Field Based Discussions on VMware Cloud Foundation at EMPOWER 2022

Last month I had the opportunity to present for the VMware EMPOWER 2022 online conference.  

This conference is primarily aimed at VMware partners, and from a technical perspective, the content is filled with field-based knowledge.

One of my technology focus areas is VMware Cloud Foundation. The solution-based approach is of great value from a business and technical perspective. Design and operational impacts and design decisions need to be considered both before and after the solution is deployed.  

My solo session, “Enabling Effective Solution-Based Operations with VMware Cloud Foundation,” highlights the importance of logical design mapping, day two operational impacts with physical design decisions, and business impact formulation for VCF upgrades.

Another session that may be useful for technologists interested in VCF is the panel session I was happy to work on with two colleagues from VMware. Dean Lewis, and Ann Bailey. This session walks through the VCF 3.x to 4.x transformation process. With differing viewpoints from Sales, PSO and Advisory areas of VMware, this session gives field advice to those considering a real-life upgrade.

Both sessions are now available for replay at the EMPOWER 2022 website.  

Links below;

Navigating the VMware Cloud Foundation 3.X to 4.X Customer Journey: The Field Perspective

Enabling Effective Solution-Based Operations with VMware Cloud Foundation

The Day 2 Operations of Async Tooling with VCF

VMware Cloud Foundation is a solution-based platform that is powered by VMware’s products to a consistent VMware validated design; however, as with all technology, there are several day 2 operational impacts to consider.

By ensuring VCF deployments are maintained within operational guard rails and regular updates, VCF Lifecycle management can be controlled successfully.  What can an administrator do if there are competing business constraints and requirements?  

For example, applying an unexpected full update or a major release of VCF may impact deployment/project plans & timescales.  While security compliance and risk assessments may require a specific upgrade patch to be deployed to allow workloads/applications to be consumed.

Released earlier this month, the new VCF async tool has been created to enable customers the ability to apply supported critical updates to an existing VCF deployment without applying a major release of VCF.

This provides greater flexibility for maintenance windows and project planning for large-scale VCF-powered platforms.

Before using the async tool, there are several considerations to review on the suitability of its use within your business and project.

The below mind-map and links provide more detail.

VCF Async Tooling Mind Map

My VMworld 2021 Session

It’s VMworld time again, and although we are still in a virtual setting I am very happy to have had the opportunity to present an interactive session on my favorite product, vSAN.

Incorporating good operational practices within the design process or within an upgrade review is something I find very useful in the field.

It is often at these stages that there are opportunities to transform a platform, review and ensure business requirements are being met, and understand the business workloads to a greater degree.

My session focussed on the theory of this operational approach to architectural design and troubleshooting while applying it to vSAN as a product.

The links to my mindmap I used during the session are below;

Online Link | Download PDF

VCDX Mentoring Series with Customer Connect

Since transitioning to a panelist role for the VCDX program almost 3 years ago, I have missed the mentoring aspect. Working with VCDX candidates was very rewarding and a helpful learning experience for me to understand other business project use cases and designs.
I still get VCDX mentoring requests and recommend others in the field who may help. However, there is always a limited amount of time for people to volunteer. Typically mentoring is limited to design reviews, final mocks, and some 1:1 Q&A.

How would a person looking to achieve the VCDX develop the skills to create the design and deliver a presentation in the first place?
Having completed a VCP and maybe one VCAP, there is still a lot to do, and the journey to VCDX can seem confusing.

Over the past couple of months, I have been working with Diane Mayer and Daniela Quesada from the VMware Customer Connect Learning (VCCL), team to help plan a dedicated mentoring webinar series for the VCDX program.

With Karl Childs’s tremendous support, Customer Connect Learning has now teamed up with over 20 VCDX holders to discuss each phase of the VCDX journey in detail.

I joined the VCCL team and Karl Childs alongside the presenters for the first webinar. Each session is recorded and provides technical approaches that a VCDX candidate can use to succeed in their journey.

Common questions such as How to get started? , What makes a good project?, What to submit? , are discussed, but in addition, deep dives into areas such as logical design and risk mitigation are covered.
These deeper areas are often stumbling blocks at the submission and on defense day.

Links to sessions

Thank you again to Diane Mayer, Daniela Quesada & Karl Childs for letting me be help develop the series.

Accepted Risks in Architectural Design

With the introduction of any new business solution, there will be risks associated with a technology or design.
Whether they are specific product constraints, technical knowledge gaps, or budgetary/duration of a rollout, a project risk register can often be forgotten about once the project team has released the solution.

An architect can spend many hours documenting, researching, and considering the logical and physical design decisions for various project areas.

“Some might say that we should never ponder.

On our thoughts today ’cause they hold sway over time.”

Noel Gallagher – 1995

With every decision made, there can be an impact on the design and potentially the solution from a conceptual requirement perspective (i.e., SLA/RPO/RTO, Security, availability) and a potential risk to understand and ensure mitigation to protect the business investment.

Having a systematic approach to enterprise risk management has become one of the most valuable takeaways from my VCDX journey and something I continually seek to improve in my fieldwork.

The specific framework or methodology may vary from project to project; however, the ability to relate technological decisions to business objectives is valuable.   

In times of crisis, for example, with a service-impacting incident, a robust method of risk identification and design review is essential for any IT professional or technologist, not just someone with an architect design focus.   

When faced with a seemingly unfixable problem that potentially costs money/brand reputation for a customer, the fear of not knowing enough of a specific technology can be relentless, especially with the number of integration points and ever-changing approaches in the world today.

The ability to review, address, and mitigate technology areas in an agnostic manner can help calm these thoughts and help move forward within long-running troubleshooting or projects in crisis.

Some Thoughts From the Field & for Certification Efforts.

The business has accepted this risk.

Often this is agreed upon without the overarching understanding of a solution.

As an architect, one objective is to minimize the risk impact of new technology, potentially within the operationalizing phase.  

For example, creating a specific monitoring process.   

Once identified, the risk can potentially be lowered, and the initial manual process developed to automate, notify and correct with minimal service impact. 

Developing a risk-based specific check is different from applying a general cloud monitoring service or creating a new local monitoring product/instance.

The decision impacts another area; we don’t have responsibility for that

(i.e., Networking, Security).

As an architect proposing a solution, the aim is to create a working product that meets requirements and a measurable service definition (i.e., SLA, Performance, Cost optimization, Operational improvement, etc.).

Creating a new service with dependencies on other business areas or impacting existing layers without due diligence or review can be risky in the long term and hard to justify within architecture based certifications such as the VCDX.

It’s out of scope for this project & It will be covered in the next phase.

Conflicting requirements and scope can be challenging within projects.  

A pragmatic view of risk identification and mitigation is essential for this. What is the value of a project being delivered if it is not going to be successfully consumed or operationally reliable? 

Lots of business transformation programs consist of multiple projects, which over time increase as a business matures.  

An error in one project could impact user confidence, create operational issues and hinder the transformation journey.  

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