In 10 days I board a jet-plane for VMworld (HOLY CRAP!) which means the excitement is starting to ramp up. There are meetings, demos, events and of course parties to plan for, but how you approach a major conference is something that is very particular to the individual and that’s what I’d like to spend a few minutes discussing today. There are about as many ways to approach a major conference as there are attendees. Really? No, but let’s just pretend so that I can share a few lessons learned from my conference experiences.
The Lab Guy
My first major conference I spent the majority of my time sitting in the lab soaking up as much hands on experience as I could. I would go hit the expo floor, grab a snack and an adult beverage, hide said adult beverage and hit the lab for hours. Not to say it wasn’t valuablebut it damaged my spirit a little when late in the conference I learned that all of the labs would be available online after the conference ended… Oof.
After hearing this bit of spirit breaking news I learned that there is a really valuable reason to be in the labs: the guided sessions. Any time you can sit down with an expert, pick their brains, while gaining hand’s on experience, well… that’s just a win right there.
The pros to this are pretty obvious, you get to spend dedicated time learning, which is never a bad thing, but the fact that HOL will have the labs available on-demand after VMworld Europe diminishes the value somewhat.
The Expo/Party Guy
These strange beasts are very closely related to the Party People. Tech conferences are fun. There is a lot of beer and a lot of free stuff. But there’s always the person who devotes themselves strictly to these endeavors. A lot of really great information can be gleaned off the floor, but at a price… the dreaded badge scanners! If you’re ok with that, then you have a really great opportunity to learn about emerging tech.
Now the expo floor is great, and I have my fair share of headaches/swag to show for it, however there are some folks who make this the primary objective of their conference. The expo floor should be one tool in your conference bat-belt, but if it’s your bat-mobile… maybe it’s being overdone a little bit.
Yeah ok, that sub-title is horrible, but I couldn’t think of a fun (and appropriate) way to label the folks who are all breakouts, all the time. This one is usually me. Attending conferences isn’t cheap, even if it isn’t coming directly out of your pocket. I usually want to return some value to my sponsor and that historically has taken the form of trying to take away as much directly applicable knowledge as possible. Next to the labs, this might be the most effective way to soak up as much technological knowledge as possible. In my mind, Breakouts are the meat and potatoes of a conference, so it’s hard for me to find a downside here. But like all things, including meat and potatoes, take it in moderation.
“Active Participators” may be another way to frame this and it’s a new one for me. At Dell/EMC world 2017, I made it my mission to blog as much as possible. Going into VMworld 2017 I’m really making it my mission to get involved as much as I can. There are so many events that you can get involved with, I’d urge you to get out there and broaden your horizons a bit. On top of the parties located on the gatherings page, you can find opportunities to play games, get into the hackathon, blog in the village and a whole host of other activities.
Whatever your approach, I hope you find the right balance of activities to make your conference amazing. See you in Sin City!
I have received a lot of positive comments about my updates from the conference, so thank you. I’m a big believer in using critical feedback as a means to improve, if anyone out there has any other feedback for me.
I wanted to jot down a last few thoughts from the week before my brain cells totally recuperate. I’m not sure what I expected going into this first combined Dell EMC world, but I do know that I had a blast and learned a ton.
Just for posterity’s sake, here are my first few updates from the conference
It was obvious from the start that with Dell purchasing the EMC federation they were going to go after hardware and namely the converged and hyper-converged markets. Beyond that I don’t think I really understood where this giant beast was going. After this past week, a few themes stuck out to me. The first is an affirmation that as the traditional hardware market slows down, Dell Technologies are indeed going to go even harder after the various converged plays. You could see a physical manifestation of this on the floor of the solutions expo. “Traditional” servers were tucked in the back, whereas the products from the converged platform division that Captain Canada leads were large and in charge of the middle of the expo floor. Prior to the acquisition VCE already owned the majority of the hyper/converged space. I don’t see how you can slow DellEMC down now that they have the servers to integrate as well.
If 2015 was the year of flash, and 2016 was the year of DevOps, then I think I’d like to go on the record saying that 2017 is the year of Security. I work for a financial firm, so I may have a bias towards this topic, but I felt like there was a much stronger message around security at this event. It makes sense. If Dell wants to own the entire datacenter, which they obviously do, you have to be able to secure the datacenter. With RSA, SecureWorks and VMware’s NSX already in the portfolio, it’s a pretty good start. When you then look to see how security is getting integrated into each of the disparate product lines all the way down to the new 14G servers, it looks to me like Michael Dell and team know that the products need to not just perform but need to be secure in order to win.
The Internet of things space (IoT) as well as AR/VR seemed to have a sizable presence at the conference. People have been trying to emphasize cool products years, but it seems like this might be the year where mainstream adoption starts. I can’t remember the precise figure now off the top of my head but I believe in one of the general sessions they were projecting let’s call it the “ancillary” space or non-traditional servers to be a $45 billion industry by the year 2020. Just for reference sake the market cap of Dell when it was taken private again was under $25 billion. I don’t necessarily see how this plays into long-term strategy but it was everywhere in the sessions and on the expo floor and it’s very obviously on the mind of Dell executives.
The Golden Geese
During the opening day’s general session, Michael Dell said to paraphrase “A few years ago we bought Alienware. They were the best at what they were doing, and we let them continue to do it.” The not so subtle message to the community is, we bought these companies not to pillage but to leverage their success and make each other stronger. I was fortunate enough to ask Michael himself later that evening if that indeed was his message, especially as it pertains to VMware. I’m again paraphrasing but his message was. “We didn’t buy these companies to pillage them. We are obviously looking for opportunities to itegrate across Dell Technologies, but these companies are leaders in their respective industries and we’re not going to decimate them.” The answer was much longer (and nuanced) but after listening to Mr. Dell and talking to a number of folks who are way more embedded than I, my fears have finally been (mostly) assuaged. Actually after attending a number of sessions across server/compute/storage/security/networking/operations I truly believe Dell Technologies has an opportunity to build something that is bigger than the sum of their parts.
As an engineer I’ve always felt that my job at conferences is to go breakout sessions wall-to-wall and learn as much technological stuff as I possibly can. I decided to alter the plan a slight bit for this one. As many have said before me, a large part of attending conferences are the networking opportunities. If you’re inclined and motivated there are countless opportunities to get out and network with folks. Here are a couple of the events I was fortunate enough to take a part in.
It was an exciting, if not controversial week, in the Dell EMC communities. On Monday I attended the Converged (formerly VCE) User Group meeting. This is where I was fortunate enough to ask Mr. Michael Dell the aforementioned question about the various brands under the new Dell Technologies umbrella. Now I’m a pretty shy guy, but I have never been to a User Group meeting where I haven’t met someone interesting AND learned something AND had a bunch of fun. If you haven’t yet joined up with one of the Dell Technologies communities then you are definitely missing out.
In my role as a systems engineer I have been fortunate enough to work with multiple VCE products across multiple companies. So I was honored to be afforded a chance to attend a technical advisory board meeting for the converged platforms. It was an eye-opening experience to see how the roadmaps & strategies come together and to offer some frank feedback to the people who actually influence these products. Unfortunately I can’t share details from the meeting but needless to say it was a very cool experience that I hope to repeat again.
Oh heavenly beanbag. How I love thee. Let me count the ways. 1, zzzzz #DellEMCWorld
Also on Tuesday was the Dell Communities event. As a VMUG leader I was very excited to attend this meeting in order to network with some peers who I’ve only emailed with. It’s always nice when you get to meet someone whom you only know by their email and make a personal connection. After all, that’s really a big part of what VMUG is about. If you’re lucky these events are also very cool opportunities to get facetime with people that you wouldn’t normally be able to sit down with.
And it is Vegas after all, so I was happy to wrap the day by enjoying some of the fine dining and activities that you can only find in sin city. All the while networking with one of our key partners, and meeting some cool people.
The Event itself
This is only my second trip to Dell EMC world, so the sample size is small, but each time I’ve been to the event I’ve been very impressed. From the general sessions, to the breakouts, the registration process, all the way down to how lunch is served so efficiently, it seems to be a really really well run event. I just wish that they would stop using so many disposable water bottles.
One of the fears i have attending a vendor run conference is how deep the marketing and sales pitches will run. I haven’t found Dell EMC world to be any worse than any other presentations that I’ve sat through. Some are worse, some are better in terms of the amount of “pitchiness“. On a whole I found the amount of sales at this event to be quite reasonable given all of the networking and educational opportunities that are provided.
With any luck I’ll be able to see how Dell EMC world has evolved in 2018, but until then I guess I’ll just have to wait to see you all in Vegas this August for VMworld.
focus seems like it’s going to be on the end user space. How are we going to enable (and secure) our workforce in 2017. It looks like we are going to have some solid insights into where Dell is looking to go in the personal device space.
New product announcement: wireless laptop charging! I’ll take two. Coming June 1st
95% of all breaches start at the endpoint. OOF.
Nike and Dell working together on some really amazing tech. Dell Canvas allows user to have a much more tactile experience when designing. It’s going to be a very niche product, but really really cool.
Dell is projecting AR/VR to be a $45B business by 2025. It’s pretty obvious they’re going to go after this space. AR/VR is also a big focus on the solution floor. Daqri & Dell are partnering to come up with some interesting solutions in this space and hopefully using their scale to drive cost downward.
IoT and grocery. I know some people who might be interested in this part of the presentation. Grocery and supermarkets have a lot of capabilities with how they store products, but they typically just set it and forget it with their thermostats in the freezer & cold cases. Using IoT to track where your products are allows you to fine-tune thermostat controllers and realize real energy & waste savings. Grocery is just one use case, but the idea translates to other verticals. Dell has created a new Open initiative called EdgeXFoundry to start setting standards for the various IoT functions that happen at the edge.
VMware – Realize What’s Possible
My favorite part of the general session. It’s fanboy time. Here comes Pat Gelsinger.
Where are we headed… Technology is magic, or has the ability to create magic. We’ve seen this from mainframes->client/server->cloud and IoT and the edge are the next frontier, but it’s happening now.
LAUNCH ALERT: VMware Pulse IoT Center. Centralize management/security/operation of the network of IoT. Built on AirWatch/vRops/NSX.
Just like yesterday it appears that VMware has finally realized that their public cloud offerings … let’s just say they haven’t gone well. They are skipping to next gen of managing the devices at the edge and looking forward to Mobile Cloud.
Workspace one. make it simple for the consumer, but secure the enterprise. Seems like an overlap in the portfolio. How does ThinApp & AppVolumes play into this? Regardless VMware is taking a stronger focus on EUC this year.
Announcement time: VMware VDI Complete. Client devices from Dell, converged infrastructure, and vsphere. It’s VDI in a box. Super Sweet! Oh and here comes Sakac running on stage hooting. Awesome.
Cross cloud architecture. Finally we are getting somewhere. Don’t do the cloud, enable it! At last we get to see VMware Cloud on AWS! vRA is up next. Please just start giving vRA away! To go faster and compete with the public cloud, we need the tools. It’s a loss leader!
Announcement: VMware and Pivotal are announcing a collaboration to come up with a developer ready app platform with a focus on cloud native/serverless/micro-services/function.
Pivotal Cloud Foundry works with the most powerful cloud providers enabling Dev and IT to get to market faster, delivering value and time back to the business. It’s taken a couple of years to get there, but it seems like VMware is finally got a good handle on their micro-services & cloud portfolio. Today’s presentations are really exciting to see where we’re going.
The last time I was at a major industry conference I had no need to attend any VDI sessions, but the only constant is change and that holds true in IT as well. Fast forward a few months and Horizon falls under my purview.
@andrewduce There’s a cake. A carrot cake. Seriously. Why? ok…
Recipes, ingredients (esp. best of breed, I think I can see where this is going), and time. The analogy is do you build your own cake, you have most of the ingredients or do you buy it? Build or Buy, it’s a subject that I focus on in one of my latest presentation proposals. It’s a subject that affects many of us, especially in the SMB space. Build is cheaper and more configurable, but it comes at a cost namely time and (lack of) experience. Buy is typically validated and faster to deploy, but you pay a premium for that. In the end it’s really a question of what you and your organization value.
If you want to buy it’s the Dell Technology view that you can stack vRO, VMware horizon and vSphere on top of vxRail to go for that integrated buy approach.
The kind folks at VMware offer a reference architecture on how to get onto Horizon 7. The also go through the effort to give you a bench-marking whitepaper to show you that the solution works. And they also give you a set of VDI focused VxRail choices. How kind!
When you look at VDI, you need to take apart the various layers. What does that actually mean? In your golden image, don’t store software, separate out your application layer with a layering technology. Don’t add user settings to your app layer, use a technology to separate out the profile elements. By doing this if you go with best in breed, VDI becomes much more scalable than it was in earlier iterations. Combine this with VMware technologies like Instant Clones and App Volumes and suddenly you can significantly reduce your time to deliver value to your users.
The timing of this session is really perfect. I went through some demo’s in the past few weeks on Horizon, App Volumes and Smart policies. Smart policies is the one piece that I couldn’t get my head wrapped around until now. It seems like it’s a rule based approach to how you can dynamically control your end users environment, allowing them to seamlessly move from area to area and get updated settings based on location. Cool!
I’m impressed. A VMware guy said that Citrix is good. It’s in the context of “we can support anything”, but I like the honesty.
Just when I thought the session was over, a new offering being announced for a Dell EMC VDI complete solution. On prem as low as $8/user/month. Wow.
Breakout session – Tackle the Security challenge of Endpoints without End
The laptop is dying, had to revert to bullet points on the phone for this one
~10% of attendees have been hit by ransoms ware
No silver bullet, must look at things in depth, to reduce risk.
Ransomwares rise in prevalence is because it’s easier for bad guys to monetize.
Protect by anti malware-> signature based doesn’t go far enough any more. Machine based learning.
Backup is your special team. If something gets in, it’s your only real answer. They must be: PiT. Off site. Airgapped. Immutable.
Airwatch can protect remote employees. Play offense by being proactive, shrink the attack surface.
User most vulnerable. If compromised, have to limit access at endpoint.
Have to know what normal looks like. What indicators of compromise exist on a machine. Analogy of house and security cameras. You have to know when someone gets in.
New approach to move beyond signature based. Heuristic. Machine learning. Etc. look at behavior and/or what’s under the covers (i.e. The code) attributes of the code.
Not a lot of new content, but it’s nice to hear that the Dell EMC Technologies are thinking about this and how they can all work together.
Breakout session – DevOps & Itil
Last session of the day before I head off to a networking event. I saved a little bit of laptop juice especially for this session. You don’t have to spend long on this blog to understand that I love this topic. See my posts on The Phoenix Project, Get Out of IT, The Order of the Phoenix – The Prequel, etc to see my love. Perhaps I need to get a new infatuation point.
Finally! Someone agrees with me, Stanley Kubrik does make for engaging metaphors! No, well yes, but no I mean that Itil and DevOps can (and should) co-exist. I love that @md_schneider & @bverkley start this off with definitions. One of the biggest points of confusion around these topics is a lack of a common language. I won’t hash out the details again, just visit previous links for more details.
Interesting that the talk starts on with a chat about Agile, Kanban and their practices have to be reflected in their principles and practices and vice-versa. DevOps is the principle and ITIL is the practice. I love it.
The principles of DevOps are Culture, Automation, Lean, Measurement and sharing. DevOps is not a tool, it’s a mindset and these values should be reflected in your practices (ITIL).
Culture is hard. Referenced heavily, gotta add this one to the reading list. Problems with DevOps are often due to conflicts within your organization and their culture. If more managers understood this, you’d see a lot more silo’s getting broken down.
“Any organization that designs a system (defined broadly) will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization’s communication structure.” – Conway’s Law. Whoa.
Automation is to DevOps as telescopes are to astronomy. It’s a tool. It’s not the thing. You need to attack the hard stuff, but don’t start there. Start with creating, it’s lower risk. Make it an iterative process. Create->Verify->Package->Release->Configure->Monitor and then you’ve covered the whole DevOps tool chain.
Vegas Baby, Vegas. Where 12,000 geeks all converge on Vegas to hear from thought leaders and learn about happenings in the IT. This year should be particularly interesting as it’s our first opportunity to attend the combined DellEMC World. Now that the industry leading compute, storage and virtualization providers are all under one umbrella I can’t wait to see what sort of slant the conference takes. Going into things if I had to wager a guess I’d say we’re going to hear an awful lot about converged/integrated platforms. I’m also hoping to hear how the developers for the federation have been hard at work integrating their disparate offerings into improved (and cheaper) around visibility, automation and orchestration. VMware has never had a strong cloud play, so if the new DellEMC federation is going to compete in the era of cloud they must enable us to do on-prem faster, cheaper and with much greater visibility.
There is so much going on at these industry conferences I’m going to try something different this go-around. I’m going to do my best to semi-live blog my experience, the sessions I attend and the knowledge gained. Hopefully this enhances my retention of the event, and maybe brings some value to those who couldn’t make it.
One of the really great and underutilized things about conferences are the testing opportunities. I live in a rural state, so finding a test center can sometimes be a challenge. Historically at EMC world your first attempt at any test is free, and thankfully they’ve carried that policy forward to the new combined conference. Typically, the last day of the conference books up as people try to carry the knowledge gained from the week into their test attempt. Believe it or not Vegas can get a little crazy, even for a bunch of computer geeks, so I tend to front-load my exams. It can be a bit of a bummer if you should fail, but either way you leave yourself open to be able to experience the rest of the event without studying hanging over your head.
Two weeks ago, I decided to embark on a crash course, and attempt both the EMCISA & EMCCIS exams. Luckily things worked out for me, and I’m now an EMC Proven Professional x2. Just a quick note on these two exams. The storage exam is as you’d expect geared towards Engineers, but surprisingly isn’t completely jam packed with EMC propaganda. The cloud exam is a really solid overview of Enterprise IT today. Some of the product based content is a little dated, but I was surprised at the breadth of the overview provided by this course.
Jeremy Burton is the MC again, with a very loud microphone. Biggest (and first) Dell EMC World Ever, 13,500 attendees.
90% of the top IaaS companies, 70% of the top SaaS, 100% of Fortune’s most admired companies run on Dell Technologies. (I still prefer the name federation)
“magic can’t make digital transformation happen, but we can”
#1 in everything, upper right quadrant. It sounds an awful lot like preaching to the choir so far.
Customer testimonial from 20 year Dell customer, Boeing. Newest partnership is with Pivotal (hopefully we hear more about this). The message thus far is we are going after the biggest and best, and if they use it you should too.
Here we go, name drop city.
Use Pivotal to address IoT. Transform your company into a software company, including services of course.
“Cloud is not a place, but rather a way of doing Information Technology”
VMware has a track record of poor public cloud offerings. It seems that Dell is leapfrogging IaaS to go straight to cloud native/3rd platform.
“Our customers tell us that public cloud is often 2 times as expensive as on-prem”
It’s obvious that Dell still has a big stake in On-prem, but even they are recognizing that in this day and age IT needs to transform
“We love VMware” – Yes we do Michael!
It’s going to be a multi-cloud world, and it’s obvious that other than being an IaaS provider, Dell is putting many irons in the Cloud fire. Hopefully as the week goes along we’ll hear more about how they plan to do all of these various things well, without spreading the company too thin.
“It’s about what you do with the cloud.” Hell yes!
We need better wi-fi in here! More of the Internets!
Client space is still going to be a focus. AirWatch is evolving to make for secure connectivity out of the box. Michael made a point to mention that PC technology will remain core to the Dell business.
Global roll-out announcement for Desktop as a Service. Jeff Clarke to share more tomorrow.
We bought Alienware, and we left them alone. (ie. we aren’t going to mess too much with our golden geese)
Security, infrastructure, compute, virtualization, cloud, EUC… I can’t stop wondering how Dell will be able to execute well on all of these areas, without losing focus.
Karen (Chief Customer Officer) talking about cancer research partnerships. Plastic removal from the ocean, and recycling the plastic removed into server packaging (COOL!). Combine this with Michael’s foundation and it’s obvious that social good is still going to be a focus.
David Blaine hits the stage. You gotta be here. Sorry.
VMworld 2016 was only my second major industry conference. Just me and 24,000 of my closest friends learning in Vegas. I like to pretend that I’m a specialist, but the reality is that I’m a generalist. So for me one of the best things about a class or a conference is the ability to immerse oneself in a technology and to really look at it from different perspectives than you normally might on a day to day.
One of the more underrated avenues to learn about what’s happening in the industry is the Expo floor. Sure it’s a great way to pick up swag, I mean they don’t have laundry sized bags by the door for nothing, but there’s a lot of knowledge to be gleaned out there. Many of the exhibitors are professionals, but if you’re looking for more than just a free t-shirt you can find SME’s and architects to help you figure out how to solve the problems that may be impacting your business. Here are a couple of the vendors that I found intriguing:
Thycotic, makers SecretServer have a number of authentication tools to simplify management of credentials
Embotics, have a really compelling orchestration and automation tool that is positioned to be a lower cost, quicker to implement alternative to vRealize Automation.
There were more backup and cloud replication startups than you could shake a stick at, but the folks at CloudEndure had a really nice “any to any” solution that I hope makes it through the inevitable consolidation/shakeup that’s bound to happen in this space over the couple years.
The other big trend on the floor was flash. It’s obvious spinning disk is dead, but to me many of the flash based systems seem to be the same. I’ve been working with EMC’s XtremeIO for a number of years now and find it to be an amazing (if expensive) solution for folks who don’t want to spend their entire existence managing storage. That being said, I’m really hopeful that I get to put my hands on some Pure storage one of these days soon.
Ostensibly, this is a technical conference and (for me) the primary purpose for attending is to learn via the breakout sessions. Here’s what I took away from all of the sessions: DevOps, DevOps, Cloud, IoT, DevOps, DevOps.
Did I mention DevOps?
As vSphere approaches saturation point VMware is obviously turning their attention more and more towards the SDDC. Anyone who’s been paying attention the last few years has seen that vSAN and NSX have become arguably the primary focus of VMware development and marketing efforts. When you combine that with vRealize Operations & vRealize Automation and you had a full on DevOps party. Now I agree, getting things done in less time is awesome, as is less operational churn, but a quick spin through the highlighted sessions shows just how VMware is going all in on DevOps. The focus on many of the tool-sets and solutions are geared towards large enterprise. Now there aren’t a ton of large enterprises in Vermont, so it would be nice to see VMware come out with some solutions that required less investments (time, human and budgetary) to get up and running.
That being said, there were a number of really great sessions that I attended. Chris Wahl of http://wahlnetwork.com/ had a really great session around automating and enforcing cluster configurations using PowerCLI. Multiple really great sessions around vRO that again makes me wish that VMware would come out with a “lite” version of these operational tools.
Now I don’t think it’s worth much time to go into VMware’s cloud strategies. Needless to say they are a little bit slow on this one. It’s completely reasonable as I’m sure there’s some fear inside Palo Alto that the cloud will kill the golden goose. However this is one of those get on board or move aside moments. In fact the only thing that VMware has done in the cloud space that has me really excited is the AWS announcement that came out only a month after VMware announced their Intel partnership…. Well, let’s just say that there isn’t much to say about VMware’s cloud stategy.
Lastly, the only thing I learned which I wish someone had taught me before heading to Vegas is to take it easy. There are no shortage of opportunity’s for fun and networking, but you don’t want to go too fast or you’ll burn out before the end of the week. By the time the Wednesday night appreciation party came around, all I wanted was a burger, fries and to watch a movie in my hotel room.
All in all VMworld 2016 was an amazing experience. So much knowledge to be gained, so many interesting things to see and so many people to meet.