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DougBaer Master
VMware Employees

VMware Memories, part 3

Posted by DougBaer Sep 7, 2011

The following year, 2008, I worked on a VMware Professional Services (PSO) engagement with Richard Lebedeff and Jeff Baylor. I worked on the VCB portion of a large VI3 P&D engagement and it was interesting to witness how VMware PSO worked; these guys are professionals


Later that year, I was connected to David Deeths of VMware who was the ‘lab captain’ in charge of the team responsible for the scripting lab at VMworld 2008. That meant the Perl SDK and the freshly-released VMware PowerShell Toolkit. Since I had both VMware Infrastructure experience and a software development background, joining that team made sense. I was lucky to work with a fantastic team made up of VMware employees Shridhar Deuskar, Lisa Guinn, Terry Lyons, Aaron Miller, Alket Memushaj, Brian Watrous, and Alton Yu in addition to Owen Thomas from New Age Technologies. I had the privilege of meeting and working with the team for a couple of days at VMware’s Promontory campus and we created two complete labs: one in Perl and one in PowerShell. Our goal was to work through the same exercises in both languages so that attendees could compare the toolkits in an apples-to-apples manner. I learned a lot of PowerShell and had a tremendous amount of fun working with the VMworld Lab Staff and assisting students in our sessions. I think our lab was one of the top-rated sessions that year and you can still download the manuals on the website.


In 2009, we got (most of) the band back together and revised the scripting labs. We added Phil Anthony, Chirag Patel, and Josh Thomas – we even had Carter Shanklin as a guest presenter and Yavor Boychev of Project Onyx fame around for additional support. With the expansion of VMware’s product line, I don't think there was enough space for two labs on scripting, so we combined, updated, and extended the Perl and PowerCLI labs from 2008 and allowed students to select a language when they attended the lab. Logistics were a little funny since we had to pair up Perl and PowerShell attendees, but it mostly worked out. Not cloud, but getting there.


This was also big year for me because I submitted a design and application for the VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) defense. I arrived in San Francisco a few days prior to VMworld to go through the defense and to get the lab environment prepared for the show. My defense took place at the Promontory campus, so at least I knew how to get there. None of the candidates really knew what to expect – there weren’t any blog posts back then to help us out and we had to wing it. Builds character, right? It was quite an experience. The following week at VMworld, I received an email, stopped by the onsite testing center, and was told that I’d passed... Whew!


With the focus on “cloud” in general and self-service in particular, the VMworld 2010 labs were reformatted and no longer required dedicated presentation staff for each one – or, it was more cost effective to have VMware employees handle the tasks rather than bringing in outside (Partner) resources. I was seriously bummed not to be part of the labs, but we had worked out a partnership with a small company that was coming out of “stealth mode” during VMworld, so I had booth responsibilities. Unfortunately, that company dissolved just before the conference and I was left as “just an attendee” for the first time ever.


To be honest, I didn’t know at first what to do about my free time, but I found all kinds of sessions that interested me and had been asked by the folks at if I would blog about the conference. We set up a feed using an Evernote notebook and Mariah West took care of making sense of my ramblings and posting them to the web. I hear they got pretty good traffic, so that was nice. I stopped by the massive VMware lab room to see how my VMware-badged lab veterans were doing, to catch up, and to snap some pictures of the environment. Also at this show, I attended a lunch with Paul Maritz (I got to sit at the same table!), met most of the current VCDXes and Susan Gudenkauf (VCP #1!), and received a jacket for being one of the first 50 VCDX-certified individuals. It was especially cool to finally meet Duncan Epping in person and talk a little with John Arrasjid, whose sessions I had attended since the beginning of my VMworld journey.


This year, I looked forward to seeing a lot of my past coworkers, current customers, and VMware-badged friends at the show. I ran into Jim Rast who was a member of the original Phoenix VMUG -- it was nice to discuss current technology applications and customer challenges. I tracked down Frank Denneman in person, having worked with him a little this past year on the vSphere 5 Clustering Technical Deep Dive book that he and Duncan published. Those guys gave me a signed copy of the book; very nice. It was interesting to catch up with Andreas Groth via Twitter and realize that we had presented together at another VMworld so many years ago. As an unexpected bonus, I caught up with Paul Strong, VMware's CTO for Global Customer & Field Initiatives. He's quite possibly the smartest guy I've ever talked to and I look forward to doing it again soon.


I’m certain that I haven’t mentioned all of the people I’ve encountered over the years, and I apologize to those whom I have not mentioned – there have been so many and this post is already a lot longer than I thought it would be. As for the guys from the local Phoenix VMware team that I work with most often: Jared Byrd, George Peck, I look forward to seeing you again soon, too.


Wow, I guess this qualifies me as the ultimate VMware fan boy, doesn't it? Looking forward to next year...

DougBaer Master
VMware Employees

VMware Memories, part 2

Posted by DougBaer Sep 7, 2011

I was unaware of VMworld at this point, but Christine Holland got me in touch with Rob Smoot, who I believe is still with VMware. Rob was organizing a panel discussion at this VMworld conference in Las Vegas and wanted someone to talk about using their products for testing and development. I was excited to be a part of the group that included some much bigger implementations, and I hoped that I could add some value to the panel discussion and Q&A. That year, I also received an award for my part in the Core Customer program. I believe I had the second highest number of ‘points,’ losing out to Steve Beaver, a legend in my mind, at least on the VMTN Forums. Unfortunately, he was not present, so I never got to meet him. However, I was privileged enough to sit next to Diane Greene at the recognition luncheon. Only my first VMworld and I’d already gotten to meet the CEO. How cool was that!


I decided to pursue certification (VCP2), and attended the ESX2 and VirtualCenter Installation and Configuration class. Based on my level of experience, the class was a lot of review, but did a lot to help solidify my understanding of the fundamentals. My instructor, Damian Wraa, was excellent, and I believe he is still with VMware today. I think it says a lot that I remember his name since I only saw the guy for a week during a class over 6 years ago!


VMware was growing like crazy (doubling in size every month, it seemed), and a sales team was built in the southwest region where I was working. Kenon’s responsibilities were directed elsewhere and Shak Malik was assigned as my new VMware SE, along with Eric Rakotz as a local sales contact. Both Shak, who works for HP now, and Eric, now VCE, took good care of me, although I don’t think I required too much care and feeding. I continued my relationship with Chris Holland and the Core Customer Program, became more involved on the VMTN forums (I got my chess piece!) and our little VMUG. The VMUG here in Phoenix was originally run by Jason Ambrose and Josh Wright from Agilysis, and we had meetings in a small conference room at the HP office. Back then, we had a presentation from any vendor who would buy us sodas and sandwiches (for 10 people or so).


By 2006, I discovered that I enjoyed talking to people about the benefits of server virtualization and guiding them through the process of justification, design and implementation much better than my operational IT responsibilities. Through VMware, I worked with the team at OutCast Communications on a few media activities – telling my story to reporters, discussing VMware’s upcoming features, and how I would implement them. Here, I met Andrew Schmitt (OutCast), Sarah Bresee (OutCast), Amber Rowland (VMware), and Karthik Rau (VMware) – all of them are great people to work with and I had a lot of fun promoting VMware's products. It was a tough decision, but I turned in my Customer status at the end of 2006 to become a Partner. The decision was made so I could focus my efforts, further develop my skills, and help more people by spreading the VMware message even more. That year, I was also asked to step in and present a session at VMworld in Los Angeles on upgrading to VI3. It was a last minute thing and I scrambled to come up with the content. I ended up with twice the amount of content than could be presented in a 45 minute period, and a few of my customers and coworkers were there to heckle me. Overall, a great time again.


I had such a great time that I submitted my own session idea in 2007 regarding different infrastructure layers where virtualization technologies could be implemented. Apparently, a few others had a similar idea and a session called “Virtualization Architectures, Options and Approaches” was born. I was honored to be in the company of Scott Davis (VMware), Ram Rao (HP) and Andreas Groth (IBM). That session was incredibly popular: standing room only and a Fire Marshall's nightmare. We ran long and had to be kicked out of the room – it rocked! Each of those guys are amazing in their own way and we could have done a 2 hour session with ease. That year, I randomly had the opportunity to grab a few minutes with Dr. Mendel Rosenblum while he was waiting for Diane Greene on their way out of town and back home. Diane was like a rockstar or the President: she needed people to flank her and extract her from conversations so that she could make it to her appointments on time.


With that kind of start, how could I NOT want to continue to be a part of this community?

DougBaer Master
VMware Employees

VMware Memories, part 1

Posted by DougBaer Sep 7, 2011

Sitting here on the eve of my 7th VMworld conference (I missed the first one in 2004, but have been fortunate enough to attend all of the others), I think back on VMware journey up to this point and the people who have influenced me along the way. I’m a fairly inconspicuous guy, so I don’t get recognized a lot, even though I’ve been around the VMware scene for quite some time.


In the beginning, I used VMware Workstation (2.x) when I was a software developer. None of us ever wrote buggy code and had to reload Windows (3.1!) onto our development machines, but Workstation was there as a testing environment, just in case. What a timesaver! To be honest, my history with VMs goes back before that with RealPC, VirtualPC, SoftPC, and the other emulators that ran x86 machines on Macintoshes (it worked, but was NOWHERE near fast). I always wanted something like that when I was developing software on my Mac – but that never happened. At least, not during my developer days: vSphere 5 allows it if all of the prerequisites are met!


In 2002, I continued my use of Workstation (3.x) during project planning and new software testing when I moved from the app/dev side of the house to infrastructure. In those days, I did a lot of directory services work, and testing integration plugins or new Netware client builds/patches without nuking my production machine's configuration was the primary use case. Moving beyond my own machine, we licensed GSX Server for Windows in 2004 and collapsed two racks of lab hardware onto a pair of servers. Our lab room immediately became much quieter, cooler, and more available. Those who understand the ‘waterfall’ model of lab gear acquisition get that labs are regularly built from the oldest junk in an organization -- and hardware support is not even within the realm of possibility.


After such great success in our lab, and with the 2.0 release of VMware ESX Server, we decided to take a look at what that could buy us beyond our GSX Server – we’d heard good things about less overhead and higher densities. Back in those days, you were required to engage VMware resources in order to even try out ESX Server. Enter Melissa Ercoli and Kenon Owens – these people were my first experience with corporate VMware, and helped me get started. I believe Melissa got married and is still with VMware while Kenon has since moved on to work at Microsoft. Both of these individuals invested the time with me to ensure that I understood this new ESX Server thing by answering all of my questions, both technical and licensing-related. For that, I am very grateful.


In late 2004, armed with an understanding of the ESX Server architecture, and a trial implementation in the lab, I submitted a proposal to our management to stand up a POC environment in production – 2 SAN-attached ESX Server 2.5 hosts. I was immediately met with the “all of our eggs in one basket” argument. Fortunately for me, VirtualCenter 1.0 had been released and I was on top of the amazing VMotion (notice the capital "V"!) technology enabled therein. My POC environment was kind of sad – we basically took two of our standard x86 servers (HP DL360 G3), bumped the RAM a bit, and shoved an FC HBA into it. There was pretty much no redundancy (single power supply, single SAN path, single NIC port for Service Console, one for VMotion, and two for VM traffic), but the thing worked. My first demo of VMotion blew everyone’s mind: “there’s NO WAY that just worked!”


In August of 2004, a hardware failure on a production server expedited the migration of our VMware POC into production. We were presented with the option of blowing away the POC environment in order to repurpose its hardware as a replacement for the failed box, or repurposing a VM currently running on that environment. The path of least resistance, and quicker TTR, was obvious, and we became production ESX Server and VirtualCenter users. From there, the thing spread like wildfire, just like the stories we hear today -- you know, the Legend of VMware.


This stuff was getting to be fairly complicated and I had invested a lot of time into understanding how the pieces fit together. I registered on the VMware Community forums in October of 2004 in order to get answers to my more complicated questions and to share my experiences with others. First off, I was amazed at the sense of community -- people helping people without being compensated beyond the satisfaction of sharing knowledge. This was a group I immediately liked quite a bit. It was there that I ran across the VMware Core Customer program, which ultimately led me to Christine Holland. Chris was interested in my environment and how we were using VMware’s technologies in both production and testing, so she introduced me to the PR people and they quoted me as part of the ESX Server 2.5 release. We had a case study published in early 2005 and a related article as well.


From there, Charles Babcock (Network Computing) and Jennifer Mears (Network World) talked to me a bit about the ESX 3.0 and VirtualCenter 2.0 launch, and the much-anticipated HA and DRS features. I had some coverage there, including a quickly-snapped photo of me at VMworld. I’ve got to say it was pretty cool to get a magazine with my (goofy) picture in it!


To be continued...

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