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NVMe for Beginners

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

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Melbourne DCUG 2 Years On

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 ūüôā ) 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

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The Two and a Quarter Rule

Lately I’ve been trying to get on top of all the things I have going on in life to give myself a little bit of perspective and find a bit more joy in life. Just like anybody else with young kids I find it hard to juggle home and work responsibilities. On top of this I have a number of other things I’d like to personally achieve throughout the year. I wrote a blog post called what’s another year which details all the things I’d like to do this year. It’s a long list and all are time consuming in their own right. What I’ve found though is that I’ve been failing to meet most if not all of these objectives and to be completely honest it’s been getting me down.

I’ve completed some of the list already which is great but I’ve found that we’re nearly a quarter of the way through the year and I’m behind on a lot of them. I regularly frequent a cycling site called Cyclingtips and if you’re at all into cycling I’d highly recommend spending a few hours reviewing the content there. As I reviewed some of the old content I came across two posts which struck a chord. The first was around parenthood and cycling. One of my main goals for the year is to get cycling fit and to build cycling into my routine. In the past three weeks I’ve struggled with this and I was looking to see what others have done to make it work for them.

This lead me to another post on CyclingTips called the two and a quarter rule. It’s a brief post but I found it so bang on. We have the capacity to handle two and a quarter things at any one time. For most people this is normally broken down as 1 being given up to work, 1 being given up to family and the last one quarter being yours to do as you wish. But it’s a finite resource. If you allocate too much to the quarter it will mean you will overflow and impact the other two areas of your life and that will have it’s own consequences. As soon as I read this article it dawned on me that my problem was that I was squeezing too much into the quarter and not getting as much as I wanted done. This is partly why I haven’t been able to keep on top of cycling in the past few weeks, there were other focuses. This is still going to be the case but I’ve decided that the quarter is flexible and I’m going to use it on a day to day basis. So one day the focus will be on getting out for a bike ride, another it’ll be to create a blog post such as this, another day it’ll focus on reading a book or studying for an exam. This way I will be able to get the majority of what I’d like to complete this year finished off and not impact either my family or work commitments. Or at least minimise the impact.

I’d highly recommend spending a bit of time to see if the two and a quarter rule works for you or even fits what you have going on in life. For me personally it fits, but I’d be interested in hearing what others find.

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Melbourne DCUG Superstar Session

The¬†Cisco DCUG¬†has been running for almost a year now and we’ve been very lucky with the support we’ve recieved from both Cisco and the IT community. Back in March, I know I’m well behind the times here due to other commitments, we were immensely privileged to have some top speakers present to the local DCUG.

Cisco Live opening day fell on the same day as our monthly DCUG meeting so it made sense to try to get some of the heavy hitters over from the US to present for us. Cisco DCUG ran with superstars Lauren Malhoit and Remi Phillippe. Lauren is well known within the IT community for her work on the¬†In Tech We Trust podcast¬†but also through her work on ACI. She’s got a course on¬†Pluralsight¬†around ACI if you’re interested in learning more about the Cisco technology. She’s recently jumped into a new role at¬†Techwise TV. Lauren is also the author of a couple of books and an avid blogger for AdaptingIT.com and VirtualizationAdmin.com. Lauren is a massive presence within the tecnology community and I was immensely excited when she agreed to present at the DCUG. Remi is a TME within Cisco’s INSBU and has a heavy focus on the data center analytics platform, Tetration. A massive shout out goes to Rob Tappenden from Cisco in ANZ for helping to organise such quality speakers and initiating the initial contact. A small shout-out (almost at whisper-level) goes to Brett Johnson from vBrownBag for letting us know Lauren was making the trip out to Melbourne.

CLMEL-DUCG-superstars

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Cisco Live Melbourne 2017

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.

cisco-live-mel-2017
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.

 

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Cisco Data Center User Group Melbourne First Meetup

Last night we hosted the first Cisco Data Center User Group in Melbourne. It was a successful night with a great turn out and excellent interaction and networking between everyone that attended. Everyone was enthusiastic and willing to take part and really mate it a fantastic night.

The user group was formed with the intention to create a space where IT professionals can come together in a relaxed environment to network, have a drink and learn about data center technology. We wanted to have an interactive and social atmosphere and thanks to everyone that attended and took part because that’s exactly what was achieved.

Cisco DCUG Melbourne Members photo

One of the things that I liked most about the meetup was the attendance of people from other community groups. Craig Waters (@cswaters1) from the VMware VMUG community, Brett Johnson (@brettjohnson008) from the vBrownBag community and one of the presenters, Will Robinson, from the NetAppATeam. The support from other communities is great and we really appreciate it.

The night itself began with an introduction from Derek Hennessy (@derekhennessy) and Chris Partsenidis (@cpartsenidis) on how the user group idea was formed. A shout out went to Lauren Friedman (@lauren) from Cisco for her help and support for getting the user group off the ground. We swiftly moved onto the first speaker of the night, Chris Gascoigne (@chrisgascoigne).

Introduction

Chris is a Technical Architect for Cisco ANZ with the Data Center team and has a focus on ACI, Nexus 9000, Automation/Orchestration and DevOps. Chris ran through a few slides on how network engineers can leverage tools such as Puppet, Ansible and Chef to implement the DevOps framework. He then ran through a demo of how to manage a Nexus 9000 switch from a bash shell and deploy Puppet configurations to a switch. Chris also emphasised the need to provide version control, code review and deployment into production. There were a number of questions from the audience as everyone tried to imagine using such tools within their own infrastructure environments. Unfortunately I don’t have a copy of Chris’ slidedeck to make available. A special mention goes out to Chris Partsenidis for performing the important task of being a microphone stand through Chris Gascoigne’s demo.

Following Chris’ presentation we took a break and let everyone digest the content and the food as well as order up another drink for the next session. Will Robinson (@oznetnerd) is a Senior Engineer with a focus on networking and storage and a wealth of experience. Will also has a mighty home lab setup and he gave everyone a run through on using GNS3 within his home lab. He really hit home on rethinking the physical and the logical implementations of networks and gave an example of a complex network he’d designed within GNS3. Everyone was really engaged in Wills presentation and it was like a quick fire buzzer round at a quiz following his presentation. He even managed to jokingly make reference to a layer 8 issue for someone using GNS3

GNS3 Connectivity

I’ve uploaded the slidedecks from the night and in the future we hope to capture the presentations on video and make them available as an archive following the events themselves. All in all it was a great night and we believe we have now started to develop a new community. If you’re interested in learning about technology, having a drink and some grub, and meeting other IT professionals and networking then we’re really looking forward to seeing you at the next meeting on Tuesday July 5th.

P.S. Thanks to Chris for the photo of the attendees

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vMotion to vNotions

vNotions Logo LargeThose that frequent the site regularly will have noticed quite a few changes recently. I’ve migrated the blog from wordpress.com to a hosted wordpress site and the name has also changed from virtualnotions to vNotions. I wanted to get more control of the site and be able to develop it over time into something else as it continues to grow and develop. WordPress.com is excellent as a free resource but I wanted to be able to customise more.

I really wasn’t sure what the best hosting solution would be as there are a number of options. There’s managed, managed hosted, virtual private server (VPS) and also the option of running wordpress in AWS. I turned to twitter to see if anyone had any recommendations for hosting wordpress. The first reply came from Mike Andrews (@trekintech) and I have to thank him for the recommendation. I had a look at a number of different providers and settled on DigitalOcean which was put forward by Mike. DigitalOcean have a strong community forum and supporting documentation so it was very easy to get everything set up. Each VPS in DigitalOcean is called a droplet and it’s very quick to deploy a new server instance. I stumbled across ServerPilot.io which allows quick deployment of apps on DigitalOcean VPS instances. ServerPilot takes a lot of hassle with setting up new apps and given that it’s also got a free option it’s very appealing. It also deployed WordPress using the Nginx engine so it’s considerably faster than just the LAMP stack with Apache.¬†For quick reference check out this guide for installing wordpress on ubuntu and also this one one installing wordpress on DigitalOcean.¬†There’s also a good guide on setting up wordpress on DigitalOcean over at MyBloggingThing. It was a straightforward process to set up a new instance of wordpress and migrate the content from the old wordpress.com site to the new vNotions.com site. Once the site was migrated and fully operational I enabled CDN using CloudFlare to improve speed accessing the site from disperse graphical locations. All in all, it was a relatively painless process.

Right now I’m tidying up the posts on the site to clear out any old posts that are no longer relevant. I’d like to thank Mike Andrews for his feedback that set the ball rolling. For anyone thinking of checking out DigitalOcean I’d definitely recommend jumping right in. The support team at DigitalOcean were also top class and replied very quickly to an issue I had (self-inflicted I might add). vNotions has vMotioned from VirtualNotions.

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Cisco Live Session Review

I gave a recap of Cisco Live Melbourne in another post and had intended on providing a detailed look at each of the sessions I attended as part of that post but it became a bit long-winded so I’ve broken it out into separate posts. I’ve broken the sessions down by each day.

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Day 1:

TECCOM-2001 Р Cisco Unified Computing System

As someone that is working towards CCNA and CCNP in Cisco Data Center this extra technical seminar really was invaluable and opened my eyes up to a lot of areas that were unknown to me. This breakout session was an 8-hour, full-on overview of Cisco UCS, the components that comprise the solution and how it all works together. It wasn’t a deep-dive session however so if you’ve a really good working knowledge of UCS and know what’s under the covers quite well then this session wouldn’t really be for you. In saying that however I think there’s always opportunities to learn something new.

Cisco-UCS-b-series-overview

The session was broken down into 6 parts.

  • UCS Overview
  • Networking
  • Storage Best Practices
  • UCS Operational Best Practices
  • UCS does Security Admin
  • UCS Performance Manager

Some of the main takeaways from the session were around the recent Gen 3 releases for the UCS hardware including the Fabric Interconnects and IOMs. They also discussed the new features for UCS Manager 3.1 code base release.  Some of the new features of UCSM and the hardware are listed below:

UCS Manager 3.1

  • Single code base (covers UCS mini, M-Series and UCS traditional)
  • HTML 5 GUI
  • End-to-end 40GbE and 16Gb FC with 3rd Gen FI’s
  • M series cartridges with Intel Xeon E3 v4 Processors
  • UCS mini support for Second Chassis
  • New nVidia M6 and M60 GPUs
  • New PCIe Base Storage Accelerators

UCS Management Portfolio

Next Gen Fabric Interconnects:

FI6332:

  • 32 x 40GbE QSFP+
  • 2.56Tbps switching performance
  • IRU & 4 Fans

FI6332-16UP:

  • 24x40GbE QSFP+ & 16xUP Ports (1/10GbE or 4/8/16Gb FC)
  • 2.43Tbps switching performance

IOM 2304:

  • 8 x 40GbE server links & 4 x 40GbE QSFP+ uplinks
  • 960Gbps switching performance
  • Modular IOM for UCS 5108

Two other notes from this section of the technical session were that the FI6300s requires UCS Manager 3.1(1) and the¬†M-Series is not support on the FI6300‚Äôs yet.¬†There was also an overview of the UCS Mini upgrades, the Cloud Scale and Composable Infrastructure (Cisco C3260) and the M-Series. I’ve not had any experience or knowledge of the M-Series modular systems before and I need to do far more reading to understand this much better.

The second part of the session covered MAC pinning and the differences between the IOMs and Mezz cards. (For those that don’t know the IOMs are pass-through and the Mezz are PCIe cards). Once aspect they covered which I hadn’t heard about before was around UDLD (Uni-Directional Link Detection) which monitors the physical connectivity of cables.¬†UDLD is point-to-point and uses echoing from FIs out to neighbouring switches to check availability. It’s complementary to Spanning Tree and is also faster at link detection. UDLD can be set in two modes, default and aggressive. In¬†Default mode UDLD will notify and let spanning tree manage pulling the link down and in¬†Aggressive mode UDLD will bring down link.

The Storage Best Practices looked at the two modes that FIs can be configured to and also the capabilities of both settings. If you’re familiar with UCS then there’s a fair change you’ll know this already. The focus was on FC protocol access via the FIs and how the switching mode changes how the FIs handle traffic.

FC End-Host Mode (NPV mode):

  • Switch sees FI as server with loads of HBAs attached
  • Connects FI to northbound NPIV enabled FC switch (Cisco/Brocade)
  • FCIDs distributed from northbound switch
  • DomainIDs, FC switching, FC zoning responsibilities are on northbound switch

FC Switching Mode:

  • Connects to Northbound FC switch and normal FC switch (Cisco Only)
  • DomainIDs, FC Switching, FCNS handled locally
  • UCS Direct connect storage enabled
  • UCS local zoning feature possible

The session also touched on the storage heavy¬†C3260 can be connect to FIs as an appliance port. It’s also possible via UCSM to¬†create LUN policies for external/local storage access. This can be used to carve up the storage pool of the C3260 into usable storage. Once thing I didn’t know what that a¬†LUN needs to have an ID of 0 or 1 in order for boot from SAN to work. It just won‚Äôt work otherwise. Top tip right there. During the storage section there was some talk about Cisco’s new HyperFlex platform but most of the details were being withheld until the breakout session on Hyper-Converged Infrastructure later in the week.

The UCS Operational Best Practice session covered off primarily how UCS objects are structured and how they play a part in pools and and policies. For those already familiar with UCS there was nothing new to understand here. However, one small tidbit I walked away with was around pool exhaustion and how UCS recursively looks up to parent organisation until root and even up to the global level if UCS central is deployed or linked. One other note I took about sub-organisations were that they can go to a maximum of 5 levels deep. Most of the valuable information from this session was around the enhancements in latest version of UCSM updates. These were broken down into improvements in firmware upgrade procedures, maintenance policies and monitoring. Most of these enhancements are listed here:

Firmware upgrade improvements:

  • Baseline policy for upgrade checks – it checks everything is OK after upgrade
  • Fabric evacuation – can be used to test fabric fail-over
  • Server firmware auto-sync
  • Fault suppression (great for upgrades)
  • Fabric High Availability checks
  • Automatic UCSM Backup during AutoInstall

Maintenance:

  • On Next boot policy added
  • Per Fabric Chassis acknowledge
  • Reset IOM to Fabric default
  • UCSM adapter redundant groups
  • Smart call home enhancements

Monitoring:

  • UCS Health Monitoring
  • I2C statistics and improvements
  • UCSM policy to monitor – FI/IOM
  • Locator LED for disks
  • DIMM backlisting and error reporting (this is a great feature and will help immensely with troubleshooting)

Fabric evacuation can be used to test fabric fail-over before firmware upgrade to ensure bonding of NICs works correctly and ESXi hosts fail-over correctly to second vNIC. There’s  also a new tab for health also beside the FSM tab in UCSM.

The last two sections of the session I have to admit were not really for me. I don’t know whether it was just because it was late in the day, my mind was elsewhere or that I was just generally tired but I couldn’t focus. The sections on Security within UCSM and UCS Performance Manager may well have been interesting on another day but they just didn’t do anything for me. The information was somewhat basic and I really felt that UCS Performance Manager was really more of a technical sales pitch. I feel the session would have been better served with looking at more high-level over-arching tools for management such as UCS Director rather than a monitoring tool which the vast majority of people are not going to use anyway.

Overall though this entire technical session was a great learning experience. The presenters were very approachable and I took the opportunity to quiz Chris Dunk in particular about the HyperFlex solution. While I may not attend another UCS technical session again in the future I would definitely consider stumping up the extra cash needed for other technical session which may be more relevant to me then. There’s a lot of options available.

After the sessions were completed I headed down to the World of Solutions opening and wandered around for a bit. As I entered I was offered an array of free drink. Under other circumstances I would have jumped at the chance but I’m currently on a 1-year alcohol sabbatical so I instead floated around the food stand that had the fresh oysters. The World of Solutions was pumping. I didn’t really get into any deep conversations but I did take note of which vendors were present and who I wanted to interrogate more later in the week. I left well before the end of the reception so I could get home early. The next day was planned to be a big day anyway.

 

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Melbourne VMUG Review

Once again the Melbourne VMUG UserCon was a massive success and had some great speakers and sessions. Given that there were such IT heavy hitters as Scott Lowe (@scott_lowe), Chris Wahl (@chriswahl) and Keith Townsend (@CTOAdvisor) as well as a number of local IT stars such as Frank Fan (@frankfan7), Anthony Burke (@pandom_), Anthony Spiteri (@anthonyspiteri) and Craig Waters (@cswaters1)¬†it’s not surprising that it was a great event

One of my goals for the day was to attend a number of the community sessions. I found the vBrownBag sessions conducted by Alastair Cooke (@demitassenz) to be the most informative and entertaining sessions of the day, along with those of Chris Wahl. The award for the funniest session of the day went to Simon Sharwood (@ssharwood) from the Register as part of the vBrownBag session. It wasn’t just entertaining but a great insight into how content is derived for the site.

I missed one of the sessions I had intended on getting to but here’s a break down of the sessions I did attend.

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Melbourne VMUG – Preview

userConn

 

The annual Melbourne VMUG UserCon takes place this Thursday, 25th February.¬†It’s also an important day for me as it’s my wedding anniversary. I know which one my wife is more interested in! But, for the IT community in Melbourne all eyes will be on the VMUG. This years event has moved location from the old Hilton on the Park to Crown on Southbank. I think this is a good move and makes the VMUG even more accessible than in previous years. Last years guest speakers were excellent with Chad Sakac, Vaughan Stewart and John Troyer and this year it’s been lifted another notch again. This year the enterprise IT giants include Scott Lowe (@scott_lowe), Keith Townsend (@CTOAdvisor), Brad Tompkins (@VMUG_CEO) and my own personal IT hero Chris Wahl (@ChrisWahl). There’s also going to be vBrownBag sessions being hosted by Alastair Cooke (@demitassenz).¬†If you’ve been following twitter you’ll have seen that Scott’s been having issues with flights and has had United basically crap all over his plans. Hopefully things work out for him and he can make it on time to the Sydney VMUG on Tuesday 23rd but it looks like it’ll be a close call. I wish him safe travels from here on.

VMUGs are all about the community. It’s the primary¬†reason it exists¬†and we’re incredibly fortunate to have the organisers volunteer their time to put on such a great event. Melbourne has some of the finest at its helm and that has been recognised globally. If you haven’t attended before I’d highly recommend fitting it into your calendar. You’ll be glad you did and your employer will be glad you did too.¬†It’s really worth getting to the keynotes at the UserCon as unlike keynotes at other events they are not strictly vendor focused and they can provide some real insight into your industry as a whole and even your career path. But the main focus should be the community speeches. Hearing from others out in the field about the trials and tribulations they’ve had with specific technology is where the real learning takes place. These contribute¬†a shorter part of the agenda¬†and it’s something I’d like to see more of in future events but I also appreciate that it’s hard to get speakers for such sessions. For me this year that’ll be my focus outside of the keynotes. There are a number of vendor based sessions as well throughout the day that delve into new technology .

There’s a lot of information and knowledge to be gleaned from this event. I’d also recommend working out your agenda before attending and have a ponder over what you’d like to get out of the event. The sessions I’m planning on attending are:

Unfortunately the community sessions clash in times but if they didn’t I’d attend the following. As I can only be in one place at one time I’ll be at the Chris Wahl session.

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