

This all looks very familiar.

It isn’t by chance that the Meet The Experts “Guru Bar” has a very familiar look and feel to VMworld Barcelona. I wrote about my experience there back in November. I came home from that event, wrote up a report, and gave my opinion to anyone that would listen. We had to do something similar for Dell Technologies World 2019. In past years we did have a similar area, but the brand wasn’t as strong and the area didn’t “catch the eye”. I have to admit our management team went leaps and bounds above expectations to create a powerful presence at the show that anyone working there could be proud of being a part of!

Experts from across Dell Technologies always meet at Meet The Experts Zone
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VMware vExpert 2019. Thank You to my vCommunity

VMware vExpert 2019
VMware vExpert is an award for members of the vCommunity

I am delighted to get the news today (on my Birthday-eve) that I was accepted into the VMware vExpert program for the first time. A very Big Thanks to a bunch of people that helped and encouraged me along the way. Firstly my friend and colleague @vdiAllStar. There are too many friends to name where I work every day @DellEMCSolCtrs . The team at @DellEMCHol that are amazing like @Josephcorreia and @jensklasen and a load more on and off Twitter.

Thanks to my sponsor and all around gent @jasemccarty as well as @GarethEdwards who gave me some @vExpertPRO tips. Thanks also to the legends of #DellEMCElect @Dathbrun @victorforde @amitpanchal76 and @reddogmarc. Shout out to @VirtualisedReal and @BizTechMeg who gave me a shot. Also to @vmpete @lost_signal @aaronbuley @jeremymerril who inspired me without evening knowing it. I hope I can give back to the vCommunity as much as these people do.

Update! I have decided to pay it forward and written a blog on my experience trying to apply and failing to achieve VMware vExpert the first two times I applied! I hope you find some of my advice useful and don’t give up even if you are denied access at first.

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