Tag Archive for training

Looking Forward to Storage Field Day 8

Storage Field Day

I have been a fan of the Tech Field Day events for some time. They provide a really interesting approach to tech marketing and are a great way of keeping up with the latest developments in the industry, as tech startups and established players alike take to the stage to showcase / discuss (and often get grilled by the delegates about) their shiniest new toys and features.

One of the key services I see the guys at TFD providing (free!) to the community is helping to maintain our knowledge of the bewildering array (pardon the pun) of vendors and solutions that are available out there, in an easy to consume format. It’s important to keep up with current trends and releases in the storage arena, even if you only have vendor X or Y in your current environment. If only so that when your IT Director says to you he wants to go out and buy vendor Z you can have a sensible, fact based conversation as to why or why not to consider them (instead of the obvious knee jerk reaction which they will potentially be expecting!). In my case I’m just a massive geek who loves talking / learning / reading / writing about tech, so keeping up definitely isn’t a chore for me! 🙂

So with that in mind, I am very honoured and excited to have been invited to attend Storage Field Day 8 from the 21st to 23rd October this year. Thank you very much to Stephen Foskett (@SFoskett) and Claire Chaplais (@cchaplais) for the awesome opportunity!

I would consider myself an IT generalist with a penchant for virtualisation and storage. The thing that has really drawn my interest to the storage field has been the fact that it is one of the fastest moving parts of the industry today, with the most innovation and potential disruption from startups.

You don’t have to be an established player to be successful any more. The cost of entry when basing your solutions on Intel chips and white box chassis with a layer of cleverly written software is a heck of a lot cheaper than the custom hardware driven solutions of the past! As many companies have a wide selection of storage silos across their estates, it is also not so difficult to encourage them to try out your new solution to initially replace a single silo either. Lastly lets be honest, we all like an underdog, and there are quite a few underdogs nipping at the bellies of the 880lb storage gorillas as we speak!

Morpheus doesnt like high margin storage

For the past three years I have been working as a Solution Architect at Claranet, an independent pan-European managed services provider, designing hosting solutions for the mid-market; an interesting and challenging sector where aspirations sometimes exceed budgets. That said, I will try not to repeat the traditional service provider mantra of “Can I securely multi-tenant it?” and “Do you provide an Opex commercial model?” too much…

I am really looking forward to enabling my brain sponge and soaking up the vast combined knowledge of the delegates and presenters at the event (some of whom I listen to regularly on the highly recommended podcasts Greybeards on Storage and In Tech We Trust and all of whom are known for producing awesome community content), so be sure to check them out and follow them on twitter!

The list of vendors at SFD8 is extensive too… with some new names who only came out of stealth in the past year along with the more familiar ones, it should be a fascinating week!

SFD8 Vendors

You can join the live stream during the event, and recordings of all sessions are available after, all of which you can find here:
http://techfieldday.com/event/sfd8/

PS: Being half Saffa, half Scot I was a bit concerned I might miss some of the RWC 2015 action by being in the States during the semi final stage, but after spending this Saturday sitting in the stands during the (now infamous) SA vs Japan game, I’m sadly less concerned about that possible outcome now!

SpiceWorld London Day Two

So that’s it, finito, over, done! Day two of SpiceWorld London is officially closed, and we are all left contemplating what we’ve learned, the new acquaintances made and how we are going to use the information we have learned over the past couple of days to influence our jobs and careers moving forward.

With the removal of the marketing track and most of the main hall sessions, today was a quieter, more tech focussed event than Tuesday. The more subdued atmosphere may also have something to do with last nights party of course… That said, I saw significantly more discussion and interaction at the sessions I attended, which always makes for a more engaging event. I was able to catch 4 sessions on a variety of subjects including cryptography, Windows 10, certification and a session on the SpiceWorks community, and what they’re developing.

The first (and most well attended) session of the day was on all of the new improvements and features in Windows 10. Two of those features in particular stood out to me, one of which generated some (rather heated) debate in the room!

The first feature which rather concerned me was around the potential privacy issues with Cortana. There have been a number of fairly high profile privacy issues with recent editions of OS X and Ubuntu, yet Microsoft seem to be quite happy to have joined in. Many smarter people than me have articulated the risks of the direction in which our industry is headed when it comes to privacy!

The feature which actually generated the most debate in the room was around the requirement to have a Microsoft Account in order to use the features of Cortana, and the subsequent impact it may have when user’s either want (or don’t want) to use their personal accounts to enable this feature on their corporate devices. Undoubtedly this would be Microsoft’s preference as it enables them to build up a more accurate profile of you from the data collected in both halves of your life (tin foil hats at the ready people!).

hat

The alternative of course if for users to maintain two separate identities with MS, for example based on their corporate email. This then has the potential to lead to confusion for users, and additional work for the IT department who most likely have to setup and support these accounts, in addition to everything else they have to manage. There were some fairly strong opinions in the room to say the least, and the atmosphere got pretty tense at one point!

On the plus side, it was nice to be reminded that Microsoft do seem to be taking security pretty seriously these days. Here’s a quick reminder of all of the security features now built into Windows:

The final session I attended mirrored the first in many ways, being all about IT certification, this time led by CBT Nuggets instructor Chris Ward. Chris’ style of presentation was very different, and the structured part of the session was relatively short, lending itself to a much more interactive event. One discussion I found particularly interesting was started by one of the attendees who runs a team of contractors at a large organisation. His challenge was with an individual who was still working from some very old certs and skills, who kept saying he had no time to train himself and that the company should send him on a paid VMware course. To me, there are numerous issues with this situation, and yes I may be over simplifying a bit, but:

  • One of the reasons for using contractors is that they help you to fill skills gaps. If you have a team full of contractors, and you don’t have the right skills available, you’re doing contracting/outsourcing wrong!
  • Yes, contractors earn more and pay less tax, but they need to fund their own holidays, and more importantly, their own development. It’s not all roses! If contractors are not willing to invest in their own skills, why would an organisation want to hire (or in this case renew) them?
  • Contractor or not, people can’t expect their employer to drive their training, or indeed fund all of it. Individuals need to take some level of responsibility for this themselves, particularly in this new Self Study Era we seem to be moving into…

My final key takeaway from Chris’ presentation was something which I intend to make my life’s goal; maintaining the grooming standard!

Mullet
Reflecting back on the past couple of days I would say that you are in of a first or second line IT engineering role, perhaps working as the sole IT guy in an SMB, or even as an IT manager, then the Spiceworld conference is definitely worth checking out! There are a wide variety of sessions on different areas of IT and you can dip in and out of subjects depending on your interests. You can also take this one step further by attending your local SpiceCorps meet up.

If you want to go that bit deeper dive, then on you might want to consider either alternatively or additionally attending some of the more vendor focussed user groups such as VMUG or CitrixUG, and if talking to tech marketers is your thing, there are plenty of them at the massive vendor agnostic events such as Cloud Expo and Apps World.

Disclaimer: Please note that Spiceworks kindly provided my entry to the event, but there was no expectation or request for me to write about their products or services.

Free vSphere 6 Training! (Yes this title is blatant click bait!)

Yes I fully admit that this article is click bait, but i can promise you that attending the event below will help you learn all about VMware’s latest and greatest release (and a few other things besides), as well as having the opportunity to network with some awesome like-minded individuals!

The event agenda is below and follows the usual mix of vendor sponsors and top notch community sessions, followed by a couple of cheeky lemonades at the vBeers event at the Pavilion End at the end of the day.

As an added bonus it seems that the night before the meeting, the crew from TECHUnplugged will be in town and everyone is invited to a vWhatever session (vBeers, vWine, vCurry, vWhatever!), location TBC. Keep an eye on Jane Rimmer’s blog for more info!

London VMUG 23rd April 2015 Agenda

I am hoping to be at the event, having only missed one in about the last 3 years, so if you do spot me there (I’m the 6’7” Scottish bloke”)!

VMware vSphere NanoLab – Part 4 – Network and Storage Choices

Over the past few posts I have gone into the detail on configuring a high WAF vSphere NanoLab, mainly from the perspective of compute. In my case this consists of two Intel NUC nodes, running  dual core 1.8GHz core i3 processors and 16GB of RAM each. The main question people  have been asking me since I published the series is, what do I use for networking and storage?

Prior to the NanoLab, I have always gone for a vInception type of setup, i.e. everything running inside a single powerful workstation with plenty of RAM. This limits your options a bit, in my case it meant simply using local SSD & SATA storage, presented either as iSCSI from my Windows 2008 R2 server  or a nested FreeNAS 7 VM. For a bit of extra capacity I also had a couple of spare disks in an HP Microserver N36L presented via another FreeNAS 7 VM under ESXi.

The most frustrating thing with running your VMFS storage from a Windows host, is the monthly patching and reboots, meaning you have to take down your entire environment every time. In my case this also includes this blog, which is hosted as  a VM on this environment, so moving forward I wanted to have something a little more secure, flexible and robust, which also adhered to the cost, noise and size requirements you might expect for a NanoLab.

Storage

Speed of storage can make or break you experience and productivity when running a home lab. My requirements for a storage device / NAS were:

  • Minimal size
  • Silent or as near silent as possible
  • Low power consumption
  • Minimum 4 disk slots and ability to do RAID 5 (to minimise disk cost and provide flexibility for later growth)
  • Reasonable price

Optionally:

  • VAAI support
  • Decent warranty (if not a home build)
  • Reasonable component redundancy
  • USB3 support in case I want to add any external drives later for some speedy additional storage / backup

After going back and forth between a home-made solution based on another HP Microserver, or a pre-configured NAS, I decided that the additional features available in the Synology “Plus” line were too good to pass up. These include:

  • VAAI support for Hardware Assisted Locking (ATS), Block Zero, Full Copy, Thin Provisioning
  • iSCSI snapshot and backup
  • Link aggregation support for the dual gigabit NICs
  • 2-3 year warranty depending on the model
  • iSCSI or NFS (VAAI on iSCSI volumes only)

They were also recommended by a number of vExperts such as Jason Nash, Chris Wahl and Julian Wood, which is always a good justification to go for one! 🙂

The 1512+ was very tempting, but I in the end I chose the DS412+ due to its near-silent sub-20db operation (thanks to an external power brick and 2 hot-swap silent cooling fans), low power consumption618_348_backup-plans-synology-ds412 (max 44w under heavy load),  minimal footprint and reduced cost. I was tempted to wait and see if a DS413+ comes out any time soon, but Synology are being cagey and I needed the lab upgrades to be done and dusted in a short period. I already have a DS413j which I use for backups, so I can confirm they are very well built little machines, and the noise level claims are indeed accurate!

 

Into the 412+ I have loaded a pair of 240GB SANDisk Extreme SSDs using SHR (Synology Hybrid Raid). This is effectively just RAID1 mirroring when only two drives are installed but gives me the ability to expand out to RAID5 equivalent as I need more space and the price of SSDs (inevitably) comes down. Eventually the box will have around ~720GB or more of useable SSD storage, more than enough for a decent bunch of lab VMs! Another alternative would be a pair of SSDs for VM boot partitions / config files, and a pair of SATA drives for VM data partitions.

Networking

Although you can easily build a great home lab on a flat network with any old cheap switch, the ability to experiment with more advanced features is highly desirable. My requirements for a managed switch were:

  • Minimal size
  • Passive cooling (for silent operation)
  • Low power consumption
  • Minimum of 8x 1 gigabit ports (or preferably more)
  • Link aggregation
  • QoS
  • Security – VLANs, PVLANs, ACLs, & Layer 3 switching
  • SSH access for command line management

Optionally:

  • I am studying for a few Cisco exams over the next year so a Cisco branded router would be preferential
  • Decent warranty

After a great suggestion from Jasper and reading an article by Vladan I ended up going for the ten port Cisco SG300-10.

SG300-10

This 10-port switch will allow for:

  • 1-2 ports per NUC (for 2-4 NUC boxes)
  • 2 LACP enabled ports for the Synology lab storage
  • 2 ports for my personal data storage server (might replace this with a second mid-range Synology NAS later)
  • 2 uplink ports (In my case for a router and a second wireless access point)

This switch is passively cooled, only uses around 10w power, and as an added bonus Cisco include a limited lifetime warranty! Great if you are going to invest that much in a switch for home!

“As long as the original End User continues to own or use the Product, provided that: fan and power supply warranty is limited to five (5) years. In the event of discontinuance of product manufacture, Cisco warranty support is limited to five (5) years from the announcement of discontinuance.” http://www.cisco.com/en/US/docs/general/warranty/English/LH2DEN__.html

If I had been going for a switch purely on cost I would probably have chosen one of the HP models as these have some great bang for your buck, but I did want to stick to a Cisco branded one. I would also have loved to go for the PoE model so I could plug in a VoiP phone later, but the cost for the SG300-10P / MP was at least 50% more, and power consumption would be higher, even when idle.

WAF

The entire NanoLab setup above of 2 NUC boxes, DS412+ and SG300-10 in total take up about the same volume of space as a large shoe box, are virtually silent, and combine for an idle power level of 50-60 watts, and under 100 watts even under load. That’s less than a couple of halogen light bulbs!

In my next post I will go through the process of configuring the network and storage, including link aggregation and suggested VLAN configuration.

Earlier parts of this article may be found here:
NanoLab – Running VMware vSphere on Intel NUC – Part 1
NanoLab – Running VMware vSphere on Intel NUC – Part 2
NanoLab – Running VMware vSphere on Intel NUC – Part 3

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