My thoughts on the London VMUG Meeting January 2016

Last week (21st of January) I attended my first ever VMUG meeting in London, I wasn’t sure what to expect, how many people would be there etc. I was also hoping to catch up with a few people I met at VMworld last year.

vmug

There was a big change in the leaders at this event, a changing of the guard so to speak so It felt like a good time to go, a new location and a new change for group. I will say that I was made very welcome, had a great day, caught up with some people and left looking forward to attending another event.

So what were the sessions? There were five sessions through the day, two were general sessions but three you had to choose which one to attend. For me I wasn’t familiar with the sponsors so It was quite interesting to hear about new technology.

Bitdefender Endpoint Security Challenges – Andrei Ionescu, Solutions Architect

bitdefender

The first session was from the Gold sponsor Bitdefender, Andrei took us through the Bitdefender products which provide security at the Physical, Virtual, Cloud and Mobile layers. Their security server integrates with vShield so is agentless another big plus point. Don’t forget that vShield needs a custom install of VMware tools if you don’t already deploy it.

For me as a IT Consultant I see both Backup and Antivirus products as a necessary evil, when they work all is good but when they break, boy it’s never fun. For more information take a look at their Website http://www.bitdefender.co.uk

vSphere Storage 2016 – Paudie O’Riordan

Next up was vSphere Storage 2016 with Paudie O’Riordan @oriorp from Vmware. This was a really a fast deep dive in to Core storage in vSphere 6, There were just lots of new features desigined to make our lives as administrators easier. I wont cover them all here as they are well documented and can be found on the internet but lets just say that these are all reasons to upgrade to vSphere 6 now. Given my company just experienced a vsan failure on ESXi 5.5 its needless to say this option is on the table.

Full VMware Stack Deployment Case Study – Stuart Thompson and Simon Greaves Computer center

Here Stuart @Virtual_Stu and Simon @sigreaves went through a breakdown of a recent infrastructure roll out they did for a customer, using a full set of the latest releases of VMware and highlighting all the major issues that conspired against them including:

  • VCSA it runs on SLES so just works
  • VRA 6.2.3 VRA does not support fips on your windows servers so don’t turn it on in group policy else it will break, and the quote of the day “Manuals are poor blogs brilliant”
  • VROPS – Don’t over commit your Vcpu as its will break.
  • NSX 6.2 Host profiles have a nervous breakdown and if the NSX Firewall fails make sure you have a physical route in to your environment, sounds obvious when you put it like that.
  • SRM 6.1 Keep running the failover script and eventually it will all go over, really who would of thought of that as a solution
  • VRO orchestrator Build a single separate server for editing workflows
  • Certificate replacement hell. Nuff said over that one I think.
  • TLS issues you might want TLS 1.2 but you can’t disable TLS 1.0 and 1.1 as both VRA and vcenter need TLS 1.1 to function correctly

Top 5 Reasons for Using Tegile – Andrew Lawrence, Senior PreSales Consultant

tegile

This session from silver sponsors Tegile was a nice session on the benefits of using Their storage, as I wasn’t familiar with Tegile it was a very beneficial session to me, their Tag line that Andrew drummed in to us is “One flash platform any workload” For more information take a look at their Website http://www.tegile.com/

some of the benefits included:

  • Cost and performance
  • 5x faster than traditional architecture
  • Data reduction without sacrifice performance
  • No additional license costs
  • Full protocol flexibility Fibre Channel, iSCSI, NFS,CIFS, SMB
  • Complete VMware solution integration
  • Multi-tiered storage
  • SED self-encrypting drives
  • Intelligent caching
  • Metadata acceleration
  • All metadata in ssd layer
  • 85% of reads from flash

vROPS ROX – Simon Eady

The final session of the day I chose was from Simon Eady @simoneady from Xtravirt. Simon is a great speaker, and a what this guy dosent know about vROps just isn’t worth knowing. tips including:

  •  Network latency should be less that 200ms
  • Use eager thick provisioned disks for vROps disks
  • Remote collectors are you friend
  • Can be placed in DMZ with just 2 or 3 open ports

Panel Debate – Ask the Experts

vmugpanel.jpg

My first ask the experts debate and I was pleased to see my old colleague Alex Galbraith @alexgalbraith http://www.tekhead.org in action up on the stage, alongside Julian Wood @julian_wood Mike Laverick @Mike_Laverick. The panel took a number of questions from the future of VMware to personal development and what we think we should be studying over the next year.

vBeers – sponsored by 10ZiG

10zig

Then it was off to the pub for a bit more socialising thanks to 10 Zig before I headed back to Waterloo for the train home.

So In summary I will say that I had a great time, met some old friends and made some new ones, and I am already looking forward to the next event which I belive is Thursday the 14th of April 2016.

Is this the Cheapest VCP Course available.

Over the last 6 weeks I have been completing the Stanly University, VMware 5.5 Install, Config and Manage course. This course is distance learning course covering the requirements of the VCP exam. Importantly this is a VMware sanctioned course as part of the VMware IT Academy, meaning that it qualifies you for the Attending the course part of the VCP. More information can be found on their web site here

vmware IT Academy

There is a wait list for the course as it basically runs in terms. I registered on the 1st of September and on the 6th of October received an offer to sign up for the October session starting on the 27th of October and ending on the 15th of December so a 7 week course. So if you are considering the Stanly course I would strongly recommend that you get on the wait list ASAP, it’s not a commitment you can skip the dates if you can’t do it and apply for the next session.

The Cost is the biggest attraction to this course as its basically cost $185.00 so for me £121.25

After that I received a logon to the Stanly Moodle site, and was able to start working through the course at the rate of 2 chapters a week. Each week taking between 5 to 10 hours to complete. The Moodle course was well structured with between 1 and 5 videos presentations to watch per chapter, with a companion web site running the Labs,

module1.1

module1.2

module1.3

To successfully complete the course you must complete all required quizzes, maintain active status in your course, and complete a minimum of 18 Labs (completing all 22 labs is highly recommended). Whilst there is no official timetable you could for instance work hard and complete it all in couple of weeks. There was a warning stating “Please do not wait until the last minute to do your labs for the VMware course!” so I would strongly advise not to put it off and try to keep to the official schedule.

Having already read most of the official VMpress VCP5-DCV Official Certification Guide by Bill Furguson I Personally think that the Stanly course left out a few of the exam objectives listed in the Latest Exam Blueprint, in particular Distributed Switches were not covered, but then I am expecting to complete further studies to pass this exam, and given the cost I will forgive this oversight.

vcp book

The Labs I will say were very good, whilst they weren’t VMware HOLs, they were run on a NDG NetLAB + platform. More information can be found on their web site here

The labs were built with 2 ESXi servers, some shared storage, a VCSA and a Ubunto desktop. As the client runs on a Ubuntu desktop it forces you to use the Web client for all tasks which has now greatly improved my confidence with this interface as it’s all too easy to drop back to the traditional vSphere C# client

vmware_icm_pod

Lab Topology

After successfully completing the VMware course through Stanly Community College, you are eligible to access the Stanly VMware Store which grants you the opportunity for free software and a 70% exam discount voucher code. This now brings the cost of the exam down for me from £162 to £48.60

Whilst we are talking about the exam it would appear that the exam discount for the VMware IT Academy is applied to a special exam, VCP550PSE which stands for Proctored Exam so if you have already taken VCP550 it won’t count towards your VCP for this course.

The store lets you download VMware software for free (with one year licenses) such as vSphere 5 and 6, VMware Workstation 12, and Fusion.

stanly vmware store

Additionally being a Stanly student gives you access to the Microsoft DreamSpark program. DreamSpark is all about giving students Microsoft professional-level developer and designer tools at no cost so that students can chase their dreams and create the next big breakthrough in technology or just get a head start on their career, More information can be found on their web site here So I can also access the latest Microsoft professional developer tools at no-cost, including:

  • Microsoft Azure cloud services (no credit card required)
  • Visual Studio Community 2015
  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • SQL Server 2014 Enterprise Edition
  • DreamSpark also get me an access Key to Pluralsight for 90 days

So was it worth it, well yes lets just summarise what I got for my outlay of $185.00

  • A VCP qualifying course
  • Access to VMware software and Licenses from the VMware Academic Program
  • Access to the Microsoft DreamSpark program
  • Access to Pluralsight for 90 days
  • 70% of the VCP exam.

So my next few weeks will hopefully be spent studying for the VCP exam, I’ve already been building / upgrading my home lab and now its up and running so I now have no excuse to get my head down.

AirWatch Enterprise Mobility Professional

AW-EMP

So as I found myself with not a lot to do between Christmas and New Year, I thought I would pull my finger out and complete the studying for my next AirWatch certification the AirWatch Enterprise Mobility Professional.
As I commented when I passed the Associate exam, the Professional requires study in 16 modules. So imaging my delight when reviewing the Study guide from AirWatch (on my links page) that there were no questions on VMware Identity Manager and Socialcast, so that removed two modules from my studying.

  • AirWatch Cloud Connector
  • Integration with Directory Services
  • Securing Mobile Devices with Certificates
  • AirWatch Mobile Access Gateway
  • Enrollment Options for Mobile Device Management
  • Creating Web, Application and Device Kiosks
  • Deploying a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Program
  • Reporting, Analytics and Telecom Management
  • AirWatch Secure Email Gateway
  • Apple Volume Purchase Program: Apps and iBooks
  • VMware Identity Manager
  • AirWatch AppShield
  • AirWatch Content Locker Collaborate
  • Advanced Content Settings and Security
  • Socialcast
  • Laptop Management

So after watching the 14 video training modules on  my.airwatch I decided to take the exam , now the exam like the associate exam is also completed on line at my.airwatch The exam is made up of 45 questions to be taken in 90 minutes the pass mark is 70%. I will say that boy that time flies by, these questions are not that straightforward and I found myself almost taking the 2 minutes per question to just read and process some of the longer questions. Still I was presently surprised when after 89 minutes I managed to pass with 78%

I will say that the exam appeared to be heavily focused on Content Locker and Enrollment Options so in hindsight I would of liked to go through both of those modules in greater detail and I would encourage anyone else thinking of taking this particular exam to do the same.

As per other certifications you can logon and download your certificates, logos ect from my.airwatch

professional cert
There is also a handy link which can be used to verify the accreditation so I guess this would be for prospective employers to confirm your status. so check out my airwatch accreditations here

One point to finally mention is that the certification is only valid for a year and AirWatch encourage you to update your accreditation as new versions of the AirWatch solution become available. As I’m currently certified on the latest version 8.2 I will have to wait for a new version to be released and see how the upgrade exams work. Whether they are a full exam again or just an incremental exam, will I need to take both associate and professional exams and are there any costs are all questions I don’t know the answer to at the moment so if anyone can tell me please get in touch.

So what’s next for me and AirWatch well that’s it’s from an certification point of view, pending any upgrade exams so my next challenge is to put the training in to practice and build a production environment for my employer.