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vRetreat London 2018 and Zerto Virtual Replication 6.0

I was lucky enough last year to be invited to the inaugural UK vRetreat, organised by fellow vExpert Patrick Redknap. If you’ve not encountered a vRetreat before, or are wondering what it is, it’s an event with a small delegation of bloggers invited to pick apart some presentations by the event’s sponsors.

Following on from Silverstone in 2017 I had assumed that I’d had my shot and that other bloggers would get their chance at the next event. Fast-foward to February 2018 and I again found myself sitting down with a number of quality vCommunity members to exchange stories and, most importantly for vRetreat, listen to some detailed presentations by a select delegation of IT vendors.

The Crypt - yes, it's in a church!

One key difference between the two events (I think that Barry Coombs and myself are the only two attendees of both events) was the venue and the “extra-curricular activity”. Instead of the Porsche driving experience from last year, we would all be entering the Crystal Maze. (Great fun, especially if you remember the TV game show, although the team I was on had two people carrying injuries and, to be honest, we sucked!)

The venue for the daytime, technical part of the day was familiar to me too from the numerous times that I’ve been to CloudCamp in London. Ominously named “The Crypt”, it is in fact a Church near Farringdon.

Back to the purpose of the vRetreat. Although I mentioned presentations before, the idea is that it starts out that way but, with a smaller audience, it gets a bit more interactive as the attendees ask lots of detailed questions that you might not get in a larger setting. On this particular occasion, we had the pleasure of hearing from Zerto and Cohesity. With the room divided between the two, I have the pleasure of covering Zerto. Continue Reading

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South West UK VMUG – 22nd February 2017

I was absent from the VMUG scene for the entirety of 2016 for a number of reasons. I’m determined to make amends this year and I’m jumping in at the deep end!

A week from today is the first South West UK VMUG for 2017 and I’m going to be presenting a session. Registration for the event is open now; so if you’re in the area, drop by. As usual, it’s at the mShed in Bristol.

 

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vRetreat: Cohesity Overview

At the recent vRetreat at Silverstone, I experienced three technical presentations / Q&A sessions from the event sponsors. One of these, Cohesity, I was charged with writing a little more about. Up until that point, my experience and knowledge of Cohesity’s solutions was very limited as I’ve had my head buried in several large projects over the recent months. Ezat Dayeh‘s presentation at the vRetreat was therefore a great introduction for me to Cohesity’s mission and value proposition.

Cohesity was founded in 2013 by Mohit Aron, former co-founder of Nutanix and a Google File System lead developer. With this DNA, it’s no real surprise that Cohesity’s solutions have a storage focus. The difference with Cohesity is that its focus is not around primary storage (production virtual machines, databases etc), but secondary storage (file shares, backups, archives etc). Their mission is to redefine that secondary storage market.

What is secondary storage

Cohesity estimate that around 80% of an enterprise’s storage needs are for secondary data and that the majority of the storage market incumbents are focussed on primary storage. Obviously the picture will differ from customer to customer, but in many cases this secondary storage will be distributed across various platforms and, in some cases, may be stored more than once. This could lead to problems with regulatory compliance, operational costs and even just having a view on what data is being retained.

The Cohesity solution

Cohesity’s solution is based on a hyper-converged infrastructure platform built from commodity hardware. Of course the hardware isn’t the whole story, not even close to it. But we’ll come on to the software part of it in a minute.

The C2000 series chassis offers 4 HA nodes in 2U of rack space and there are no stated limits when it comes to scalability. The obvious advantage to this over some of the more “traditional” storage solutions is of course that you can start small and grow it. This is a model that many newer solutions are opting for and it seems to work well for them, so why not Cohesity too 🙂

Cohesity’s special sauce, its software, is where the clever stuff happens. One of of the primary use cases for Cohesity is as a backup target or to provide an alternate backup solution. Cohesity can be a backup target for your existing backup software (Veeam being one of the cited examples and another of vRetreat’s sponsors). Alternatively, Cohesity can pull in the inventory from vCenter so that it can be backed up as part of a schedule using snapshots. Protected virtual machines can be restored swiftly and even used for test and development workloads. Restoration jobs are placed and on the Cohesity platform initially and then storage vMotioned back to the correct location later.

Cohesity’s CloudArchive solution opens up the option of archiving cold data up to public cloud services like Amazon S3 or NFS based services. Once enabled, it’s all automated.

CloudReplicate is a version of Cohesity that runs in the public cloud and enables a number of interesting use cases. One is DR in the cloud, Azure is supported with AWS coming soon. Another is using such cloud services for test and development environments, particularly for geographically dispersed teams.

Another area that Cohesity are actively working on is that of data analytics. They predict that in 3 to 4 years’ time, it’ll be a huge use case. Add in deduplication, an “API first” development approach and built-in HA to the mix and you have an interesting solution emerging.

My thoughts on Cohesity? Based on Ezat’s presentation, Cohesity looks to have found an area that isn’t fully exploited yet. Most other vendors so far have been focussed on the cream at the top of the bottle (I had a manager once who raved about gold top milk) and, in some cases, happy to drink the rest too. Cohesity almost seem to be saying “You have the cream, we’ll have the rest of the bottle.” Will they be successful? I think they will. Ezat shared with us that their EMEA sales operation was doing well in the first four months of operating. But I’d wager that their successes will draw other players in to the space they’re trying to carve out.

I’d like to hear from some of Cohesity’s customers at some point to understand how it’s helped them. There’s nothing better than a good customer use case! Of course, some potential customers are going to be wedded to other vendors and some may be doing just fine managing their data with their primary storage. But it’s a big marketplace out there if the USP is right.

As a final word, I’d like to thank Cohesity for sponsoring the vRetreat last month. And, if you happen to be around for the South West UK VMUG in Bristol on February 22nd, they’ll be there then too.

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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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VMworld 2017 – Call for papers is open!

VMware have a gift for you this Valentine’s day. VMworld 2017 call for papers is open today!

This year, VMworld US and VMworld Europe are closer together. Only two weeks separate the two events. I’m interested to see how that changes the makeup of the sessions and announcements. Of course, to make the best assessment I’d have to be at both conferences. Time to talk to my manager and get some session ideas submitted!

CFP is open now until March 14th 2017.

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Don’t miss the UK VMUG!

In just over a week, on Thursday 19th November, a few hundred virtualisation professionals from the UK (and further afield too) will be descending on the National Motorcycle Museum near Birmingham once again for the UKVMUG.

Although I’ve been a regular attendee of the UKVMUG in the past, this will be the first time that I’ll be presenting. Along with my former Xtravirt colleagues, Jonathan Medd and Sam McGeown, we’ll be talking about our collective experiences working on a number of major cloud automation projects.

Aside from presenting and networking, I’m also looking forward to the other sessions. Some of highlights of the agenda are:

  • Joe Baguley’s opening keynote – I think I had a preview of it at VMware’s TechSummit last week, I think you’ll like it
  • Cloud Native Apps and Project Photon with Andy Jenkins and Robbie Jerrom
  • Automating the Next Generation Datacenter with Josh Atwell
  • The 5 Starting Points for Cloud Adoption with David Hill
  • vRealize Automation – Lesson Learned with fellow vBrownbag host Frank Buechsel
  • John Troyer’s closing keynote – the Grandfather of the vExpert programme is a great speaker

Anyone attending will be truly spoiled for choice! Edit: I’d like to go to all of the sessions but that would require some sort of Harry Potter-esque magic.

There’s still time to register and I can’t extol the personal and professional benefits of VMUGs enough. I hope to see you there.

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South West UK VMUG (3rd June 2014)

I think it’s safe to say that the first South West VMUG back in February was very successful. Our next one will be held at the same venue (Bristol’s mShed) on June 3rd 2014.

We’ve got some good sessions lined up and we’d love to have as many of you along as possible. So, if you’d like a day of discussion and learning with lots of people from the virtualisation community, then please sign up via the VMUG site.

Session Times Session Description
10:30:00 11:00:00    Registration / Coffee
11:00:00 11:15:00 Welcome and Introduction
11:15:00 12:00:00 VMware Session on vCAC
12:00:00 12:45:00 Nimble Storage (Nick Dyer)
12:45:00 13:30:00    Lunch / Vendor Area
13:30:00 14:15:00 vCD Experience (Julian Regal – Capita)
14:15:00 15:00:00 Troubleshooting Panel
15:00:00 15:15:00    Tea / Coffee
15:15:00 16:00:00 PowerCLI / Automation (Jonathan Medd)
16:00:00 16:45:00 PernixData (James Smith)
16:45:00 17:00:00 Close

Afterwards we’ll be de-camping across the other side of the dock at the Pitcher & Piano for some vBeers (kindly sponsored by PernixData):

vBeers at the Pitcher & Piano

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vCHS in the UK

vCHS-in-the-UK1I was fortunate and privileged recently to be invited to the UK launch event for VMware’s vCloud Hybrid Service in the UK. The first of many planned deployments in the EMEA region for VMware.

VMware’s vCloud Hybrid Service became public in the US in September last year.  Swiftly afterwards, VMware announced their plans to bring the service to EMEA in 2014 and, as of Tuesday 25th February, it is generally available in Europe.

Besides being a blogger, I’m also fortunate to work for a leading VMware Partner in EMEA (Xtravirt). As we’re one of the few Hybrid Cloud certified partners (at the time of writing), I’m hoping to be working on some vCHS projects in the near future. Exciting!

Why the UK and Why now?

The feedback from EMEA customers indicated that many of them were concerned about data locality and the sovereignty of their datacenters. A Vanson Bourne survey of 200 IT decision makers conducted earlier this year on behalf of VMware indicated that:

  • 86% recognised a business need to keep data within UK borders
  • 85% said current clouds were not integrated with their own internal infrastructure
  • 81% said that they need to make public cloud as easy to manage and control as their own infrastructure

The Launch Event

The launch of the service in London was anticipated for several weeks following a beta programme that was oversubscribed ten-fold. Initially, vCHS will be available via a single UK data centre.  An additional data centre is due to come online in the 2nd quarter of this year and VMware already have plans to expand the service into more European countries.

The relative importance to VMware of this launch was perhaps best emphasized by the presence of their CEO, Pat Gelsinger, who flew in from California for it.  VMware have invested heavily in vCHS and will continue to do so as demand for public cloud services grows. Pat’s presence underlined to me the importance that VMware places on vCHS in their future.

During Pat’s talk, he gave an overview of how he and VMware see that we’re in the middle of a shift from an appliance era to one of mobile cloud. vCHS is one of the ways that VMware are using to move with that shift. He also mentioned about how he’d recently had to write a cheque for $1.5Bn for VMware’s purchase of AirWatch. I thought I’d try it out to see what it felt like…

vchs-cheque

I guess it’d be more impressive if I actually had that money in my account! If anyone else tries this, tell me if you use Dr Evil’s voice when writing it out.

Much of the remaining time at the event was dedicated to a Q&A panel involving many of the UK / EMEA’s top brass and vCHS product managers.

vCHS Benefits – A Customer Perspective

Obviously, VMware weren’t the first to market with a public cloud offering (think Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure for instance), but a significant portion of the launch briefing was focused around how vCHS benefits existing VMware customers more than a move to a 3rd party cloud provider does.  For this, two of the service’s beta participants talked about their experiences.

Betfair’s business activities, as part of the online gaming industry, are heavily regulated within the UK. One of their IT challenges is providing the business with sufficient agility to grow and develop. However, Betfair found that the potential benefits of cloud economics are balanced against the complexity of maintaining regulatory compliance when using cloud service providers. The key differentiator that they picked out in vCHS for them was the integration with their existing virtual platform (vSphere). Being able to migrate workloads from their on-premise platform to their dedicated vCHS space and (using other parts of the vCloud Suite) presenting business users with a single interface to request and manage virtual infrastructure made their adoption of vCHS for development and testing purposes possible.

Cancer Research UK’s story is similar. Their key driver is to reduce their spend on “tin and wires” as they’re not an IT business. As a charity, regular and predictable costs are far more preferable to infrequent capital outlays for growth and hardware refreshes. Cancer Research wanted something they could just plug into and use to maximize their IT efficiency and move away from legacy systems.

Thinking about these use cases, there’s certainly clear benefits for both customers.

Use Cases

vCHS has several use cases and benefits. Key amongst the benefits is the ability to utilise existing vSphere management products and interfaces to manage your estate. Such integration is going to be a big selling point in my opinion.

As for use cases, here are just a few:

  • Use as a Disaster Recovery datacenter
  • Migrate from existing  Virtual Infrastructure and reduce your physical datacenter assets
  • SMEs could use it to host workloads that require Enterprise vSphere features and keep test and development systems in house
  • Affordable means to grow IT infrastructure without capital investement

Put another way, if you imagine an organisation with an existing virtual datacenter, their usage of it is likely to look something like this:

vchs-use-case

  • 75 – 90% (ish) is used by running services
  • 10 – 25 % might be reserved for high availability and maintenance constraints
  • A few percent might be available to support business growth

That’s a reasonable chunk of resources that are required (and must be paid for) that don’t run any workloads under normal conditions.

Imagine though if the business had datacenter resilience requirements that necessitated a second datacenter for DR:

vchs-use-case-with-dr

The organisation has to pay for a lot more hardware and software that might never be required and that will have to kept up-to-date over time. (Of course, they could run workloads in both datacenters and fail over should DR be required but the amount of resources required wouldn’t reduce much.)

Using vCHS, such an organisation could very easily do any or all of the following:

  • Use vCHS for DR. They’d have to pay for storage used and they’d need a pretty chunky network connection but surely they have that anyway. In the evnt of needing to failover, they pay for the resource used.
  • Use vCHS to support business growth without having to invest in capital equipment.
  • Migrate their workloads to vCHS rather than refresh on-premise hardware and use multiple vCHS datacenters for resilience.

The opportunities are both interesting and exciting to me.

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SWVMUG Launch and Google Hangout

Jeremy and I participated in a brief Google Hangout today with Simon Eady and Barry Coombs, our co-leaders of the South West UK VMUG. We officially announced our first meeting date (Tuesday 18th February 2014 in central Bristol) and spent some time discussing some of the things that we collectively did at VMworld Europe recently.

The full video of the hangout is below. Once venues etc are firmed up for our first SWVMUG meeting we’ll get a registration link opened up on our VMUG page.