The 6th Annual UK VMUG UserCon – A Rimmary

Having been a VMUG leader for the past 5 ½ years, I was very much looking forward to attending the UK National event as an attendee for the first time. In some ways I was a little apprehensive. Ever since Jean Williams asked us (the previous London VMUG committee) back in early 2011 to put on a UK-wide VMUG event, I’ve been part of seeing the UK VMUG event grow and expand in terms of content, attendees and sponsors. When Al, Stu and I announced at last year’s event we were all stepping down as the London and UK VMUG leaders, handing over to the new committee, chaired by Simon Gallagher, felt a little like handing over ‘my baby’. However, I registered once registration was open and Simon asked if I’d do a mezz session on Social Media, so I was in!

It was a great night the evening before at the vCurry – was a pleasure to attend and not have to worry about anything. The team did an awesome job this year, with Chris Dearden’s vQuiz – assisted by James Kilby – topping even Stu’s humour and ridiculous questions at times! Was great to hear one of the general knowledge questions being about my other community involvement, WhatMatrix! The question was along the lines of: With the Great British Bake Off being such a hit, what industry bake off website was launched this year? Great question Chris, thanks! Our team, The Remote Shirkers, was placed second, winning £5 Amazon vouchers. A good summary of the evening can be read here, compliments of Christopher Lewis. There was a great turnout and a fun evening, kudos to the committee for having an open bar this year!

At registration the following morning, there was a great improvement on previous years, with the new VMUG Europe team, led by Esther Westerweele, enabling registration with a scanned QR code – all very smooth. It was an early start, but with the keynote being conducted by Joe Baguley the turnout was great. It was a pleasure to bump into Keith Norbie of SolidFire/NetApp fame at the keynote, his first time a UK UserCon. I think his tweet sums up the power of Twitter and the networking value of VMUG:

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As ever Joe gave a compelling talk, reiterating VMware’s strategy and the evolution of their vision. My key takeaways were:

  1. Aligning IT to the Business is the wrong strategy,
  2. Start with the user and
  3. Traditional Business = Digital Business.

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Amanda Blevins, director of technology, Office of the CTO, gave an extremely informative preso on OCTO and what they all do – it’s a lot!

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After the keynote I spent time in the solutions exchange and it was buzzing. Had a quick chat with Nick Furnell and hopefully provided him some useful input to managing UK Veeam User Group events. Had a good old ‘chinwag’ with my long time industry friend Tom Howarth and stopped by the SolidFire/NetApp booth and got my socks, thanks Keith! I also caught up with Trevor Cooper from Cohesity, who gave me my Cohesity vExpert backpack that he’s been holding onto for me since VMworld Las Vegas, thanks Trevor!

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I attended the StorMagic presentation; where I bumped into Arthur Bojilov, long time London VMUG attendee. StorMagic is a great solution for ROBO and is an interesting UK company, headquartered in Bristol.

 

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Then it was a very early lunch, which was very tasty and served in handy sized bowls to allow for eating ‘on the go’. It was also great to catch up with Stu and Al in the refreshment area – been a year since we were all together, do you think I was a bit excited to see them?!

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After lunch and more networking, I had my Social Media 101 mezzanine community session. Was honoured to have the likes of Barry Coombs and Tom Howarth attend and whilst I had some slides, it was a great roundtable discussion, with all the attendees contributing to the conversation. Thanks to those that attended!

 

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And thank you Megan for your kind words!

There was an unexpected fire alarm right in the middle of my session, and thanks to Craig Dalrymple for this awesome and totally appropriate tweet!!

 

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My last session of the day was Massimo Re Ferre’s Cloud Native Buzzwords Demystified (for Dummies). Clearly it was the words in brackets that applied to me, and it was a great session, I learnt a lot. Massimo presented this earlier in the week as a keynote at the Italian VMUG UserCon and was a cut down version of his presentation from VMworld.

 

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I then had to leave, so missed the closing keynote from Julian Wood, but as I know it was being recorded I look forward to viewing it next week. My twitter stream lit up during it, so it was clearly a great presentation and very well received! It was fab to see that the committee was presenting 4 VMworld trips again this year. I saw one winner tweet about winning, so congrats to him and the other 3 lucky winners!

I know what it takes to deliver this event so extend my hearty congratulations to the UK VMUG committee, Esther and her event team for an awesome job. I now know my ‘baby’ is in safe hands; it was a great community event, well delivered and executed – Thank You!!

Don’t forget all presentations and recordings will be posted here in due course.

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TechnologyUG and TechUnplugged Events – a Rimmary

I recently attended the TechnologyUG in London as I’d recommended one of my clients to sponsor it.  As a previous VMUG leader, I’d never attended the TechnologyUG as I’d felt it would be a conflict of interest 🙂  Whilst I’d argue it’s not a user group in the truest sense of the term, it is a broader church than a VMUG and the attendees are reflective of this with more managerial level attendees than perhaps a VMUG.  It was interesting to see previous London VMUG speakers, Chris Kranz and Craig Kilborn, speaking at the event; talking about modern storage and Azure site recovery respectively. I maybe biased but I didn’t feel the community passion I always feel is present at a VMUG, but I highly commend the dedication of long term serving TechUG founder Gav Brining and organisational and communication skills of Mike England, TechUG COO. It was an interesting day and great dialogue with the attendees for my client, Liquidware Labs.

Peter von Oven, Director Systems Engineering, Liquidware Labs

Peter von Oven, Director Systems Engineering, Liquidware Labs

Then yesterday, May 12th, I attended the 2nd TechUnplugged event in London, organised by Enrico Signoretti.  It was a very educational day for me personally, although heavily storage biased, the opening session by Giuseppe Paternò on bridging the gap between virtualisation and cloud with OpenStack was a great learning experience for me.  Plus, I got a copy of Giuseppe’s book, Openstack Explained (which you can also download off his website.  Then followed a preso by Rick Vanover of Veeam who provided an excellent overview of protecting your data and vulnerabilities from an ‘agnostic’ view point versus banging Veeam down our throats.

Chris Mellor of The Register fame, then shared his thoughts with us on winners and losers in the storage arena.  Despite his acerbic reporting style, his presenting style was informative, interesting and humorous and he was clearly nervous at presenting to an audience!

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Another London VMUG presenter, Greg Ferro of PacketPushers fame gave his usual engaging presentation style on Upgrading your WAN to Internet, 2 key takeaways for me where to look at 5G to solve my (lack of) broadband issues and also it’s cheaper to provide your employees with smartphones than implement a VoIP telephone system!

Nigel Poulton, as always, gave a great presentation on clouds and containers and did a demo of AWS and Docker deployments, against the timer for AWS deployment (2 minutes) and against Martin Glassborow eating 5 biscuits (he only got to 4). What an entertaining preso!

Nigel Poulton's demo gods offering of choccie biccies

Nigel Poulton’s demo gods offering of choccie biccies

Storagebod timer #managainstbiccies

Storagebod timer #managainstbiccies

Interspersed with the industry presentations were vendor sponsor presentations from HGST, Violin Memory, Caringo, Cohesity, who fielded their evangelist Nick Howell of datacenterdude.com fame – was great to see Nick over this side of the pond and he gave an enlightening presentation on Hyperconverged Secondary Storage – and LoadDynamix.  The vendor presentations were not really of interest to me, sorry! However, most were interesting and good speakers.  One, however, read from the slides! What a big no-no and they were proceeded to be quizzed by the audience post-presentation, mainly on “why” regarding their technology #fail.

Enrico kindly let my colleagues from WhatMatrix give a 10 minute overview of their community comparison initiative just after lunch.  I hope the exposure will lead to more contributors signing up as well as more vendors getting involved. The final industry presentation I attended was Chris Evans, another previous London VMUG speaker. Given the other industry presentations had focused on technology, Chris took a different approach of discussing real world storage and dealing with scale, operational complexity as well as users and bosses.  The key takeaway for me is highlighted below:

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Was also great to catch up with old industry friends Arjam Timmerman (NL VMUG Leader and co-host of the event) Alex Galbraith, Julian Wood, Chris Dearden and Rose Ross.  An excellent networking and educational event, thanks Enrico!

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Community 2.0

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Community – it means different things to different people, particularly in our industry. But I like this definition the best: A community is a social unit of any size that shares common values. I’ve recently become involved in a crowd-sourced community, WhatMatrix. The goal of WhatMatrix is to provide free comparisons to organizations based upon collaborative, expert input. Having been involved in the launch of this community, it is exciting to see people’s responses to the matrices – particularly when they don’t agree! But the sweet thing about WhatMatrix is the fact that this is exactly what underpins it; if you disagree and can assert the correct information, it will be updated.

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The value of this can, however, potentially be undermined or misconstrued if an expert contributor is associated with a vendor. It could be assumed that the expert might have a bias towards his or her own company’s solution. This train of thought got me thinking about other things in general. I think that experts, bloggers, industry contributors etc., whatever “nomenclature” you want to associate with this group of people, it all boils down to respect. If you can demonstrate that your opinion is factually based and be willing to change it if proven wrong, then you command the respect to be an ‘independent’ member of said community. Whilst I’ve always said if you’re an employee, you’re ‘always on’ as a representative for your company, you can still be a community contributor and employee. I’ve also seen experts move from being independent to working for a vendor only to discover their ‘perks’, such as NFRs etc. are removed from them, as owners of the programs to which they belong don’t like the competition having access to their software. Well, let me tell you, if you sell via a channel and your competition is that desperate to get a hold of your product, they will! Don’t penalize the expert for no longer being independent is my view.

But I digress…….. What does the future hold for our community within the virtualization and cloud space? I see many vendors creating their own select programs and really getting behind them to own, drive and, in most cases, fund them. For any user community to thrive the vendor has to take ownership early on, in conjunction and collaboration with the users. Big user groups, such as the VMware User Group, have become totally independent to be effective and are funded via vendor sponsorship. For more niche players and start ups, make the community what your ‘social unit’ needs it to be, not what you, as a vendor, want it to be. Other community programs, such as VMware’s vExpert accolade, become less meaningful, to some, as they grow. People want exclusivity to feel more valued it would seem. My view is that as the user base grows, the vExpert numbers will grow. But maybe it is time to create some kind of tiering? This point reminds me of being involved building the channel for Citrix and then VMware across EMEA in both companies’ early days. The innovative partners that first came on board and really invested wanted recognition as the partner base grew to include the ‘box shifters’, and so tiering was introduced; platinum, gold, silver, etc.

In summary, I think Community 2.0 will be more collaborative, potentially less exclusive but more ‘segmented’ and should continue to focus on the needs of the member first and foremost.

 

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