Last month I was back in London for another VMware User Group meeting. There was a good mixture of familiar faces and first-time attendees all ready to lap up a day of learning. As usual I came away with pages of notes, so here’s a rundown of my experiences.
vBeers- “an opportunity for virtualization enthusiasts and professionals to meet and enjoy discussing all things virtualization and anything else in the world of tech”
Over the past year or so I’ve bumped into a number of fellow virtualisation pro’s in the community who live in the commuter belt around London. We’ve often met up for a #vBeer or two in the capital, and I’ve floated the idea of a “vBeers in the Country”- i.e. evening meetups in a pub to talk tech but held outside of the M25. The suggestion was generally well received, so I set about putting something together. Here’s an insight into went on to organise this in case anyone finds it useful in putting on their own event.
Working out Availability
Whilst I could have gone with the option of “My local, two weeks on Wednesday”, I decided to try and find out when people were usually available and where they were likely to travel to for a meetup. That way we could organise something with potentially better attendance. I chose a selection of locations that I could get to by train (I thought it would be nice if I could go too 🙂 ) and put together a survey on Google Forms to find out what night the majority of respondents would be available, and where they would be interested in going to.
Picking a time and a place
We had a number of responses, and the results clearly pointed to a Thursday night in Guildford being the favoured option. Picking a particular Thursday was the next step. I was keen to avoid clashing with other tech events (local VMUGs, Cloud Camps, AWSome Days, etc.) that people might be interested in, and also avoiding January – paychecks are often stretched that month and some people join in with the “Dry January” events for charitable or health reasons which don’t necessarily play well with an evening in a pub.
Next up was picking a suitable venue. Guildford is lucky to have a number of nice public houses and many are close to the train station. Carefully navigating the calendars of the various hostelries I discovered that one of the nice riverside pubs, the Britannia, was open for food and drink and didn’t have a band or pub quiz happening on the evening in question. One twitter and email chat later and the nice staff there even reserved a table for us- and seemed happy with my “I’ve no idea how many people will turn up” position.
Getting the word out
The vBeers.org website (“Where vGeeks Come To Meet”) was my first point of call following a suggestion from Jane Rimmer. Once the page there was published I started getting the word out on the Twitters and via tech Slack groups I’m in. We also had a London VMUG event before the date and Simon Gallagher kindly plugged the event in his opening slides and it gave me the opportunity to tell people in person.
Well, after a nervous 15 minutes sat in the pub wondering if I’d be spending the evening on my own with a beer (hey, even failure has it’s benefits!) Dave and Andy, both friends and fellow vExperts from the London VMUG, were the first to arrive and the evening got going. In amongst some excellent food and drink we discussed all manner of things technical- from the new VMware releases to our latest war stories and (as Andy was bribed with points to come along) the current batch of CloudCred tasks.
Whilst the number of attendees wasn’t massive I think we all had a good time, so I’d like to carry on the idea and see if it grows. I’ll be thinking about organising another event later in the year, possibly moving the location around- if anyone knows of a nice country pub with good food, good beer, and a garden which is close to a station let me know and we might go there in the summer. Cheers!
VMworld is not all about announcements and sessions, some of the most valuable content is found in the social and community side of the event. It brings together over ten thousand people in the IT industry and there’s always lots to talk about and plenty to learn outside of the scheduled keynotes and breakouts. The social side isn’t just about popping out for a few vBeers courtesy of a sponsor- it’s the opportunity to meet your fellow professionals, hear what their up to, what they’ve seen at the show, what problems they are facing back at the datacentre or office, and possibly what solutions they can offer for your own issues. It makes for a week of long days, but it’s definitely worth it.
The community side of VMworld started for me even before leaving for Barcelona, as I had an impromptu meetup at London Gatwick with a couple of other vExperts (great to meet you Mark and Giuliano) who were waiting for the same flight.
Upon touchdown at El-Prat there was just time to check-in to the hotel and change before heading off for the opening social gatherings organised by the awesome events team that is Patrick Redknap and Marco Broeken– the Cohesity “Pre-Beer Party” at the Obama English Pub and then the annual vRockstar party held at the Hard Rock Cafe. Thanks to the vRockstar sponsors– Rubrik, Nutanix, Veeam, VMUG, Hytrust, EMC Elect, Zerto, and Exelerys. These events were a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and make some new ones before the conference officially started the next day.
Monday morning saw my first opportunity to get into the Gran Fira venue, register, and get down to the VMVillage for my first taste of the Hands-On Labs. There were prizes to be won, and I finally met Noell Grier when collecting a SocialLabs T-shirt from the Cloud Credibility booth. This area was also the scene of a “Team London VMUG” photo opportunity later that morning.
— Andy Nash (@andynash99) October 17, 2016
For me, Monday evening started with a walk down the beach to the Dell EMC reception at W Barcelona, right up the tower at the Eclipse bar. This featured VMworld themed cocktails such as the “vMojito” and an “All-Flash Martini” and stunning views across the city as the sun set. Later on in the evening I got a taxi across town to the Nutanix event at Cafe Ocana. Again, there were some regular faces and I met a whole host of new people, including Stephen Foskett of TechFieldDay fame.
As I mentioned in my session write up of the Tuesday, the day kicked off with the Keynote and as I was lucky enough to have a bloggers pass (thanks again Corey Romero and the team) I managed to get a reserved seat right down at the front. Tuesday morning was also the first opportunity to get into the Solutions Exchange. Here there’s the opportunity not only to pick up some vendor SWAG but, more importantly, find out what the latest product developments in the VMware ecosystem are.
After that drew to a close a small group of us took a trip to a local pub with London VMUG’s man on the ground, Alaric. Whilst the idea of a late-night party in a beach-front club is all well and good, the opportunity to have a chat with friends without having to shout was much appreciated.
Between sessions, much of my Wednesday was spent in the Hang Space and Bloggers area in the VMvillage including some last minute preparation for by vBrownbag presentation and some time to catch up on both my own blog posts and what others had been writing.
— Mark Brookfield (@virtualhobbit) October 19, 2016
Finishing up Wednesday was the VMworld Party. held in the keynote hall. This year the headline band was Australian outfit “Empire of the Sun”. Again the networking continued, the hall is large enough that even with the band or DJ in full flow at the front there is space at the other end of the arena for meet-ups and conversations.
Thursday is generally a quieter day at VMworld, and it offered the chance to do one last trawl through the Solutions Exchange- looking up those products and services that people had mentioned were worth a look at. The VMvillage got quieter and quieter as the afternoon went on as people left for the airport. An ideal time to take stock of the week’s happenings and finally get a go on that circular pool table!
Despite having attended the annual VMware-hosted London vForums a few times this was my first VMware User Group meeting. The all-day event, held at the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, featured a number of talks from, and discussions with, both suppliers and the VMware user community.
A Giant Mountain of Awesomeness
Following the introduction to the day, the first presentation was from PernixData and CloudHelix on using their FVP software to improve storage performance- at a very basic level, it uses flash drives and memory located on the Virtual Host layer to deliver more IOPS, allowing the architect to scale the SAN for average performance rather than the peak, and avoid the issue of stranded storage- capacity that can’t be reached because the system has “run out” of IOPS. I’ve seen PernixData before, but this was still an interesting presentation- bringing in scenes from Spaceballs, The Flash, and Flash Gordon whilst talking about a 1.6 million IOPS “Giant Mountain of Awesomeness”.
— Chris Bradshaw (@aldershotchris) January 22, 2015
Riding the Lightning
Next up were the vFactor Lightning Talks- these were 5 short presentations delivered by community members, rather than vendors, which focussed on using VMware products (rather than buying them). I really enjoyed these talks, they were full of useful nuggets of information and it’s always nice to see where others have encountered the same issues as you (or the issues you’re about to get!) and how they’ve overcome them. Philip Coakes (@CoakesPhilip) gave some good advice on saving money and spending wisely, summed up by his comment of “Spend your company’s money as if it’s your own”. Alec Dunn (@LegoYoda) also had some important things to remember:
— Chris Bradshaw (@aldershotchris) January 22, 2015
Swimming with Whales
After those presentations I attended a session on where VMware interacts with Docker presented by Andy Jenkins (@stonestokie) and Robbie Jerrom (@robbiej) from VMware. Everyone had heard of it, a few were using it in Dev/Test but no-one in the audience had production loads on the platform. It’s interesting to see the VMware take on Docker- it has many functionality similarities to their virtualisation platform, and is something that VMware (along with Microsoft as shown in this timely blog post from Ed Baker) are keen to show can be positioned well into a traditional virtualisation stack. I can see the benefits here, the ability to rapidly spin up potentially massive numbers of the Docker applications and the hybrid cloud hosting resilience are enough to convince me not to uninstall ESX just yet.
Is there a DR in the house?
Next on the block was a presentation from Unitrends on Datacentre failover, based around their ReliableDR product. Ian Jones highlighted the two biggest problems with datacentre failover- Failback and Documentation- and demonstrated how their product automates the process, even using existing Array/Software based replication between sites. The automatic testing (and documentation of said testing) appeals to me, but led me to wonder how easy it would be to get complacent that everything was working- do we need an “automated DR tester” tester? 🙂
“Bringing the SDDC to life- a real world deployment”: A detailed talk from Phil Monk and Jon Kemp (both VMware PSO) and Michael Poore (Xtravirt) covering a lot of the design work in deploying a Software Defined DataCentre. This talk was much more project orientated to start with, diving into how the design process worked before looking at the conceptual, logical, and physical designs and some of the decisions behind them. An interesting mix of process and technical details.
My sessions were rounded off with a presentation from Valentin Bondzio (we were told “Cloud is in the other room, and that’s a fad!”). This was by far the most technical talk of the day, and thankfully the distance between the CPU core a process is running on and the cache it’s data is sitting in is not a day-to-day concern for me. Despite the technical depth of NUMA, memory access latency, Ready states and locality, the clear presentation style meant I came away from this thinking I had definitely learnt something I hadn’t known that morning.
— Alaric Davies (@alaricdavies) January 23, 2015