London VMUG April 2017

photo by @LonVMUG

I was lucky enough to attend the London VMUG last Thursday, which makes probably a record three VMUGs in a row for me (if I include the UK VMUG last November!). It was as ever an informative and fun event, and I’d encourage anyone to attend in future if they can.

The event was kicked off by Simon Gallagher, London VMUG leader, with the normal housekeeping and also a good recap of recent VMware related news, such as the vCloud Air sale (good piece on that here), and the removal of allowing third-party switches in ESXi (KB article here). Simon also explained that due to a scheduling clash with Easter half term, a lower than normal attendance meant they would be only running one session track, rather than the normal two. However, in place of the second track would be a number of roundtable sessions run by the guys from Open TechCast. More on that later

After the intro, it was time for a session from one of the event’s sponsors, Bitdefender, represented by Andrei Ionescu. Somewhat unfortunately for Bitdefender, a quick straw poll at the start of the session showed there didn’t seem to be anyone in the room actually using their product, although in another way that presents an opportunity for them as well.

Whilst AV isn’t really my area of concern/influence, there were still a couple of interesting take aways from the presentation. Firstly, something I wasn’t aware of is that Bitdefender are a huge OEM software provider, with many vendors taking parts or all of their technology and re labelling it. Check out the ‘third party engine’ column on the list of AV Vendors over at AV Comparatives. This means Bitdefender have over 400 million end points running their software worldwide, more than any other AV vendor.

The second interesting takeaway was that they have taken the idea of a centralised scanning appliance with lightweight local clients, and then expanded this to support multi hypervisor, rather than just NSX. Admittedly the scanning traffic for non NSX machines travels over the network, rather than within the hypervisor but it’s interesting seeing the expansion of this type of architecture outside of ESXi.

One item of clarification for Andrei and Bitdefender. I asked Andrei during the session if an NSX license is required to run AV guest introspection and he said that it was. On further investigation, I don’t think this is the case. Bitdefender will be using vShield Endpoint, which comes free with vSphere Essentials Plus and up. NSX Manager comes with an embedded, unlimited license for vShield Endpoint, so NSX licenses are not required for AV guest introspection. More info from VMware here.

Next up was vSAN, more specifically, Mr vSAN! Simon Todd from VMware gave a great update and roadmap overview for vSAN. He talked about how vSAN now has over 7000 customers and continues to grow impressively. He also mentioned a couple of interesting customer deployments. He has talked about Sky’s use of vSAN before, but he mentioned it again as it’s a massive vindication of the trust that can be placed on the product. Sky has over a petabyte of data in vSAN, running all their streaming and catch-up services in the U.K., including Now TV and Sky Q.

Two new customer deployments he talked about were a large retailer deploying 2 node ROBO using Direct Connect to reduce the costs associated with a 10Gb capable switch, and an airline which amasses 100,000 of data points during the flights of its A380 fleet which is stored on vSAN.

Simon did a refresh of some of the new features in vSAN 6.5, such as iSCSI and two node direct connect. He then talked about some of the advances coming with the next vSAN release, which to me look to be some very important new capabilities which will allow vSAN to meet feature parity with any enterprise class array. The release should be out soon, so there will be more on those features shortly I hope.

After Simon’s session I skipped the vendor session by Morpheus, although I did talk to them later in the vendor room. Instead I headed off to take part in a community round table session that Gareth and Amit from the Open TechCast podcast were running. Along with those guys, myself and Erik Bussink, we chatted about VMware and cloud, including the announcement about VMware Cloud on AWS and the recent sale of vCloud Air. I think the Open TechCast guys were planning on putting our discussion, and the other two on certifications and homelabs, out as podcasts soon.

After that session it was lunch, and then on to the first community session of the day from Gary Williams on his experience with Docker. I was a little fearful at first due to slides showing code snippets which in some presentation can struggle to hold a room but there was nothing to fear as everyone paid attention and it was a thoroughly useful session. Gary described how VMs and containers differ, always useful for a VM centric crowd. He then walked through the concepts in Docker and how it all fitted together, before kicking off a live demo. In the demo he built a container image and span up a container from that newly created image, then attempted to upload the image to a repository in AWS ECS. Unfortunately for Gary at that point the demo gods did not shine on him, but fair play for being brave enough to perform a live demo in the first place!

It was good for me to see how Gary had been successfully working on containers in the workplace and gaining the benefits of doing so, without having first trying to plan everything before implementation, so he could then work through ideas as they occurred. For example, next on his list was how to establish trusted registries and regulate the use of Docker Hub, and then to look at schedulers such as Swarm.

Part way through the session, the room had a good discussion on the merits of Docker containers on Windows, and that despite all the fanfare of support in Windows 2016, few had seen any headline grabbing reports of interesting or large-scale use of Windows containers – I guess it’s still early days.

After Gary’s session there was a break, so I took the time to catch up with James from Morpheus in the Vendor room. Morpheus have an interesting back story (as does James, being recently ex Pernix), and an interesting product, of which you can see a demo by James on YouTube here. Morpheus provide a portal for provisioning and operating servers and databases across a number of different infrastructures, including on premises VMware and OpenStack, and public clouds such as AWS and Azure. They also provide monitoring, logging and backups of systems on those infrastructures, all within the same tool. It looks a very nice product and something I will be checking out in more detail in the future. Morpheus do operate in a rapidly crowding market, competing against the likes of Rightscale, Scalr, Cisco CloudCenter (aka Cliqr), ServiceNow and the upcoming Cross Cloud Services from VMware, plus vRealize Automation, to name a few.

For the final session of the day I attended a vendor session by Stan from Runecast. Runecast have a very interesting product and it is one of those ‘why did no one else think of that before’ ideas. In a nutshell, it come as a virtual appliance which scans your vSphere infrastructure and cross references your environment against VMware’s knowledge base, Runecast’s own catalogue of best practices and also the hardening guides for vSphere. This is especially useful for the VMware KB articles, the idea being you don’t normally look at these until after an issue occurs, even though they were out there telling you about an issue you were going to encounter, yet you knew nothing about. Runecast are another product I will be investigating in the future.

Perhaps the best was saved for last, with the day being wrapped up by a community session from Sam McGeown about his use of Amazon Alexa in his home lab. Sam’s session was engaging throughout and it was interesting to see his thought process in finding a suitable solution which avoided exposing his homelab to the internet. The use of ha-bridge made this all work, ha-bridge being an emulator of the bridge used to control Phillips Hue lights. Due to not exposing his solution to the internet, Sam was unable to run a live demo but he did show two videos of it all working back at his house, to which he received a well-deserved applause. You can read about Sam’s setup in much more detail over on his blog; Definately something to add to the personal project backlog.

Once Sam had finished it was time for Simon to leap back on stage and wrap things up. Of particular mention was that he managed during the day to put the videos of November’s UK VMUG Usercon up on YouTube. Simon requested people go subscribe to the channel so that UK VMUG can qualify for a proper shorten YouTube url. You can find the channel here (go subscribe now!), and the playlist for the 2016 UK Usercon here.

The day wrapped up with an almost 100% great vBeers, in which I got to have lengthy chat with Stan from Runecast and caught up with Gregg Robertson about design and VCDX. The evening was not 100% all good as it unfortunately ending with some laptops being stolen – definitely a reminder to keep bags with you at all times when in busy pubs.

So that rounded up a busy day, thanks to Simon, Linda and Dave for all the hard work in putting on another fantastic event. Hopefully I’ll make the next event in London on 22nd June, which if it follows the last two years will be followed by a luxury vBeers. My next VMUG is actually a lot sooner, as I’m flying up to Scotland next week (20th) to present on AWS with Alex Galbraith at the Scottish VMUG in Glasgow. Which should be a lot of fun.

Thanks for reading this far. Next time I’ll try and make some outline notes during the event itself and take some photos, should make writing the next post a little quicker! Maybe!



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