5 Traits that make someone a badass systems engineer

And once again my humble disclaimer

This post is in NO WAY insinuating I am a great engineer. I believe that no matter how much you know or think you know, there is always room for improvement and development. That being said these are some things I believe makes a system engineer truly a bad ass.


Knowledge is power

This is a no brainer…. well not really

Knowledge is power. The more you know the more you can help and explore the areas of technology. A great system engineer can learn from their failure (See above) and learn from others. Getting knowledge from different perspectives is invaluable. People do things different ways, doesn’t mean they’re wrong, but having 3 or 4 different perspectives for one task can really open your eyes on the underlying technology, and maybe even make you question your own perspective.

Learn! Learn from home labs! Learn from books! Learn from other people! Learn from VbrownBag! Learn from anywhere and everywhere! Always ask why!

  • Learn different perspectives.
  • Learn all the time.
  • Ask why.

We have a problem

Who would have thought technology would have consistent problems? Troubleshooting is why we all have jobs. and lets face it, we all love it. Finding the right solution and presenting it to the tech is a great feeling. But not everyone knows how to properly troubleshoot and dissect a situation.

Google is your friend, your friends are your friends, and KB articles are your friends, and the support line is your life boat on the titanic. I have a hard time putting down the problem and passing it off to VMware or EMC support, it kills a little bit of my pride. But it is a must when troubleshooting has hit a wall.

A great engineer knows the resources they can use to find an answer pretty quickly. They know how to look through logs and run esxtop.

  • Knowing the resources and exploiting them
  • Knowing the Tech
  • Knowing when to call support and when to keep chugging away

Owning the failure

Failures suck, they make you feel like a novice, and sometimes if they are really big failures sometimes they make you feel like you picked the wrong field. No one in history has experienced a failure, and not felt something.

But the trick is to take the failures like an uppercut, blame yourself for not blocking the punch and learn how to dodge.

Failure is where we learn in the tech field, it’s better than any classroom or any book. Living through the pain and the mental anguish really brings you down to earth.

So how do we learn from a failure?

  • Figured out what failed.
  • Do a solid and honest post-mortem
  • Look for advice
  • Find the solution

Honesty and Confidence

We have all been on those calls with someone from a vendor or MSP and they think so highly of themselves they blow smoke the whole time.  There is nothing more brutal and spine shivering when they get called out and don’t talk for the rest of the meeting.

But on the other hand, having a engineer on the call that knows the answer with pinpoint accuracy and tells the truth when he/she knows or doesn’t know a particular question is pure beauty.

Honesty might not be the easiest option in the middle of a meeting or issue but it is vital.

Confidence shows, you know when someone is a good engineer by there mixture of confidence and honest.

  • Knowing your skill level (Like really knowing your skill level)
  • It is OK not to know something, regardless of the outcome
  • Be confident about your ability

10 reason to go to VMworld

1. Networking – This is a huge one every year close to 10,000 VMware geeks gather in one place for a 4-day extravaganza! They opportunity for networking is the best it will ever be, walking around talking to random people can be a little daunting but the best way to network is to sit at a random table during lunch. Everyone will welcome you and you just potentially made 8 new friends. If you only had one mission at VMworld I think this should be it. But there is a close second a VERY VERY close second.

2. Breakout session – These bad boys are the bread and butter of VMworld. If you are an introvert and hate talking to people but love technical content. This is where you will spend most of your days. The breakout sessions are sorted in a way from novice skill level to expert. If you want the most up to date information on the current technology of VMware and beyond the breakouts are the thing for you. Depending on the skill level selected you will get instructors that most of the time helped create the product the session is based on, and can tell you first-hand how it runs because they designed it. A lot of these breakout sessions are based on community speakers also. So, if you are looking for some career advice, or maybe just feeling a little stuck in your growth as a professional this is the place to be.

3. Hands on Labs – if the above is not an interest to you then the HOL section will surely do the trick. These bad boys are also available online. But at the HOL Section of VMworld they will have all the labs available and if needed they will have someone walk through them with you. I always love the HOL from VMware and an added bonus is they are nearly identical to some of the advanced professional level tests.

4. vBrownBag – vBrownBag sets up at every technology convention it seems like. But that by no means is a bad thing. If you haven’t heard of vBrownBag then I would look it up. It is a community driven project that is focused on technology, not just from VMware but a smorgasbord of companies. They will let anyone talk about any technology related subject (i.e. Certifications, Technology, Career, design) they are a pinnacle of the VMware community and you will get to see them in action the whole week.

5. Technology – Some people may be wondering why this isn’t higher on the list. I mean VMworld at its core is a technology conference, right? We’ll all the technology keynotes and announcement will be readily available across the world almost instantly. BUT that doesn’t mean it isn’t cool as hell when you hear the CEO of VMware announce something in the moment.  And Most of the time there is an exclusive VMworld HOL or some sort of session that goes more in-depth about the product being announced. But even if we step back from the VMware products for a Second. There is A LOT of vendors at VMworld, some are big like EMC NETAPP and HP. But a vast majority of them are small vendors most still in ABC funding period. This is where the innovation is coming from, that is the future of technology in my opinion. So, going to VMworld to hear the keynote is great. But the real win is seeing the small vendors and vetting out the future technology we will be seeing.

6. Keynotes –  The keynotes are great you get the announcement the moment it leaves the speakers mouth. And that is pretty cool. Being a newbie blogger I love getting that first tweet out about the new product someone announces or the awesome catchphrase someone used in a slide.

7. IT’S VEGAS BABY! – Going to VMworld is not an ordinary week. You will be talking, screaming, laughing and depending on how much you drink potentially crying. The whole climate of Vegas is just different. From the moment, you touch down at McCarran you see the big Historical “Welcome to Vegas” sign and from that point on where ever you came from will forgotten until the flight back. The lights are bright, the people are rude and the slots are noisy in Vegas. So, getting a chance to see a city that truly never sleeps is an awesome experience.

8. Discounts – This point might seem strange. Why travel to Vegas for discounts on VMware course material? Well that is because the course discounts and certification discounts are notable. There are discounts on VMware training, VMware certifications, Books, Potential Vendors products and much more. All vary in size. If I recall last year there was 50% off Exams and 20% off all books in the VMware store. Also, that isn’t even going into the savings from vendors if you meet with them and have a meaningful conversation. How much can you potentially save on that SolarWinds license if you have a 30-minute conversation with the engineer who made it?

9. The Parties –  Out of all the tech conferences I have been to VMworld has the best parties by far. And it’s not just VMworld ran also. There is a lot of vendor and community parties available the whole week. The best vendor party by far and one that must be attended is the Veeam party. It is off the hook. About 1000 people good music awesome food and a river of alcoholic beverages. If you are a VMUG member there is a VMUG party also It is smaller but still awesome. There are people from all over the VMUG nation attending and usually have some special guests show up also. The big shabang is the VMworld Party. Last year it was at Las Vegas speedway and they had Fallout Boy headlining which was OK but the place was cool. In the vender of the speed way they had 2 DJ’s and people were allowed to go on the track in some underpowered track cars.

10. Tax Deduction – If your employer wont front the cost of going to Vmworld that is OK because it is all tax-deductible. So you may get a portion of that expense back. Just make sure you save your receipts! Obviously, I am not a tax professional so check with them. But in Massachusetts it is a tax deduction.

 

Last chance to get the Early bird discount for Vmworld Ends Monday 6/12/17 Register below!

 

https://reg.rainfocus.com/flow/vmware/vmworldeu17/reg/account?src=so_590b8a703e237&cid=70134000001K7Xj

 

See you there!

VMUG UserCon Boston 6/1/2017

The day is here Boston UserCon. This time around they are focused on EUC (End User Computing) these conferences are key in my opinion to networking and learning about the newest technology. If you cant make it to VMworld the UserCons are the next best shot to getting up to date information on VMWare and beyond. An extreme amount of effort is put into these conferences and you can really notice it. And although this is a naive statement, it almost seems like nothing is going wrong.

The leaders @steveathanas , @JamesMuellerIT and Matt Bradford @VMSpot did an awesome job like always!

The vendor selection is turning out to be about what you would expect from a technical conference but obviously focusing more on the VDI side. Most of the well-known vendors are here this year. Dell/EMC, Zerto, Rubriks, NetApp/SolidFire , Green Pages (Big VAR in the New England area), and of course VMware.

 Mostly I come to these conferences for the community sessions and the networking opportunity they present which is unmatched in my opinion. Getting to see some of the VMware communities top dogs giving their take on careers and community is awesome.

One session I attended was by @RebeccaFitzhugh focused on leadership. a pretty strong topic but she delivered it in a solid fashion.

The crowd was pretty big at the lunch Keynote and the speaker was fantastic. Talking about the trends of EUC and the future. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for the entire session but the first half was good.

But ultimately I had to leave before the after party because my oldest graduated from Pre-K that same day!

Congratulations Colby!

 

Single office design 1 (Conceptual)

A new design startup wants to get a basic infrastructure running. They are expecting to grow over the next 5 years and want to have space to expand 20% year over year. Since they are a design firm they will be using a lot of storage, we will plan for 1TB of raw data a year. The new office only has room for 1 rack in the IDF and the company wants to cut down on power consumption and equipment costs. Backup is important and the client would like to utilize a service that they can recover their VM’s from the cloud.

Business requirements are simple but important

  1. Must fit in a single rack
  2. Must have cloud backup and recovery method.
  3. Can fit 20 VM’s and have growth for 20% year over year
  4. Use as little equipment as possible.
  5. 1TB of raw data for the first year

 

VDI Multiple locations (Conceptual)

I started making random design’s for different use cases. Pretty much whatever I though about in my own head. That being said this is my first design.

A pretty basic conceptual VDI design that features two office locations (one remote and one main site) with a primary and secondary datacenter ( in a active passive setup)

In the future I will be building off of these designs to get through the physical design process .I am doing this for learning purposes so any advice please let me know!

Studying for VCIX6-DCV

I’ve studied for my VCIX6-DCV certification over the past month. Before we get into the great resources I found we should talk about the exams and the real process of obtaining your VCIX6-DCV.

The VCIX6-DCV certification is aquired by passing two exams, the VCAP6-DCV Deploy, and the VCAP6-DCV design. Each test has a sticker price of 400 dollars but you can get 20% off of the price by signing up for VMUG Advantage, which will almost pay for itself after taking the two tests.

The VCAP6-DCV Deploy exam is 27 questions with 190 minutes for the exam. This is a live exam which means you won’t be asked multiple choice questions but rather you will have to do certain tasks. For Example using auto-deploy to configure an ESXi host, or have you configure host profiles. just to name two.

The VCAP6-DCV Design exam is 18 questions and you are given 175 minutes to complete it. I would imagine this will be asking for logical and physical designs and would ask about design risks, assumptions, constraints, etc, and also consisting of identifying business requirements. A score of 300 is required to pass the exam.

The great thing about the VCIX6-DCV is that there is no need to take a third test to get it.

The requirements for the VCAP6-DCV Design are: https://mylearn.vmware.com/mgrReg/plan.cfm?plan=88743&ui=www_cert

The requirements for the VCAP6-DCV Deploy are: https://mylearn.vmware.com/mgrReg/plan.cfm?plan=88753&ui=www_cert

 


Study resources (Video)

#VBrownBag-

The folks over at #VBrownBag have started an awesome webinar series for the VMware advanced certifications focused in design, as of right now they have two installments of this series starting with objective 1.1 and 1.2 of the above requirements.

The webinars are presented by VCDX’s @RebeccaFitzhugh, @JasonTweet7889 and @GreggRobertson5

http://vbrownbag.com/category/vmware/vmwarevcap/

PluralSight-

Scott Lowe has a great series from the VCAP 5.5  design exam. Although this is a little old it is still very relevant, The basics of design at the core have stayed mostly the same in my opinion.

https://app.pluralsight.com/library/courses/designing-vmware-infrastructure/table-of-contents


Study resources (Guides)

@KyleJennerUK-

The best deploy study guide I could find is from @KyleJennerUK, this guide is detailed and walks through each step objective VMware lines out. If you walk through this guide step by step you will be able to pass your deploy exam with flying colors. Below is the link and a big shoutout to @KyleJennerUK for putting this awesome guide together.

http://www.vjenner.com/vcap6-dcv-deployment-study-guide/

It Architect: Foundation in the Art of Infrastructure Design-

This book was written by three juggernauts in the VMware world, John Yani Arrasjid (Vcdx-001),  Mark Gabryjelski (Vcdx-023), Chris Mccain (Vcdx-079). Although this book isn’t VMware specific book it goes through the design decisions of the IT world. truly a great asset and a fantastically written book.

It Architect: Foundation in the Art of Infrastructure Design: A Practical Guide for It Architects

VMware publications-

VMware does an awesome job providing product documentation. These PDFs will provide an in-depth review of vSphere 6.x. read these guides and you will know the in’s and out’s of vSphere 6.x

https://www.vmware.com/support/pubs/vsphere-esxi-vcenter-server-6-pubs.html


VMware Hands on Labs

These Lab will help with the process of obtaining you VCIX6-DCV. Most of the labs will need about an hour or two to get the full effect but they are well worth it in my opinion.

 

HOL-1704-SDC-1 – vSphere 6: Performance Optimization

HOL-1706-SDC-6 – Guide to SDDC: VMware Validated Designs

HOL-1708-SDC-1 – Virtual SAN 6.2 from A to Z

HOL-1708-SDC-2 – Virtual Volumes and Storage Policy Based Management

HOL-1710-SDC-6 – What’s New: vSphere 6.5

HOL-1721-SDC-6 – vSphere Automation with PowerCLI

I hope this helps with your studies and good luck on your exam. I will update this post as needed.

 

2016 & Beyond….

WOW What a year! 2016 has been a great year!

I received my VCP6-DCV, traveled to VMworld in Las Vegas, attended numerous VMUG Usercon’s, and all while meeting some kick ass people along the way.

As you might notice the post title says “2016 and beyond”. I would like to outline what my expectations are for myself in 2017 and what I wish to achieve.

This is for two reasons. One is I like to blog and apparently people like to read my blog for some unknown reason, and two to keep myself honest. I find that my goals are actually achieved if I write them down and hold myself accountable.

So what is it in 2017 I will be looking to achieve?


Spend more time with family

This is first on my list because it is the most important. Although I have gotten a lot done this year it has taken a toll. Working hard to pay the bills and expand your expertise sometimes gets in the way of spending valuable time with your kids and/or significant other. This is one thing I am going to try and get better at. Taking control of my work life balance will be my top priority this year.

This will be my big personal goal of 2017!

Become VCIX-DCV certified

Since I took the deploy and design class last month I feel more confident about taking this challenge. Although daily I do not work on customer designs I believe that is more crucial for making the VCDX step and not necessarily the VCIX.

This will be my career goal of 2017!

Become more community involved

Starting the blog and twitter in 2016 really helped me connect with some experts and cool ass people in the field. But I think I could do more outreach to people in the community. Whether that is doing talks at the local VMUG or just DMing people on twitter. There is an endless possibility of learning within the VMware community and I need to take advantage of that. Even if it means putting my introvert self in the past.

This will be my community goal of 2017!

Get ahead of the game with new products and technology

This is what I really need to work on in 2017 taking and learning new up and coming technology right as it hits the market. I’ve fallen behind some of the trends this year because I wasn’t actively looking for the new technology and catching up with the latest posts and blogs on a daily basis.

This is my knowledge goal of 2017!


 

What is RSC and why does it matter in Vmware

Got latency on your VM’s? It might be RSC

Let’s say we have two VM’s with the  following specs:

  • Windows 2012r2 (Latest patches)
  • VMxNet3
  • Same VLAN
  • Same version of ESXI 3029758
  • Both HW version 11
  • Both have the latest VMware tools for the ESXI Build 3029758
    Basic host diagram

Any new latency between these two machines wouldn’t be expected considering they are both within the same physical location and all within the same topology that has been in place for months almost untouched.

After Vmotioning both to the same host, the latency goes away. That would be expected considering VM’s will use the internal networking for VM to VM networking located on the same host. Bypassing the need to go out to the VDS or vSwitch As shown below.

Local host diagram

 

So let’s go back to the title of the post. What is RSC and why does it matter to VMware?


RSC ( Receive Segment Coalescing) is a technology used to help CPU utilization on a server. It achieves this task by taking the payload off of the CPU and giving it to the network adapter, in our case the VMxNet3 VMware adapter.  RSC Strips headers from the packet’s, combines those packets, then sends those packets to the right destination.  Without RSC the receiver would get 4-5 packets, but with RSC enabled the receiver only has to process the single packet sent with the 5 packets of information stuffed inside.

With VM Hardware version 11 there was a bug introduced that caused the ESXI to not keep the data properly is the PSH flag (PSH Flag explanation ) was not written in the first packet  but was written to the packets following. If you read the article below it gives an awesome example of why this is useful.

Imagine you are walking in a line of 5 friends, friend 1 doesn’t have a pass to get in the gate, but friend 2-5 does. Being a gentleman friend 1 lets friend 2-5 go thru while he buys his ticket. But then friend 2-5 are waiting for him while they are already in the park. pretty similar concept to the PSH flags’.

While packet 2-5 have the PSH flag that grants them permission to go to the application, ESXi has a hiccup while waiting for the PSH flag on packet 1 causing it to wait before the packet can be sent and the full information is received.   Here is the KB article that has the problem highlighted Vmware KB .

What is the fix?


To fix this problem the solution is pretty simple on the OS side you can disable RSC and stop the function, but doing this keep track of the memory use on that box and the box that received a bulk of those packets.

 

Running the command  Will give you the output in below:

netsh int tcp show global

netsh int tcp show global

Received Segment Coalescing State is what we are looking for. If that shows as enabled run the command below to disable it. you should receive a similar output below after running the

netsh int tcp set global rsc=disabled

netsh int tcp set global rsc=disabled

you should receive an output similar to the one above after running the   netsh int tcp show global again.

 

What is affected?


Currently, this affects people running ESXI 6.0 build  3568940 or below also running windows 2008 r2 and above. This problem can be solved 1 of two ways. By updating to ESXi 6.0 Update 2 Build 3620759 or above, or by running the above command on your machines affected by the problem.

 


 

KB Articles below for reference also for citing sources:

http://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=2129176

https://communities.vmware.com/thread/524842?start=0&tstart=0

https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh997024(v=ws.11).aspx