Category Archives: General

Interview – Chris Wahl – Author, Blogger, IT Consultant

My fourth blog posts is with one of my favourite online personalities, Chris Wahl, a person whom I’ve followed the blog of for a long time. I won’t add too much preface to this, and dive straight in.

1. So Chris, you’ve are known in the community for two main subject area’s, networking and scripting, as well as technical author, but can you give me a quick run down of yourself for those whom are not completely familiar of your work?

Over the past 18 years of being employed in the technology sector, I’d boil it down to spending a lot of time problem solving as either a customer or consultant in various environments. I’m most proud of having published Networking for VMware Administrators with my friend Steve Pantol, achieving the VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) certification, and publishing over 70 episodes of the Datanauts Podcast with my co-host Ethan Banks. I use the words “snazzy” and “groovy” frequently while also borrowing quotes and images from my hero, SpongeBob, while focusing on the wonderful world of Startup Life at Rubrik as the Chief Technical Evangelist.

2. What is the biggest challenge you have in your job day-to-day at the moment.

Imagine a formula one racecar zooming down the motorway. It’s really fast, right? Now, imagine that Ellon Musk strapped a pair of SpaceX rockets to the sides. That’s a bit what it’s like to work at a startup – very fast paced. My biggest challenge is keeping up to date with engineering, product, sales, marketing, and support while traveling the world to spend time and attention on customers, their needs, and how they can be met by the team. Every job I’ve ever held has eventually become boring, but I think I’ve finally met my match for finding something that is as interesting as it is challenging.

3. If you’re hiring, what are you looking for in the candidate?

Finding people with the ability to be self-sufficient and take the initiative is my biggest focus. I prefer to set a goal and let someone figure out the best way to achieve it while being available for assistance of guidance when required. My experience has taught me that most everything else will fall into place if someone has the will and energy to get their work done when they know that I’m not watching their every move.

4. How do you expect the IT landscape to change over the next 5 years, and how do you expect this to affect your role?

I think it’s really all about the various applications that we build and maintain, and the evolution in how we build and maintain them. All of the change we’re going through is really focused on those two things. In five years, I would expect a lot more of the world to operate in a Kubernetes type model – build pools, assign units of work, execute in the pools, and store data where a policy engine dictates.

Those that can help organizations with this process will prosper, which is one of my main focuses at Rubrik – both in term of our software, but also how I approach engaging with other IT professionals. Embracing the concepts required to build and maintain the next generation of applications – such as building automation tasks using an API and planting those into an orchestration engine – are the future. How much of this future applies to any one individual is variable, but the overall model makes a lot of sense and is the only real way to construct applications for the needs of 2020 and beyond.

5. What’s the costliest mistake you’ve made in your career?

I once pushed a script into production that accidentally wiped the system32 directory from any Active Directory attached computer object that pulled down a gpupdate. Even though I caught the mistake quickly, it required my team and me to stream new OS images to over 100 PCs over the course of a day. It may not have been the most expensive from a dollars perspective, but it taught me the lesson of testing and not being too avant-garde with automation. It took me a while to bounce back from this mistake and feel confident in my abilities as a systems administrator.

6. What have been the successes and failures of your blog site so far?

I’ve never really thought of my blog in those terms. Based on the comments, I think people are able to read the content and learn a thing or two, which is the fuel that keeps me going. I certainly have looked things up on my blog on more than one occasion. Beyond that, it continues to be a place where I can explore my own thoughts and keep from forgetting the things that I’ve learned. I’m happy that the virtualization community has been kind enough to vote for the site in a handful of ranking systems – such as Eric Siebert’s Top vBlog survey – but am not particularly motivated on a day-by-day basis for such things.

My worst failure is anytime I get something wrong on the site. It makes me feel nauseous thinking that I misinformed anyone. Fortunately, most readers are quite lovely people who offer constructive feedback and I try to fix any mistakes promptly.

7. What tips can you provide to anyone blogging or thinking about starting?

Some ideas off the top off my head:

  • Don’t worry about creating content about a topic that others have written about.
  • Offer your opinions – the why of something is almost always more interesting than the what of something.
  • Be honest about why you are writing something.
  • Be nice.
  • If you can’t think of a topic, visit Reddit / VMTN forum / Slack / Twitter and see what sorts of questions are being asked. I used the VMTN forums for years to answer questions in long-form on the blog. People seemed to like that.
8. Any tips for people getting started in IT, or looking for a focus/direction?

Technology is a vast and multi-faceted environment. Try to find something that resonates with you personally. I started as a developer writing COBOL and hated it (although the COBOL probably had more to do with it than anything else). I switched majors and became a network engineer because it was so much fun to me! Now, I’m enjoying a little bit of both worlds. There’s also a bazillion free learning sites, and some really inexpensive non-free learning sites (Pluralsight), which really kill off any excuses to get started in just about any area of technology.

9. Powershell is definitely a skill that future engineers need to know, what were you’re first steps into coding?

Hah. Well, I’d certainly like to think that PowerShell is a definite skill to learn, but I think it’s one of many great frameworks out there to choose from. But, if you do decide to go down the PowerShell route, I’d say that starting backwards helps. My first bits of code in PowerShell were to solve existing problems, such as building Active Directory accounts or starting a Windows service. It’s hard to learn a language without a focus. Start with those little tasks and use them to build your knowledge of the syntax and commands. From there, the rest of the journey is all about structure, formatting, and efficient ways to create code.

I didn’t have many resources to pull from when I first started to learn PowerShell, but now days there are a plethora of books and online courses to view. My advice to my younger self would be to learn more about the structure of writing good code as early as possible – such as building functions and modules with comments, limiting a function to a single set of inputs and outputs, and keeping the logic statements to a minimum for code re-use.

10. The majority of the traditional infrastructure stack can be configured and managed through the likes of PowerShell these days, but what caveats should people be looking for, or aware of?

The major one is the expectation of stability. Try to write your code as if nothing can be taken for granted. Especially not the inputs given to you from others (people or systems). Sanitize everything, test everything, and make sure that what parameters you are requesting are always the ones you expect. If you limit the hazards available from user error, it makes life easier for everyone.

Also, never hard code anything in your scripts or functions. I tend to abstract those into parameters or some sort of external configuration file. This keeps you from having to edit the code for when your infrastructure changes or the environmental configuration changes. This was a lesson I learned over time, and I still wince when I see some of my old functions from the past 8 years.

11. What’s next for Chris Wahl in 2017, what personal and work goals have you set yourself?

My main goals at work are to grow my team by several more people, scale-out the work that is being done to cover the massive global demand, and branch out to new communities across events covering cloud providers, technology stacks, and developer groups.

I plan to attend Microsoft Ignite; DevOps Enterprise Summit; and AWS re:Invent for the first time ever. while still attending as many of the VMware events (VMUG UserCons and VMworld) as I can. However, I also want to send my team to cover a lot of these events to build their brands and relationships in those communities.

My personal goals remain fairly simple – spend as much time with friends and family as possible, cross off more Bourbons and Scotches from my “try it” list, and continue to keep personal fitness as a top priority. The groovy thing about Austin is that it aligns nicely with all three of these goals, and allows me to attend a lot of snazzy tech events – such as OpenStack Summit and Tech Field Days – while also getting to check out SXSW and ACL for some great music.

Chris is a keen blogger, and is how we connected online and in person. Having followed Chris’ blog for a long time as our areas of interest were very similar, networking and virtualisation. A few years ago I attended the UK VMUG, and managed to meet Chris in person, I found him to be just as likeable and helpful in person as he is online via twitter. This is seen further in his interview responses, who else would admit to accidentally wiping the system32 folder of their companies machines.

Chris has found his place working for the vendor Rubrik. Focusing his efforts on the IT community and automation has his subject matter, I think it speaks volumes that Rubrik took Chris on; who are in the world of backups, and Chris a highly experienced engineer in various areas.

He might not have been the obvious choice to go and work for a company in the backup industry. But when you dig below the surface, when you are an agile company ripping up the rule book, Chris is certainly one of the experts you want on your team. 
Regards
Dean


HPE Stealthily Buys Nimble Storage – Someone was bound to do it

Today heralds a shock to the IT industry, even though many kept asking “when will someone snap up Nimble Storage”, I think we can say that HPE was not the company we expected to do it, especially after the purchase of Simplivity just a month and half ago.

Nimble Storage and HPE today announced the sale, via the following posts;

Below is a HPE slide shared by Nick Dyer highlighting the main points why HPE took the plunge and opened the wallets for Nimble Storage.

Looking back

The storage industry for the big players has been pretty static until the likes of Nimble Storage, Tintri, and Tegile hit out with innovative ways of addressing todays storage needs. Its well documented that one of the biggest losers was NetApp, unable to adapt, and finding unhappy customers turning to other vendors in the market.

Nimble Storage quickly found their way to the top of the pile, amongst the new wave of storage startups, leaving their new age competitors to suffer.

It’s not all been plain sailing

Nimble Storage hit a slight stall in their market share take over, they have great success with their adaptive platform, but as flash disks became cost-effective for day-to-day production use, Nimble were slow to react in getting an “All Flash Array” to the market, leaving other vendors such as Pure Storage to forge their niche in the market. Managing to (eventually) bounce back with a solid offering in the all flash market, Nimble have now cornered themselves as the solid competition against the big players in the market, e.g. Dell/EMC, HPE, NetApp.

Innovation is hard to do

I asked Joe Baugley in a interview recently what changes we should expect with the bigger vendors in the IT industry;

"The challenge comes when some organisations are too big and institutionalized to know what it is they do any more and what they should be doing."

HP is facing strong competition in almost all areas of the IT markets it competes in, and the successful churning beast has realised its time to reinvent or get left behind, reminiscing somewhat in the wake of the decline and rebirth of Microsoft. Splitting the company into two separate parts, HP and HPE, has possibly been the saviour of HP. It allows the company to concentrate on the deadwood in strategic sections, and trim down any bulk that’s been left unchecked over the years.

This doesn’t fix one of the immediate issues however, when you are a huge company, how do you innovate? The answer we generally see is “you don’t, you just buy someone who is”.

It can be argued that 3PAR has been a success for HPE (as part of an acquisition), however it faces strong competition in the storage market, and is by no way the golden goose in the coop.

Meg Whitman alluded the fact that acquisitions for HPE will be on the way, as the company becomes more “nimbler” in its ability to act, and address the markets it competes in.

Nimble Storage is more than just storage

For most people, this purchase is a no brainer. Nimble Storage are disruptive, and for all the right reasons. It was only a matter of time before someone made them an offer they could not refuse, was HPE the expected contender? Not in most people’s books. It’s a great move for HPE, although the dust has yet to settle, it’s already being touted that Nimble Storage plugs the gap between the HP MSA and 3PAR portfolio. For me, it’s a daft comparison, I think it offers something more than just a plug to a portfolio gap.

Nimble Storage offer an innovate way of decoupling performance from the disks, so you can easily scale performance or capacity as needed. Fix the adage, if you need performance, add more disks. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

For many customers and prospective customers, its Infosight that’s the jewel in the crown. Built from the ground up, the cloud analytics platform offers a unique selling point no other vendor can match.

This is selling point for Nimble, no longer do they go to a customer and spend their time in a contest as to who has the better specs when coming up against vendor X. Instead they take customers on a journey, selling the benefits of more than just fast storage, showing customers how to understand their environment and get the best from it, ensuring that the next 5 years plus are catered for in a purchase made today.

They offer a unique vision for a customer, especially those who have suffered resource sprawl in their environments, unable to get an insight into their platforms without a major cost to the business. Nimble Storage offers a gateway to allowing customers to capture this information, all included with the purchase of a storage array, focusing on only one of the benefits of Nimble Storage versus the competition.

And this is without mentioning the recently announced Nimble Cloud Volumes, and alternative way to get your data into the cloud, but providing better availability guarantees than AWS or Azure. Ironically announced just before the AWS outage.

What’s next? Unanswered questions

Today’s announcement leaves many questions, which will no doubt be answered as the dust settles;

  • What happens with the Cisco partnership
  • What happens with the Lenovo partnership
  • Have HPE bought Nimble for the innovation, or to remove them as competition to 3PAR
  • What will a rebranded Nimble look like?
  • Is Nimble Cloud Volumes a viable way for HPE to enter back into the cloud market?
  • What does this mean for Tintri and Tegile?

It’s safe to say at the moment its business as usual, whether you are a prospective customer, or an existing customer. Today’s announcement should give you confidence in Nimble Storage as a product, earmarking them as the leader of the next generation storage devices. If you are a Tintri or Tegile customer, you may well be asking yourself if you have invested in the wrong product.

HPE, in my books, can only looking to expand on Nimble’s success, utilizing the Infosight model further, and starting to approach all hardware integrations the same. If HPE can pull this off, it means their portfolio will complement one another better. Imagine having the Infosight like data and analytics for your HP Blade Chassis? Nimble were almost at that point working with Lenovo to achieve something similar, whereby they would have a full stack solution monitoring. But we will probably see this now with HPE products instead.

I sign off by hoping that this purchase is positive for all the employees of Nimble Storage, they are a great set of guys and girls there, and truly one of the better vendors I’ve worked with. So now we sit and wait to see how HPE can push Nimble Storage’s success further.
Regards
Dean


Interview – Dave Kawula – MVP, Consultant, Author

2017 is kicking off with my third interview blog post, this time focusing on Dave Kawula, MVP and author focusing on Microsoft Technologies. Let’s kick off straight into the interview itself, Dave likes to type! Longest interview yet, but its a great read.

(Dave is the one on the left, little known fact, but there is more pictures of Dave and Clint Wyckoff together on twitter than Dave and his wife 🙂 )

The interview is split into three area’s of discussion;

  • Life and Worklife
  • Thoughts on the industry
  • Thoughts for those working in IT, and those wanting to work in IT
Lets kick off with a brief introduction of yourself

I’m a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) with over 20 years of experience in the IT industry. My background includes data communications networks within multi-server environments, led architecture teams for virtualization, System Center, Exchange, Active Directory, and Internet gateways. Very active within the Microsoft technical and consulting teams, providing deep-dive technical knowledge and subject matter expertise on various System Center and operating system topics. Continue reading Interview – Dave Kawula – MVP, Consultant, Author

Interview – Matt Crape – Community Blogger & IT Manager

In the second interview, Matt Crape of 42u.ca a blog around everything IT, is the person answering the questions. I’d personally been following Matt after his website went live and had the fortune of spending some time with him in London as part of the Veeam Vanguard program.

(Matt is the guy on the right, seen here undertaking a vBrownbag Meet the Expert chat)

So Matt, you’ve made a big impact on the community in a short time, congrats, but tell us a bit about yourself?
Thanks for that compliment 🙂 I’m an IT Manager by day at an SMB in the Kitchener-Waterloo region, in Canada. I do all the typical managerial stuff like budgets, handling vendor contracts, personnel, etc. But, I also try to stay somewhat technical. I still find myself routinely tinkering around in vSphere, maybe some networking, or just looking at things from a higher level (e.g. reviewing backup and disaster recovery plans).
Outside of my day job, I’m also a first-time vExpert for 2016, a Veeam Vanguard, and I run my own local Veeam User Group. I’m somewhat active on Twitter (@MattThatITGuy), and when 140 characters aren’t enough, you can find a selection of my ramblings at 42u.ca.
What is the biggest challenge you have in your job day to day at the moment?

Continue reading Interview – Matt Crape – Community Blogger & IT Manager

Interview – Joe Baguley, VMware EMEA CTO

A while ago, I had the brilliant idea to interview people and peer from the IT industry, from different area’s, such as end users/customers, resellers, and vendors. So to kick this off, I started by asking around those who I know in the community.

First up is Joe Baguley of VMware, to many he needs no introduction, after countless keynote speeches at various conferences, and a stalwart in the IT community.

Below I stumbled on a picture of Joe pre-beard, chickens and cats from 2009.

So a lot of people will know you from events, and the keynote speeches you give (Chickens and cats), but outside of that, can you give us an insight into the other things you work in?

Customers and strategy.  I essentially manage and maintain communication between our field folks and R&D. Whether that is meeting with CIOs and their teams at our customers myself, or working with the CTO Ambassadors here at VMware who help me scale that role, mostly I spend my time keeping on top of what is and isn’t working, what our customers and the market are doing and planning to do and making sure we are all doing the right things.  I spend time with our R&D leaders and our Sales & Technical leaders to keep things together.  Both sides look to me for opinion and thoughts on what is going on, and the best way to approach things.

If we look at the big vendors in IT, Dell are merging with EMC, HP split into two distinct companies and offloaded their professional services arm, IBM offloaded their hardware to Lenovo.  What things should we expect on the horizon for big changes with the big companies? Continue reading Interview – Joe Baguley, VMware EMEA CTO