What the VMware User Group means to me and how we improve it for all

First to start with an admission, I love the VMware User Group, I just think it’s brilliant. I’ve no illusions that it’s the major reason why i’ve been fortunate enough to end up working at VMware.

Act 1 – Absolute beginner

When I was first starting out in my VMware career I found it invaluable. I absorbed the content like a sponge, it was all new to me and I never attended an event without walking away with some nugget of new useful information.

Act 2 – Finding my feet

As time passed my experiences evolved; It was no longer just about listening to the speakers, it was getting access to the folks who literally wrote the book on subjects. Getting a chance to ask my questions of the people who knew it best solved some major issues for me.  I still turned up at every event, suffered through the awkwardness of the breaks, and at the end of the day made a quick exit before the true networking began.

Act 3 – Going public

Then five years ago I was asked if I would be willing to join the leadership team to help run the Scottish VMUG, at that point I would guess there were probably 3-4 people max in the community who knew who I was. I really believed in the process though and it had been invaluable for my learning so I felt it appropriate to put back in what I’d taken out. Being a leader the events changed somewhat. I was able to look at an event through a prism and see my experiences seemed pretty common to how others react, we work in an industry of introverts so that shouldn’t come as a surprise. A room full of strangers all with one common unifying thread, in the most part unwilling, or perhaps more accurately uncomfortable talking to each other.

So for the last couple of years as a leader I embarked on a crusade, the 3rd act of my User Group life unlocking the connections between people. I’d stand up at the start of a VMUG and I’d tell everyone in the room, if this is your first time at a VMUG or if you just don’t know anyone else in the room, come and find me during the breaks and I’ll talk to you. At one event I warned everyone, if during a break I see you on your own on your phone then I’m coming to talk to you. I bounded up to one guy who was reading his phone, he was adamant his colleagues were just at the toilet and he didn’t need my company, but I wasn’t so easily dissuaded, in the end I don’t think he grudged my company but if he did he hid it well.


At my last event as a leader, there were lots of people in groups and there were two guys talking together but slightly away from all other groups. I knew I’d met them both before but couldn’t remember much about them and did not remember they worked together. I started chatting to them and within about 10 minutes the conversation turned to a topic of which I knew there were others that were passionate about, I pulled one person in, then another, before long there was a group of about 8 people and I felt I’d done my part and walked away. Later on that night one of the original two guys told me “you’re the nicest, of the leaders” he was right on many levels with that statement…but he then qualified it with a reason why.

Last week someone said something very similar to me about their recent experiences. I had to point out that just because the leadership are passionate about the VMUG and willing to stand at the front of a full room, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re comfortable with everything. We/They all suffer the same insecurities and difficulties, personally I’ve always been more afraid of the small intimate networking situations than I have been of speaking to a packed room.

The Lowest Ebb

I remember a few years ago being at a corporate event in London. I was late to arrive, during the breaks I was able to fake essential work on my laptop but at the post event networking event there was nowhere left to hide. It was clear there were people that worked together and other people who seemed to know each other. I found myself on the outside of every group of conversation. I loitered nearby but was never either brave enough to get involved nor was I invited in to the conversation. I found myself paralysed and completely incapable of breaking the cycle. Eventually I quit, I turned around and walked out of the building. I highly doubt anyone even noticed. It was the loneliest and one of most embarrassing moments of my career.

Now the reason he said I was “the nicest of the leaders”?  He said I was the nicest one because I always seemed to go out of my way to speak to everyone, particularly the people on their own, the shy, the timid, the first timers. He’s right I do go out of my way to do that, not because I find that easy or comfortable, instead I found that being a leader provided me a safety blanket. I was able to step outside of my fears/insecurities and throw myself into a situation and channel my inner JFK

It’s ridiculous, I didn’t have any invisibility cloak of protection, it was a pure placebo but for whatever reason it worked. I remember the sobering feeling of my lowest point all too well and that powered my desire to do anything to prevent someone else from suffering such ignominy. I was able to put myself into my most uncomfortable situation not because I enjoyed it but in the hope that it might save someone else from suffering the lows I have.

The Big Finish

Adults are rubbish at talking to strangers, add in the fact we’re all introverts, it’s a potent mix that threatens to derail the true power of this community. My new career at VMware has me aligned to a number of different VMUG’s rather than just my comfort blanket in Scotland. I’ll be visible and attending 3-4 VMUGs across the UK this year and I’m hoping to carry my crusade onwards.  The true power of this community is in the people, anything we can do to unlock that the better for all involved

So my ask of everyone else? Don’t be scared to talk to the person beside you. We’re all in this together, and remember just by being here there’s a bond that unites us all. As uncomfortable as you find that initial approach, you never know how appreciated it might be by the other person

Scottish VMUG – Edinburgh October 4th 2018

Scottish VMUG – Edinburgh October 4th 2018 – Assembly Roxy

As per usual it’s set to be a cracking day, we’re honored to be welcoming Chad Sakac on his inaugural visit to Scotland and if you’ve never seen him speak then you’re in for a treat. We’ve got our usual mix of awesome sponsor’s on the day and some fantastic first timer’s and returning favourites from VMware

Yet again we’ve got two VCDX’s attending so it’s all shaping up to be a memorable day and of course there’s a special vBeers planned for afterwards. If you haven’t registered yet…what are you waiting for?

We will update the details as we get them so this blog page may change

Keynote – Chad Sakac – Pivotal

“Getting into fewer, smarter bar fights: a look at the debates that drag us down, and the dialogs that lift us up”

Sponsors –

Dell Technologies – Simplify your VDI solutions planning and management with Dell Technologies – Darren Oakley

IBM – How to Overcome the Challenges of moving VMware to the Cloud- Jim Mckay, IBM Cloud Solution Architect

Learn about the range of VMware offerings available on IBM Cloud including VCF with HXC. Demo will include live use of IBM cloud portal to deploy VMware cluster and will include overview of the many 3rd party offerings which can also be deployed.

Asystec – From Complex to Simple – An HCI Journey with VxRail Stretched Cluster – Victor Forde Asystec Solution Architect and Sandy Bryce Baillie Gifford Lead Technical Architect

Focussing on the Baillie Gifford’s recent VxRAIL implementation which is the first phase of their SDDC Strategic goal. You will get to understand the business objectives, the VxRail Stretched Cluster Deployment in all its phases, the criteria for success and how it was rigorously tested. Included will also be tips and tricks as well as lessons learned from deployment challenges encountered.

Zerto – Delivering IT Resilience in a Changing World – Nick Williams

– What is IT Resilience
– What changes are we seeing in the industry
– How an IT Resilience platform can help keep you on the right side of these.

SITS Group – Protecting your Office 365 data – What is your back-up strategy?’ – Ian Sanderson


Richard Machen – NSX SD-WAN by VeloCloud, how to simplify and improve wide area networking and access to the cloud.
Adam Bohle – VMware Cloud on AWS Update (including RDS)
Sam McGeown – Automating Micro-segmentation with vRealize Automation and NSX

vRealize Automation and NSX are both powerful tools in their own right, but together they really come alive. Based on real-world experience implementing micro-segmentation with vRealize Automation for all sorts of customers, learn the methods that work and how to avoid common mistakes. Compare out-of-the-box implementations with custom day-2 automation, and the challenges and benefits of both.

Matt Evans – To Re or not to Re(purpose) Desktops

The desktop market offers many desktop re-purposing solutions based on Windows, Linux and Chrome. In this session we will take a deep dive into those technologies, share our test results and present a comparison of the different vendor offerings to help you make an informed choice. Examples of our findings will cover costs, system requirements, performance, device management and limitations.

Robbie Jerrom – Cloud Native Apps Update

Coommunity –

Allan McAleavy– Hunting noisy neighbours using VROPS & Grafana.

When hunting for noisy neighbour workloads from a high level storage viewpoint we can only drill down as far as an ESX Host or VMFS Volume. This initially led to the development of dashboards within VROPS to allow top-down (ESX Host to VM) and bottom-up (VMFS to VM) analysis to identify these workloads. This approach worked well however teams had to use different tools & different dashboards to correlate the data. In this talk I will show how we use the VROPS python API to gather I/O data and correlate this with array data using Grafana to hunt down noisy workloads from an ESX node and VMFS view. I will also show how we can use this methodology to Identify high CPU workloads and also help us look at overall ESX and VM performance using this data.

Sponsors –

Dell Technologies
Capito / Pure Storage
Login VSI
SITS Group

Glasgow April 26th 2018 – Slide decks

Slide decks from April 2018 are available below.

Slide Decks

Atif Qadeer – Automation and NSX

Brian Gerrard and Konrad Klapa – Best Practices for vRealise Automation and Orchestrator

Cody Hosterman – Virtual Volumes Deep Dive 

Cormac Hogan – What’s Happening In the World of VMware Storage

Craig Dalrymple – Making Your 1st Restful API call to VMware

Darren Hirons – Windows 10 – Why Change the Habit of a Lifetime?

Lee Dilworth – vSan Update 6.7 and Lessons From The Field

Michael Armstrong – VMware Hands on Labs Behind The Scenes

Rick Cronin – Wavefront Overview

Glasgow April 26th 2018 – Details

Sorry it’s taken us so long to get a finalised agenda published. Conscious that it’s only 4 weeks until the VMUG we’ve decided to publish the agenda as we have it at the moment. This blog post will be a living document and will be updated as we get the other session extracts

Cormac Hogan – What’s happening in the world of VMware Storage
In my session, I plan to talk about the state of storage at VMware at moment, which includes talking about new features that you may not be aware of that are already in our products, as well as a sneak-peak at some things that “might” be appearing in some releases very soon. This will look at hyper-convergence improvements in vSAN since last year, where things are currently with VVols, an update on IO Filters, a look at core storage enhancements in vSphere 6.5, and some vision at what “might” be coming down the line. A lot of this will focus on how to leverage different data services from the different storage products for your VMs and workloads. I’ll also talk about some of the things we are doing in the persistent storage for containers, namely ‘Project Hatchway’.

Pure Storage -Virtual Volumes Deep Dive with Pure Storage – Cody Hosterman

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vExpert 2018

VMware vExpert 2018

A few weeks later than planned, yesterday was the day many of us were waiting for. vExpert 2018 announcements were due. We had a sneak peak of the application process and it was clear the standards were being rigorously evaluated. Everyone seems in agreement 2018 has been the hardest year yet to make the grade

So after the delay and a frustrating day watching my inbox last night the news I was waiting for finally arrived.

vExpert Announcement

For those that aren’t familiar with the programme;

Program Overview

The VMware vExpert program is VMware’s global evangelism and advocacy program. The program is designed to put VMware’s marketing resources towards your advocacy efforts. Promotion of your articles, exposure at our global events, co-op advertising, traffic analysis, and early access to beta programs and VMware’s roadmap. The awards are for individuals, not companies, and last for one year. Employees of both customers and partners can receive the awards. In the application, we consider various community activities from the previous year as well as the current year’s (only for 2nd half applications) activities in determining who gets awards. We look to see that not only were you active but are still active in the path you chose to apply for. Continue reading

2018 Personal Objectives (a bit late)

It’s now 6 weeks into the year and i figure it’s finally time to do something that i’ve been meaning to do since late last year… And that’s to to publish my personal objectives for 2018. For me it should be two fold it means they’re publicly out there so i can judge (and be judged) how the year went for me. Secondly i’m sure a lot of my objectives cross over with others in this community so i’m hoping it may spark some conversations and debates as the year goes on.


  • VCAP-DCV – So as posted last year (actually oops, that’s still in draft!) well spoiler alert on the 2nd attempt i got my VCAP-DCD, so it’s high on my list to aim for the 2nd VCAP which would of course unlock VCIX for me. This has to be my #1 goal for the year
  • About a year ago, like so many others i decided to embark on some AWS certs. I started working through the training but then it totally stalled. As i had an expiring exam voucher i forced issue and its scheduled for 3 months time. I need to set aside sufficient time between now and then to give myself any chance. I’m going for AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate

New Technologies:

  • Ansible and SaltStack . The scale of things at my new job compared to my old one is staggering. Everything is multiplied by 10x. Therefore it’s going to be essential for me to get much more familiar with configuration management
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Scotland VMUG – Glasgow April 26th 2018

Scottish VMUG – Glasgow April 26th 2018

We’re delighted to confirm the date for the next Scotland VMUG and it’ll be in Glasgow on Thursday April 26th.

Iain is always trying to convince me that Glasgow’s miles better, he’s obviously wrong. However on this occasion he has managed to find a fantastic venue for April.  University of Strathclyde Technology and Innovation Centre; a venue that’s valid in both stature and purpose.

The directions i’ve been given are; it’s a 3 minute walk from Queen Street station, assuming that’s based on Iain and James’ little legs so only 90 seconds or so for Sandy and I.
More details on the venue are here; https://www.strath.ac.uk/conferencingandevents/venues/technologyinnovationcentre/

We’re working really hard to finalise speakers and sponsors, needless to say it’s going to be a cracking lineup and we’ll publish all details as soon as we can. As per always we’re looking for anyone community who’d like to participate in someway, please just contact one of the leaders and we can have a conversation about options.

Registration is now open and available here: https://community.vmug.com/events/event-description/?CalendarEventKey=7a1c7931-1d4d-45cb-9580-50a7e7a5fda1&CommunityKey=cae4bc48-6188-4760-8781-3153cddee49e&Home=%2fevents%2fevent-description


VCAP6-DCV – So good I thought I’d take it twice

I’d been thinking about taking the plunge on the VCAP for a while, truth be told, thinking about it was pretty much all i’d done. So at the start of August i booked my VMworld ticket and decided to add on a VCAP exam voucher. My thinking was follow the advice of so many before me, set the date and with the impending deadline that would be enough to get my ass into gear.

So i received my voucher, scheduled my exam date, then promptly quit my job….it all happened swiftly and I didn’t really see it coming. So rather than spending four weeks dedicating myself to my study i spent a frantic four weeks trying to tidy up a number of outstanding projects before beginning another chapter of my career. So as far as exam preparation goes it couldn’t have gone much worse.

I found time to watch some vBrownbag design sessions, i finished half of Foundation in the Art of Infrastructure Design, i read a number of blog articles about what to expect but only managed a fraction of the study that i’d have ideally done.

The day before the exam I spent most of the day trying some last minute cramming but truly felt by that point the damage had been done. I didn’t feel there was much more i could take in so late in the day and that night i was joking with people about how i was failing a VCAP exam the following day.

As i entered the exam i felt pretty lethargic, the prospect of 3.5 hours doing an exam that i didn’t think i had much chance of passing filled me with apathy but well i was there now with nothing better to do. First question was a drag and drop, and to be honest i felt completely at home i knew the topic and promptly rattle off an answer.

I read enough guides to know most people suggest a strategy, dependant on your strengths do all the questions first, leaving all the time for the designs etc. After question one, all my strategising went out the window, i started to answer the second Drag and Drop but it was more complicated and i thought this will take a bit more thought, so i flagged the answer and moved on.

I did this for the next 16 questions, answering any quick hitters and skim reading some of the designs. There was no rhyme and reason to my strategy i just wanted to know what i was up against. When i got to the end i went back through the questions in numerical order with a similar mindset, if it looked “easier” i’d tackle it otherwise i’d move on.

After a couple of passes i’d done 1/3 of the designs and most of the drag and drops. I was about 90 minutes into the allotted time and about two thirds of the way through the exam. Obviously i’d now picked off all the low hanging fruit and i was left with everything that looked either tough or terrifying. I worked my through the remaining Drag and Drops, some i found really ambiguous so was battling internally with the correct answers..

In fact this was probably my biggest issue with the exam as a whole, there were certain answers where i could quite clearly see two schools of argument. For some of them i really felt like i could argue the case for two correct answers, obviously the exam isn’t graded that way but that was what felt so tough. Two answers look right, which one is most right, or more importantly more right in VMware’s eyes?? A customer has enough physical 10GB interfaces for virtual interface requirements should they use physical or VLAN separation? It depends isn’t an acceptable answer

All that remained were the 3 most complicated designs. I battled through them as best i could. One design alone took me in excess of an hour, it was about a physical/vDS design, with port groups and a LAG. I found it incredibly tough, it was a complicated design and there was lots I wasn’t 100% about. Anyway it got to the point where i couldn’t look at it anymore and clicked submit. I submitted about the 3 hour mark so despite everyone’s warnings i didn’t really find time that much of a constraint. “Sorry you have not passed”.

Prior to the exam i was fully prepared to fail and was just expecting to take the experience as a learning opportunity, now despite my lack of prep, as i was about to press the submit button, i genuinely felt I’ve got a chance here.  And it turns out i had,  i was so close to passing that, rather than accepting the expected defeat i was absolutely gutted. 20 odd points, that may just have been 1-2 questions, as is typical with VMware exams all you’re left with is a pretty useless vague list of things to get better at before trying again.

I was pretty downbeat and went to the pub to meet up with some friends. This was when my luck changed, in the pub i bumped into Kyle Jenner (who has an outstanding VCAP study guide on his blog) who i’d only met for the first time the night before. He knew i was sitting the VCAP so we talked about it. Anyway it turned out a lot of my experience married his first attempt, we were able to talk through some of the designs and he helped me see where i’d made some of my mistakes.

By the end of the night i felt pretty good about it again, i took a shot with little prep and got bloody close. That meant i was on the right track, my actual real world experience had got me within touching distance of a pass. A bit more discipline, a bit more study (especially vSan as it came up a couple of times and i’ve never been hands on with it) and i’d be ready to take a second crack.

to be continued…

VMworld 2017 the one with the boozing and schmoozing

Sitting in the airport on my way home from Barcelona, the haze is starting the clear and i’ve been trying to formulate my judgement on this year’s VMworld. 2017 marked my 6th consecutive VMworld and i’ve enjoyed them all immensely but it’s very clear to me that this year’s stands alone, i had a very different experience from any previous years.

I read someone comment yesterday that the more times you attend there tends to be an evolution and the dynamic of VMworld changes and i couldn’t agree more.

The first year i attended in 2012 my schedule was insane, it was SESSION, SESSION, SESSION i packed my entire agenda from 09:00 on day one till 17:00 on day three. I was so eager to learn and so eager to ensure my bosses didn’t think i’d disappeared to Barcelona on a jolly, i had a breakout in every available time slot. I went to nothing but sessions and the solutions exchange, i took notes and met vendors. 2013 was broadly the same, i had a fantastic trip on both occasions and i was knackered at the end, I learnt a lot but didn’t add much on a personal level

Over the year’s i’ve met more people and more people and more people, and without really realising i’ve built a network. I usually start out with the same intention, i pack my agenda with sessions but i’m a lot more flexible about how the event plays out. If there’s something i really want to see i’ll make sure i go, but the layer below that, if i’m in conversation with someone be that a friend, peer, or vendor i’m more inclined to let a session or two slide.

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