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.

george

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?

The changing landscape of high-tech startups, what it means for the future of technology.

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins points out, “When used right, technology becomes an accelerator of momentum, not a creator of it” Technology, he goes on to point out, is not the reason for the success of great companies, but rather a critical component of their strategy. Technology is a means to an end, but for those outside the tech world, it is simply one tool to be exploited.

There is no doubt that the landscape is changing for technology, especially technology startups. In 2015, and indeed for several years prior, we have seen insane valuations of companies that had yet to produce an actual product. To make matters worse, those that do produce a product, produce something which is very impressive, but mostly just a little better than the competition. Usually it is a new way of compressing data, a new de-duplication algorithm, or a way to do analytics on the data at rest. All very cool, and every one thinking they are going to be the next big thing. There is an old saying which goes something like build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door, or something like that. The problem is that everyone is building a slightly better mousetrap with slightly different features when what we need is just a basic mousetrap. This is true of storage, hyper-converged, and every other technology startup in the past few years.

Generally speaking we can say that history repeats itself, especially in the high tech world. I was preparing to leave the military during the dot com bubble, just as it burst, I made the last minute decision to stay in and give myself more time to prepare. While this may not exactly be a bubble, we are trending toward a massive consolidation of these high tech startups. The reason is simple, we are overcomplicating everything. Businesses, much like consumers, don’t want complicated flashy technology, they want technology to accelerate what they are doing, they want to augment and improve their lives with technology. In the Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time, Douglas Adams makes the point,”We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.” The future of technology is not one off complex cool solutions, it is abstraction, simplicity, and integration. If your product doesn’t simplify business or consumers lives, it is likely to be short lived.

The changing landscape of high-tech startups, what it means for the future of technology.

Getting hired into IT as a Veteran

With Veterans Day coming, this seemed like a logical time to talk about getting hired into the IT field as a Veteran.  As someone who started out with no degree and no formal training, but a strong desire to work in the tech industry, I thought it would be interesting to share my story, with the hopes that it will help others break into the field.

Don’t let anyone tell you no.  I was medically retired from the Army, and the Vocational Rehabilitation counselor from the VA told me  that he would not authorize payment for school if I chose IT as my major.  My only options were to go for a Bachelors in Business Accounting, or use my G.I. Bill to pay for school.  I opted for my G.I. Bill, I am so glad I did, I would have been a terrible accountant.  I also applied to every IT job, both entry level and not, I stretched my skills, and I clawed my way into a help desk contract job at a school district after being rejected for a lower level position at the same school district.

Read everything you can, if you don’t know something, ask, or look it up, but don’t ever stop learning.  Don’t just look for technical learning either, consider yourself a business person with technical skills.  Some of the best sources for learning are books, podcasts, and blogs.  Here are a few lists that I have used and personally recommend.  Some of these are technical, but all of these will help you develop yourself, and show that you aren’t afraid of getting outside your comfort zone.

  • Books
    • Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us – Seth Godin
    • EntreLeadership – Dave Ramsey
    • Start – Jon Acuff
    • The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win – Gene Kim
    • The juggling act bringing balance to your faith family and work – Pat Gelsinger
    • The New Kingmakers – Stephen O’Grady
    • The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google – Nicholas Carr
  • Podcasts
    • Geek Wisperers
    • In Tech We Trust
    • Speaking in Tech
    • Entreleadership Podcast
    • Chat with Champions
    • DevOps Cafe Podcast
    • The Cloudcast
  • Blogs

Get involved in every community activity, technical meetup, and usergroup you can.  When I wanted to get my name out there, I started showing up at my local VMware Users Group, and started writing this blog.  I watched some of the presenters, and I was hooked.  I started learning the materials and practicing, and pretty soon I was presenting.  I started getting more into it, looking for more opportunities to present.  Next I plan to start with Toastmasters, and taking a few classes on presenting.  I make community events a priority when they focus on IT, and the user.  Finding people who do what you want to do and asking them if they can help, offer to buy them coffee, find out their reading list, ask them how they were successful, ask them if they will mentor you, but make sure you are bringing them some value and some perspective.

There is no magic formula for success.  Veterans tend to be driven, and turn our skills from being soldiers into technical skills.  One day you will wake up and realize you are well on you way, but you never stop learning.  Focus on community and on developing your skills.  Learn everything you can, be a good team player, and you will never find yourself lacking opportunities.

Getting hired into IT as a Veteran

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.

VMware

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 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