A couple of weeks ago I got the opportunity, thanks to a conference pass from the IT Blog Awards, to travel out to Barcelona for Cisco Live Europe. This video is my “highlight reel” of the event.
When I’m in sessions at conferences I’m often a prolific note-taker. I find the process itself of writing things down has benefit as well as the resulting pages of scribbles. In this post I’ll discuss a few things that work for me, some of which you may want to try yourself.
Paper or Electronic?
A tricky decision. I do like my paper notebooks, but there are definite advantages in terms of on-the-fly editing, photography, and post-event reference of using an electronic device to take notes. Depending on the event, what I’m carrying, and whether I remembered to recharge my tablet the night before, I will swap between the two quite happily.
When I do take paper notes I try to remember to scan them in afterwards- I use the Microsoft Office Lens tool to get them into OneNote.
When I’m going digital I usually use an Apple iPad Air, Adonit Jot Pro pen, and Microsoft OneNote. I’ve tried a number of different tools here and these work best for me. I’ve found I’m generally too slow at typing to keep up with many presenters, and it’s harder to interleave quick drawings into my notes without the pen device.
If you know in advance what sessions you’re going to be attending (or have a few minutes whilst waiting for the hall to fill up) then it’s good to prepare. On OneNote I often start a new section for the event and a new page for each session I’m attending. The page can be pre-populated with the abstract of the talk copied and pasted from the conference website. This not only helps make sense of what I was scribbling about when I look at it a few months later, but also provides a lot of searchable context on the page.
— Chris Bradshaw (@aldershotchris) January 16, 2020
If you’re using a device with a camera to record notes then taking pictures of any slides can be beneficial to note taking. Most conferences will publish complete slide decks after the event so I don’t worry too much about getting a perfect shot or a complete set, but having key slides included in my notes can be useful.
Sometimes a quick pic of the title slide if it’s up before the session starts can be useful, especially if there’s contact info for the speaker or a link to the slide deck.
At a recent “Microsoft Ignite: The Tour” event most of the presentations included an early slide which covered the structure of the upcoming talk. I took a photo of this and then used these sections to organise my notes during the rest of the session.
If you know the slide deck is going to be available, you can also forgo some of the photos and make a quick note, something like “Great diagram on slide showing this architecture”, and then go back later after the event and look it up.
One small request though- please don’t be one of those people who spends the whole talk waving their phone/ iPad in the air (unless you’re sat on the back row). It can be very distracting for other people in the audience.
A bit of Colour
Whether my notes are on paper or on the screen I like to use different coloured pens and highlighters in my notes. I find it helps make my notes more readable in the aftermath of an event and draws my attention to important points I need to understand or follow up on.
When watching conference sessions, webinars, podcasts, and so on I often get those moments of “ooh, that would be useful in my environment”. These I’ll jot down somewhere on the page and usually highlight or put in a particular coloured box, so I can refer back to them later.
My notes are taken for my own use, but it’s worth considering who your audience is. If you want some great examples of notes designed for public consumption then I’d recommend checking out Barry Coombs’ “Tech Doodles” as something to aspire to.
Hopefully this insight into my note taking has given you some ideas, try them out and remember to do what works for you. Next week (January 2020) I’ll be at Cisco Live Europe, sat in the front row taking notes.
The Wednesday General Session at VMworld Europe is usually where VMware puts the meat onto the bones of the Tuesday announcements and this year was no exception. Here’s a quick rundown of my highlights.
Executive VP Ray O’Farrell kicked off proceedings with a video of a near-future environment where a person is making use of futuristic apps, devices, and transport- a storyline which was then tied in to the new VMware announcements. Following on from the success of Elastic Sky Pizza in 2017, attendees were introduced to the latest (ficticious) company- Tanzu Tees – who must be opening a European branch following their success at VMworld US in August.
The Keynote was divided into four sections to follow this theme- “Build and Run”, “Connect and Protect”, “Manage” and “Experience”. This split the hour into 10-15 minute sections and showed the breadth of todays’ VMware profile.
Less than 7 minutes into the show and we’re already diving into product demos, with Joe Baguely brought in to show an application being built with Spring Initializr to build out a framework for developers, deploying this to a Bitnami catalogue with Project Galleon and make it available in VMware Cloud Marketplace.
The second demo showed off the new Tanzu Mission Control managing Kubernetes clusters across vSphere, AWS, VMware Cloud, Azure, and Google Cloud- all on one screen. A key feature here was the ability to apply policies across all these different platforms from one consistent interface- no need to dive into 3, 4, or 5 different workflows, each with their own GUI, CLI, and API components to deal with.
A demo of Project Pacific followed this. I’ve heard lots of people say how much they appreciated these demonstrations and being able to see what the products actually look like as slide decks can only take you so far.
In this third demo we saw the vSphere Client we all know managing Kubernetes clusters alongside VMs and container pods- all natively within ESX. VMware are already using this technology in house- currently creating and destroying 800,000 containers weekly- a number which is growing.
Moving onto the “Connect and Protect” section Ray was joined onstage by Marcos Hernandez who had more demos. The first of these looked at the NSX Intelligence features- picking up risks, threats, and vulnerabilities which have been surfaced using the new Distributed IDS/IPS technology in NSX and then applying recommended firewall rules to remediate the faults.
Marcos’s second demo looked at how Carbon Black Cloud Workload adds another layer to protecting the application- spotting known vulnerabilities, locations in the infrastructure where encryption wasn’t implemented, The demo included a simulated hack on the Tanzu Tees application and showed how Carbon Black and AppDefense detected the intrusion attempt.
The “Manage” segment brought Purnima Padmanabhan to the stage. Wavefront was the first product up here, collecting metrics from the components of the Tanzu Tees apps and drilling down into individual microservices to diagnose performance problems- in this demo identifying a specific SQL query which was the root cause.
Project Magna was next up in the demonstrations- this uses AI and ML to optimise application performance- in this example by modifying cache size based on the current workload on the storage device.
CloudHealth was used by Tanzu Tees to analyse the usage of the components of the applications and recommend right-sizing of VMs and produce budget alerts to help proactively manage cloud spend.
The final section- “Experience” – was led by Shikha Mittal who continued the demo heavy theme by showing how Horizon Virtual Desktops sites can be created on both AWS and Azure clouds and use on-premises style images alongside the Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktops deployments of Windows 10.
VMware Workspace One was shown managing a variety of end user devices, and connecting to Carbon Black to spot anomalies in usual device behaviour, for example spotting malicious logins and potentially compromised endpoints. Again VMware uses this internally for their 60,000 endpoints across the globe.
The new CTO of VMware, Greg Lavender, closed out the presentations talking through some of the forward-looking activities of his office including using Bitfusion appliances to provide GPU resources across a network thus sharing a pool of GPU resources amongst a CPU-only ESX infrastructure.
In summary this was a session full of product demonstrations- definitely worth a watch or picking out the bits relevant to you. You can now tune into the full keynote (1 hour) on Youtube.
VMworld Europe is happening in Barcelona this week, and today saw the annual Tuesday keynote start the morning off. I’m not amongst the 14,000 attendees from 111 countries at the event this year, so I’m recapping the highlights from the comfort of the sofa thanks to the online broadcast.
As has become normal for this European keynote, Jean-Paul Brulard (Senior VP and GM for VMware EMEA) welcomed the audience and introduced CEO Pat Gelsinger to deliver the core of the session. Pat focused on how digital technology has permeated all areas of our life and looked into the future to see how technologies such as AI and 5G will continue to accelerate this development.
VMware’s vision of Any Device, Any Application, and Any Cloud continues to be refined year on year- and the show looked at how VMware works to help provide consistence to the technologists trying to master the breadth of applications, clouds, and devices in the modern world.
The product features started with Joe Beda being brought onstage to talk Kubernetes. VMware’s new Tanzu portfolio of products is designed to help build, run, and manage Kubernetes in the enterprise and is sold as a product to help both developers and IT. This section included the announcement of the betas of Project Galleon which takes the Bitnami catalogue to the enterprise and Project Pacific which is vSphere rearchitected with Kubernetes at it’s core. VMware’s Tanzu Mission Control product which helps manage Kubernetes deployments on any platform has reached Private Beta.
In the hybrid cloud arena, VMware Cloud Director Service has been introduced to allow the 4000 VMware Cloud Provider Partners (VCPP) to provision the infrastructure from the hyperscale clouds to their customers. This is available on AWS and IBM clouds today and expected in Azure by the end of the year.
The VMware on AWS platform is continuing to be developed- now available in 4 times the number of regions that it was a year ago, and the Outposts product getting closer to being delivered which will open up AWS zones in customer datacentres. When Tanzu ships next year it will be also feature on the VMWonAWS platform.
Microsoft also got a mention, VMware are partnering there to provide the HCX migration tools on Azure, and integrating Workspace One with Microsoft Endpoint Manager. Azure SQL 2019 on VMware vSphere is an interesting concept- providing the public cloud database service but on-premises.
Staying on-prem, the private cloud is covered with VMware Cloud on Dell EMC is now available – this couples VMware Cloud Foundation with Dell’s VXRail hardware to provide Datacentre-as-a-Service.
NSX, the “secret sauce” of previous VMworld keynotes, continues to develop- the acquisition of AVI Networks providing load balance capabilities and software-defined intrusion detection to bring features only seen within the datacentre in special purpose devices or next-gen firewalls right down into the hypervisor and adjacent to the applications.
Sanjay Poonen (COO) interspersed customer chats in amongst the presentation and towards the end took centre stage to discuss VMware’s security stance. Their strategy is to provide proactive security whilst tying the network security, endpoint security, cloud security, identity, and analytics together. The Carbon Black acquisition closed between the US and Europe events and this technology will be layered into vSphere, Workspace One, and NSX, providing agentless antivirus protection and threat detection.
There’s a wide range of announcements here- and whilst a lot of the content is similar to the US event back in August, albeit further along the roadmap- it sets up for a good week in Barcelona. You can tune in to the full keynote (1 hour 48 minutes) on Youtube.