Live Blog: Phoenix VMUG User Conference 2012

Today I’m at the 3rd quarter Phoenix VMUG and will be live blogging my experience (provided I can find decent public WiFi).

For a full listing of the sessions, check out this agenda page. I’m here with a handful of colleagues, so there’s no telling exactly what will happen, however the sessions that I think I’ll take are:

  • Session #1: EMC – Virtualization of Mission Critical Applications and Unstructured Data
  • Session #2: VMware – vCenter 5.1: A Technical Deep Dive
  • Session #3: Veem Software – 5 Ways Smart VM Backups May Surprise You
  • Session #4: Quantum – VM Data Protection for Dummies
  • Session #5: VMware – Performance Best Practices for vSphere (I’m torn between that and this:  Troubleshooting Storage Performance. Is it the Hardware or the Software?)
  • Session #6: Pure Storage Debugging Storage Performance Bottlenecks Using Flash Memory (Mostly because I want to see the Pure Storage guys!)

I’ll keep the images to a minimum on the blog, however I might tweet out some pictures. Check out my Twitter account @Nonapeptide. I’ll be using the #PHXVMUG hashtag.

Here is the breakdown of the day. All time is -7 Arizona. Details will fill in on the fly:

Registration, Breakfast and Welcome

8AM – 8:30AM

7AM: Showed up very early, about an hour before registration. Things are still being set up. The venue is smaller than last year’s. I wonder how many people will show up. There were perhaps 500+ last year. If that many show up here, it’s going to be… cozy.


Keynote (VMworld 2012 Recap by Matt Mancini)

8:45AM – 9:30AM

8:37AM: A hush falls on the crowd. Jason Yarberry starts speaking.

8:41AM: Visit 14 of 17 vendors and enter to win a $500 Amex card. Is it worth it for the twelve months of vendor assaults I’ll have to endure? Not sure yet…

 8:52AM: Spoofing an apparent VM World 2012 bit, the VMware rep and three co-leaders of VMUG play drums on overturned buckets.

8:53AM: Keynote begins in earnest. “Users are in control of what IT is using. Mobile devices are starting to push this. Real time information exchange.”

9AM: Talking about vCloud Director and Operations Manager and the whole vCloudSuite. I so want to be the one that brings up OpenStack. I might get thrown out though…

9:04AM: Something called “Horizon Suite.” Wow, never heard of this thing. Also, something called “Mirage.” Something from an acquisition of a company called “Lenova.” It’s “Ghost on steroids integrated with View.”

I’m seeing money hemorrhage out of all my bank accounts.

9:08AM: VSAN – coming up! Distributed storage form commodity servers. Sounds interesting. I wonder if he just angered a few people in the room because a lot of VMware partners that are here are storage vendors. I also wonder how this will compare and compete with things like Nexenta or FreeNAS.

9:11AM: vRAM is no longer around. “The word has been completely removed form VMware’s dictionary.”

9:14AM: More recap from VMworld. They have dodgeball at VMworld?

9:22AM: Talking about the Hands on Lab at VMworld. Apparently it was a tough year and they had some authentication issues, however the nearly 300 person team at VMware that were dedicated to making the HoL work apparently smoothed it out. Sounds like fun.

9:24AM: vCloud Suite. Combining different products for a price savings. Blah blah blah. Simplified product line, simplified combinations. Looks decent actually.

9:28AM: Steve HAft, Sr. Education Business Development Manager, takes stage to talk about education and certification. I’d love to walk out of this place with some info on getting trained — even though I don’t use VMware a ton.

9:30AM: Average VCP makes between $95,000 and $125,000 USD salary. I wonder what that turns into for a contractor’s hourly rate…

9:35AM: Things running over. Gotta run out soon to get to my EMC session.

Session #1

9:45AM – 10:30AM EMC – Virtualization of Mission Critical Applications and Unstructured Data

There is a performance gap between disks and CPUs. CPUs are speeding up by leaps and bounds, and disks are getting bigger but not faster. SSDs bridge that gap.

Enterprise SSD drives are termed “flash” at least in this talk and not SSD simply to differentiate between consumer level products. AKA “EFD” Enterprise Flash Drive

“FAST Cache” form EMC = “Fully Automated Storage Tiering” Taking data and spreading it around across different speed storage devices.

Talk goes to a four tier model of

  1. PCIe Flash
  2. Array Flash
  3. FC / SAS
  4. SATA / NL-SAS

PCI flash gets the storage closer to the compute part of your application.

EMC Isilon is a cluster based storage system based on dropping in nodes of storage that auto balance a single volume / namespace. Infiniband backend network. Basically it’s a fancy NAS cluster. Storage appliances can include traditional spindle storage as well as EFDs.

Standard set of “value add” features. Snapshotting, backup accelerator, “SmartLock” to keep important files form being deleted, auto-tiering of files, auto-balancing of files across a new node.

There’s a virtual appliance coming down the line to do all of this coming out that allows VMs to be moved close to compute power as needed.

Q/A starts.

Someones who works at a government agency needs to make sure that certain files, original copies of documents, never gets deleted. They are using an existing EMC product and looking to migrate to Isilon some day. SEC level compliance features are built in to the EMC product. You can do WORM and other various means of securing data that keeps people from deleting files.

Session #2

10:45AM – 11:30AM VMware – ESXi Best practices

(I elected to go to the ESXi best practices session because I’m less likely to need to have a deep technical knowledge of vCenter. Knowing the basics of ESXi is always nice.)

vSphere CLI has the ESXi Shell, vCLI and PowerCLI. There is also the API/SDK for more advanced application and automation development.

A script rich environment will have trouble going from 4.1 to 5 you might have trouble because of the removal of the command console. Upgrading needs to be done in a process as well – vCenter first then hosts. ESX System Analyzer can be used to ease the migration process.

Stay up on the latest VMware tools.

Put your scratch on a persistent disk so that logs persist across reboots so that you can do better root cause troubleshooting.

Use ESXi Dump and Syslog Collectors so that you can better facilitate troubleshooting. This is especially recommended for Auto Deploy environments.

Configure NTP correctly or you will regret it. I think that’s a general rule of systems engineering. So much so that I recommend clients buy a dedicated NTP appliance if they’re much larger than a single rack of infrastructure.

Use directory services for SSO so that you can figure out who did what, rather than just seeing log entries for “root.”

Utilize the ESXi host firewall to limit access, such as ESXi Seland SSH access from only internal IP ranges.

Enable lockdown mode — but then again if you need to have that enabled to be secure, how are people even getting close enough to the server to be able to log in locally anyway? Then again, in smaller shops where the server room is actually a cabinet underneath the sink in the lunch room, then perhaps you have no better choice.

There is a recommendation to disable the ESXi Shell and SSH unless explicitly needed for troubleshooting. I’m not so sure I can see that as being good. That seems a bit too paranoid and more like a slide in the deck to please the lawyers.

Basically any application is said to be a candidate to be backed up with Veeam, but restoration is dependent on “native tools” which means, if you’re using, say, Jenkins in a VM you can back it up with Veeam. Need to restore a portion of the data? You can spin up a recovery instance and then pull the data that you need from it, but there’s nothing special within Veeam itself that can help you restore that data.


11:30AM – 12:45PM

Om nom.

Session #3

12:45PM – 1:30PM Veeam Software – 5 Ways Smart VM Backups May Surprise You

I’ve zoned out in the early part of the session (digestion is exhausting) so I’m not sure what the first few “ways smart VM backups may surprise you” are.

Standard recovery for those that are familiar with this market space. You can instantly boot a backup based on the actual backup store itself rather than copying the backup into production.

“Veeam explorer for Exchange” can reach into a backup and restore a file or email.

Veeam Explorer for SAN Snapshots can reach into SAN snapshots and recovery files in LeftHand P4000 and a few other SAN vendors. This tool is free, or at least will be when it is released. Apparently this is not available in full non-beta version yet. is a Veeam learning tool to get to know their products better.

“Forever Incremental” means that after the first full backup, your incrementals can be merged into the last full backup, to be made into a new full backup. The the next incrementals can be merged into that new full to form a new new full.

Session #4

1:45PM – 2:30PM Starboard Storage Systems – Leveraging the Latest Technologies for Today’s Virtual Challenges Effectively & Affordably

I decided to duck into this one mostly because no session was terribly compelling and also the presenter nabbed me in the hallway and convinced me to go in. Also, I have never heard of Starboard Storage before.

15 minutes in and I’m waiting for something that’s terribly new. I’m hearing the standard storage spiel so far. Flash, tiering, spindles, unified, etc.

It really does look like a decent product, it has solid features and is targeted at the SMB / midmarket area for businesses. The prices are good and there are no extra license costs. You buy the product and it comes with all the features turned on and also a 24/7 support contract with 3 year hardware warranty.

I can’t remember anything terribly distinctive about the product – except good cost and simple licensing. Again, it looks good for SMBs. Look into them.

Session #5

2:45PM – 3:30PM

Lost interest and talked with people in the cafeteria.

Session #6

3:45PM – 4:30PM

Lost interest and talked with people in the cafeteria.


4:30PM – 5PM

After several underwhelming presentations, I lost interest and sat around in the cafeteria talking business with people. I then moved my way into the great room to see who won the prizes. There were a few $500 Amex cards, iPads, and VMUG advantage subscriptions.

One fellow won a $500 Amex card AND an iPad!

Did I win something? YES! I won a VMUG Advantage subscription! Of course, I also got fed for free and got to hang out with a bunch of cool people.

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