VMware vExpert Community – Get Involved…

I’m proud to say I’ve been re-accepted as a VMware vExpert again this year – my 5th consecutive year! =)
(yes… I’m 5-stars baby…..!)

https://blogs.vmware.com/vexpert/2019/03/07/vexpert-2019-award-announcement/

Congratulations to all who have be chosen as vExperts for 2019!

I have to say that this years’ application was the toughest yet! Previously you could submit your details and hope to be accepted… this year you had to submit your details, explain what you’ve been doing within the vCommunity and post up information about your blog and stuff (and then pray that the vExpert team look favourably on  you)!! I guess with the vExpert community growing rapidly every year, the vExpert team have decided to put a few more stringent checks in place to ensure that the right people are accepted and recognised as vExperts!
That said, this years’ application caused quite a bit of consternation with my fellow vExpert friends in the WhatsApp group I’m in, I don’t think any of us were certain of being re-approved until the “You’re In” email dropped this week!

One thing’s for sure, I’ve made it a point to try and blog a lot more this year and show more active engagement with VMUG and the wider community! (Not just to justify my vExpert status…. hehe…)

This time round, I’ve decided not to just post up my obligatory “I’m in… thank you vExpert Team for accepting me back!” post. Instead I thought I’d write something that explains what the vExpert community is about, how you can join, and talk a little about my journey! So where shall I start?

Once upon a time…….

 

Who….?

Who are the VMware vExperts? Well, each vExpert has been accepted because they’ve demonstrated significant contributions to the vCommunity! There’s a mistaken view that you must have a blog in order to be accepted, in reality people contribute in various different ways, yes blogging is probably the most effective medium of sharing your expertise with others, but there are other means of ‘evangelising’….

  • Participating in LinkedIn groups (like the VCP group)
  • Tweeting (or using other social media sites) to share experiences about VMware
  • Public Speaking (at local VMUGs, or running marketing campaigns at work)
  • Authoring books
  • Writing scripts that are shared online, or producing your own tool that helps others
  • VMUG participation (either as a leader or a speaker)
  • VMTN Community moderators and also people who help to answer questions on the forum.


What….?

What is the VMware vExpert Program? vExpert is not a technical certification or badge that you need to study for, or pass an exam to join! In fact there are vExperts who don’t even have a VCP…. and then there are some who have multiple VCDXs (I bow down to those guys).

The VMware vExpert program is VMware’s global evangelism and advocacy program. It recognises people who have gone out of their way to evangelise about VMware. The awards are for individuals, not companies, and last for one year – each year you have to reapply!


Where…?

The VMware vExpert Program is a global community, there are vExperts from every continent in the world! It’s difficult to try and get a community together, so we all live virtually within the vExpert Slack Channel (some more than others). The main website for vExperts is https://vexpert.vmware.com

If you’re interested in joining the community, then reach out to your local vExpert Pro – this is a network of vExperts around the world who are willing to identify and recruit new vExperts in their local communities and be mentors for these new vExperts. A directory of vExpert Pros can be found here: https://blogs.vmware.com/vexpert/meet-the-vexpert-pro/

Within the UK there are two vExpert Pros, both are really great guys who live and breath the VMware community:


When…?

Applications are open twice a year – once in November/December with results announced in February for the 1st half of the new calendar year. They then reopen again in June with an August announcement for the 2nd half of the year. Every vExpert as well as any new applicants must apply at least once per year.

For more information visit https://vexpert.vmware.com


Why…?

Why would you want to apply? If you have a passion for VMware technology… if you actively ‘give back’ to the community in some way or form (see above), then you should apply! The vExpert program is recognition for the work you do in the community!!

And the benefits:

  • Invite to a private #Slack channel for vExperts
  • vExpert certificate signed by VMware’s CEO Pat Gelsinger.
  • Private forums on communities.vmware.com.
  • Permission to use the vExpert logo on cards, website, etc for one year
  • Access to a private directory for networking, etc.
  • Exclusive gifts from various VMware partners.
  • Private webinars with VMware partners as well as NFRs.
  • Access to private betas (subject to admission by beta teams).
  • 365-day eval licenses for most products for home lab / cloud providers.
  • Private pre-launch briefings via blogger briefing pre-VMworld (subject to admission by product teams)
  • Blogger early access program for vSphere and some other products.
  • Featured in a public vExpert online directory.
  • Access to vetted VMware & Virtualization content for your social channels.
  • Yearly vExpert parties at both VMworld US and VMworld Europe events.
  • Identification as a vExpert at both VMworld US and VMworld EU.

Me personally, I find the access to NDA webinars and the eval licenses to be worth their weight in gold! But most of all, I value the friends I’ve made within the vExpert communities…. everyone is super friendly, even more so when you bump into each other for the first time at VMworld or other VMware events!!

I’m also lucky to be in a WhatsApp group of vExperts where we can talk shop (technical discussions of VMware products), food (especially our mutual love of nandos), weather (UK seems to have the grimmest weather!), craft beer (or scotch/whiskey/alcohol) and even moan about other technology and vendors…. ;oP


How…?

So how did I end up being a vExpert? It kind of happened by accident… much like my blog! Back in 2012 my wife’s siblings were all avid bloggers about fashion, lifestyle, food and travel (links to their blogs on the bottom right frame), in a passing conversation about blogging they said I should think about starting a blog on technology and gadgets – to be honest I didn’t really think much about it…. then in the summer of 2012 I was involved in a large VMware solution and I got talking to one of the VMware admins at the customer site…. he and a few others suggested that maybe I should blog about my experiences with VMware since I was always coming up with answers to their questions and problems – and so at the start of 2013 I decided to have a go at writing a blog, and “The Virtual Unknown” was born!

Fast forward a year and I was starting to do a lot more within the VMware Partner community, a few people at VMware and at other Partners had found out that I write a blog and since it was quite a rare thing within the UK Partner community that maybe I should try and apply for vExpert status as a “Partner Evangelist”… in all honesty I didn’t think I actually wrote enough articles or even did enough within the community – but I applied and amazingly was accepted (I guess back in 2014/15 the criteria was less stringent – thankfully!).

However, becoming a vExpert opened a lot of doors for me…. you do get recognition as a vExpert and companies seem to respect that (when I meet new people and they see I’m a vExpert, they always seem impressed and ask about the program – similarly when applying for jobs)! The NDA sessions have given me insight before the rest of the market with regards to product roadmaps – and this fuels my thirst for learning about new technologies and solutions (and led me to joining the vSAN vExpert sub group). I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to network with fellow vExperts on slack and at VMworld. Finally it’s pushed me on to try and do more blogging and give back more to the community! =)

 

So…. if this post hasn’t encouraged you to think about joining the vExpert community, then I’m a failed advocate for the program…. ;oP

Joking aside, if you’re interested in joining the vExpert community then your first port of call is to reach out to a vExpert Pro… alternatively feel free to drop me a tweet or message me via LinkedIn!

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My Big Bets for 2019 – CloudHealth – Part 2

Yesterday’s article tried to set the scene and discuss why I think CloudHealth is such a great product, today’s article will be about 3 features that caught my eye that I’ve found to be pretty cool.

Policies

In the adapted words of Beyonce…. “Who Run the Cloud… Policies!!”

Policies should be used to run the cloud infrastructure where your workloads reside. But in order for policies to be effective you need an understanding of your cloud workloads, how their components work together and also a policy management system that makes it easy to define and configure policies according to different rulesets and actions. Policies can be configured to control costs, optimise performance, and enhance security and compliance – think of them as you cloud platform rule book!

CloudHealth allows you to automate your cloud policy management – this means the platform will continuously monitor your workloads to ensure they stay in compliance with any policies you set, and when it discovers a workload has violated a policy it can remediate following a set of pre-defined actions. In any environment, IT admins spend a lot of their time on BAU and keeping the lights on. Being able to use automation means you can spend less time monitoring and managing your environment and more time focusing on more business-critical issues or new innovative projects.

When an event occurs that triggers a policy, the CloudHealth policy management system can be configured to apply a number of different actions to suit the circumstances of the policy triggered, such as:

  • Send a notification to the Cloud Admin if the projected monthly spend is going to be greater than 100% of the budget allocated.
  • Take a snapshot and delete a block storage volume if it’s been unattached for a week.
  • Monitor workload utilisation and expand resources if the workload is underprovisioned.
  • Archive and delete virtual machines that have been idle for a month.
  • Stop workloads being deployed if the user has consumed their monthly allocation of resources.
  • And so on….

Policies and actions help to automate the governance of your cloud environment! If policies are the rule book, think of CloudHealth as Judge, Jury and Executioner!! =P

JD

Perspectives

Within CloudHealth, “Perspectives” is a great way for the end user to view and group cloud components together in order to align them with a business objective – for example grouping workloads across multiple cloud instances to a line of business, or to a user, or to a specific type of cloud instance (say an EC2 instance), in fact you can tag components in AWS and use them to help build Perspectives.

Perspectives enable precision reporting, showing you unique ‘point-of-views’ to your cloud environment for the given group. They are rule-based, allowing you to report from both an operational (e.g. applications, roles) and a business standpoint (e.g. departments, product lines). Best of all you can create dynamic groups that automatically update as changes occur!

The platform will allow line of businesses to visualise and analyse infrastructure assets and services, and the corresponding data in ways that are most meaningful to them. As a result, they can fully understand what’s happening in their infrastructures, pinpoint the root causes of issues, and mitigate risks to optimise infrastructure performance, availability, and security

Reporting

And that leads me straight into Reporting! Perspectives are used throughout the CloudHealth platform to help build out dashboard views and reports – and there are vast amounts of dashboard views that look into consumption or cost trends. Each view typically allows you to drill down into individual users or virtual machines or lines of business!

The Cross-Cloud Cost dashboard is a very useful reporting tool for customers who run multiple clouds, showing on one single page what the cost and consumption are like, and even showing you cost history by owner – which means you can quickly identify which users are racking up those huge cloud bills!

One of the features I really like on CloudHealth is the simple Health Check report than can be generated after 24hrs of collecting metrics – reporting on cost consumption and possible optimisation scenarios with potential cost savings (for example reclaiming under-utilised instances or unused storage volumes). There’s also a recommendation on Reservation Management – determining how much could be saved using Reserved Instances rather than PAYG pricing and the ROI that can be achieved.

healthcheck

Another interesting tool is the Reserved Instances Optimizer which can offer recommendations on cost saving opportunities by analysing the utilisation across the whole cloud environment and then determine the optimum buy point for RIs (assuming you have unlimited budget). However, if you don’t have unlimited budget to buy a huge chunk of RIs up front, then you can set your budget using the slide bar and re-run the optimizer tool which will then work out the best assets to place into the RI given your budget, and the potential cost savings and ROI in doing so!

Optimizer also allows you to filter the report to only the assets you care about – for example the recommendations with regards to your production environment.

optimiser

 

Conclusion

CloudHealth is a great tool that allows organisations the capability to gain insights into their cloud costs and manage the utilisation of cloud resources. In addition it grants organisations the ability to address security issues of cloud workloads and align a set of corporate policies across multi-cloud workloads to ensure compliancy. It also allows organisations the flexibility of determining how data is analysed, organised and reported by using Perspectives – correlating data with business goals to aid decision making. Finally, CloudHealth offers the ability to automate workflows by creating custom policies and guidelines that define how automated actions and tasks are executed.

If you want to find out more information on CloudHealth and its additional features and functions, then head along to their website or get in touch with your VMware Account Manager!

My Big Bets for 2019 – CloudHealth – Part 1

Originally I wanted to write a single article about CloudHealth, but over time I ended up adding so much content to the article that it was more an essay than a blog! I’ve decided to split it into two and cut out a lot of feature reviews – so todays’ article is more about scene-setting and my thoughts on CloudHealth, and tomorrow’s article will be about 3 features I’ve found pretty cool.

The Market

Cloud has been talked about for years, but many organisations have been uncertain about closing down their data centres and taking that giant leap to public cloud. In reality, many businesses have taken a multi-cloud approach – I’ve seen customers who have Azure instances for storage and archive, with AWS instances for DevOps and web applications, in addition to the vast array of infrastructure that they still currently run within their own data centres for all those legacy applications they can’t quite get rid off!

But the issue with this multi-cloud approach (and I include on-prem/private cloud here), is that management becomes a complete nightmare! It’s the lack of visibility that puts people off… then there are the huge bills that typically occur due to unmanaged consumption… or the pain of migrating across workloads!
I’ve lost count how many customers I’ve spoken to who have said that moving to the cloud has been a costly nightmare, mainly due to being under-prepared and over-provisioned!
Or the number of customers who tell me they only consume Azure, only for an audit to show up pockets of AWS instances where the lines of business have gone direct to public cloud because IT were unable to provide the same agile services.

The Challenge

The challenge is how do organisations deal with operational complexity as they scale their cloud environments? How do they ensure that they have visibility whilst consuming multiple clouds? How do they manage security and compliance of cloud workloads, whilst ensuring governance across multiple disparate clouds? And more importantly how can they accurately report to the business the costs of consumption on these clouds or even predict future costs? These are all well known issues with going to public cloud!

If I had a pound for every time I hear IT/Cloud Admins moaning that they’re just seen by the business as a blackhole that sucks in money, then I still wouldn’t be very rich (think thousands rather than millions). =)

However, the statement is pretty true! The business typically sees the huge bills with no real justification behind it! Having the right cloud management and operations platform is critical to an organisations’ cloud strategy. In fact giving the business visibility into costs and operational aspects will help control the risk across multi-cloud without reducing agility – it may even accelerate the effort of multi-cloud adoption! You need a tool that helps provide tangible data to show how IT supports the business initiatives – aligning the cost of cloud consumption to a project or line of business, or even helping to identify the culprits who rack up those large cloud charges and the workloads they run!

cloud

The Answer

At VMworld 2018 US, an announcement was made by Pat Gelsinger that VMware were acquiring CloudHealth Technologies (for an undisclosed sum – Reuters reported it to be close to $500mil, now that’s a hefty piece of cheese!). The acquisition of CloudHealth makes a lot of sense, as here we have a SaaS solution which offers multi-cloud management across AWS, Azure and GCP, giving customers a way to manage cloud costs, usage and performance, security and governance, all from a single dashboard!

One aspect that was always missing from VMware’s Cloud Management Platform was a product that could manage multiple clouds from a single-pane-of-glass. VMware tried to do it with the vRealize Suite but people quickly realised it didn’t have the native integration needed in order to successfully monitor, manage and analyse public cloud workloads – VMware were using existing products and trying to retro-fit them as a CMP. You pretty much had 3 separate products – vRealize Operations to monitor workloads and utilisation, vRealize Business for Cloud for cost analysis, and vRealize Automation for managing workflows and self-service. CloudHealth has been purposely-built from the ground up to be a Cloud Management & Operations Platform!

In the short time I’ve read and watched demos of the product in action, my opinion is that CloudHealth will become ‘the’ Cloud Operations Platform of choice for the industry (assuming VMware gets their pricing correct!) – no other product offers customers such granular visibility and insight to cloud costs and consumption and provides such ease of aligning them to lines-of-business for reporting. Day 2 operations such as control and optimisation of cloud consumption, and ensuring compliance and performance of the environments is easily done by setting policies and actions (more on this tomorrow). The direction is to obviously make this a tool where people can manage and monitor every public and private cloud, and I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point in the future roadmap there would be some sort of workload automation that gets rolled out – for example you setup a policy to monitor consumption costs for a web app and the cost comparison of running that workload across the different public cloud providers, the remediation action would be to migrate the workload to the cheapest cloud every billing cycle (maybe quarterly)!

At the moment there’s no news as to whether CloudHealth will replace vRealize Suite, I can only assume that vRealize Business for Cloud will merge into CloudHealth as they do pretty similar things. Similarly I think VMware Secure State (real-time configuration of security and compliance of cloud workloads) will be merged into CloudHealth, as again they both offer the same type of services.

It’s also interesting to hear that they’re potentially looking to integrate VMware’s Cloud Automation Services and Wavefront products into the CloudHealth Platform – maybe offering a future look into how CloudHealth could integrate into the continuous delivery of DevOps and take remediation actions? The Wavefront integration would expand CloudHealth’s reach into the cloud native apps itself (rather than just looking at the underlying infrastructure components).

For the time being I guess the advice to customers would be to continue to use vRealize to manage on-prem private cloud with CloudHealth managing public cloud – although that said, there’s still not much information available with regards to whether CloudHealth can currently work with on-prem vSphere deployments and with VMware Cloud on AWS – but I guess this integration is more than likely being worked on feverishly and I wouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t something launched before VMworld this year! How cool would that be?

spongebob

The obvious low-hanging fruit for VMware is to go after all the MSPs within their VCPP stream to roll out CloudHealth, it’s going to be interesting to see which direction VMware focuses on first – MSP or resale.

For now, it seems that VMware has a complete story to tell to customers in regards to their cloud strategy – “A cloud solution must be able to support the development and delivery of any application, on to any cloud, and accessible by any device, whilst maintaining enterprise requirements around security and compliance, and being able to simplify Day 2 operations for management of multi-clouds….”
(bit of a mouthful)