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VMworld – The Most Valuable Experience of my IT Career. July 28, 2011

Posted by audiomatron in Virtualization.
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Right at one year ago, I heard the words from my boss that I’d been waiting to hear since I began working for my current employer. Of course, I can’t recall the exact words, but it went something like, “Marcus, let’s go ahead and order equipment/software for vSphere”. For so long, I had waited to hear those words. I was dying to get into virtualization on a deeper level than the tinkering I had previously done with ESXi 3.5. However, after the equipment arrived, the excitement died down, and I had to come to terms with the reality that I really had no clue what I was getting myself into. With a head full of what would turn out to be bad ideas, I moved ahead, and placed my new servers and my new SAN in the rack, moving some older servers to a workbench in my data center to make room. Unfortunately, the oldest (and most important) of these servers would not power back up. I had to pull an all-nighter to recover all of it’s data, and to find new homes for it’s many roles. Why did I tell you that story?

See, lack of sleep does strange things to me, most notably, it destroys my inhibitions – inhibitions such as the filtering mechanism that stops me from asking my bosses questions like, “Hey, will you guys send me to VMworld?”. After asking my friend Jase, who has been to VMworld a few times, whether or not it would be worth going (his answer was a resounding “yes”), I fired off one of my notoriously lengthy emails to my boss asking if I could go – this was two days before VMworld. The answer was yes, and while my employer might not be fully aware of it, that was one of the best IT investments they have made since I began working for them.

Below, I shall attempt to demonstrate why attending VMworld is a must for any IT professional involved in virtualization.

Whether you realize it or not right now, your entire infrastructure will rest on VMware

That’s essentially what our very tech savvy VP said to our company President when they discussed whether or not to send me to VMworld. My server environment is now over 90% virtual. It is crucial that, as the only IT admin in my company, I have some experience and training regarding best practices and processes surrounding the software that supports over 90% of my server workload.

VMworld is an excellent value

I don’t know if you’ve ever priced any IT training courses, but they’re expensive. This year, VMworld, if you registered early enough, costs just shy of $1500.00. The conference lasts 4 days, there is a wide variety of sessions and labs from which to choose, and two meals a day are provided. The sessions cover topics in all aspects of virtualization and best practices for virtualizing many common applications. The labs allow you to get your hands on the products, and cover topics such as installing and configuring various VMware products and performance troubleshooting. Currently, for VMworld 2011, I’m looking at 16-17 hours worth of sessions, and I plan to complete as many labs as I possibly can. I defy you to find a better value in IT training.

So what does all of this mean to me?

Now that I have the generic run-down of VMworld out of the way, I’d like to expound a bit more on my own personal experience.

The Labs

Last year, I tailored my VMworld course schedule to fit my needs, as someone new to vSphere. There are courses for everyone at just about every skill level. I chose sessions and labs that centered around installing and configuring vSphere, performance best practices, troubleshooting, best practices for virtualizing  Active Directory, and so on – things that pertained directly to my goals at the time, which were setting up vSphere and getting some VMs running. The hands on labs turned out to be one of the best parts of my experience at VMworld. Not only could I play with vSphere in my own personal virtual environment, but there were attendants in the lab who would answer any questions you may have. I recall chatting with one of the attendants and learning a great deal about storage IOPs and performance monitoring.

I went through the “vSphere install and config” lab three or four times, and it paid off.

Remember the story I told at the beginning of the article about the nasty server crash? Well, while I was away at VMworld, the temporary new home for some large file shares from that old server decided to go bad (only when I’m gone do these things seem to happen). I booked a flight home a day early, and came home to attempt to remedy this situation. I thought to myself, “this looks like a good candidate to be my first VM”. With the “vSphere install and config” lab fresh on my mind, I was able to set up my new vSphere cluster (which up until that point had not even been powered on) with ease!

The Sessions

As stated earlier, I had all manner of bad ideas of what I was going to do with vSphere. However, after attending best practices sessions at VMworld, I returned home with sound information that deterred me from doing a variety of things – like P2Ving a domain controller. Not only did I learn, from a session about virtualizing AD, that P2Ving a DC is a bad idea, I learned why it is a bad idea, and I learned about other considerations to make when running Active Directory in a virtual environment. This is just a small example of the vast sea of knowledge that can be gained from attending sessions at VMworld.

The People

If you are an SMB IT admin like me, then you may also be the only IT person in your company. You may very well be the only guy in the building whose office is decorated with fine art and Star Trek knick-nacks instead of sports memorabilia and dead squirrels positioned so that they look like they are running up the side of your credenza – or elk heads. I digress. My point is, if you are like me, then there is no one quite like you at work. At work, while they may listen to you when you yammer on and on about the slick experiment you just did with VDR, deep down, they really just want their computers to work. At VMworld, every random stranger you talk to has something in common with you – you’re all IT people who are into virtualization. I can’t begin to tell you the value of some of the very insightful and useful things I learned just talking to people in line or at meals at VMworld. For the first time, I felt very much a part of the IT world.

The Free Stuff

Let’s not forget about the swag. I racked up enough t-shirts and hats so that I could wear something computer/IT related every day of the week. I could barely fit it all in my luggage to take it all home.  I even won a Dell Streak.

Conclusion

If I were to write all of my thoughts about VMworld, we’d be here all day. I do not exaggerate when I say that it was absolutely the best experience of my IT career thus far, and I am looking forward to attending again this year. If you are on the fence about going, or feel uncomfortable about asking your boss, don’t be! Ask your boss. The worst he/she could say is “no”, but if he/she says yes, you won’t regret it, I promise!

-Marcus

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Comments»

1. Jase's Place » Attending VMworld – Proven to be a Valuable Experience - July 28, 2011

[…] In reading his post, you’ll find that it far surpasses what one might expect. Check out his post on his experience here: VMworld – The Most Valuable Experience of My IT Career. […]

2. VMworld USA 2011: all you need to know | UP2V - July 28, 2011

[…] Experience Marcus Smith writes about his VMworld experience on his blog. Read the posting titled VMworld – The Most Valuable Experience of my IT Career. […]

Gary - May 22, 2012

$9000 total for hardware that is truly codmimoty pricing I’d be interested to know the minimum vSphere + vCloud license costs to run on the vBrick wall as spec’ed ?I suppose one of the implications of this move from ESX(i) socket pricing to per VM pricing, is that the consolidation ratios become less important (eg, we had been buying big beefy Dell R910 s with 256Gb Ram since we could get the best consolidation and bang for our socket priced hypervisors) now that VMware is moving to per VM pricing that equation changes to put smaller hardware platforms back on equal footing.

3. Barry Le Bombe - July 28, 2011

But will it blend?

audiomatron - July 28, 2011

Yes, yes it will.

4. Barry Le Bombe - September 20, 2011

Read this one again. I like your passion.


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