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

My rocky road to vExpert

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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VxRail SmartFabric networking for Day 2 Ops

Step 1: Enable SmartFabric Services on the ToR Switch

Step 2: Deploy VxRail Cluster incl. ToR with VxRail Manager

Step 3: Deploy the SmartFabric OMNI plugin in VMware vSphere

Step 4: Virtualization engineer controls Day 2 Ops for the Full Stack

Network Admins calm down and look here.

The network admins are not usually in favor of anything that replaces their day to day jobs. If you can show them the finished solution, you may be able to sway them in favour. Make sure to give them a demo of the OMNI plugin running inside vSphere using VxRail SmartFabric enabled switches.

Click into the Omni dashboard.

The OMNI dashboard displays the current information on the VxRail SmartFabric enabled Switches. Here the Virtualization engineer has visibility to the OS10 version and the VLANS currently setup. That’s it? Not sure what NetAdmin Ned was expecting but there is no Network-Chaos-Now button!

Lets give Ned a use-case for SmartFabrics

You can describe a scenario to Ned that is common. It’s time to add a new host to the existing cluster. Normally you would ask Ned to prepare the host network ports. He would label them add all the required VLANS and to make sure the settings match with the existing host ports.

New Hosts detected with VxRail SmartFabric

With SmartFabrics no need to bother Ned

Adding hosts to HCI clusters are now done solely by the Virtualization Admin without any need to ask the NetAdmin to prepare host ports. It is all taken care of automatically by the VxRail SmartFabric services and the OMNI plugin.

Choose the discovered host.

Choose the discovered VxRail host

Enter vCenter credentials.

vCenter credentials

Add the Ip address information.

configure ip address

Run validation.

Validate the VxRail SmartFabric hosts

Validation must pass first.

validation can catch human errors

Once passed, host is added automatically.

new hosts added automatically to VxRail SmartFabric cluster

Watch quick Ned! Ports are configured.

hosts connected to VxRail SmartFabric are automatically configured

Hands free with VxRail SmartFabric services.

vSphere automation for VxRail SmartFabric
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Vegas Tips and Tricks, Dell Tech World 2019

Are you going to @DellTechWorld ? Interested in #VxRail or SmartFabric networking? Register for a session and we can have a chat! https://buff.ly/2DnzECu 

Its vendor conference season again, are your ready? Accommodation booked, event ticket snagged and you have your aisle seat reserved on the flight, now what else do you need…

Preparing before you go.

Don’t keep it a secret that you are going to the conference! OK you don’t have to brag about it on social, especially if your security conscious and your home is going to be empty, but make sure your network knows you are going. This is a chance to plan ahead and make appointments with people you want to target for face time. You may only see some of these people at events once or twice a year, make the most of it. Don’t just ask them to visit you at a booth, make the effort to seek them out.

Set yourself reminders of lists of people you want to meet, seek out their sessions if they are speakers or find out where they will be and doorstep them! I always keep an ear out for recommended sessions or good speakers and try and see them. Support others that are going to the event, they will support you back.

Events like VMworld or DTW always have intimate sessions with smaller audiences. These are a great opportunity to get to make eye contact or even speak with a presenter after the session. This is much harder to do at a keynote. In Barcelona after VMworld I blogged about the Expert Sessions that were bookable. Amazing presenters and tiny audiences. I even found myself in a session where I was the only person that turned up!

Hang around the Podcast tables and see if you can get a spot. Step out of your comfort zone and show everyone you have something to say. If you are worried about content, try something easy like a Tech Confession style podcast, the content is you!

What’s in the phone?

Make sure you have loaded up the essential phone apps for the event, you will not want to lug around a laptop just to check a schedule or confirm a flight.

  • Dell Tech World app is up, be sure to install it and nail down your schedule.
  • Google Maps. This is a must IMHO. Visiting a new city for the event? Download the offline map and get tips and advice from locals on the best places to visit before or after the event kicks into high gear.
  • Travel Apps. All major airlines, Uber or Lyft or a local service. I use TripIt linked to my gmail, handy for itinerary and travel planning. I am trying out Google Trips for the first time this event, good so far!
  • Expenses? Amex and Concur have good apps. Nothing worse than having to dig thru a pile of receipts when you get home. Concur has gotten really smart at creating entries directly from images of receipts.
  • Communications. Nothing worse than being on your own at an event when you want to meet up with friends or contacts. Plan ahead and create WhatsApp groups or use Slack/Teams to reconnect with people. This year we are trying out WhenIWork app that looks pretty powerful, and includes a scheduler for team members.
  • Podcast! No better place to collect new podcasts in your catcher, I use Podcast Addict. You can also try and start your own one using the Anchor app, maybe a roving reporter style?

What’s in the suitcase?

Before you pack you have checked the local weather right? Use YR app and make sure you are covered for all possible seasons as well as a flexible wardrobe for business and casual events. Have you got the right shoes? If you don’t have a comfortable pair, rush out now and buy some. You still have time to get them broken in BEFORE you put them on in Vegas. Dress shoes for the customer dinners, black shoes for booth duty and runners for downtime. I over-pack underwear and socks, never want to run out. Day Shirt and Evening shirt please, let the event dictate the style. Don’t forget to pack a big enough bag for the return trip, especially if you are into collecting swag.

When in Vegas…

It gets harder and harder to snag a ticket if you don’t have a job to do, so more than likely you have some sort of responsibility while you are at the vent. Hopefully in your busy schedule you have been allowed some free time, use it wisely. Don’t just swag hunt, make sure you network, seek out new technology, use the creative space to bounce ideas off others.

There are other things you can do, other than work and attend some sessions. Get a headshot. There is always at least one stand setup to offer free headshots. Plan ahead and where or bring a suitable shirt/jacket/tie/dress combo that will look good. If you fancy something different and are a little shy, try and find a caricature artist that will cartoonize your headshot.

Have you planned for some alone time? Big conferences can be overwhelming, especially for an introvert. Make sure you get some time to empty the head, go for run or hit the gym or just lie down for 20 minutes. Recharge the mind so you can get back in the game.

Go on be social.

There is a temptation to try and attend every social gathering scheduled. Sometimes you will find yourself triple booked as all the evening events seem to be on at the same time. Stick to water and make as many appearances as you can, build that network. But in this section I am not talking about pubs or clubs, I mean of course social media. Even if you aren’t a social ninja and the thoughts of tweeting selfies makes you breakout in hives, i want you to step out of your comfort zone and leverage at least some of these apps.

Buffer. There are multiple tools out there now that will allow you to schedule tweets. Take time to plan ahead and write some before the event. You don’t want to have your head in a phone app when you could be meeting and greeting.

Twitter. This can be a great way to find people as well as let people find you. Find out your conference official hashtags and include them in your tweets. It doesnt take much effort to get up on the Social Media wall of fame and its great for exposure as people walk past. Threaded tweets are great for events, consider using them when you have a lot to say.

LinkedIn. If you have neglected your profile here, now is the time to polish it up. You will be looked up, you will be added by people you meet. Do you have a good title? A clear elevator pitch? LinkedIn is never finished, you can always improve areas of your profile.

The key to surviving Vegas.

Stay hydrated is the most obvious one. Bring a reusable water bottle. Dell Technologies is again this year providing water stations to get a fill up and to conserve plastic waste. The air is so dry there you will literally get Vegas throat or conference cough. Every morning, when you shower, plug the drain and fill up the tub with water, leave it humidify while you are out! At night, take a towel, soak it in the tub and hang it over the air-con vent. Trust me you will sleep better. (credit to @lost_signal for this tip, saved my 1st Vegas).

Even if you don’t make a conscious effort to hit the gym or go for an early morning run, you will do enough walking to burn a LOT of calories. Be smart when you eat the free food provided. There is ALWAYS a healthier option to choose, don’t just fill up on sweets and meat!

Every step you take, and every glass of water you drink will mean you can safely enjoy at least one great meal each day. Do like my good friends @Josephcorreia @livfitz and @VDIallStar  … ignore the travelators and elevators and take the stairs!

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How to deploy the SmartFabric OMNI plugin in VMware vSphere Step 3

Step 1: Enable SmartFabric Services on the ToR Switch

Step 2: Deploy VxRail Cluster incl. ToR with VxRail Manager

Step 3: Deploy the SmartFabric OMNI plugin in VMware vSphere

Next Blog : Step 4: Virtualization engineer controls Day 2 Ops for the Full Stack

Installing the SmartFabric OMNI plugin

At this point we have already run the first two steps to get SmartFabric installed, our Switches have SmartFabric services enabled and the VxRail Manager Gui deployment has automatically configured the switch and disabled the CLI. Now we will add the Open Manage Network Integration or SmartFabric OMNI plugin to vSphere, giving the virtualization engineer full visibility and control of the dedicated HCI switch fabric.

Download the OMNI plugin VM

We begin by deploying the OMNI VM ova, which is available from VMware Solution Exchange here. It seems to bounce you now to the Dell Support site where you can get the latest version here. As of June 2019 the latest version is 1.1.18.

Deploy the OVA

These steps are straightforward. Isn’t great that we can do the OVA deployment thru the HTML5 interface? Be sure to match up the source and destination networks correctly at Step 7 in the process. Later on we will configure an ipv4 address on vCenter network and enable ipv6 on the MGMT network.

Power on the VM and connect to a console on the OMNI vm. You need to establish a password here for the admin user. The default username and default password is setup as admin / admin.

Configure the OMNI appliance

Since this is a first run deployment, we are going to select option “0. Full Setup” at the Menu. As you can see you can re-run and do other admin tasks later if required from this interface.

Before we active the first connection, we will setup the Profile name “vCenter Server Network” and assign a valid ipv4 address for the OMNI VM here.

The second connection is for ipv6 discovery on the VxRail Management network, no ipv4 address needed here.

Be sure to activate both networks on the last screen.

You will be prompted at the CLI again for NTP, SSL Cert, the appliance ip address, FQDN for VCSA, VC Username and Password, and finally the OMNI ip for REST and REST username and password.

Log in and out of vSphere and the OMNI plugin will appear.

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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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How to enable SmartFabric for VxRail Step 1

I decided to document the steps I used to enable SmartFabric Services on VxRail.  These are partly notes for myself and Customer Solution Centre engineers that will likely need to showcase this capability very soon.  The demand for this solution is very high and the customers I have met are impressed by what is now possible (wait until you see the roadmap!). 

Note: This is not a guide for end user customers because a lot of what I write about is handled thru our automated deployment appliance; VxRail. A note of thanks to Allan Scott from New York CSC that helped with the first SFS deployment and documentation.

Step 1: Enable SmartFabric Services on the ToR Switch

  • Cabling the ToR Switches
  • Installing/Upgrading OS10 on Dell EMC Switch
  • Enable the VxRail Personality on OS10
  • Ready for Part2 – Deploying VxRail with Smart Fabric Services

Next Blog: Step 2: Deploy VxRail Cluster incl. ToR with VxRail Manager

Step 3: Deploy the SmartFabric OMNI plugin in VMware vSphere

Step 4: Virtualization engineer controls Day 2 Ops for the Full Stack


Getting Started :


How to enable SmartFabric Services on the ToRs

SmartFabric is supported on the 4100 series from Dell EMC. Current models are 10G – S4112 F/T, S4128 F/T or S4148 F/T  (25G coming soon). Sales can order these switches to be delivered from factory with OS10 and licenses already applied.

If you need the latest version of OS10 – get it here: force10networks.com , request login thru support page and download 10.4.1.x. Put OS10 .bin file and licence .xml file in a USB drive – insert USB drive into switch.

Cabling the TORs

First cable up ports 29 and 30 – 100GB cables for ISL (VLT).

Next cable up ports 25 and 26 – 100GB cables for Uplink.

Plug laptop into port 1 on switch.

Connect new VxRail appliances in any other port starting at port 2.

Installing or Upgrading OS10 on switch:

This is an optional step. The switches can be ordered and configured in factory, and so should arrive ready to begin at Step 2.

Connect the laptop to the serial port on one of the switches and start putty. Putty settings are 115200, 8, stop, none, none. I used a USB serial port so my COM port was COM3.

Powerup the serial connected switch – and break into ONIE mode by hitting ESC during bootup.

Choose “onie-discovery-stop” from the menu.

At prompt type: fdisk -l

USB Thumbdrive should be /dev/sdb1

mkdir /mnt/usb

mount -t vfat /dev/sdb1 /mnt/usb

Install OS10:

cd /mnt/usb

onie-nos-install /mnt/usb/XXXXXXXXXX.bin

Check IOS10 Version & Install License:

show version

show license status (skip next step if already installed)

license install usb://xxxxxxxx-NOSEnterprise-License.xml

Configure mgmt interface if required:

conf

int mgmt 1/1/1

no ip address dhcp

ip address 10.204.86.250/24

no shut

exit

management route 10.204.86.0/24 managementethernet

exit

Repeat these steps for the second ToR switch.

Optional step. Configure 40GB uplinks:

My showcase lab is using 40GB uplinks rather than 100GB so I needed to change the profile of the uplinks before applying the VxRail SFS personality. You can skip this step if you are using 100GB links.

OS10(config)# switch-port-profile 1/1 profile-2

Warning: Switch port profile will be applied only after a save and reload. All management port configurations will be retained but all other configurations will be wiped out after the reload.

OS10(config)# exit

OS10# write memory

OS10# reload

Enable the VxRail personality:

The SFS personality script is included in OS10. Once applied to each ToR switch, the switches will reboot with SmartFabric Mode enabled and you are now ready to perform a VxRail deployment from the VxRail Manager.

system bash

sudo sfs_enable_vxrail_personality.py -d 20 -a-m 2002

‘-d 20’ is a unique Domain ID that you assign to each cluster

‘-m 2002’ is a non-routed vlan used to do the initial build, local to the ToR switches only (Internal management network)

‘-a’ indicates that the port-channel on the upstream switches is configured with LACP

VxRail personality profile script options :


 
Domain -d <id> Required numeric value unique to data center (1 to 254) applied to ToR switch configuration settings Default: 1
Uplink -u <port,port> Override default 100Gb uplink ports Default: ports 25& 26
ISL -I <port,port> Override default 100Gb ISL ports Default: ports 29 & 30
Uplink tagging -t Whether external management VLAN is tagged or untagged when passed through uplinks. Default: untagged
Uplink LACP -a Whether LACP is active on uplink port channel (dynamic) or not (static). Default: static
Uplink breakout -b <2X50GE, 4X25GE, 4X10GE> Breakout 100Gb uplinks. Used to support connectivity to upstream switches without 100Gb ports
Management VLAN -m <VLAN> VxRail Cluster Build Network VLAN.
Default: 1

Validate Personality:

system bash

sudo sfs_validate_vxrail_personality.py

Links to useful guides that helped us document this build:

VxRail Fabric Automation SmartFabric Services User Guide

Dell EMC OpenManage Network Integration for VMware vCenter

How to Install Dell Networking FTOS on Dell Open Networking (ON) Switches


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SmartFabrics is Smart for VxRail HCI

My guide to enable SmartFabric on Dell EMC switches is here.

Catch out my interview with Barry Coombs from ComputerWorld UK on SmartFabric… does everyone hate their own voice or just me?

Is networking in HCI complex?

Back in October I asked the question, is HCI networking easy? I stand by my assertion that it is already pretty simple once you understand the converged design for HCI does not require separate physical fabrics. Once you setup your required VLANS and appropriate MTU and multicast for IPv6 you are 90% of the way done.  So if it’s so easy already, then why am I so excited about Smart Fabrics for VxRail appliances? Start up a conversation with Ned the network engineer about the automated deployment and simplified life-cycle management capabilities of SmartFabrics and you will get back a blank dull stare. “That’s just a python script” Ned the Network Admin will say, “Take your fancy sales patter down to the Virtualization guys, we don’t want your kind round here!”

Ned the NetAdmin says “You’ll never take my switches!”

It’s not easy to impress a NetAdmin

Ned has a point I suppose. The Network Admins job is to move packets reliably from one part of the network to the other, monitor the network for any problems, and to design and build future networks.  The last thing Ned needs is dealing with end users complaining about network problems caused by poorly designed applications (its never the networks fault!). This is actually the main selling point FOR the use of Smart Fabrics. Let me explain why.

Before you understand why SmartFabrics for VxRail, you have to first understand the reason for choosing VxRail appliances in the first place.  I have written a few Blogs on this already here and here . In short it’s an engineered solution for vSAN that comes from Dell EMC fully validated and tested and automatically deployed and updated throughout its life-cycle.

VxRail appliances don’t require a Storage expert or Server guru and it even saves the Virtualization admin from having to spend countless hours reading design and deploy documentation. After deployment is done, day 2 simplified operations begins. As a result maintenance and updates and upgrades are made easy through a single bundle file that covers the entire stack (not just the software on top of somebody else’ hypervisor – and includes the hardware too.

Can SmartFabrics simplify HCI?

The last part of the HCI architecture that needed simplification was the network, so Dell EMC has had its sites on Ned’s cubicle for a while now. If we are going to provide a fully automated deployment experience for our customers, it only makes sense to include the Top of Rack switches that are being used by VxRail appliances.  After all why would the network admin want to be responsible for those HCI host ports anyways? If something goes wrong in the vSAN stack, Ned doesn’t want to be dragged in to a War Room to defend last weekend’s network changes. Ned knows the changes the network team made at the weekend were to the core only.

Now with Smart Fabrics for VxRail, Ned can still own the core, and leave the HCI network problems to the Virtualization team.  SmartFabric will fully configure a redundant TOR fabric for VxRail, and continue to maintain the network for the life-cycle of the HCI solution. When it’s time to patch the HCI network, SmartFabric will provide a bundle file, and perform a non-disruptive rolling upgrade to the network TORs leaving Ned free to watch old episodes of Futurama. If the HCI team needs to expand their existing VxRail cluster by adding a new node, then Smart Fabric will fully automate the changes to the TOR switch, no need for Ned to ever get involved.

Is BYO Networking still an Option?

One of the advantages for VxRail customers has been the fact that it is BYON (Bring Your Own Networking). This means that Dell EMC does not force you to take a switch from their portfolio into your datacenter. For some customers, this would be non-negotiable.  They may have standardized on a specific brand and prefer to stay that way, no matter what they run at the Storage or Virtualization layer.  VxRail networking is compatible with any modern low latent switch and the introduction of VxRail SmartFabrics does NOT mean that the BYON option is no longer a choice. Hopefully the automation that comes with SmartFabric for VxRail will entice some customers to converge the entire HCI stack and give Ned some peace of mind.

Here is a great Blog on vSAN and Network Switch choices from @LostSignal on this Blog: https://blogs.vmware.com/virtualblocks/2019/03/21/designing-vsan-networks-2019-update/

Update! This week I will be meeting Hasan Mansur at the Limerick Customer Solution Center who writes a great Dell EMC networking blog at https://hasanmansur.com/ . Hasan has written two great articles there about SmartFabric Services. Please check it out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

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Is advice from an expired VCP like drinking dodgy milk?

Update! VMware has removed the mandatory re-certification requirement from all current certifications! Read More about what this means here.

Expired VCP? Time to renew.

The concept of certification expiration is irksome to many in the IT industry. I remember when my MCSE timed out way back in the day. When I did the project management PMP certification I was very disheartened it expired in 2 years. I could no longer put it down on my CV any more. To keep current I had to log 40 hours of volunteering or attend various lectures on Project Management.

Have you an expired VCP? Keeping up with certifications in the technology world can be a daunting task. Even with the best of intentions to stay up to date, the day job can get in the way. If your role changes, sometimes so does your focus on keeping up with your training.  The next thing you know you are officially expired! Does this mean your past knowledge vanishes as well?

Can I just resit the new Exam?

VMware certification expired VCP
Certificate Expired!
VMware VCP

I suppose a more balanced view would be its always good to be continuously learning. Aren’t we all doing that though? Last week I signed up for the VMware vSphere: Install, Configure, Manage [V6.7] course through my employer. The is part of the Data Center Virtualization (DCV) track. There is only a current exam for certification for  VCP 6.5 as the 6.7 course is not yet ready.

You have to do a course now

The course I joined was delivered online with an Instructor (ILT) and the class had about a dozen students.  My old VCP certification was well expired at this stage! VCP 3 and VCP 4 seems so long ago now. I was a little daunted joining a course thinking I might be out of place.   The first day our instructor had everyone give a short intro. I was surprised to discover most people were in the same boat as me!

Shares, Reservations and Limits – Oh My!

Can I pass the VCP Exam without a course?

A few people had actually already passed the VCP 6.5 this year, but needed to attend the course in order to officially earn the VCP certification. It must be a challenge for any instructor, knowing that some students might lack the motivation to pay attention. I must say our instructor was excellent. If you ever get a chance to take a course led by Rita Thaker, do not hesitate! What I liked most was how she frequently used the whiteboard instead of the lecture slides. She has an excellent ability to explain a topic using a story with her pen and builds it up slowly over time.  Many students commented that they preferred her drawings and were busily taking screen grabs for later study.

You had to be there… Isolation or Partition What if Scenario.

Go on, the course is well worth it.

The course included two EBooks (Lecture and Lab manuals) delivered online through Evantage by Gilmore Global. You sign up for an account and can access the content on any device. The classes were hosted through the  Adobe Connect platform. This allows the instructor to control the learning environment completely. Participation was encouraged but controlled, the mics were muted unless a hand was raised, and normally the chat window was where we interacted.  This has a huge benefit in preventing the classroom Know-It-All or that one painful student that disrupts every lesson with an off-topic question/rant/story (there is ALWAYS one!).

My VCP was well and truly out of date so I needed to do a bit more to get back on track. I needed to attend the course and complete the course eval (to get course credit). Then I need to pass the vSphere 6.5 Foundations exam before I can finally try for the VMware Certified Professional 6.5 – Data Center Virtualization Exam (VCP 6.5 DCV ) .

I know a few people have expressed their annoyance with certification expiration and dismissed the trend as a money racket. To be fair the VMware training is really top notch. In my case I really did need to dust off the brain cells and get back into it.  Hopefully I will get a chance to take the exam in December (this year) and then I will hopefully do better at renewing within the 2 year time-frame, as you only need to pass the latest exam at that point.

Some helpful links for the VCP DCV track:

vSphere Documentation, lots of links from here.

Maximums!  Always guaranteed a question on this.

Online access to Ebooks for Manuals and Lab books.

Hands on Labs! Most people learn best thru practical lessons.

Foundations Practice Exam Sample.

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Meet the Experts at VMworld Barcelona

This year I was fortunate to be given a ticket to VMworld in Barcelona as a partner attendee. Normally when I get to go to a company conference like DTW I have at least some booth duty – but this time I could concentrate on learning and networking. I had read all the guides to surviving VMworld, and digested all the advice and tips. I was careful to book sessions with presenters I wanted to meet before they filled up.  The app was an excellent resource and I used it to plan my days and stuck to the schedule I committed to.  I was very surprised to see many of the sessions only sparsely attended, especially when I knew the speakers were top class and the sessions had been booked out!

I was only given one small task for the event by the boss. The task was to evaluate the Meet The Experts area and Expert Bar and to find out as much as possible on how it worked for the event.  The reason for this is the plan is to run something very similar in Dell Technologies World in Vegas next spring.  Last year the Customer Solution Center had a section near the Hands on Labs area where customers could meet with Solution Architects 1on1 and discuss different products and solutions they were interested in.  The area was a success, we had many conversations and whiteboards were filled – but next year they wanted to see if we could improve the concept.

I must say I was well impressed with how the Meet The Experts and Experts Bar area were run in Barcelona. From what I have read about past VMworld’s the Expert Bar has moved from the VMware booth and now sits next to the Meet the Experts area which used to be called Expert Roundtables.  The location that was chosen was ideal in my opinion.  It was away from the Rock and Roll of the VM Village and Solutions Exchange, and placed outside of the Breakout Rooms.

At the end of any session, there is limited time to ask questions to the presenters so the Expert Bar gives anyone a chance to walk up and speak to someone while the question is fresh in their minds. The Expert Bar was a simple setup of one long table where engineers (not bartenders) served knowledge not alcohol. The table had room for 8 pairs of experts and a screen behind them displayed the details of their primary and secondary skill-sets. As customers fired questions across the bar, the experts could use the table-top as a whiteboard to explain concepts. The action was fast and furious and the Expert Bar was as busy as any in Las Ramblas.

The Meet the Expert sessions were all booked out weeks before the event, through the online scheduler just like any of the breakout sessions. You could search for a specific speaker, or a Topic and book them online.  This is exactly what I did, I booked 2 sessions with speakers that I wanted to meet. The session were at least 45 minutes each, with room for 10 attendees.  To me this is one of the highlights of the show, an opportunity to get into a small sessions with a well-known speaker and get a chance to have a discussion. I was amazed as I passed the area often to see empty seats. I spoke with the person at the desk checking badges of attendees and learned you could grab a no-show seat if they were full when you booked them.

I joined a session by Pete Koehler @vmpete with 6 customers. Pete and I knew each other virtually when Pete did a skype demo for me on new vROPS features after Dell World 2017. It was great to get to meet him in person and I was delighted when he recognized my badge when I sat down – we had a quick chat before he went into a discussion on vSAN availability scenarios.  The session was informal, mostly whiteboard, and the customers were able to ask questions. I was able to intro myself to the group and pitch Solution Centers story, as it turned out one customer asked to contact me after the event for a POC.

I had a second session with Myles Grey @mylesagrey about Kubernetes on vSAN, and I was the only one that turned up! For me this was excellent, because I had heard a lot about Myles and would much prefer to just have a chat while we waited for others to turn up.  Myles was an absolute gent and stayed for the full time-slot, he didn’t need to do that I would have understood if he headed off.  I had another Breakout session later he delivered on NSX that was also excellent.

When I got home from the event I gave a detailed report on the show and I am hoping that we are able to emulate a similar Expert Bar and Meet The Experts session schedule for Dell Technologies World in Las Vegas. If you have time in your conference schedule you would be well advised to include one of these sessions as part of your itinerary.

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