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!

Decoupled – Abstraction Revisited?

Not since Gwyneth and Chris announced their ‘conscious uncoupling” in 2012, have I noticed so much use of the word decoupled in some vendors’ messaging. Is decoupling the new abstraction?

This 2006 whitepaper from VMware states “The term virtualization broadly describes the separation of a resource or request for a service from the underlying physical delivery of that service. With virtual memory, for example, computer software gains access to more memory than is physically installed, via the background swapping of data to disk storage. Similarly, virtualization techniques can be applied to other IT infrastructure layers – including networks, storage, laptop or server hardware, operating systems and applications. This blend of virtualization technologies – or virtual infrastructure – provides a layer of abstraction between computing, storage and networking hardware, and the applications running on it.”

According to Computing’s glossary, a decoupled architecture allows each component to perform its tasks independently of the others, while also enabling structural variations between source and target.

So, is decoupled a 2016 buzzword variation of the 2006 abstraction? Let’s take a quick look at some vendor messaging:

Arista: The goal of Network Virtualization as an overlay network is the decoupling of the physical topology from the logical topology.

Velostrata: Velostrata moves production workloads to the public cloud in minutes with a unique architecture that decouples compute from storage.

Liquidware Labs: ProfileUnity FlexApp is a leading industry user virtualization and application virtualization solution, that allows you to de-couple user profiles and applications from the Windows Operating System.

PernixData: PernixData optimizes storage for virtualized environments. By decoupling strategic storage performance and management functions from the underlying storage hardware, our software maximizes VM performance, delivers predictable scale-out growth, and minimizes storage costs.

For me, the word decouple conjures up freedom, as in you’re being freed from something you’ve been tied to – guess this is where Gwynnie and Chris were coming from 🙂 Whereas from an IT perspective it appears to denotes flexibility. Thus, decoupled must be the new layer of abstraction, as virtual infrastructure has been providing flexibility since waaaaay before that 2006 white paper was published!

 

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.

 

London VMUG January 21st meeting – New! New! New!

What a kick-start to the New Year! New venue, three quarters of a new committee and new vBeers pub!! This meeting was always going to be bittersweet as myself, Alaric Davies and Stuart Thompson had announced at the UK national VMUG UserCon in November our intention to step down from the committee once January’s meeting was in the bag.

IMG_8079The day started with outgoing chair, Alaric, opening up the meeting at our new venue, TechUK. I have to say we expected a few hiccups, but the day went flawlessly, the team at TechUK was very welcoming and efficient. The only complaint I heard all day was no chips at lunch, like we used to have at the London Chambers of Commerce and Industry!

We then recognised our top 2015 community presenters with a small token of our appreciation with some Amazon vouchers. Chris Porter was the winner, with Sam McGeown, Alec Dunn and Frank Buechsel all in joint 2nd. Thank you guys for your contribution to UK and London VMUG community during 2015!

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VMware sessions included a keynote from Paudie O’Riordan on vSphere Storage 2016, providing a great overview for our members. Robbie Jerrom covered Cloud Native apps and Atif Qadeer delved into vRealize Automation 7.

vra7As well as the VMware speakers, it was also a pleasure to see many of the UK SE team in attendance, including Simon Townsend, UK SE Director, Matt Steiner, Rob Hayden and Rory Chaudhuri – thanks for the support guys!

Bitdefender was our gold sponsor and conducted the plenary session on Endpoint Security Challenges.

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A well attended community session by Stuart Thompson and Simon Greaves on a full VMware Stack deployment case was very well received by our members as it was a ‘warts and all’ presentation 🙂  This is the value of VMUG – we’re not an extension of VMware’s sales and marketing teams, we’re all users and therefore we tell it when it’s good and bad. But seems the sentiment is appreciated, judging by this tweet:

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Then silver sponsors Velostrata and Tegile presented as we split into two tracks. Both presentations yielded great interest from the members, at least judging by the amount of tweets going on. And our final community presentation was from Simon Eady on vROPS ROX.

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An Ask the Experts panel debate wrapped up the day with Simon hosting and Alex Galbraith, Julian Wood and Mike Laverick being our panel. It was a lively discussion, ranging from clean installs to upgrades to the VMW share price 🙂

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After an emotional closing where the outgoing committee members were honoured with gifts of champagne (me!) and beer for Stu and Al, Simon produced some very dodgy pictures of the three of us – if you want to see them, you’ll have to view the presentations!

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We then adjourned for vBeers at the new pub location of the Old Bank of England, sponsored by great community vendor, 10ZiG.

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I personally feel very privileged to have been a serving VMUG leader for over 5 ½ years, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience and feel confident that I’ve handed over the baton; the new venue proved a success, our sponsors and members were happy (always the goal) and the new pub was also a success. A recipe for future success!!

All presentations can be found on box.com/londonug and hope you will attend the April 14th meeting.

 

 

 

 

Make an early New Year’s resolution

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Time to make an early New Year’s resolution, “I will attend/join London VMUG meetings”. Register now for the new look London VMUG January 21st meeting here – we’re at a new venue and will introduce the 3 new committee members, along with Simon Gallagher taking over from Alaric as Chair. So, if nothing else, come along to see if Simon can ‘wavy handy’ as well as Al 🙂 One point to note, we cannot get into this new venue until 9am, so please do not show up early, thank you!

As always, we’ve got a great agenda for you with community, VMware and sponsor speakers, along with our traditional prize giving for our 2015 community speakers:

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Finally, thank you to Bitdefender, Velostrata and Tegile for being, respectively, our gold and silver sponsors, as well as thanks to 10ZiG for sponsoring the vBeers after the meeting. We think we’re going to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street for vBeers, but more to follow on that in the New Year.

Jan 13th UPDATE – vBeers will be held at the Old Bank of England pub, 194 Fleet Street, LONDON, map here, vBeers post here