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!

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.

simon vropsrox

 

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.

 

 

 

 

My Name is Jane and I’m a Spicy Newbie

Having been aware of Spiceworks for a number of years and having worked with some US clients that utilise its demand generation offerings, but never engaged with them myself, I was delighted to be invited to attend their SpiceWorld conference in London this week.  The audience is primarily IT pros with a bunch of marketing folks thrown in for good measure and, accordingly, SpiceWorld is split into 2 tracks.  The day kicked off with the obligatory keynote, which I unfortunately only caught the end of, but you can read an excellent summary from my fellow London VMUGer, Alex Galbraith here. The part that I did hear was Scott Abel, Founder, talking about how IT Pros can order direct via Spiceworks with CDW when their inventory tool tells them their low on printer ink or such like.  In fact, he mentioned CDW a number of times.  Having worked with the US channel in the past, I’m familiar with CDW, but wondered how many of the audience would know them as one of the largest, if not largest, reseller in the US? And to my knowledge they’re not in the UK, so this keynote conveyed info that wasn’t relevant to the UK audience, which was a slightly disappointing start for me.

UPDATE: Another VMUGer, Dale Scriven, has pointed out to me that CDW does have a presence in the UK with their strategic partner, Kelway. Would be keen to understand if the Spiceworks ordering can be facilitated via this relationship?

The first breakout session I attended by Sanjay Castelino, VP Marketing, Spiceworks demonstrated how the data and trends that Spiceworks gleans from its IT Pros is beneficial to marketers.  Some of the stats he shared from a recent survey, conducted with a selection of the community, highlighted how little time these guys and gals have (as if we didn’t already know I hasten to add!) and just bought home how some marketing peeps can really, really annoy and frustrate them!  And the recurring theme was lack of time.  Most marketers want to create a compelling event, but sometimes the industry creates one for us.  The example given was the end of life of Windows Server 2003, and the stats recorded from their survey around this event are very interesting:

  • 45% are still on 2003 – using the network inventory tool, this extrapolates to around 4.2m servers
  • $60k is average spend on migration, which extrapolates to a potential spend of $100bn
  • Of the $60K 29% is spend on upgrading new software, 17% on new services, 16% on new software, 8% on assistance with the migration and 4% to migrate to hosted/cloud services

Which means lots of opportunity to market solutions other than MSFT Windows 2003 around this EOL event.

Sanjay’s key message was to have empathy for the IT Pro, offer them something they need and that will help them recoup some of the valuable time they are so desperately lacking.  And remember folks, the current version of SQL Server EOLs next year!

After his session, I was intrigued to learn more about Spiceworks as a platform and headed over to their Spicebar for a demo.  This enlightened me as to why Spiceworks has over 6 million IT pro users in its community; the depth and breadth of their tools, which are free, is quite compelling, particularly I would imagine for the smaller IT shop.  Now, I know why Trevor Pott is such an avid fan! The software comprises inventory management, network monitoring and IT help desk and, from the demo I was given, are all very powerful tools and they’re FREE!  Clearly, the data and trends that Spiceworks can glean from the usage of these tools is what makes it unique to a marketer.

During lunch, I chatted to Julian Wood and Alex and Julian commented that if he Googles a tech problem, more often than not, the answer comes back from the Spiceworks community, which is quite an endorsement in my view!  After lunch, I attended the CTRL+ALT+TECH: back to the future of security panel session.  Apparently, the CTRL+ALT+TECH sessions are usually held via webcast but today’s was live, hosted by Spiceworks “marketing wizz kid”, Todd Darroca – who entered into the spirit of being a typical ‘Yank Abroad’ by dressing in a Stars and Stripes suit 🙂

I’m not sure Todd could quite get used to the usual ‘reserved-ness’ of the British audience, we didn’t quite ‘whoop’ enough for his liking I think!  But it was an interesting panel with some great questions from the audience.  My favourite was someone who asked in the light of the Edward Snowden debacle, should we even bother.  Of course the panel answered “yes!”

I then returned to the marketing track to listen to some vendors who have used Spiceworks for demand generation.  The first session was a panel on how to Win Friends and Influence IT Pros (again hosted by Todd, but no longer in his stars and stripes!) and the second entitled Spicy Success Stories.  There were some interesting examples, including a Star Trek themed video, which clearly was appreciated by the geeks in the audience 🙂 The key takeaway from these 2 sessions for me was two-fold; run integrated campaigns and Spiceworks will help you craft the best ones to meet your goals and secondly always assign a Green guy – the dialogue on the forums is not to be taken lightly and marketing peeps will be blackballed by the community if not technical enough – so beware!

Spiceworks splits their SpiceHead community into 2, Greens and Oranges and have an orange T-Rex, SpiceRex, as their mascot.  I won a SpiceRex for a question I asked in one of the sessions!

The IT pros are orange and the vendor specialists are green.

The SpiceWorld conference was a 2-day affair (but I could only attend the first day unfortunately) and had a welcome party on the Monday evening, with a happy hour sponsored by Unitrends on Tuesday followed by a Totally 80’s party sponsored by Lenovo.

This conference was a real eye opener for me in many perspectives; as a marketer, as a technologist and as a VMUG leader.  I can see why this community continues to thrive and grow and I look forward to following it more closely, which I will do firstly by signing up!!

 

 

Disclaimer: I was kindly invited to attend Spiceworld by their community manager Jennifer Faulk as a blogger (or that’s what my badge said!) but was not obliged to write anything.