Brents IT Blog

Random thoughts by an IT GOAT


VMWorld 2013

Wow, what a show.  Going to California wasn't as bad as i thought it was going to be either.  Quite a city there, though i must admit i kept thinking an earthquake would happen any minute since i was in town, luckily that was not the case!

So lets start with the setup, not my favorite setup:  Vendors in one building, general sessions in another and break-outs in another.  Lots of walking, though perhaps that aided in my ability to stay awake during the deep dive discussions.  It was nice to hear most vmware presenters agree that they botched 5.1 and that they were going to fix it in 5.5( which is supposedly "weeks" away from being released ).  The general sessions were more like media productions and i am not entirely sure they were aimed at the attendees.  The vendor giveaways were modest with a few extravagant surprises(unlike HIMSS where everyone is outdoing the next guy ), though i found the presentations to be more to the point this time.  If you havent heard about VMWare Flings, look it up, very interesting competition and tool set.  Break-out sessions seemed to be what the topic title was and perfectly detailed for the attendee(congrats to the editors there).  Finally, the VMWare party was just amazingly done and not over the top for the size of the crowd( i pity those who skipped it as i almost did ).

So there are really only two things i wanted to cover in this blog post:  One being the break-out sessions i attended and the second being the vendor encounters i had, then my final observations.

VMWorld break-out sessions this year were spot on.  The title of everything i attended was either dead on or very close to what the topic was to cover.  Virtualizing databases ( SQL, Oracle, MySQL, etc ) was covered in three different talks i attended.  One talk put on by VMWare and Ntirety covered some very in depth performance considerations that are required when moving from a physical environment to a virtual environment.  How not to over provision, ensure the settings under the hood are correct and how to track that performance to ensure you have fully tweaked the beast.  They used every bit of the hour given and not only provided useful insight into how the settings should look and act but also pointed to local free resources all over the world that attendees could engage if problems arise or they wanted to take a deeper dive.  One of the places they mentioned was PASS, while i am not a member of OPASS here in Orlando, i attend their SQL Saturdays on a yearly basis and I also encourage my staff to do the same as well as write about it in blog posts.  If you touch a SQL server in any way, you should attend one of their events, heck here in FL, they have them all over the place, so you have many opportunities to engage this wonderful resource.  

Being in healthcare it was nice to hear from several large providers that they were behind the times and that even the government institutions were fighting among themselves to innovate.  BYOD and wireless seem to be one of the biggest struggles out there, luckily not for us anymore.  Getting everything virtualized is another hurdle, this includes VDI for good reason, theft of data and uniformity.  I also see struggles in the DR area, which i can attest to especially in the healthcare industry with its severe(understandably so) regulation of patient data.  Hearing the success stories of those who have implemented VDI and single sign on as well as direct application access for specific purposes is especially thought provoking.  While we are not there financially yet, the more people use it, the easier the deployment going forward.  I also didnt know the government had a mandate to become IPv6 compliant by 2015.  They sure know how to spend money and i cant imagine who was behind that legislation....  probably starts with a C.  I think the biggest thing to come out others i talked with and stories i heard was the pushback on vendors who will not certify things being virtualized.  If i took one thing away, it was that those who dont get behind this ball are going to be out of business in 5 years.  Yes, thats a bold prediction but the days where the software vendor got what they demanded are over.  Too many things are against them:  Security, portability, reliability, and usability are no longer wants but needs in this 24/7 world.

I also attended a few MS Exchange and critical applications sessions that really drove the point i made above home.  It was nice to see how others are finally realizing that these applications are the life blood of companies and information exchange.  People see email, SMS, VoIP as every day appliances that should just work and work well.  As VMWare itself says, IT is no longer about hardware and software, its about resource availability and those who dont have it, will be the losers.  While that is scary to hear for the old timers, its the truth, IT is moving toward( if not already there for many companies) commodity and away from its past roles.  Lets face it, no company wants a single department ruling the roost but the executive department(and/or board), virtualization is giving them this realization.  This is not to say that IT folks are no longer important and dont need to get paid their value, it just means that they need to innovate and prove their worth more so than ever.

So speaking of proving my worth.  My main mission going to these conferences is to find new innovations that are not emailed to me in the daily pile of spam sitting in my junk email or left as a voicemail from a sales guy selling the latest 5 year old ideas.  While i dont like engaging with all the vendors as its a huge time eater, i must carefully weed out the ones that are not innovating and listen to those who are.  Of course this doesnt mean all new technology is innovative, sales guys are great at putting lipstick on a pig then selling it to the hoards.  Weeding out the crap is what i do and must do well.  So to that point, i think i found what i think is the next big thing.  Data Centers in a box.  Yeap, you plug it in, fire it up and start creating(or transferring) virtual machines.  You then add another one to increase capacity and reliability.  Then you put one in a remote site for a DR or use the existing cloud as an encrypted backup repository.  No more buying a SAN, then finding servers, then plugging it all in and connecting everything, just supply power, network connections and a rack.  Dont get me wrong, you do have to know what you are doing with the technology, but creating a data center in hours rather than days any where in the world is quite a powerful thing.  Done right you could bring nodes online all around the world with just a days notice, maybe even hours if scripted properly.  I normally dont give shouts out to vendors but in this case, i have to hand it to Simplivity on this one.  Yes, there are other vendors out there doing data centers in a box, but theirs takes the cake!

So with my recent struggles with Nimble and the realization that my company needs more flexibility than i have already given them, these new alternatives are just enlightening and they certainly give credence to my theories about IT above.  To Nimbles credit, they did address my concerns at the show and said the iSCSI connections issue would be resolved by the end of year.  I sincerely hope that my faith in their technology is renewed as they have a solid foundation to work with.  The bottom line here is there is a convergence of technologies(SAN, DR, Backup, hosts, reporting, usability), no longer do companies want ala-cart, they want it done, done right and working.. yesterday.

There you have it, the show from my perspective.  Now i wonder how they will top this years party next year...