vRetreat Silverstone 2017

So, it went something like this:

Patrick – “Do you want to drive some Porsches at a blogging event?”
Me – “Nom nom nom.” (That’s the sound of me biting his arm off.)

Ok, it wasn’t quite like that (see right). But close enough for the purposes of this post. By the way, I wasn’t serious about killing anyone 😉

Fast forward three short months, and the guy who co-organises the vRockstar parties in Barcelona (Patrick Redknap) is hosting the first ever vRetreat event at the Porsche Experience Centre.

We’ve got Porsches, we’ve got Silverstone. What else? Some bloggers:

Amit PanchalBarry CoombsRynardt SpiesDavid OwenSimon GallagherMe, and a special guest appearance by Joe Baguley.

Finally, and very importantly, some sponsors:

The day started early with breakfast at the Porsche experience centre. After a few minutes drooling over looking at the cars inside the experience centre, we all sat down  to hear from each of the sponsors in turn. Each of us was assigned a sponsor to cover in more detail. I’ll be covering Cohesity in a subsequent post.

Zerto

First up was Zerto’s Darren Swift. After going over the company’s history, Darren launched in to two detailed use cases for Zerto’s products. One of these, admittedly a “corner case”, dealt with the recovery from a ransomware attack using Zerto. Both use cases were interesting and Darren presented them well. He completed his session by going in to some more detail about the product architecture and its scalability. He also took our questions at the end and throughout.

I’ve not had much opportunity to work with Zerto in the recent past. Their API is of great interest to me though. Maybe later this year I’ll get some time to explore automating Zerto through vRO. There are quite a few Powershell examples out there already, but I’d like to get it working with vRO.

Veeam

Fellow vExpert Michael Cade was on hand next to represent Veeam. Their current focus is on availability for the enterprise. The most recent version (9.5) of the Veeam Availability Suite includes a number of enhancements including direct restore to Microsoft Azure with the restored VM being pre-converted to the correct format. Veeam are also introducing agents to offer better interaction with public clouds and physical servers / workstations.

Veeam have been in business for a decade now. Some of their products have their origins with VI3 and vSphere 4 and have evolved from there. But they’re gradually transforming to adopt an API driven product approach. Combined with their wider coverage of the enterprise, they’re worth keeping an eye on in my opinion.

Cohesity

The newest of the day’s three sponsors, with their EMEA sales operation only starting up last September, was represented by Ezat Dayeh. Cohesity’s goal is to address what they see as the gap in the secondary storage market, no, to redefine the secondary storage market.

As I mentioned above, I’ll cover Cohesity in more detail in my next post.

The Cars

Following lunch in the experience centre’s restaurant and a quick safety briefing, we were introduced to our Porsche Driving Consultants (I think that was their title). They would be our guides to the various tracks and features and help us get the best from the selection of Caymans and 911s available to us. My PDC, Ben, spent a while talking to me first, trying to gauge my comfort level and experience before we headed out in this 718 Cayman.

For those who don’t know their Porsches (certainly not my nephew, who’s a certifiable Porsche nut at the age of 6), the Cayman is a mid-engine, 2 litre car that puts out 300BHP. I spent a few laps on the main track building up some speed around the various corners and getting a feel for the car until Ben introduced me to the kick plate. This is a section of very wet track that throws the back end of the car to the left or the right randomly to teach you how to control a skid. Great fun!

I also got to try out the car’s launch control, which was a bit brutal.

My second car of the afternoon was a 911 Carrera. Thankfully Joe Baguley hadn’t broken it 😉

As a rear-engine, 3 litre flat 6, the 911 was a bit of a different beast from the Cayman. I did quite a few laps in it and also revisited the kick plate. Also on the menu were a number of laps on the low friction circuit. By the time the light was dropping and the rain started to fall, I was wiped. But it was great fun! I’d totally recommend the experience to anyone.

Final Event Thoughts

I’m a big fan of VMUGs and other IT community events. This one was very different than any I’ve attended in the past though. Patrick put together a very informative and enjoyable event and I am very grateful for the opportunity to attend. My thanks to him for inviting me, but especially to Cohesity, Veeam and Zerto for making it possible.

I must confess that I’d never driven a Porsche before. Growing up, I had loads of Matchbox cars and a number of them were Porsches. (I actually still have one upstairs somewhere.) Ben, my PDC, and the cars themselves did a pretty good job of making me want one. The day had one final surprise in store for me though; a quick trip as a passenger in Joe Baguley’s Tesla. I want one! Ludicrous mode is well named but felt much more controlled than the Porsche launch control experience earlier.

I digress though. I think that the event was a success and it all ran very smoothly. I hope that Patrick is successful in planning more events like this, I would certainly accept without hesitation. For now though, here’s the event video that Patrick commissioned:

And here’s how not to do it. The whole Porsche team were professional and let you have fun, let you challenge yourself, but they knew what they were doing. Thank you Porsche!

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