The strange and exciting world of the Internet of Things

For some time I have been passionate about connected devices, home automation, and digging deeper into emerging technologies. If you have read my previous posts, I tend to share what I am passionate about. As I return to blogging I will be writing about the Internet of Things, connected devices, and more on home automation. I plan to write simultaneously about Enterprise IoT and Home Automation.

The focus of the first Enterprise IoT series will be on VMware’s VMware’s Pulse IoT Center 2.0. Much of this builds on the exceptional work of a friend and colleague, Ken Osborne. Please take a look at his work here,

From the home automation front, I have a number of updates, and will demonstrate building out a better home automation experience, and further document my families experience interacting with connected devices.

Join me as I explore the strange and exciting world of connected devices and learn with me about where the future of technology seems to be leading us.

The strange and exciting world of the Internet of Things

Who moved my VMware C# Client?

Years ago I was handed a rack of HP servers, a small EMC storage array, and a few CDs with something called ESX 2 on them. I was told I could use this software to put several virtual servers on the handful of physical servers I had available to me. There was a limited web client, available, most of my time was spent on the command line over SSH. The documentation was limited, I spent most of my time writing procedures for the company I was at, quickly earning my self a promotion, and a new role as a storage engineer.

Today VMware is announcing that the next release of the vSphere product line will deprecate the C# client in favor of the web client. As I have gone through this process, both as a vExpert and a VMware employee, there have been many questions. During our pre-announcement call with the product team at VMware, there were a number of concerns voiced about what will work on day 1 and what this does to the customers who have come to rely on performance. Rather than focus on the actual changes, most of which are still to be determined, it seemed more helpful to talk about the future of managing systems, and the future of operations.


When I started working on server administration, the number of systems one admin might manage was pretty low, maybe less than a dozen. With the advent of virtualization and cloud native applications, devops and no-ops, administrators are managing farms of servers, most of them virtual. We often hear about pets vs. cattle, the concept that most of our servers are moving from being pets, something we care for as a part of our family, to cattle, something we use to make money, if one of our cattle have a problem, we don’t spend too much time on it, we have many others, we can just make more.

Whether it is a VMware product, Openstack, or another management tool, abstracting deployment and management of systems is becoming more mainstream, and more cost effective. In this model, a management client is far less important than APIs and the full stack management they can enable. For the few use cases where the client is needed, the web client will continue to improve, but the true value is these improvements will drive new APIs and new tools developed for managing systems. While change is never easy, a longer term view both where we came from, and where we are going with the interfaces reminds us this is a necessary change, and less impactful than it may seem at first glance.

Who moved my VMware C# Client?

What is Dell really buying?

Standard disclaimer, this is my personal opinions, and does not reflect those of my employer, or of any insider knowledge, take it for what it is worth.

When I heard rumors of the Dell EMC deal, I was pretty skeptical.  I am a numbers guy, and the amount of debt that would be required is a bit staggering.  Why would a company like Dell even want to acquire a company like EMC?  Especially after we all watched the pain they went through to take the company private.  Why would EMC want to go through the pain of being taken private, by a former competitor no less?  With the HP breakup, and IBM selling off a number of their product lines over the past decade or so, this almost seems counterintuitive, an attempt to recreate the big tech companies of the 90’s & 2000’s which are all but gone.

Sales and Engineering Talent

I have many friends at Dell, I was even a customer when I worked for some small startups many years ago.  In my experience, Dell is really good at putting together commodity products, and pricing them to move.  Their sales teams are good, but the compensation model makes them tough to partner with.

EMC has a world class sales and marketing organization.  EMC enterprise sales reps are all about the customer experience.  They are machines with amazing relationship skills, and they are well taken care of.  Engineering at EMC is a huge priority as well.  EMC’s higher end support offerings, while costly, are worth every penny.  I have seen them fly in engineers for some larger customers to fix problems.  EMC products are all about the customer experience.  Even though I have not been a fan of their hardware lately, they have done some amazing things around making the experience second to none.

An Enterprise Storage & Software product

Let’s be honest, Dell has not been a truly enterprise player in the storage and software arena.  If we look at the products they have acquired, a majority of them are mid market plays.  Compellent was supposed to be their big enterprise storage play, but that is mid market at best.  From a software perspective, most of the products are low end, and they don’t tend to develop them further.

EMC on the other hand has enterprise class storage.  Say what you want about the complexity of the VMAX line, it is pretty solid.  It may be a pain to manage sometimes, but it does set the standard in enterprise storage.  EMC has also done amazing things with software.  ViPR Controller and ViPR SRM are impressive technologies when implemented appropriately.  EMC has also done quite well with some of their other software products, but more so they treat software as a critical part of the stack.


Enough said, the real value for Dell is getting a good stake in VMware.  Like it or not VMware is the market leader in Hypervisors, Cloud Management, Software Defined Networking, and making incredible strides in Automation, and Software Defined Storage.  The best thing that EMC has done is allowing VMware to continue to be independant.  If Dell can stick to that plan, the rewards can be incredible.

The reality is this deal won’t change much in the short term from an IT industry perspective.  Large storage companies such as EMC and HP Storage are getting their lunch eaten by smaller more agile storage startups.  Servers are becoming more of a commodity, and software continues to be the path forward for many enterprises.  This is a good deal for both Dell and EMC, the challenge will be not to go the way of HP.  If I could give Michael Dell one piece of advice, it would be to hire smart people and listen to them.  Culture matters and the culture is what makes EMC and VMware what they are so don’t try to change it.  Culture is the true value of this acquisition.

What is Dell really buying?

VMware certification framework, long walks on the beach, teddy bears…

I am not a VMware administrator. I know this may come as a surprise to some of you, but I occasionally have to look things up in the docs, or hunt in the GUI for where some alert may be burried. I spend a fair amount of time in the labs, honing my skills, but it is generally for the purpose of understanding more about the products I represent, and being able to speak intelligently about them. I have been a VCP-DV since 2010, but I have worked on VMware ESX since 2006. I consulted on and wrote a great deal of documentation and many designs prior to becoming a VCP. I have the utmost respect for the certification, knowing how challanging it was for me, and how I continue to struggle with the exam itself, largely because I need to be better disciplined about sitting down and studying for it, and because I am not dealing with it as an administrator.

That being said, I am not a fan of the current certification process for VMware. I have brought this up to the education services team as well as those in the community, and we have seen some changes, but I think we need to see more. Looking at other vendors, EMC or HP for example, certifications are geared at career paths. As a consultant I obtained the EMC Technical Architect certificaiton on the VNX products. It was challanging, and required three exams, but it was very focused on design with some interface and hands on knowledge required, but for the most part, it was around design principals which are specific to the product with some general design principals. HP’s storage architecture certification was similar, very focused on good design and solid product knowledge.

The main thing that differentiated these from the VMware certification process was the seperation of an architect track from the implimentation and engineering tracks. It is important for a architect to be able to understand the admin and engineering functions, VMware’s entry point with a very specific administration exam is counter intuitive. Continuing on with the new VCIX certification, formerly VCAP, requiring an implimentaiton exam again seems to be a bit off.

In my opinion, VMware Education should look at seperating out the tracks, and changing some of the course work to reflect this. By forcing everyone up a single path the value of the lower certifications are diluted, as it becomes a core requirement for many companies. That being said, I think that there should be some cross over one each exam and in each course. We need to drive more people to a higher level. I will also say that the addition of the Network Virtualization track to the others is refreshing, I am excited to see that we are growing the education and certification tracks, but there needs to be more clarity and better paths to get more advanced certifications.

One final thought I would leave you with, certifications are not the end all be all, much like education. I hold a BS and an MBA. The first thing I learned when I finished those is that my learning had just begun. As IT professionals it is incumbent upon us to continuously learn, grow, and improve. Versioning certifications is a necessary evil to make sure we are keeping up with our learning, but it falls to each of us to make sure we are pushing ourselves to learn, to seek out mentors, and to grow our own career.

VMware certification framework, long walks on the beach, teddy bears…

VMware User Groups: Not for just for VMware employees and Vendors

A couple weeks ago we had our annual Portland VMUG User Conference.  First of all, big Kudos to the local VMUG leaders, and a big thank to the VMUG National Headquarters, and the vendors who sponsored us.  A reoccurring theme with all of these events I participate in is the number of vendors and VMware employees presenting.  I say this not to be critical but to encourage a different mindset.  I am hesitant to say this, because I love getting up in front of the VMware users and talking about what we are doing, and getting their feedback and questions.  That is one of my favorite parts about being here is talking to our customers.

Something which has made the rounds with the usual suspects is the concept of mentoring customers to speak at the VMUGs.  Mike Laverick wrote this article last year, and I think we need to keep pushing this concept forward.  The VMUG has a program called Feed Forward, to make this a reality.  Now I am not the foremost expert on presenting, but the VMUG is something I consider personally important to me, especially in Portland.  I have been a member for 4 years now, and I have been presenting for 2-3 of those years as a partner and VMware employee.  I have met more cool people, and had more amazing conversations through the process.

The VMUG is not about me, it is not about vendors, it is absolutely all about the customer.  It does very little good to have our partners and employees present every session.  Of course there are some customers who do present, but as a VMUG member, and someone who cares deeply for what we do, I would encourage you to get out there and speak up and get involved.  There are literally hundreds of us who are willing to help you and encourage you.  Most of us are not perfect presenters, but we just want you to be successful.  I encourage you to start small, but let us help you start being more involved and grow your personal brand at your local VMUG.

VMware User Groups: Not for just for VMware employees and Vendors

The universe is big. It’s vast and complicated and ridiculous.

As I was meeting with a customer recently, we got onto the topic of workload portability. It was interesting, we were discussing the various cloud providers, AWS, Azure, and VMware’s vCloud Air, primarily, and how could they, a VMware shop, move workloads in and out of various cloud providers.

Most industry analysts, and those of us on the front lines trying to make this all work, or help our customers make it work, will agree that we are in a transition phase. Many people smarter than I have talked at length about how virtualization and infrastructure as a service is a bridge to get us to a new way of application development and delivery, one where all applications are delivered from the cloud, and where development is constant and iterative. Imagine patch Tuesday every hour every day…

So how do we get there? Well if virtualization is simply a bridge, that begs the question of portability of workloads, virtual machines in this case. Looking at the problem objectively, we have started down that path previously with the Open Virtualization Format (OVF), but that requires a powered off Virtual Machine which is then exported, copied, and then imported to the new system which creates the proper format as part of the import process. But why can’t we just live migrate workloads without downtime between disparate hypervisors and clouds?

From my perspective the answer is simple, it is coming, it has to, but the vendors will hold out as long as they can. For some companies, the hypervisor battle is still waging. I think it is safe to say we are seeing the commoditization of the hypervisor. As we look at VMware’s products, they are moving from being a hypervisor company, again nothing insider here, just review the expansion into cloud management, network and storage virtualization, application delivery, and so much more, but more and more they are able to manage other vendors hypervisors. We are seeing more focus on “Cloud Management Platforms”, and everyone wants to manage any hypervisor. It has to follow then that some standards emerge around the hypervisor, virtual hard drives, the whole stack so we can start moving within our own datacenters.

This does seem counter intuitive, but if we put this into perspective, there is very little advantage in consolidation at this point. Most companies are as consolidated as they will get, we are now just working to get many of them to the final 10% or so. It is rare to find a company who is not virtualizing production workloads now, so now we need to look at what is next. Standards must prevail as they have in the physical compute, network, and storage platforms. This doesn’t negate the value of the hypervisor, but it does provide for choice, and differentiation around features and support.

I don’t suspect we will see this happen anytime soon, but it begs the question of why not? It would seem to be the logical progression.

The universe is big. It’s vast and complicated and ridiculous.

Bow Ties are cool!

Now that I am past my first 90 days here at VMware, I consider myself something of an authority on absolutely nothing. Thus I feel it incumbent on me to post a semi serious post about life, liberty, and the pursuit of virtualizaiton.

Since coming here I get the question at least once a month about how to get hired at VMware. The truth is there is no secret formula, no one trick that will get you an interview, or past the interview. The truth is that you just have to stand out and bring something unique to our growing team. I have seen many of my friends go through interviews, some get hired, and some not make it. It is not that they aren’t good enough, but there has to be something which sets those who make it apart from those who don’t. What follows may or may not make sense, be true, or be helpful, but it is my attempt to shed some light into what it takes to be a part of our team and a part of changing the technology world.


Working at a company growing as quickly and disrupting the technology world the way VMware has requires flexibility. Being amenable to change on a moments notice is a requirement here. Every day we wake up and have a new requirement, a new idea, a new challenge. No day is ever dull or the same as the last, and just when you think you have it figured out, there is a new strategy, or a new solution for our customers.


This one caught me by surprise too. The best people at VMware are the most humble. They are the types who are willing to sweep the floors, talk to the new hire class about how great VMware is, or talk to our largest customers about how we are taking responsibility for something that may not have gone as well as we thought it would. Being here means remembering that it has nothing to do with me, it is all about the cool technology and the team. Imagine walking around the Palo Alto campus and bumping into the guy that literally wrote the book on VMware storage or networking, and talking to them as a team member.


Everyone I meet here, well almost everyone, has a love for learning. Since joining the team, I have spent most of my time asking questions, reading, studying our roadmaps, and debating strategy, technology, and ideas with some incredibly smart people. I have found that most of the people here want to know what others think, they are well read, and generally trying to absorb as much information as they can. It is hard to be around and not get motivated to read the latest white papers, learn a new programming language, or grab someone who has been here a while and ask them questions.

Being Awesome

We are a team of winners. That isn’t me being prideful or putting anyone down, we just love to win. We love bringing amazing ideas to life, everyone on the team, at least everyone I have met so far, is all about teamwork. That being said, we all work for a greater good, we are executing on a vision, not for ourselves, but to make our little section of the world a better place. Nowhere is this more evident than in the commitment to giving back. We are encouraged to volunteer, not because it makes the company look good, but because it is part of the culture. We are encouraged to be involved in things we believe in and to make a positive difference wherever we are.

Where do I sign up?

So really the best way to join us is to be involved in the community. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my current manager began to screen me at the VMUG User Conference. Since moving to Portland, I have done my best to get involved in the local tech community and help out where I can. I have volunteered to speak at the conferences, work the booth for my employer, evangelize the various user groups, and just show up to support friends. Get your name out there as someone who is willing to do what ever is needed. Be active, be sincere, and be present. VMware is a great place to work, but only because we have an awesome community, awesome partners, and awesome users. Whether you want to work at VMware, or just be involved, this is an amazing place. Get out there and be involved in the community. The Portland VMUG Conference is November 4th this year at the Oregon Convention Center. Come by and check it out, learn more, and find a way to pitch in. We are all about community, and that is the best way to find out about working here.

Bow Ties are cool!

EVO Rail, is technology really making things easier for us?

This week at VMworld, the announcement of what had been Project Marvin became official.  I wanted to add my voice to the debate on the use case for this, and where I believe the industry goes with products like this.  To answer the title question, EVO is a step in the right direction, but it is not the end of the evolution.  As always I have no inside information, I am not speaking on behalf of VMware, this is my opinion on where the industry goes and what I think is cool and fun.

To understand this, we need to consider something my wife said recently.  As a teacher, she was a bit frustrated this week to return to school to find her laptop re-imaged, and her printer was not configured.  I tried to help her remotely, but it is something I will need to work on when I get back.  Her comment was, “Technology is supposed to make things easier”.  This stung for a moment, after all technology is my life, but when I thought about her perspective, it struck me just how right she is.  Why afterall shouldn’t the laptop have reached out, discovered a printer near by and been prepared to print to it, afterall, my iPhone/iPad can do that with no configuration on the device itself.

So what does this have to do with EVO?  If we look at EVO as a stand alone product, it doesn’t quite add up.  It is essentially a faster way of implimenting a product which is not too complicated to install.  I have personally installed thousands of Nodes of vSphere, hundreds of vCenters, it is pretty simple with a proper design.  The real value here though, the trend, is simplification.  Just because I know how to build a computer, doesn’t mean I want to.  Just because I can easily impliment a massive vSphere environment, that doesn’t mean I want to go through the steps.  That is why scripting is so popular, it enables us to do repetetive tasks more effeciently.

The second part of this though really comes down to a vision, where are we going.  If you look at where we are going as an industry, we are moving to do more at the application layer in terms of high availability, disaster recovery, and performance.  We see this with the openstack movement, the cloud movement, docker, and so many others.  At some point, we are going to stop worrying about highly available infrastructure.  At some point our applications will all work everywhere, and if the infrastructure fails, we will be redirected to infrastructure in another location without realizing it.  

That is the future, but for now we have to find a way to hide the complexity from our users, and still provide the infrastructure.  We need to scale faster, better, stronger, and more resilient, without impacting legacy applications.  Someday we will all be free from our devices, and use what ever is in our hand, or in front of us, or just get a chip in our brains, someday HA won’t be an infrastructure issue, but until then projects like EVO will help us to bridge that gap.  Not perfect arguably, but this is a bridge to get us a step closer to a better world.  At the end of the day the more complexity we hide with software, the better we are, provide that software is solid, and we can continusiouly improve.

EVO Rail, is technology really making things easier for us?

VMware, come for the people, stay for the vision

As I approach the end of my second month here at VMware, having had this conversation with some friends, I thought it would be valuable to talk about the reasons why I chose to join, and what it looks like from this side of the fence. As a disclaimer, what I am disclosing is all public knowledge, nothing untoward here, I am speaking for myself not VMware, and this is intended as a larger statement on careers and where we choose to go.

When I made the choice to join VMware I was very happy at HP. I was looking for a new position within the company to align with my career goals, but I was very happy. HP is a great place to work, my peers, management, and teams were amazing. When VMware approached me I was very adamant that I was not interested, even though I was helping to lead the VMware Champions team within HP, and have a great love for all things virtual and cloud related. What finally convinced me was the people. Everyone I talked to, both during interviews, and friends who worked there, was excited. Everyone had the vision and was on fire to change our industry for the better. There were many conversations around products, around culture, and around where the company was headed.

When I got here, I couldn’t help but be sucked into that culture. I was excited, and every day I get a little more excited. We are doing amazing things here. When I go talk to customers I am sharing the vision with them. Where we see the industry going, how we are improving businesses, simplifying them. This is my dream job…well for now. Next week VMworld 2014 kicks off, and we share a little more of the dream with over 20,000 of our friends, customers, and partners. We have a vision and it is so awesome.

So what is the point of all of this? Choosing a career is tough, but finding the right company is tougher. One of the things I have learned the hard way has been finding a company with a vision that I can really believe in. I don’t just work for VMware, I believe we are changing the industry. I came here because there are some really amazing people and products, but I am here now because I believe in our vision. It doesn’t matter if you are an entrepreneur, or a plumber, if you don’t believe in what you are doing it shows. Life is short, and if you are not sold out for your job, you need to ask yourself why. I am not saying go out and quit your job because you don’t like it, but take a long hard look at yourself and ask why you aren’t passionate about it. No matter what you do, it is up to you to make it awesome. VMware is awesome because I believe in what we are doing. Do you believe in what you are doing?

VMware, come for the people, stay for the vision

Changing Direction…Again

The funny thing about life and careers is you never know where you will end up. Alistair Cooke wrote a fascinating article, about how random his career has been, Recently a number of my friends from around the globe have been asking me about career moves, or for advice, assuming I actually know something or know what I am doing. I have come to realize, similarly to Alistair, planning my career does not work.  I am no where near where I thought I would be at any point in my career, I have surpassed my own expectations, not because I am smarter than anyone else, but because I love to learn and I have been very blessed to meet some very intelligent people who have taught me more than I ever thought possible.

Over the past 20+ years I have had the privilege of working as a soldier, tech support, a systems admin, a systems engineer, and a technology architect.  Recently I had a conversation with the team at VMware.  I was pretty convinced that I didn’t want to change jobs, but I do love VMware, and I have spent a great deal of time and effort to understand the strategy, as well as to work with VMware as a partner on many levels.

The interesting thing I learned during my interview process was that I have actually been interviewing for this job for nearly 9 months now without realizing it.  Interactions with various VMware employees showed them I was interested in VMware as a company, and in helping customers understand more about the solutions.  Through the conversation, the team at VMware laid out a strategy, and a future which is compelling.  The thing though that finally sold me though was the people.  I have a number of friends at VMware, and I follow many on the Tech Marketing team, so I feel like I know what things are like there, but meeting with the local team, and getting their perspective, and understanding the vision from their level.

I do want to say, HP is an exceptional company with some amazing products, and with some of the smartest people I have ever met.  I am humbled to say I was a part of the team at HP, and I am equally humbled and excited to be joining the VMware team.   I will continue to write my own opinions, and things that interest me.  If I have anything to recommend to anyone considering how to improve their current position, or find another it is the following.

  • Never stop learning
  • Ask questions
  • Find smart people and hang out with them
  • Learn from everyone
  • Give something back to the community.
  • Thank you’s go a long way
  • Humility saves you from looking silly
  • Always be polite and helpful, you never know when someone might help you, or when you might be able to help them.

So all this to say, this month I will be joining the VMware Health Care team as a Senior Systems Engineer.  I have much to learn, but I have confidence in the team, the product, and the strategy.  I look forward to continuing my journey, and to giving back to the community wherever possible.

Changing Direction…Again