Chicago VMUG 2014: Quick Recap

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or stuck in the trenches of the server room, the Chicago VMUG happened yesterday. First of all, what a great event, the networking, vendors, sessions, food, etc. I have said this before and I will say it again, having been to many events over the years, some over in the Microsoft camp, the VMWare “ecosystem” is amazing, the amount of vendors writing plugins/APIs/code around VMWare’s stack is impressive, plus with VMWare’s SDDC push, they really are one of the only vendors out there with a complete stack solution now. (storage, compute, network) I’ll use this post to highlight some of the main “take aways” from yesterday, some VMWare specific, others industry specific. The VMUG is always a great reminder of the constant in our industry: CHANGE. It was on display in full form yesterday from VDI to SDN to Cloud, etc. There are numerous new technologies hitting the market, some quite disruptive, some barely remembered from a year ago. Some key “industry” points:

  • Back To The Business
    Scott Lowe gave a great keynote yesterday, my favorite topic was the idea of business-IT alignment. Basically getting back to IT being a supportive vehicle of the business, caring less about SANs/Servers/Storage and more about identifying challenges/issues and then creating solutions that address them. Saying “yes” more often then you say “no” and being an enabler to the business. Great message, great concept! For IT as a group this culture needs to be at the front of everything we do. Many of the “symptoms” of poor IT departments like “shadow-IT” have been created by us for our failure to “enable the business” and work at the speed of business, think about that for a minute!
  • IT As A Service Organization
    Somewhat related to my first point, the IT group is becoming a service organization that is more focused on creating the needed applications/services than worrying about the backend technology. Skills like risk assessment, service management, project deployment/management and business alignment strategy will become crucial. Services will exist in on-site, off-site servers/clouds, sometimes provided by 3rd parties, sometimes managed in-house but all managed under a single umbrella, the IT Department.
  • Passionate Technology Professionals
    Nick Marhsall gave an awesome presentation on passion, the driving force behind our personal and professional career success. Our jobs and careers should be driven and motivated by an inner passion. Passion is contagious and spreads. As IT professionals, we need to identify our passions and then invest in them, for our success and the success of our employers.

Some ongoing trends as seen at VMUG:

  • Software-Defined Anything
    Of course the software-defined anything was on full display. There is a fair amount of hype surrounding these technologies and a ton of “infant” stage stuff out there. I attended a session from HP/VMWare on SDN, while I saw some cool abilities coming, I also saw a solution that was in its infancy, had missing integration/pieces (the HP engineer even admitted that HP was trying to get out ahead of the SDN movement and was still building) and was a ways from a production-ready concept. The engineer surveyed the audience and everyone who raised their hand for having heard of SDN, immediately put their hands down when asked who would be deploying it in the next 6-12 months. While I think there are some great potentials coming, the technology needs to bake for a while more before its ready; there also needs to be some better use-case/ROI justifications created for the non-AWS folks of the world, much more practical needs required, easier deployment, etc. The Compute/Storage side of the house is much further along I believe. In the vendor hall I saw a myriad of “software-defined” storage/compute solutions, much consolidation will take place among the “niche” folks in the next few years I believe, especially now that the giants like VMWare, Dell, HP are entering these spaces with solutions; in an industry dominated by relationships, these vendors will use them extensively to their advantage moving forward.
  • Cloud
    Of course the Cloud is still out there and going strong. I have seen a conversation shift happen over the past year however, it used to be it was all about public cloud services, now the conversation is becoming more private cloud or hybrid type scenarios. I think as the hype cycles have died down, folks start using the Cloud, seeing pricing/benefits/uptime/etc. they have filtered through the hype and directed their resource needs at the appropriate mediums (in-house/cloud/etc.). There has also been some serious security/uptime concerns from the “big guys” this past year that has helped shape the discussion (think Snowden revelations, long downtime, etc.). The future looks a lot more hybrid/private than public I believe long term. I also find it interesting the lack of transparency by most major cloud providers as to their financials/success in the market so far and long term.
  • VDI
    The VDI landscape was alive and well at VMUG, especially in the vendor hall. The market really is a race between Citrix and VMWare as the primary market leaders. A whole ecosystem of management and endpoint services has evolved around these services though making management and provisioning much easier. Expect to see further growth as more Desktop As A Service providers launch and provide more/easier services to consume.
  • IT Optimization/Automation/Simplification
    Over the years the trend has been building to automate, simplify and optimize large portions of the IT lifecycle/processes. In my opinion this is HUGELY needed. We have for too long been “creating snowflakes” as Scott Lowe said yesterday. Now part of the problem though, I personally do not believe the concept of scripting/coding is our way forward, there are many getting wrapped up in Python, PowerShell and other ways to “script” making things happen, to me this is more complexity and less automation. Ideally the tools should be written to incorporate these automations into the product directly then can be accessed via the standard GUI interfaces. Example: Instead of writing a script to automate a process, the developer should provide a GUI front-end to do this automatically. VMWare especially should take note and incorporate more time-saving/automation features to reduce/eliminate scripting processes. Also it is important to consider the range of converged infrastructure offerings now out on the market, reduce cabling/complexity in the data center, etc.

Those are some of the larger industry/VMWare trends that are happening now as I saw at VMUG yesterday. There are of course many other trends like BYOD/Mobility/etc. but these particular ones most impact the IT group as a whole.

There were a lot of vendors on display at the VMUG yesterday, a large portion were service/consulting providers, storage platforms, SDAnything platforms, etc. Most of which I have seen countless times before, I did however encounter a couple of “cool” companies out there which I have not seen previously that I thought I would mention:

Cloud based monitoring, they have almost 1000 vendors MIBs imported and ready in their system to use. Pretty simple setup/workings. In-house proxy application installed and then sends all monitoring data to their cloud. Pricing is in packages of devices per month, with a minimum 25 device start point.

Linux-based thin client operating system. Installs on commodity hardware to turn your old desktops into “new” thin clients that are compatible with Citrix, VMWare, etc. They even have a VMWare management appliance for easy deployment/configuration. Per device licensing.

Thanks to all the sponsors the VMUG was a free event, considering the amount of technical sessions, peer networking and vendors that you get access to it is an amazing deal. If you have not attended a VMUG yet I would highly encourage you to do so, it is worth the time; I doubt you will ever regret investing in yourself and investing in others, not only does it “feel good” but also can help boost your career! Head over to the VMUG’s website to find one in your area and get connected.


Author: Travis Kensil

Director of IT. Husband and father. Michigan beachbum.

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