Last year I did a presentation on NVMe for Beginners along with Craig Waters for vBrownBag at the Melbourne VMUG UserCon. It was a daunting experience as it was a new cohort to present in front of and NVMe is a topic I had no expertise in. It’s something I wanted to learn more about and I thought that doing a presentation on it would mean I’d have to pull my finger out and really get down to understanding it. Nothing like a bit of pressure to learn something :-). Thankfully with Craig I had someone that had been through the mill a few times when it came to presenting. His mentorship and guidance made the presentation so much easier, and it gave me the confidence to do the presentation on my own a few months later at a normal VMUG.
Unfortunately the presentation contained proprietary information so it cannot be circulated online but I’ll run through the premise of the presentation and hopefully provide a brief introduction to NVMe. If you want to get the best understanding possible about NVMe I cannot recommend enough that you take time to read J Metz’s article on Cisco blogs NVMe for Absolute Beginners. It’s a phenomenal breakdown on NVMe and it’s so well written that even I was able to comprehend it.
I’ll run through the presentation as much as possible here. So, why NVMe?
- It’s already in consumer devices
- It’s faster and more parallel that SAS
- It’s required to take advantage of tomorrows advances
- NVMe fills a price performance / performance gap between low cost per GB and low throughput vs. high cost per GB, high throughput DRAM
This coming June will mark the two year anniversary of the Melbourne Cisco Data Center User Group. The first session was back on June 7th 2016 and as with all of the group sessions there were two, one vendor and one community. The vendor session was presented by Chris Gascoigne from Cisco about ACI and Nexus 9k while the community session was from Will Robinson about GNS3 in his homelab. Both session were excellent and a great start for the user group. Not only that but both have since become core to the DCUG with will taking on the role of an organiser for a good while and Chris working his magic behind the scenes to help us get the vendor sessions locked in every month.
Where did it come from
Back in 2016 I attended Cisco Live for the second time but my first as a Cisco Champion. There were not many Cisco Champions in Australia at that time. I believe it was 4 in total, and three of us were due to be at the Cisco Live. Chris Partsenidis was another Cisco Champion based in Melbourne and I was looking forward to meeting him. Prior to the event Chris reached out to me so we could meet up at some point during the week. Unfortunately for Chris has got caught up with network outage issues (Cisco related 🙂 ) that week so he was unable to attend. I met with a Cisco rep that was over from California for the event and collected the Cisco Champion swag which included a Cisco Champion shirt. Following Cisco Live I arranged to meet with Chris over a coffee to exchange the prized shirt. And this meeting is what led to the Cisco Data Center User Group in Melbourne. Over a coffee Chris and I spoke about how we were both relatively new to Melbourne and how we were struggling to find a user group that covered the topics we were interested in. Chris is a network Cisco Champion and I am a data center Cisco Champion. I had been to a number of other user groups and I really enjoyed the VMware User Group (VMUG) so something similar to that was what I had in mind. Chris agreed and so we reached out to Lauren Friedman from Cisco. Lauren has been trying to get something similar going for Cisco at a global level and so we took on the Cisco Data Center User Group for Melbourne and essentially became a guinea pig. We agreed on a format of a vendor and community session, times for each of the presentations and the frequency of the sessions. Since the initial session we’ve had 19 more over the course of the two years and it’s being going solid since the start. Read More
Earlier this week I got a great email from the NetApp United team to say I had been accepted for a second time into the team. This followed on from a similar email from the VMware vExperts the week before. Being included as a member of these advocacy/influencer groups has meant I’ve completed the trifecta along with last months Cisco Champions inclusion. I’ve spent the past number of years working with technologies from all three companies and it’s nice to be recognised as a contributor to the community.
Being part of these groups means a huge amount to me. They have all, in particular the vExpert group, been something I’ve aspired to being a part of over the past couple of years and I’m overjoyed about being accepted into each program. Each of the influencer programs is different in their approach but there’s some commonalities too. The common things among the programs are:
* Being able to network with peers across the globe.
* Having access to NDA information before it gets released to the general public.
* Ability to interact with engineers and in some instances leadership within those companies.
* Dedicated comms channels for easier interaction (Slack for vExpert and NetAppUnited and Spark for CiscoChampions)
Two things recently appeared on my radar which got me thinking about the IT Hero culture. One came through the vExpert slack feed and later followed up by a blog post and the other was through a conversation with my sister. In both instances the people suffered health issues due to undertaking too many hours at work in a condensed time period. Following this I began thinking about the issues IT employees face when it comes to time management and finding a balance between keeping systems online 24×7 and actually having a fulfilling life outside of work. The whole IT Hero culture has been an issue for me for a long time, particularly since I suffered from it a number of times myself. I ended up sacrificing family time to work on numerous occasions and only in hindsight did I really see it as being a problem. Before proceeding however I’d like to point out that I don’t have an issue with someone putting in extra time to learn something new, provide shift work support or ensure life-saving services remain online. Or in the rare case that there’s a critical issue that needs to be resolved quickly. There’s also people that want to operate their lives putting more emphasis on work than home life and that’s fine too. My particular problem is more around the perception that you cannot be replaced and that you have to be seen to do extra work all the time in order to show value in your position.
There’s a real problem in IT where employers expect more and more of an employees personal time in order to keep systems up and running or to complete projects. Usually this aligns to work cultures where anyone seeing to leave at a regular time every day is judged to not be part of the ‘team’ despite completing their workload within the allotted time. It is particularly noticeable at smaller consultancy firms but the big ones are just as guilty. But the truth is that it’s not all down to employers. As the employee you really need to set the boundaries and expectations with your employer and more importantly advocate for yourself and your needs. However that contradicts the predominant IT culture of employees that put themselves on a pedestal as the saviour of the day. The combination of lack of boundaries, employee advocacy and embedded perception of self-importance leads to what I think is a negative work-life balance. Read More
Last week was the annual pilgrimage to Cisco Live in Melbourne. Well, normally it is. This year however I was unable to secure a free pass because let’s be honest here, the price of a full pass is extortionate. While the value of the event cannot be disputed the cost to get there can. Cisco Live is the best networking conference in Melbourne for those working in enterprise IT. I also mean networking in both senses of the word, networking technology and people networking. This year there were 7200 attendees and it promised to be an absolute cracker. But I was not going to be there.
I find conferences such as Cisco Live a great way to recharge the batteries and get re-inspired at work. You hear about all the latest and greatest and being out of your normal habitat changes how you approach solutions. Having the opportunity to meet experts and those that have literally wrote the book on a subject is invaluable. I’ve been to the past three Cisco Live events in Melbourne and I had hoped to keep that run going but unfortunately this year I was unable to secure a pass and it was too much of an expense to fund myself.
It wasn’t so bad though. We run our Cisco Data Center User Group (DCUG) on a monthly basis and it falls on the first Tuesday of Cisco Live so we had organised to have two international speakers for that. This would at least give me my fix. We were extremely fortunate to have Lukas Krattiger and David Jansen both extend their schedule to fit in the DCUG and provide a thoroughly enthralling session.
It’s at this time of year that most people begin to review all that was completed in 2017 and attempt to set some new goals for 2018. A lot of people I respect in the industry have presented their goals for 2018 and I noticed that I hadn’t done a post for last year to say what my goals were. This year however I want to have it documented for both posterity and for accountability.
So, where do I start with goals for 2018. I don’t really buy into just having new years resolutions as these are usually something like “I need to go to the gym more” and then you handover half your years wages for the privilege of sitting on your couch. For me the goals for the coming year need to be something tangible, relevant and achievable. Some of them are stretch goals so there a bit more challenging to reach but that’s part of the joy really. In order to figure out what goals I wanted to set I took a look back at what was achieved last year and what I didn’t get around to doing. If anything was still relevant it could be carried over to the new year.
In general 2017 was a personally outstanding year. I know a lot of people are glad to see the back of it but it provided some great achievements and memories for both me and my family. On Australia Day I was sworn in as an Australian citizen which was an emotional experience and a great way to kickstart the year. I took stock of my career over the previous Christmas holiday period and looked at the opportunities within my role, where the company was going and what my role was morphing into following some heavy organisational restructuring. I had a realisation that I was struggling to achieve a good work-family balance and that something had to change. Due to significant out-of-hours work requirements, as it was a global role, I wasn’t really present for family events or moments and when I was I was just tired and general a curmudgeonly old bastard. While I was enjoying my job I wasn’t enjoying my family time so I pulled the pin and moved into a locally based role rather than a global one and took the opportunity to move into a Solutions Architecture position. I have to say that it’s been an immense change and my own mental health is much better for it.
Architect your Career
If you’ve ever watched the TV show Grand Designs you’ll know that one of the mantras of the host Kevin McCloud is that the builder should not be the architect or the project manager. Every time there’s a self-build project and the couple take on more than their capabilities his first piece of advice is to get a dedicated architect or project manager. And he’s normally right.
Well, why don’t we take the same principle to our careers. We are essentially all self-builders. We’re the people digging the foundation, laying the blocks, installing the plumbing and electrics. All while learning on the fly. Exactly like a career. Sometimes when we’re caught up in the minutiae of the day to day things it’s hard to step back and take a 10000 feet view of where things are at and where they can go. As solution architects this is exactly what we have to do. Look at the vision, the requirements, the constraints, the capabilities and what interfaces need to be taken into account.
Where this this all start?
Towards the middle of last year the company I worked with underwent a major organisational restructure within the IT department. The reasons for the change were I believe justified, as the company grew through acquisition they needed to be able to ensure 24 x 7 global support and have the ability for the regional teams to be in constant communication and collaboration. The goal was to drive standardisation across all sites and in turn drive down costs to deliver IT services. Prior to this each primary site, a total of 9 globally, worked in their own silos with their own budgets. The vision was needed but as with all restructures there are some casualties. Some are desired and others are just unintentional fallout. Following the acceptance by senior executives there were some immediate resignations at the mid-management level which were expected. The delivery of the new restructure dragged on however and led to a number of senior engineers leaving too. Including me.
Cisco Live Melbourne 2017
Cisco Live time has rolled around again for another year. I’ve been really looking forward to this since before the Christmas break and it’s kind of snuck up on me in the end. This year I’ll be taking part in the Data Centre Innovation Day which will provide the opportunity to interact with key Cisco executives and data centre experts on current and emerging challenges and trends.
Last year I spent quite a bit of time interacting with the guys in the World of Solutions and attending some full-on breakout sessions. This year I’ll once again be hitting up some breakout sessions but I also plan on spending more time in the DevNet zone to get up to speed on scripting, Git, REST APIs and DevOps. DevNet was not very large last year but I expect it to be bigger this year and even harder to attend sessions. You cannot book these sessions in advance so it’s first come first served. If you can spare the time though it’s definitely worth your while going.
The sessions I plan to attend this year are focused on Data Centre technology and I’m really keen to learn more on Tetration and Container technology. I’m also looking at Hybrid Cloud integration. My main purpose outside of technical brain dumps is for networking, meeting and interacting with peers and to promote community engagement. It’s also an opportunity to focus on personal development, take some time out of the office to review where I’m at technically and what gaps exist and begin to make plans on what I’d like to focus on in the coming year. As a Cisco Champion for 2017 there’s some special events/treatment at Cisco Live and having the opportunity to meet the other Cisco Champions is too good to miss. Our regular Cisco Data Center UserGroup also takes place on the first night of Cisco Live and we’ve been extremely fortunate to have fantastic presenters, Remi Philippe and Lauren Malhoit. If anyone happens to be in Melbourne and Tuesday 7th please feel free to come along to the Crafty Squire on Russell Street for a 6:30pm start.
This year I’ve taken the plunge to be part of a panel discussing “Build Your Personal Brand with Social Media”
. This is part of the Cisco Champions
program during Cisco Live. This will be my first time in front of such an audience and I’m both anxious and excited. If you happen to be at Cisco Live on Wednesday drop by the Cisco Think Tank sessions at 2pm.
Early this year I decided to up the ante a bit on my level of blogging. While I had really started to take it a bit more seriously the year before I wanted to make a concerted effort this year. During the months running up to the end of 2014 the traffic on the blog had grown quite significantly from what it had previously been. This was at a point when I wasn’t putting out any content all that regularly so it came as a surprise and encouraged me to think about creating more content. Anthony Burke over at NetworkInferno, a great blog if you get some downtime to have a flick through, wrote an article earlier this year which completely summed up my reasons for doing a blog. It’s called VMUG, Community and you (me). In that post Anthony talks about his VMUG contribution, his blog, career and how other skills have developed. All thanks to taking an active part in the community.
For me, I basically use the blog as a means to share my thoughts and experiences and probably most importantly as a way to cure professional isolation, similar to Anthony. I also see it as a way to provide assistance to someone else who may face similar challenges. I’ve been lucky enough to have been dug out of some holes thanks to someone else taking the time to write up their experiences and fixes to problems and I feel it’s only right that I reciprocate. Maintaining a blog and setting myself challenges to produce x number of blog posts does not come naturally to me. Writing doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s something I’ve struggled with but I’ve found that writing blog posts has been a great way of forcing me to be more concise. Another upside, and this is invaluable really, is that it has helped me formulate my opinions and understanding of technology. Through researching topics to ensure that what I’m writing is accurate I’ve gained a far more in-depth understanding of the core concepts of a number of technologies and this has without doubt made me a better employee.
In recent times tech marketing has gone into overdrive. Everywhere you look there’s the next big thing that will converge, simplify and automate my data center infrastructure so I’ve more time to work out what to do on holidays in the Seychelles. I wish that’s where I was going on holidays next! If I was, maybe I’d get to see some of the odd but fascinating tropical bird mating rituals. Given the amount of pomp and circumstance that’s been going on around some vendors recent releases you’d be forgiven for confusing the two. Both the mating ritual and the vendors are seeking the attention of their desired partner and will go to great lengths to get it. You have to pull back the feathers to really see what’s going on behind the scenes to fully understand if its someone you want to get into bed with.