Apple, General, OSX

Idea to make your presenter life easier on the road

A little while ago, Apple introduced their new operating system: OS X Mavericks. It seems like they ran out big cats to name the different versions of their operating system.

While there are a lot of new features in there, as well as an upgrade of some features to bring the OS up to par when compared to for example Windows 8, one of the best additions in my opinion is the “multiple displays” feature. You can get the Apple overview here. Basically, you can hook up monitors to your mac, and they are now able to work just like your main display. That’s great if you have a dual or multi monitor setup (which I don’t have), but for me what is really cool, is that this also works with an Apple TV.

I was playing with this feature today, and I created a quick video that I wanted to share for anyone that might not be familiar with what you can do, and show a very simple demo:

I’ll admit that the clip isn’t that spectacular, but after playing a bit more, I figured that this scenario could make my life on the road a lot easier. I present at a fair share of conventions and events, and while there usually is a TV or monitor hanging around, usually your controls would be far far away, and you’d have to dig out your laptop to get to anything to do with the system settings or the likes. You would have to run cables from your laptop to the display, and if you forgot a display adapter for you MacBook, usually you were just plain and simply screwed.

Someone else wanted to present from their Mac? Sure, copy the presentation over via AirDrop, USB stick, or you would have to switch the cable to a different laptop.

I’ve decided that I’ll try something different in the future. I’ll just bring along an Apple TV and hook that up to the TV or display. One HDMI and power cable, and I’m set. I’ll be able to just monitor my screen, and if one of my colleagues wants to present, he can just as easily use it without copying presentations or swapping cables. And since this also works with iPads, anyone that has their presentation in Keynote format on their iPad should also be good.

I’ll admit this isn’t a solution for a mixed environment (PC and Mac, not to mention monitors or TVs that only have VGA or DVI), but I’m seriously considering just giving this a try to see how far it takes me. I’m fully aware that the video dongles are lighter than the Apple TV, but hey, I’m a geek and I want to play with technology. πŸ˜‰


Time for a change: Keep calm and…

Keep calm and join Nutanix.

Keep calm and join Nutanix - Picture by Christian Mohn
Keep calm and join Nutanix – Picture by Christian Mohn
Yep, no sense in beating around the bush. I resigned with EMC, and after wrapping up open topics, I will be starting as the first German systems engineer for Nutanix on June 17th.

I’ve learned incredibly much at EMC. After joining EMC in 2010, I was lucky to be part of a team that has done some incredible things. I feel like the vSpecialist team set a bar on how customer interaction can work, how a team of great individuals can combine in to something much more, and transform the way a company goes about. I learned ways to present information (hopefully in an interesting way), made friends, was able to help customers, worked on several certifications, and always had the feeling that I was still the dumbest guy on the team. I loved the fact that I was able to still ask tough questions internally, without being viewed as “that guy that just sits around nagging”. I’ve got so much to be grateful for, and I am. People like Chad Sakac or Wade O’Harrow who saw some potential in me, or someone like Holger Daube who has been a better boss to me than I could wish for. There are too many to name and thank individually, but thank you to all of you!

But I am moving on. After talking to several people, and discussing, reading things like this, I can’t help but feel that this is a great chance. I can try to set up something new, help define solutions, and get to see what it looks like working in a smaller company, with what I’m expecting to be an even crazier pace.

So, here’s to seeing you on the flip-side, and having fun with something new! πŸ™‚

Certification, General, Virtualization

How do I get to be “that good”?

This is a post that I’ve been struggling with for quite some time now. Did you ever get that feeling, seeing folks around you achieve things that you envisioned for yourself? People seeming to reach a certain level of knowledge, and you strive yourself to get to that level? Asking yourself the question, how can I reach their level, how do I get to be “that good”?

I’ve joined EMC just over 2 years ago in my current role as a vSpecialist. When I actually joined the team, I always felt like I was the dumbest guy on the team. Since then, I’ve learned so much about all kinds of topic, and I think I achieved a pretty decent level of knowledge surrounding virtualization and a lot of the encompassing technologies. I’ve been lucky enough to get the vExpert title awarded twice, and I was able to work on my certifications (VCP, VCAP, EMC Cloud Architect, EMC IT-as-a-Service Expert).

Still, you see folks around you working on stuff, and the more you learn, the more you learn about what you don’t know. As for myself, I still need to work on my networking knowledge. I realize more and more that it needs brushing up. The role of vSpecialist inside of the company is evolving, and while we still support the basic virtualization stack, we are now starting to focus more on what we do, now that a lot of folks are starting to realize that the hypervisor itself isn’t that “thrilling” anymore. Most hypervisors will perform their basic function at a good level. That means, that we need to start looking at what we can do with the technologies that build upon the features and functions that were enabled by using a hypervisor.

And then, there is the part about where you would like to go as an individual. I don’t perform designs on a daily basis for my work. I’ve been involved in roughly 4 very large design projects in my time as a vSpecialist, but that doesn’t qualify me as a landscape designer or architect. I still have a personal goal though, to attain the VCDX certification.

Why? Yeah, the title sounds nice and all. But I feel like it’s an important skillset to have. And it’s a confirmation from a select group of peers that you have attained a certain level. You understand how things interconnect, are able to obtain a holistic view. It shows that, given/taken the time needed, you are able to understand the customer requirements, map those to a blueprint that will actually help the customer in achieving a set goal.

For me the challenge is the way I learn (I absolutely need hands to make stuff stick in my head and make the logical link), and finding the time to actually learn what I both need and what I want to learn.

In the end, I guess that we get to be “that good”, by looking at examples of people who we see as being “that good”, trying to learn from them in ways that help us enable ourselves. We spend the time because we don’t have any other choice. I want to learn, it’s in my DNA. The biggest problem in actually achieving the next level is more of a mental challenge as I see it, since that next level is a moving target. Usually we reach that next level without even knowing, just by being dedicated and motivated.

I know this isn’t a real technical post, and I’m not even 100% sure this post is of use to anyone besides myself, but it’s something that I needed to write down to clear my own head. So here goes, off to the next level, and maybe one day I’ll actually be that good. And I promise, the next post will be more technical in nature again. And if you should have any comments, I’m looking forward to reading them. πŸ™‚

General, Virtualization, VMware

vExpert 2012 – And the award goes to…..

A while ago, I created a post about the vExpert nominations for 2012.

Well, in the meantime people were nominated, or nominated themselves, and the resulting list of folks was posted here. And the number of vExperts has increased again, from 326 in 2011, to 390 at the time of writing, and the announcement states:

Due to the large number of applications, the list is still not complete, and we will be adding a couple dozen names to it over the next week or so. If you have not yet received an email from us, please have a little patience. We will make sure to let you know the results as soon as possible.

Which means that we will likely have over 400 vExperts this year. Pretty cool! And I’m happy and honored that I’m part of this group again. So, here’s a special thank you to John Troyer, Alex Meier and all of the folks part of the vExpert program. And also my congratulations to the folks who were awarded with the title, especially the new vExperts! πŸ™‚

General, VMware

VMware vExpert – Nominations for 2012 now open

It’s been almost been one year since VMware made a call to nominate folks for the VMware vExpert title, and now it’s time to nominate folks once again. To blatantly quote some figures, here are the number of vExperts over the last coupe of years:

  • 2009 — 253
  • 2010 — 300
  • 2011 — 326

And that number will hopefully again increase this year.

So, what makes up a vExpert? Well, it’s basically simple. You nominate or apply for the title here:, and that’s all there is to it.

So, what makes someone a vExpert? Let me quote the description from the nomination page:

The VMware vExpert Award is given to individuals who have significantly contributed to the community of VMware users over the past year. vExperts are book authors, bloggers, VMUG leaders, tool builders, and other IT professionals who share their knowledge and passion with others. These vExperts have gone above and beyond their day jobs to share their technical expertise and communicate the value of VMware and virtualization to their colleagues and community.

In the past, this meant that you would apply and be evaluated by a group of folks inside of VMware, and then get awarded the vExpert title, or wouldn’t receive said title. However, all of the vSpecialist were judged by two categories. This year things have changed slightly, and people can classify themselves or the person they are nominating along three categories. To quote some details:

Seeing how well this program has worked so far, we wanted to grow it to include more VMware enthusiasts who may be doing their work of sharing the know-how away from the limelight of the Internet and public events. Our vExperts in the past have for the most part fallen into two implicit groups: bloggers/writers/evangelists and VMUG leaders. This year, we are making explicit three different paths to becoming a vExpert. As always, the common theme for the established and the new vExpert paths will be going above and beyond your day job to help others be successful with VMware solutions.

Evangelist Path
The Evangelist Path includes book authors, bloggers, tool builders, public speakers, and other IT professionals who share their knowledge and passion with others with the leverage of a personal public platform to reach many people. Employees of VMware can also apply via the Evangelist pathway.

Customer Path
The Customer Path is for internal evangelists and community leaders from VMware customer organizations. They have contributed to success stories, customer references, or public interviews and talks, or were active community contributors, such as VMUG leaders.

VPN (VMware Partner Network) Path
The VPN Path is for employees of our partner companies who lead with passion and by example, who are committed to continuous learning and to making their technical knowledge and expertise available to many. This can take shape of event participation, video, IP generation, as well as public speaking engagements.

Although we’re making the three paths explicit this year, there is only a single vExpert designation; we aren’t splitting the program into sections.

The exact details for the three paths can be found on the nomination page, and you will also find the other criteria and guidelines linked from there.

So, what are you waiting for?! Go and check it out, nominate yourself or someone you feel deserves it, and pay it forward! πŸ™‚

as a Service, General

How those SLA metals are losing their value

I was on a call before, and a thought struck my mind again. I’ve been seeing people all over the globe use valuable metals to describe their service levels, resources, and/or properties. And you know what? It doesn’t work!

I see examples every day. I’ve created a service offering, and it goes by the name “Platinum”. You get 4 of the fastest servers out there, 512GB of RAM per server, and we’ll throw in some SSD’s.

So, what do I do next year?

Since platinum is still platinum, what happens when the servers that I ordered don’t have the same CPU frequency? Or people would expect double the amount of RAM for the server? Maybe the price for the Solid State Disks went down, and I can now get double or triple the capacity for the same amount of money (well, maybe not next year, but what about the year after)?

When you actually offer an internal service, it’s key to think about what you are actually offering. Are you describing your service? If so, a general name might not be bad. Car manufacturers have been doing this for ages, – Get the new XYZ executive edition! -, and while the model name rarely changes when a revision came, they’ve added a year, or an internal version number to distinguish between revisions. And you ordered your car just prior to the new launch? Well, you’re out of luck, but we’ll gladly sell you the newer version.

Now change places, and take on the role of the car manufacturer. Would you still call your currently fastest model “Platinum”? When you know that in two weeks time, you’ll be working on an even faster engine?

No you wouldn’t!

You would pick something that describes the product (or service) you are going to offer. If you want to offer that server class I mentioned before, pick something sensible. Describe what the service does, perhaps add a revision number or a time stamp. Instead of calling it “Jumbo-servers Platinum”, call it “Jumbo-servers Q1 2012, 4x XYZ virtualization server, quad core, 512GB RAM, 1 SSD 120GB”.

And if you can’t make the name that long, think of useful shorter codes. Spread the word and show people that you aren’t starting off well with new projects by using gold, silver and bronze as your service levels, and tell them that gold isn’t going to be gold in one year.

Oh, and before someone on Twitter says something. Unobtanium is cool, but I wouldn’t want it as a name. Nor would I prefer Yuan Renminbi, atomic weights or Apple specs. Although those gave me a good chuckle!

EMC, General, Storage, Virtualization

Post convention melancholy

I’m sitting on board of a delayed Airbus A320 from Las Vegas to Chicago while I’m writing up this small post.

I left for Las Vegas must over a week ago to help set up gear for EMC World, and my week has been amazing. After landing inVegas, I met up with some of the guys, went to dinner and to bet, just to be wide awake at two in the morning due to jet lag. Ain’t that just the way it goes?

Anyway, after attending some conference calls, the rest of the team was up and that meant it was time to get started setting things up. Part of it was wrapping up the guides that were created for the labs, and converting them to a format that was suitable for the lab guide reader that was created by fellow vSpecialist Nick Weaver.

Part of it was also to get the backup system up and running on site, because even though we ran the entire vLabs off of the infrastructure located on the other side of the USA, we needed a backup system that would be able to support the labs in case of issues. And one of the first challenges was to actually get the back hardware to the convention center, and actually getting the truck to the right spot to offload the hardware wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Not to mention the fact that it’s hard to work when people actually relocate you from room to room on what seemed to be an hourly basis.

But, all worked out in the end. We were able to get everything loaded and working, and actually started setting up shop in the vLabs area I the convention center. 200 WYSE consoles, custom written lab management software, almost 20 different labs to pick from, and a team of well over 25 folks helping out assured that the vLabs were a good experience.

Did it all run smoothly? No, not all of the time. If you eat your own dog food, want to be bleeding edge and run your service in the cloud, you are bound to run in to some glitches and hiccups. Think of things like firewalls that get in your way, switches not cooperating, or even something like a simulator that tends to crash more than it works (I’m looking at you RecoverPoint 3.4 Sim….). Then, there’s also the fact that this was a first for us in such an environment and at such a scale.

And even with those things, we managed to do an incredible job. We had a great team on site that pulled all nighters to get our environment up and running. Some of us have been living off of about 3 hours of sleep per night, but we still managed to provision over 3000 VMs (exact numbers to be published soon).

And besides the hard work we also had a lot of fun. We got to play craps with two Elvi, perform a pit stop for Wayne and Garth (errr, Chad and Wade), and the random Hangover quotes on our lab headsets were always good for a chuckle.

And now, I’m flying back home and am feeling somewhat melancholic. It’s been a hell of a ride, and coming down from the chaos, or not getting to hang out with my colleagues until I see them again the next time is sort of a strange feeling. It’s like saying goodbye to a dear friend that is leaving for a while, and although you have some very good memories, it leaves you with a sort of funny feeling.

So, for now I want to thank all of the guys that made this week an incredible experience. Folks like Aaron, Erin, Nick, Dave, Rick, Travers, Fred, Tommy, JT and Heather. And of course all of the others that I won’t all name here right now. Thanks guys!

And as the king said it: Viva Las Vegas!