It’s a wrap: Toronto VMUG UserCon 2017

Today was that magical day of the year known as the Toronto VMUG UserCon, and it t’was a good day. I was fortunate enough to make it down early for opening (which involved me leaving the house at about 05:30), which was great because I wanted to make sure to catch the keynote by Frank Denneman (@FrankDenneman on Twitter). It was also nice to get there in time to pound back a couple of cups of coffee.

OPENING KEYNOTE: VMWARE ON AWS

FrankDenneman
Photo courtesy of Mike Preston …. and my actin like a watermark in the lower right area.

Back at VMWorld Europe, VMware on AWS was announced. The initial take I had on it was that it was more or less a colocation of your vSphere environment in an AWS datacenter. Well it turns out that there is much more to it, and Frank did a great job of covering off not only VMware’s vision of what the service will be, but also why will companies will want to use it.

From the customer end, one of the biggest advantages will be speed, which Frank referred to as the ‘new currency’. What he meant by this is the ability to scale vSphere in enterprises at great speed when businesses require it. With VMware on AWS, if you find yourself needing to add multiple hosts to a cluster, it will be a matter of changing a few account settings and the new hardware will be provisioned. Compared with the alternative of dealing with purchase orders, racking, and commissioning, there is definite value here. Couple that with the fact the NSX will be leveraged to provide a seamless network experience, it definitely opens the door to a lot of new opportunities. It was also stressed that this will be vSphere running on bare metal, no nested virtualization involved. That did lead to one interesting question from Daemon Behr which couldn’t be answered … yet: how will something like Enhanced vMotion Compatibility (EVC) work? We’ll have to wait and see on that one.

CLOSING KEYNOTE: TERRAFORM

EricWright-DiscoposseThe closing keynote was delivered by our very own Eric Wright (@discoposse on Twitter). I had the fortune to see a ‘beta’ of this talk back in January at the Q1 VMUG, but this was a different beast. At the time, Terraform piqued my interest, and that interest has only grown since. Trying out Terraform is on my (very long) to do list for the home lab.

If you aren’t familiar with Terraform, I highly suggest taking a quick look at it. In a nutshell, it is a deployment / orchestration tool that can be used to deploy VMs in a very easy to use fashion. Ease of use is one of its strongest selling features (I use that term in the non-monetary sense, seeing as how Terraform is free). One of the characteristics that I liked right away was the fact that the scripts were very human-readable. I am not a programmer, nor do I play one on TV, but I can look at sample scripts and understand what is going on.

Eric’s keynote was exceptionally well delivered: samples and objectives were very clear, and it was easy to see how this tool can fit into just about any environment. I can also tell that the audience was all in on this keynote as I saw next to nobody on their phones.

IN BETWEEN: THE COMMUNITY

One of the big objectives with a user group is to be able to learn from peers, and this was definitely accomplished in the form of a panel discussion. The lunch time panel featuring Mike Preston, Daemon Behr, Frank Denneman, and Eric Wright focused on achieving goals (e.g. obtaining a VCDX certification), and what it takes to get there. There were some questions from the audience (including mine of ‘Do you see value in a mentor, and if so, how do you recommend finding a mentor?’), but the one piece of advice that stuck with me came from Frank: figure out what you are willing to give up to achieve your goal. With any goal, something will have to be sacrificed: maybe video games in the evening, or regular meetups at a coffee bar, etc. Once you know how badly you want to achieve your goal, and what you are willing to give up for it, finding your path to that goal will get easier.

A big difference that I noticed this year was very much at a personal level, but it was extremely valuable: community. Last year at the Toronto UserCon was my first time (co)presenting at a VMUG. I knew a handful of people prior, mostly by reputation. This year there was never a dull moment – folks who I have met over the past year seemed to be abundant, and conversations were never-ending. I also had the fortune to make some new acquaintances.

Conversations were all over place, from getting perspectives from vendors I don’t currently use, to folks actively seeking me out for advice about Veeam (hey look at that – folks think of me as a Veeam expert :)). Long story short, the community aspect is something that if you aren’t participating in, you really should. The payoffs aren’t just knowledge, it is building a network of peers, and in some cases those folks turn into friends. So I encourage you – at the next IT conference you attend, be sure to meet at least a few new folks.

See you at the 2017 UserCon.

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