2017 – My Year In Review

Wow, a lot has happened in my life in 2017. A. LOT. I don’t even know where to start. I’m going to share my experiences with you all and hopefully inspire you all to do bigger and better things for yourselves in 2018. The easiest way to do this is going to be chronologically so I’ll do my best to keep these in order. It was definitely a year of firsts and new beginnings for me.

#1 (and most important) – Family

Last December I guess technically it was 2016 but since it was late December, I’m counting it. (My Blog, my skewed timeline. Ha!)

My wife Cara and I were fortunate enough to have another beautiful, healthy boy, Rocco Xavier Scuola. We just recently celebrated his 1st birthday. I don’t think the impact of this needs an explanation but I will say that definitely helped put things in perspective for me. My family is the biggest reason I do what I do and strive for success. They are the greatest motivation anyone can ever ask for. The support that they have given me over the years is unmatched and I wouldn’t be where I am today without their support.

#2 – vExpert Award

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The year started off with a bang. I was award the title of vExpert by VMware for the first time. It is truly an honor to be on this list. It’s still surreal to me that I made the cut. I’ve already written a post about what it meant to me that you can find here.

#3 – NYC VMUG

Coming off being named a vExpert, things got even more exciting. My good friend Ariel Sanchez Mora and his lovely wife Amy decided to leave NYC for Pittsburgh. I was (and still am) sad to see them go. I wasn’t the only one though. Ariel was a co-leader of the NYC VMUG and left a HUGE void with his departure. The remaining co-leaders thought that I would be a good fit and asked it I would help out. I immediately accepted their gracious offer and I’m really happy that I did. We’ve done some amazing things in 2017 and 2018 is looking just as great. More on that coming up later.

#4 – Zerto

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The hits just kept on coming after that. After years of being on the customer/partner side of IT, I decided to make the jump to the vendor side of things. Boy, am I happy that I did. I tell everyone that will listen that I should have gone into pre-sales years ago. Zerto has such an amazing culture and only hire top notch people. I’ve been using the product for over 3 years as a customer so it was an easy transition to an engineer role for me as I can speak from experience. Here is more about the move.

#5 – vExpert NSX Award

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August was a big month for me as well. I was included in one of the vExpert sub-programs for NSX. I’ve been a fan of NSX for a long time. It’s nice to see that my contributions to the NSX community were recognized. It’s a great fit for nearly any VMware environment and works even better when the customer is using Zerto too. 🙂

#6 – vExpert

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So I know what you’re thinking, I already talked about this. This time, I’m not talking about me though. This one is even more special because I was able to take someone under my wing and coach them on what they needed to become a vExpert. Best of all, THEY MADE IT! I was so proud. I still am. I literally did none of the work, I just aimed my friend in the right direction and answered the questions that came up during the process. This touches on something that has been discussed on Twitter a lot recently. Mentoring. It’s such an important part of all of our careers. If it’s not currently a part of yours, you should change that. It’s not just about being mentored by someone else, it’s about what you can do to give back. I’ll touch on this again in a few.

#7 – VMworld/VMUG Extra Mile Award

Going with the theme of firsts, 2017 was the first of hopefully many times that I was fortunate enough to attend VMworld in person. What made it even more special was the fact that the NYC VMUG was awarded the Extra Mile Award. We started doing Whiteboard Meetings in NYC with our members where we would dive deep into current technologies, projects we’re working on, home labs, etc. We presented the concept on a VMUG Leader Call and they thought that it warranted recognition. I was so proud to be there to accept in person.

VMworld itself was a blast as well. I learned a lot about what’s new and what’s coming next, I got to see a lot of my old friends that I haven’t seen for a bit and best of all, I was able to see my Twitter timeline come to life. Seeing people that I talk to on social media in real life was the best. I got to meet some people that I’ve only chatted with online, make some new friends and finally put some faces to names. There were also some awesome parties. I attended the Zerto party, the vExpert party and of course the closing party with Blink 182 which was nuts. I also got to take part in my first vBrownBag video. Overall, VMworld was an experience that I’ll never forget

#8 – vBrownBag

During my first NY/NJ VMUG UserCon as a co-leader, I was fortunate enough to do a lightning talk on the #vCommunity as the importance of it as a whole and also to me individually. I expanded on the talk in a blog post here (it will be part of a series) and the link to the video can be found here. I think vBrownBag is really important as it’s technology by the community for the community. The content is always fresh, current and focused on things that matter. I’m currently going through their API series to try and learn some automagic, errr, automation. 🙂

#9 – vExpert Cloud Award

My contributions to the community continued as the year went on. I was honored for a 3rd time to be named an inaugural member or the vExpert Cloud sub-program. I never would have guessed in the beginning of the year that I would end it as a triple vExpert.

#10 – #vCommunity/The Level Up Project 

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I’m sure that you’ve seen a trend here. The majority of what I’ve talked about has been around the #vCommunity. I personally would not be where I am today if not for the help of others. I always try to do the same for others where possible. Whether, it’s sharing technical knowledge, giving career advice, or even trying to help friends find new jobs, I’ll do my best to provide assistance where I can.

That’s why I was drawn to the Level Up Project. It’s everything that I love about VMUG and the #vCommunity but it’s not just limited to VMware. Take a look at the website/Twitter and you’ll find the vTrail Map. This was an awesome resource I found at VMworld. It’s only going to get bigger and better next year. The people that are involved are really some of the top talent in the industry and I’m still wondering why they keep letting me hang around them. 🙂 Hopefully they never catch on.

2017 has been a phenomenal year for me and it’s going to be tough to top it but I’ll do my best. My focus for 2018 is going to be spreading the knowledge and helping to mentor anyone who’s looking for help. I won’t limit it to just technology as there are a lot of people out there that are much smarter than me. I can share career experiences in both large and small companies, as well as what being in sales is like now. If you’re looking to get more involved in the community, I know just the guys and gals that you should talk to. If I can help you, I will. That’s my promise to you.

I’d also like to say thank you to everyone who has helped me get where I am today and supports me everyday.

First off, my wife Cara. She’s the real MVP. None of this is possible without her love and support.

The NYC VMUG crew, you guys are the best. Not just the leaders but our regular whiteboard crew too. Ariel, Niran, Prabhu, Azarya, Anton, thanks for setting the bar so high and making me want to get better every day.

To my team at Zerto, thanks for showing me the ropes and making this an unbelievable experience so far.

To everyone in the #vCommunity, just keep being awesome as you inspire me to do better every day.

Happy New Year everyone! I’m really looking forward to what 2018 is going to bring us.

Nick

P.S. Bea Arthur was a Marine. 🙂

The Importance of the #vCommunity – Part 1

Back in September I did my first solo vBrownBag talk at the NY/NJ VMUG UserCon on the importance of the #vCommunity. Since that day I’ve wanted to translate and expand that discussion into a blog post. It was a lightning talk so I know that I missed a few things. The link to the video can be found here. I’ve been a bit busy with two little guys at home so this post has been a bit delayed but I’ve found new inspiration after reading a post from the great Rebecca Fitzhugh. Rebecca wrote about the #vCommunity as well, I’m not going to spoil it for you, you can read it for yourself (Hoping I make the cut next year!). So…..show of hands, who knows what the #vCommunity is?

Oh right. Blog post. Not a presentation. 🙂

So from my perspective, the #vCommunity is a collection of resources around the virtualization community. The most important of these resources is people. Community starts with people that are looking to share their experiences with others. I always say, why go it alone when you can roll with your buddies?

People aren’t just limited to the women and men that you have conversations with at a VMUG (More on VMUG later). People can be found in many different places, whether it’s online on a community forum such as VMTN, Reddit or Experts Exchange or on social media like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, there’s also Slack and the many groups there as well. People are eveywhere and they want to learn, teach and colloborate.

My personal favorite venue though is VMUG. I love the social interaction that I get going to these events. They usually involve discussions around technology that I am passionate about with a bunch of like minded individuals who speak the language. Now granted, I may be a little biased since I am a co-leader of the NYC VMUG. VMUG is a volunteer driven organization so the people that are organizing the meetings are doing it in their spare time because they want to be there. I’m actually going to elaborate on VMUG specifically in a later post.

Another great resource out there are blogs. You can learn everything you could ever want to know by using a friendly neighborhood search engine. Trying to deploy new software? Studying for a new certification? Can’t decide what gear to buy for your home lab? Someone has written about it, if not, you could. The thing that I love about blogs is that they are usually written by a person not a company. I love getting a perspective from people like me. Here are some of the resources that I use. I know that I’m forgetting some but it is not intentional, there are just too many good ones to list.

VMware Blogs Page, VirtuallyGhetto, Wahl Network, Ariel Sanchez’s Blog, TechnicloudVirtuallySoberVirtualHobbitPunching Clouds, Yellow Bricks

Blogs are great but they are mostly static. What if you’d like to have a conversation with someone? That’s where social media and online forums come into play. There are a ton of these as well. There’s old faithful: Twitter. There is also the VMware Technology Network (VMTN) which has a ton of resources for you to indulge on. Reddit is awesome as well, and there are also a ton of resources on LinkedIn. All of these sites and resources are great to reach out and talk to people that you can get direct, accurate answers from. I’m not talking about just the average admin either. Just take a look at #vExpert on Twitter. There are a ton of great blog posts as well as awesome conversations about current relevant topics.

There are some other great resources where you can not only learn a lot but talk to people just like you. Seek and ye shall find.

Forums – Reddit, GitHub, VMTN, VMUG communities, LinkedIn, Slack, etc.

Social Media – Twitter, Facebook, Slack

Podcasts – Datanauts, VirtuallySpeaking, vBrownBag, The Geek Whisperers, The Full Stack Journey

This is just the beginning of the journey. Being a parent, I hear the phrase, “It takes a village…” quite often. It’s true when it comes to raising kids but it can be applied to life and work as well. I spent six years of my life in the Marine Corps and it really was an amazing experience. The sense of community was so strong that you wind up embracing those around you as family. I find a lot of parallels between the Marine Corps and the #vCommunity. Everyone who takes part is there to lift one another up. When one of us dives into something, the rest of us give our support. Or when one of us is down because of a layoff, or a failed cert or whatever the case may be, we are all there to lift them up and make sure that they are not down for long. It’s a lot easier to succeed when you’re not trying to do everything by yourself.

I’m going to do my best to provide you with additional resources as well as my own personal experiences with the #vCommunity. In part 2 of this series I’m going to dive into the benefits of the #vCommunity and how it can help you in your career, the quest for knowledge or just meeting new, awesome people.

VMUG Whiteboard Meetings #VMUGWB

Recently, I was afforded the opportunity along with Mike Martino (@wildcard78), and Ariel Sanchez (@arielsanchezmor) to present on the latest VMUG Leader call. We were speaking about a topic near and dear to our hearts, that being Whiteboard Meetings. This is something that we started at the NYC VMUG with tremendous support from Niran Even-Chen (@NiranEC) and Prabhu Barathi (@prabhu_b) from VMware as well as Azarya Shaulov (@az_ny) from Touro College. Azarya was gracious enough to provide us with the space free of charge.

I’m sure that your next question must be, “What the heck is a Whiteboard Meeting?”. Well, I’m glad you asked.

This meeting is designed to be:

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  • An informal and intimate technical meeting of NYC VMUG members with an emphasis on the QUALITY of the content.
  • A place where we could get together and share ideas about technology, projects, issues and learn from one another on the best way to move forward.
  • An opportunity to get in front of a room and work on your presentation skills. Not everyone is comfortable with public speaking and this gives our members a judgement-free forum to do so. We’re here to encourage one another
  • A safe zone free of sponsors or being bombarded by sales guys (We love you sales guys, we just need a little space). We welcome anyone to these meetings no matter where you come from as long as you are there to share ideas in a positive manner.
  • Most importantly, it’s not about free food or giveaways or anything like that, it’s about geeks being geeks and embracing the vCommunity.

So, how did it start? To quote Ariel, “At a bar, of course!

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We were having a typical discussion about the VMUG Meeting we just had. You know what I’m talking about. After the meeting ends, there is that group of people that just can’t get enough and are super excited to talk to people who speak their language. They were just so blown away by the topic that they never want the discussion to end. Our conversation then morphed into how great the discussion we were having was. We said, “You know what? We should have more meetings like THIS!” In a nutshell, that’s how this idea began.

What’s next?

What do you need to get started with your own Whiteboard meetings?

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  • A (few) Whiteboard(s) and dry erase markers. Duh.
  • A space that can hold 12 to 15 people. We try to keep these meetings a little smaller so that everyone has the ability to participate. If you can use a classroom-type space, even better.
  • Local product experts who would like join is usually very valuable for members who are looking for answers and insight. Having local VCDXs, VCAP, VMUG Leaders, vExperts, etc. participate is very helpful.
  • Someone to break the ice (a VMUG Leader, typically) and some relevant topics to discuss. (Current Technologies, New Product Releases, Home Labs, Automation examples, etc.)
  • If there is money available in your budget, try to order some take out for the group. A couple of pizzas is usually sufficient.

 

What advice can I give you?

  • Invite people that you think would appreciate it. This doesn’t have to be limited to virtualization admins. Bring co-workers. I’ve personally brought one of my network architects out and now he’s more involved with virtualization than ever before.
  • Be outgoing. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Remember, this is a judgement free zone where we are all trying to improve.
  • Do not limit conversation to just VMware, these meetings are about technology in general. VMware is usually the focus but related technologies are often discussed. We’ve spoken about networking, Public Cloud, AD, Email, Backups & Replication, you name it, it’s probably come up in some form or fashion.
  • Try to capture the session to a blog post with pictures to help promote the individuals presenting on social media and future vExpert applications. That usually helps bring more people to future meetings. We post under the hashtag #VMUGWB.
  • Try to have breakout Whiteboard Meeting at UserCons, or sponsor-driven VMUG Meetings
  • Have topic focused Whiteboard Meetings. Have a meeting around NSX, vSAN, VMware Cloud on AWS, you can even poll your members for topics that they’d like to talk about. Try to get your local VMware SEs to attend as well. You may even be able to catch a traveling SME if they are in town.
  • If you have the ability to do a video conference or a WebEx of some sort, go for it. I’ve actually taken advantage of this myself after the birth of one of my kids.

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  • Try to really have an understanding of what people are looking to learn and why they are there. Make it as collaborative as possible. Try to bring in an expert on a particular subject if you keep hearing about it.
  • Keep the conversation going after the meeting ends. Go grab a beer and a bite afterward. Sometimes the shy ones that don’t get up and present will open up a bit more after a few cold ones.

With that said, I hope you try this out in your area. It tends to have a really positive impact on those who attend.

Here’s some feedback that we received from one of our attendees:

“The whiteboard sessions hosting by NYCVMUG community have been an excellent forum for engineering and architecture discussions.  Unlike larger conferences, the whiteboard sessions are small and each participant has an opportunity to present something – anything – to the room.

For myself, the WB sessions have been a great opportunity to accelerate VMware training, an opportunity to work through complex problems regarding production issues, lab infrastructures and vetting/sounding out future plans. 

Another big aspect for me personally is the ability to practice presenting in of itself.  Being small & unrelated to employers or vendors in combination with great community members, the sessions have help increase my overall confidence when standing before peers & colleagues.

Overall the WB sessions are a great experience. I look forward to attending more and seeing the concept grow beyond NYC.”

-Brendan Peterson (@petes_revenge)

I’m looking forward to hearing about Whiteboard Meetings all over the world. Hopefully, this catches fire and the vCommunity continues to grow.

If you have questions, we’re here to help. Feel free to reach out to any of us if you want more info. Our contact info is listed below. We can be reached through the vExpert Slack as well.

If you think that this could be helpful, let your local VMUG leaders know! We always announce these

A special thanks to Mike, Ariel, Niran, Prabhu, Azarya, Brendan and the whole NYC VMUG Whiteboard crew for building an awesome vCommunity and helping to make this such a success.

Storage Is Virtually Pure Now

Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece meant to help all of the VMware Admins out there based on my own experiences. I’ve seen a lot of user reviews and figured what the heck? I should tell my story and as you’ll be able to tell, I’m not a writer 🙂
I’ve been a “VMware Guy” for a little bit now. It’s been about 10 years since I first started playing around with GSX Server (not a typo). I immediately knew that this thing was a game changer. It was a very rare feeling that I did not feel again for a long, long time. More on that later.
I’ve seen a lot of different environments in my time as an in-house admin and field engineer. I’ve seen a lot of things done right and just as many things done wrong. The goal in life of most IT guys (and gals) is to get people off their backs. They may not come out and say it but it’s the truth. The majority of their careers are spent listening to users complain about how the system doesn’t do what they want it to and then having to fix it so it does. VMware Admins face a similar challenge but in most cases they’re listening to other IT guys complain about how their server isn’t fast enough and needs more resources or that they need 15 new dev boxes in the next hour to test an application or that they’d rather have a physical server because VM’s aren’t as good. So the goal of a VMware Admin is to keep things running as smooth as possible without having to constantly mess with the environment. Simple is good.
Like I said earlier, I’m a VMware Guy. I started as a regular IT guy and morphed into what I am now. I do a lot of virtualization, some storage, some networking, some scripting when I need to and some Windows administration. Basically, I’m a modern day infrastructure guy. At this point I think it’s what is becoming the norm. IT guys need to do it all. Or at the very least, understand how it all works together.
In my last few years, I’ve been doing more storage related work. I’ve done Fibre Channel configuration and zoning, LUN creation, and provisioning, you name it, I’ve probably touched it in some way shape or form and to be honest, I’m not a fan. The work itself is fun but it has a limit. The payoff just isn’t there for me. Unfortunately though it’s a necessary evil. I’d rather spend time working with VMware but it won’t mean much without storage behind it. I always wanted my storage to just work but could never find a platform that didn’t require constant babysitting. That is, until I found Pure Storage.
After encountering some performance problems on one of my database clusters, we determined that the problem was the storage array. It was time to find a new way of doing things and the search was on. I’m not going to go into detail about the search itself (unless you want me to, leave comments below), I’m going to tell you about what the results did for me and my environment. Pure Storage’s all-flash array seemed way too good to be true. It was so easy to manage that for once I did not have to concentrate on making my storage work, it just did. Not only did my database cluster perform, it excelled! Obviously, performance should be spectacular with an all-flash array but it was all of the other benefits that really struck me:
Ease Of Use
The first thing that struck me about this product was how simple it was. I used to install products from other vendors and it was usually a FULL day affair. When the Pure engineer came onsite, I was expecting more of the same. What blew me away was the fact that I was ready to kick him out before lunch. When does that happen with any vendor install? It took longer to get the array out of the box than it took to configure it. I grew up using Windows, so I’m familiar with Disk Management. Most Windows guys (and gals) are. Bring the disk online, create a partition, format it and you’re off to the races. This was just as easy. The interface is clean, simple and very intuitive. You don’t have to be a storage admin to use this product. With Pure, once your zoning and SAN stuff is done, you add a Host or Host Group to match your VMware environment, Create a volume, Rescan your storage in VMware, set your path selection policy (one line script) and you’re done.
No Bloat
One of the things that annoys me nowadays is everything comes with bloatware. Whether it’s a toolbar, a Java installer, your new smartphone, or a new PC, there’s always crap you don’t want bundled in. Same holds true with hardware. How many times have you gone through this? Array is en route, and the engineer sends you a checklist or pre-req list that includes the need for 25 IP’s, 3 Management VM’s, 200 GB of space for the VM’s, a specific version of Java. Who wants to deal with that crap? Pure on the other hands had a one page document, no VM requirements, no Java requirement and once again it was nice and simple. Give us your IP info, your time server info and if you want AD authentication, your domain controller info. Everything was scripted out ahead of time and once again the engineer was gone by lunch which means I can spend more time VMware-ing. Is that a word? If not, it should be. #VMware-ing
Storage Overcommittment
I don’t know about you but I’ve seen so many VMware environments where there is Thin Provisioning on the storage array and then there is Thin Provisioning at the vSphere level as well. This equals problems in most cases ranging from performance degradation from Thin Provisioning overhead to having arrays run out of space if capacity isn’t monitored properly. With Pure Storage, this is a moot point. Since they have data reduction inline, VMDK files can now formatted as Thick Eager and storage capacity no longer has to be managed in two places. All of those zeroes that would get written out on a traditional array are now just de-duped metadata. All of the performance benefits of having Thick Eager VMDK’s can now be realized along with simplified management of storage.
Provisioning Times
How many times have you received a request at 4:50 PM on Friday that someone needs a server and they need it by the end of the day? Most VM’s nowadays can be spun up within 15-20 minutes. So usually this isn’t the worst thing in the world but when your next train is an hour later and you need to be out the door by 5 PM on the dot it IS the worst thing in the world. With XCOPY functionality on the Pure Storage cloning from a template with customization usually takes between 9 and 12 seconds in my environment. More importantly, it means that I’m making my train and seeing my kid before bedtime.
Data Reduction
It doesn’t matter how big your environment is, I can guarantee you have duplicate data. If you’re a large virtualized shop, you have tons of dupes. How many times have you cloned a template? How many different copies of Windows system files are stored on your storage? More importantly, how much do those copies cost you? If you have 100 VM’s and there is a 10 GB Windows installation on each server, that’s basically 1 TB (if my math is correct) of data right there. I didn’t mention page files, duplicate apps and other instances of duped data. Basically you’re spending money for wasted capacity. On an array with data reduction like the Pure Storage array, you’d only have one instance of the data and that 1 TB would now become 10 GB. The other benefit or data reduction is being able to cram a lot more data into a smaller space. Hello Green Initiatives. So I can have a smaller footprint in my datacenter, requiring less equipment, power and cooling to host the same workload? Sounds a lot like the benefits of VMware to me.
Multiple Workloads
I may be dating myself but when I was a kid, I remember seeing a brand of shampoo that said “No More Tears” on the bottle. Now I see it a different way. “No More Tiers”. Does anyone enjoy configuring tiered storage? Seriously? Anyone? It’s a lot of work. A LOT OF WORK. At the end of the day, flash is going to smoke it anyway. So why waste the man-hours on configuring something that doesn’t work as well in my humble opinion? I haven’t seen a tiered system that compares in cost, configuration and performance to Pure Storage. It’s not even close. I may be a storage novice but this seems like a no-brainer. Also, now I can forget about having to configure multiple VMware Storage Profiles. The only tier that I have now is ONE. You can keep your database servers on the same storage as your print servers and domain controllers and the array will not blink. Everything becomes Tier 1. It some cases, it’s complete overkill. The simplicity of it all though is such a huge benefit that any additional cost (which is debatable, frankly) is totally worth it. How much do storage admins make? How many of them do you need in a tiered environment with 50 TB’s or more? How much more complicated does your storage and VMware setup become? Is it worth the price?
No Licensing
One of the other huge benefits, is the fact that everything is included. You do not have to license individual components. When a new feature comes out, it’s yours. Snapshots, Replication, VVOLS, it doesn’t matter. When it gets released, you perform an update and BAM! it’s on your array. It’s as easy as updating an app on your phone. Pure even went ahead and did the same with their hardware. “Love My Storage” is unbelievable. If you pay your maintenance, you get new controllers. No more forklifts, no more extortion at the end of your support contract. It simplifies your budget in ways that I have not seen when it comes to storage. You just get a product that works and will continue to work for years to come.
Let me try and sum it all up for you. Pure Storage has a product that is simple, easy to manage and extremely high performing. I left a lot out and I could probably keep going on each of these bullets for days and probably add a few more if I really thought about it. I know the market is changing and a lot of competitors have similar products but based on my own experience, Pure Storage is the best of the breed. If your array is coming up for renewal or you’re having problems with performance or complexity, I’d highly recommend that you give Pure Storage a look.