To provide you with a quick back story on just how I got here, I purchased the first pieces of my home lab back in 2016. When building my home lab, my aim was to build an environment which was small, quiet and closely aligned to the VMware HCL. I obviously also had a budget to work with. At the time many people within the vCommunity were choosing to build their home labs using retired server hardware such as Dell PowerEdge R710s, or cheap & unsupported hardware such as Intel NUCs (remember this is 2016). Neither of these quite suited me because they were either too large & loud or unsupported, so instead I started to look at SuperMicro. These days most people would be familiar with the variety of hardware offerings SuperMicro provide in their lineup, most of which can be found on the VMware HCL. However back in 2016, the vCommunity were only just starting to explore the possibilities of building a home lab using SuperMicro. The other challenge I had was that the 5028D-T4NT server, which was the popular choice, did not come cheap, especially to those living outside the US! So I decided to build my own unique setup using the SuperMicro X10SDV-TL4NF motherboards. I assumed that by choosing a platform which was on the VMware HCL, that I would avoid all the pain and suffering of having to tinker with the hardware to get it to work. Well I assumed wrong!
When I first built my lab I was using a single physical host running VMware ESXi 6.5. I initially used this environment to deploy nested vSphere environments to develop and test AsBuiltReport against many different versions of VMware vSphere. Over the years I have gradually added more hardware to scale out my environment to provide more capacity and redundancy. However as more hardware was added, I began to encounter more issues with my setup. The first issue I encountered was when I added some Noctua cooling fans, and discovered that I needed to modify the fan thresholds. When I chose to add a second ESXi host, direct connecting the onboard Intel X552/X557-AT 10Gb network adapters for vMotion and vSAN traffic, I encountered another issue whereby the NICs would intermittently disconnect and never reconnect. Thankfully Paul Braren was able to provide a solution via his website over at TinkerTry.
And so begins this story…
In my previous post I wrote about the lows in my lead up to VMworld 2018. After making a few necessary changes to my travel itinerary I was now ready to board the plane for the long haul to Las Vegas.
The first highlight of my trip was seeing some familiar faces upon arrival to my hotel in Las Vegas. The 6 weeks leading up to this point had been tough, and to finally reach Las Vegas and VMworld was a huge relief. Catching up with the Aussie vMafia crew, Matt Allford, Mark Ukotic & Anthony Spiteri, shortly after arrival really put me at ease and allowed me to put the events of the last 6 weeks out of mind, even if it were just for a short period of time. Thanks guys for all your support.
This year was my first opportunity to attend the VMworld Hackathon. I had always wanted to see what people got up to at this event however with some big names headlining some big parties, I was still in two minds as to whether I was really going to commit to it.
In the end, given that I was still recovering from a heavy night of drinking from the night before, I thought it would be best to go easy and to use the opportunity to meet some new people in a far more relaxed atmosphere.
This year’s VMworld in Las Vegas will be one I will be sure to remember. Not only did VMware once again deliver an event which surpassed all my expectations, but it was an event which I share a career highlight, with me presenting to an audience of over 500 people. It is also an event which I will remember fondly for many other reasons too.
Late last year I began working on a personal side project, to develop automated ‘as built’ documentation using PowerShell. The project was born out of my frustrations with having to manually produce detailed configuration documents for customers after each project implementation. I initially shared details of the project with members of my local VMUG who encouraged me to present at the Melbourne VMUG UserCon in March of this year. Signing up to present at the UserCon also forced me to focus on the project in order to deliver a working demonstration. The feedback from the UserCon session was positive and provided further motivation for me to submit my project for a session at this year’s VMworld.
I knew my chances of success were low, having seen many before me try and fail when submitting for sessions at VMworld. However I knew my submission related to a topic that appealed to a wide audience, and that my project could benefit many in the vCommunity, just like vCheck and Vester had done previously.
Having worked the last 10 years as an IT consultant for a leading systems integrator, I have written my fair share of documentation. From design documents, migration plans, test plans, operational guides and health checks, I’ve done it all. But nothing annoys me more than having to write as built documentation.
What’s the problem with writing as built documentation?
As built documents require a lot of detailed system information, which often takes a significant amount of time and effort to retrieve. The information then normally requires you to transpose it from one format to another, again a laborious and time wasting exercise. In rare instances you may find a tool that can do this for you, however, it is never free, and it will never be able to perform this task across all of your systems. Sure, there’s always some basic tool available which can export into CSV, however the pain lies in transposing the information into a document format which is legible and presentable to a client. Excel spreadsheets are never acceptable to clients paying top dollar for your services.
This August I will be attending VMworld US 2018 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Centre in Las Vegas. This will be my 4th VMworld, having previously attended in 2011, 2013 & 2015.
Of all the conferences I have had the privilege to attend over the years, I would have to say VMworld is my favourite, and here is why;
The VMworld breakout sessions offer some of the best untapped knowledge you are ever likely to find. As many already know, the sessions are where you can gain direct access to those people who had the idea to create your favourite VMware features, or are the ones who have taught you all you know through their blogs, books and/or vBrownbags.
At my first VMworld, I spent all of my time in breakout sessions trying to absorb as much information as I could. Whilst I did learn a lot, I returned home feeling I had missed out on the full VMworld experience.
I hate to admit this, but there is no denying that some sessions can be hit and miss. In most cases, some sessions simply do not match the brief outlined in the session catalog. If you find yourself in a session where you are simply not gaining the knowledge you are seeking, politely excuse yourself and go and utilise your time more wisely elsewhere.
When I had the opportunity to return to VMworld in 2013, I went in with a totally different game plan. This time I booked up a solid agenda with all the sessions that interested me, however I simply went with the flow and never felt guilty for missing a session. If I was missing sessions it was because I was learning about newly discovered products in the Solutions Exchange, or sharing knowledge and experiences with new friends from the vCommunity.
This is how I roll at all conferences now. I always strive to get to the keynotes and the breakout sessions that interest me most, however I don’t live or die by them. My advise is to enjoy the experience and take the opportunity to meet those that you would never normally get the opportunity to meet. Seek out those people who have the information you are looking for.