HP Discover Europe 2014 – Day 1 Roundup

It’s been a pretty interesting day here at my first HP Discover, and I thought I would jot down a few thoughts about the day. Many of my opinions and thoughts are slightly biased by the fact that I also attended my first VMworld only last month, at the same venue, so it has been very interesting to compare the differences…

The first thing that really jumped out at me is the level at which the conference appears to be targeted, from a technical perspective. There is definitely a much more business user focussed feel to the event, with many more “people in suits” around, though still plenty of opportunity to get your geek on with the engineers in the Discover Zone. This seems to be reflected in the content at the sessions I have attended so far, which seem to be more around business objectives and solution value, rather than deep dive technical specifics. I guess part of this is driven by the target audience, and part by the vast array of HP products represented. There simply isn’t enough time or space to be able to deep dive on every HP product!

HP Discover at Fira Barcelona Gran Via

HP Discover at Fira Barcelona Gran Via

Speaking of space, although HP Discover is only slightly larger than VMworld (around 11,000 attendees vs 9,000), they actually utilise halls 4 & 5 of the Fira Barcelona Gran Via as well at halls 6 to 8.1. If you thought you had sore dogs by the end of VMworld, you can multiply that up by another 50% for HP Discover; the place is simply vast! If I am fortunate enough to be invited back next year, I may have to try to sneak in a scooter!

It's Mahooosive!

It’s Mahooosive!

My morning was mainly spent taking in a few sessions including a very interesting panel discussion on SDN, Network virtualisation and BYOD, hosted by the inimitable Ethan Banks (of PacketPushers).

Keynote
For me, the keynotes continued the themes I have mentioned above.

I wont go into all of the specifics of all of the announcements as I’m sure there will be plenty on the blogosphere who will do it better justice than I can, but there were a couple of bits and bobs which were particularly interesting to me personally and I recommend people check out, including:

  • 3PAR 7200c/7440c/7450c
    The new 3PAR 7000c line of mid tier arrays, which has been evolved somewhat with the usual increases in capacity, but more interestingly, the ability to present both block and file direct from the controllers using the new file personas feature which the LonVMUG’s own Craig Kilborn did a great intro on. The pricing looks interesting too at $129 per TB, which even at list price would be very good value as long as you don’t have to license all of the usable storage in your array, whether you need it or not; something I want to find out asap! 🙂
  • HP Enterprise Services for Office 365
    At a high level this seems to be the ability to have HP manage your Office 365 environment either within the standard MS DCs, or potentially within an HP DC. For me this is a step in the right direction, but where it would get really interesting would be if they could extend it all they way out to a customer DC, where I could then potentially look to use things like Exchange in Online Mode, for compatibility with remote desktops (RDS/XenApp etc).

In the afternoon I spent some time in the Discover Zone having a chat with a number of technology experts. A couple of nuggets which stuck for me were:

  • HP will (at last) be providing a Storage Spaces certified JBOD solution early next year; something they have been missing for no discernable reason.
  • DL80 servers now have dual PSU capability if purchased as a CTO SKU. If all you need is a bunch of compute hosts for your vSphere farm, booting from USB and using FC/iSCSI storage, then you wouldn’t go far wrong considering these, or even the DL60 range…

In the evening I attended the UK&I Customer Reception at the W Barcelona, which was highly enjoyable, thanks HP!

Overall, a very interesting and enjoyable day one event, and great to see HP still continuing to innovate. By the time I hit my room this evening, both my feet and brain were tired out!

Tomorrow I plan to take in some more sessions, have a nose around the tech preview zone at some point and revisit one or two of the converged systems stands, as well as have a play with OneView.

A RedHat Red Hat

A RedHat Red Hat!

 

PS – Marketing award of the day has to go to the guys from RedHat. You couldn’t look anywhere without seeing a sea of Scarlet Fedoras within hours of the start of the day! Must try to grab one tomorrow for my kids… 🙂

Disclaimer: As an HP customer, HP kindly provided my accommodation and entry to the HP discover event, but there was no expectation or request for me to write about their products or services.

Public Speaking Tips for Tech Talks and #VMUG Sessions

Keep Calm and Speak at a VMUG

Public speaking can be daunting if you don’t do it regularly (and sometimes, even if you do!). As part of my role I regularly talk to small groups of 5-10 people, but this year I have had the opportunity to speak a couple of times at the London VMUG.

The following tips are a combination of my own experience, both where I think things in my sessions went well, and equally where I could definitely have improved. Many thanks to Mike Laverick, Simon Gallagher, Andrew Audsley and Mark Wilson for their presenting and technical tips as well!

Presentation Tips

  • Facts, figures, best practices and suggested configurations are interesting, but sharing of real life experiences is what people come to hear. Anecdotes are much more interesting.
  • Talking about what works and what went well is great, but issues or things that didn’t quite work out as you expected are just as valuable, if not more so.
  • Gauging the audiences level of knowledge / experience early on can be very helpful. The first thing I did in my last presentation was to ask how many people in the room worked with or designed storage on a regular basis. As it was a “Noddy’s Guide”, I was expecting few hands, but in fact ¾ of the room put their hand up! The advantage of asking this up front is that I was able to tweak my session to the audience by dropping or de-emphasizing a lot of the simpler stuff and concentrating on the more complex / interesting bits.
  • By talking about what you did / would do in a scenario, as opposed what you think other people should do, they are be more likely to be receptive. This subtle difference can change the feel of a session from being a lecture, into a discussion. If the intention of the session is to get people to interact, this might encourage people to step up and say what they would do in the same situation, or to talk about their experiences.
  • If you are not 100% sure of / expert in all of your content, consider including “islands” of content at regular intervals (e.g. every 10-15 minutes), where you know the content really well. This means if you happen to start to drift and lose your way a bit, you can anchor to the bits you know really well and build your confidence back up before moving on to the next bit of the presentation.
  • Don’t be off put if you don’t get a huge amount of interaction, especially with large groups. The bigger the audience, the less interaction you are likely to get, unless you specifically ask for it or start picking on audience members!
VMUG Audiences Are Friendly!

Dont worry… VMUG audiences are friendly!

  • Don’t be nervous about the audience! Much like a wedding speech, its worth remembering that the VMUG audience at a community session really want the speaker to succeed. It’s unlikely you will find a more friendly and willing audience in almost any other situation.
  • Lists are not exciting, and neither are multiple slides of “and another thing” type of comments. I definitely felt I should have tried to break up my last session into different types of content and context, which would have made it more interesting.
  • Even if you plan your presentation to the minute in advance, things never quite work out that way! You are likely to be asked questions, stopped mid flow, projectors turn themselves off and start smelling a bit smoky etc… the best thing to do is plan a shorter presentation as you will undoubtedly use all the time anyway!
  • When it comes to slides less is most definitely more!
  • You don’t actually have to go through every line on every slide, sometimes simply picking out the most pertinent bits can make for better flow, and the decks are usually available after anyway, so someone who is really interested can read the detail if they want to.
  • One other tip which Duncan Epping gave recently and I definitely agree with is to practice your presentation a few times through in advance, but don’t over-practice and end up being too robotic. Everyone has their own style but I personally like to use the slides as a talking point and guide, rather than planning word-for-word what I’m going to say.
  • Once you have your initial draft, try it out on some friends or colleagues in the industry. This can be invaluable for working out your timing and getting a feel for what works and what doesn’t. I ended up rewriting large chunks of my storage presentation after running through it with some guys from my team at work.
  • Don’t forget about the awesome FeedForward initiative! I was fortunate enough to have the inimitable Mike Laverick provide me with FeedForward prior to both of my London VMUG sessions, and in both cases he provided lots of valuable suggestions and improvements to my content and style as well as coming up with a few ideas I hadn’t even considered.

Tech Tips

  • As I have painfully discovered first hand, no matter how much prep and testing I did on my slide deck, it still went wrong! From now on I plan to have a backup plan; a PDF copy I can whip out if PowerPoint goes nuts again!
  • Don’t use PowerPoint animations… they’re unreliable at best!
Sacrifice to the Gods of Demos

Sacrifice to the Gods of Demos

  • If you are going to do a live demo, don’t forget to sacrifice an old laptop, phone, printer or other electronic device to the gods of Demos! [Alternatively, you could just record a copy of your demo in case it all goes wrong then you have a backup plan].
    A prime example of this (and I’m sure he won’t mind me sharing it) was our London VMUG’s very own Simon Gallagher who was doing a software demo. He tested it successfully just minutes before his presentation was due to start. During his presentation the demo then decided to fail! After a bit of investigation, Simon realised that the license key on his software ran out in the few minutes between his last test, and his live demo starting. Talk about unlucky timing?!
  • [Mac] Mirroring screen contents instead of using presenter view tends to work more consistently, rather than extending the desktop to the projector. In my day-to-day work this is what I have always done and its always worked very reliably. It does mean you can’t use speaker notes though of course.
  • [Mac] Consider running PowerPoint in Parallels or Fusion on Windows. The Windows version of PowerPoint is apparently more consistent!

If you have any more tips or suggestions you think would be worth adding to the list, please feel free to contact me and I’ll be happy to add them for the benefit of others!

NanoLab – Part 6 – Keeping Your NUCs Cool (Quick Tip)

Just a very quick tip I discovered this weekend.

If you are using your Intel NUCs with any anger, they will likely run reasonably hot to the touch and typically you would just place them horizontally on a surface as per the pictures above. For optimum performance and lifespan, we all know it’s always important to keep your NUCs as cool as possible!

The NUCs are also designed to be mounted vertically on the back of a monitor/stand/wall/desk or similar, using the VESA mount. What I didn’t realise is that whether mounted or not, if you run them on their side, they seem to actually maintain lower temperatures.

I’m not sure if the same would apply for the newer generation of NUCs with the 2.5″ drive cages, which also have small vents down the side, but it certainly works on the standard models.

Vertical running of NUCs

Vertical running of NUCs

This seems to work pretty well for me, but as always, I take no responsibility if your NUC explodes with the fire of a thousand suns!

That is all.

NanoLab – Part 5 – Intel NUC BIOS Update Issues FwUpdateFullBuffer

Having taken delivery of a new Intel NUC D34010WYKH this week, I followed the usual (and Intel recommended process) of upgrading the firmware / BIOS to the latest version. As it happens, this was version 0030 (WY0030.BIO). This was installed using the standard USB with a .BIO file, and press F7 method as there was obviously no OS installed.

Unfortunately having installed this version, building and booting the ESXi host, I was getting some very strange network issues. Specifically no DHCP address being picked by the host, but a manual IP would ping intermittently (around 10-15% of the time). Not good. In addition there were some very odd behaviours observed in the BIOS such as not booting from USB consistently, hanging when I hit ctrl-alt-del and others.

My guess was that this was a firmware related issue, so I decided to roll it back to an earlier version. I started with 0026 by installing the firmware using the same F7 method above. This is when I got an error message which stated FwUpdateFullBuffer followed by several numbers (no screenshot I’m afraid). At this point, the firmware update bombed out. Really not good!

Repeating the activity only achieved the same result, even with different firmware versions and install methods (such as a bootable USB drive with FreeDOS and iFlash2.exe).

After a bit of searching I found the following BIOS recovery mode instructions for situations when you have a screwed up BIOS:

  1. Copy the recovery file (*.bio) to a bootable USB device.
  2. Plug the USB device into a USB port of the target Intel NUC.
  3. Shut down the computer and unplug AC power.
    jumper
  4. Open the chassis and remove the yellow BIOS Configuration Jumper. See the Technical Product Specification for the location of this jumper.
  5. Power the system on.
  6. Wait 2-5 minutes for the update to complete.

    Intel NUC BIOS Recovery from 0030 to 0025

    Intel NUC BIOS Recovery from 0030 to 0025

  7. The computer will either turn off when the recovery process is completed or it will prompt you to turn off the computer.
  8. Remove the USB device from the USB port.
  9. Replace the BIOS Configuration Jumper.
  10. Restart the computer.

Following the above, I have updated my Intel NUC D34010WYKH to version 0025 and have found it to be reasonably stable so far, and definitely works with ESXi.

Obviously follow any of the above suggestions at your own risk. I cannot be held responsible if your NUC becomes a BRICK, but hopefully this will save people some time and frustration, as this was several hours of messing around in my case!

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