Ahead Tech Summit 2015 – Building a Highly Automated Hybrid Cloud – and thank you!

As most people know, I work for Ahead, a Partner based out of Chicago. I have been here for over a year and have loved every minute of my time there, continuing to evolve the work my predecessor, Alex Mattson, started here as an Automation/Cloud specialist.

2 weeks ago, we hosted our 2nd Ahead Tech Summit and I was fortunate enough to be asked to present on Building a Highly Automated Hybrid Cloud. The video of my presentation is below.

This is the 2nd year I’ve presented at the Tech Summit, attendance was up and it was an absolute joy. We had more to showcase and I love talking about this. Many customers approached me afterwards and said they really enjoyed the presentation. As always I love feedback and hearing how I can improve, so please post your thoughts in the comments section below.

In addition, as I watched this back, I did want to thank some people who have really helped me grow into a better presenter. When I compared this talk, to my one last year, it feels like it was night and day.

Kim Jahnz – another good friend of mine who I met as a TAM at TransUnion. Kim helped catapult my career, pushing to get me a talk at VMworld in 2013 on Self Healing Datacenter which was extremely successful. The feedback from the customers was great, and I thank you so much Kim for pushing me to do this at a time I almost said no due to other personal commitments.

Sean Sergent – Sean and I worked together in the UK when we developed our own consultancy practice. Thank you for all the leaderships you demonstrated to me and learning by “osmosis” as you once described it. Many of the behaviours I have today are a result of the work we did in the UK.

Adam Cavaliere – my good friend and colleague from Tintri. We worked together at TransUnion and Catamaran. At TransUnion we completed our first presentation together in front of a large audience showing the benefits of VMware. It’s amazing to think how nervous we were there, and now see the things we are doing today. Thanks for being a great friend and being an absolutely pain in the ass when we worked together at TU, but we did achieve great things!

Eric Kaplan – Our CTO at Ahead, who makes sure I remained on track with both of my Tech Summit presentations. Thanks (I think) for always filling up my Trello board with 5 minute meetings. I’m sure I heard that from Chris Wahl once as well.

Justin Lauer – You said one thing to me at dinner last year that I still think about. “I don’t think that nervous feeling you get before you go up for a presentation ever goes away”. I think this says a lot…I think it’s because we care so much and want to achieve great things.

Chris Wahl – 30 minutes sitting with you and getting presentation tips is something I hope to do again.”Don’t say so!”

Alex Mattson – Thanks for recommending me to Ahead. I loved our lunches and chats about Automation when we were at Catamaran. Many of those discussions and ideas we had floating around have helped shape the process we have today.

Rob Warren – Thank you for your amazing leaderships and rules to live by. Everything has a standard. There’s a standard for everything. Standardize, Procedurize, Automate…enough said ūüôā

Frank Denneman – For minor tips, and recommending to me that I don’t orange drink juice the morning of my VMworld presentation.

Doug Barnes – For your amazing attention to detail when we started out in Automation and being a great friend. Would not be where I am today in this space if I hadn’t worked with you in the beginning.

Nick Rodriguez – For the 16 revisions you worked on with me to make an amazing PowerPoint deck.

Plus everyone at Ahead and many others. Definitely did not get this far alone, and I’m very pleased to be able to go on stage and present about the things I love to do in this space.

So with that said. Thank you and enjoy!


Automating Tintri with vRO Part 5a: Sync VM

What is Sync VM?

Every now and then a technology on a storage array gets me really excited. When Adam Cavaliere showed me Sync VM last month I was impressed. After talking about it and showing it to customers, they were very interested. More specifically they wanted to see it automated, and in vRealize Automation.

So what is it, and how does it work?

I think it’s best explained by Adam Cavaliere and Emad Younis who have posts and videos on this already.

Video showing Database Example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWsVLUb9O_A

Blog post by Emad Younis: https://www.tintri.com/blog/2015/04/tech-tuesday-time-travel-syncvm-snapshots

The vRealize Orchestrator Workflow

In this part (5a), I will explain how to use the vRO workflow I’ve created which is available on FlowGrab along with the others in this series. In part 5b I will be showing how to integrate this vRO workflow with vRA, to offer it as a day 2 operation.

Pre Requisites:

1. Completed Part 3 verifying that you can get a Tintri UUID from a virtual machine.
2. Have a source and target virtual machine in vCenter with the same disk configuration upon which you want to sync.
3. Download the latest Tintri Workflow Package I created and uploaded to FlowGrab.


Do not execute this vRO workflow without an understanding of SyncVM. The code in this example replaces 3 disks (SCSI 0:1, SCSI 0:2, SCSI 0:3 to be precise). If you need to use alternate disk configurations, then you will need to adjust the parameters and action item to compensate. Please post questions if you are unsure how to do this, but this assumes a good understanding of vRealize Orchestrator.

Step 1: Import the Tintri Workflow Package you downloaded from FlowGrab.

You should now see extra workflows in your vRO Design view as per the screenshot below.


Take a look at FG-SyncVMExample you can see this utilizes a number of the other workflows previously created.
Sync VM Example


Running FG-Tintri-SyncVM by itself, you can see this requires the RestHost, SessionID, and a snapshot UUID from the source VM, as well as the Tintri VM UUID from the target VM.

In FG-SyncVMExample I use the modular components built previously to retrieve all the information required to initiate a Sync VM operation.

The process is as follows:

  1. Create Rest Session
  2. Tintri Snapshot the Source VM in order to get the latest data.
    1. Get the Tintri VM UUID
    2. Snapshot the VM
    3. Get the Snapshot UUID for the latest snapshot
  3. Get the Tintri VM UUID for the target VM
  4. Shutdown the Guest OS (This is because if you initiate a sync VM via REST API it will do a hard power off of the virtual machine.)
  5. Initiate SyncVM now that we have the UUIDs we needed.
  6. Power back on the target VM.

Step 2: Run the workflow!


Select your REST Host, type in a sample name for the snapshot (this could obviously be set as a general attribute or automatically generated in the future), select your source VM and target VM from vCenter…and off we go!

Step 3: End Result

Login to your Tintri VM Store and you should see a message on the target VM indicating that synchronization is complete.

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 3.43.37 PM

vRealize Orchestrator will also show logging to indicate the Sync VM operation was successful.


What’s next?

Hopefully this workflow helps. I would recommend adapting the actions and workflow to your use cases. i.e. which disks to sync? How many VMs do you want to sync to?

In the next post I’ll be demonstrating how you can add this capability to vRealize Automation as a Day 2 Operation you can present to Software Development and QA teams in order to get the latest data.





VCP6-Cloud Exam – Thoughts


This past Saturday I was very pleased to pass¬†my VCP6-Cloud exam. More specifically exam VCPC-610. I thought I’d give my general thoughts and tips for anyone about to take it. I honestly found google searches and forum posts to be limited, but that’s probably just because these exams have all been updated recently, and no doubt aren’t as main stream as the VCP-DCV versions.

First of all, I’d have to say the blueprint is massive. VMware clearly wants you to not just know vRealize Automation (vCAC), but all of the products that connect into the SDDC. At times it can seem like a bit of a sales pitch, but I highly recommend you don’t spend all your time focusing just on vRA. I read the NSX Administrators guide the day before the exam and I was glad I did. I think it may have also helped to take the VCP-DCV exam, or at least have studied for it before. This would have had the added benefit of giving me an up to date VCP-DCV certification while also preparing me for the VCP6-Cloud exam. I previously have held a VCP4 and VCP5 so thankfully this all seemed very familiar, but there were definitely a few questions on storage paths that I scratched my brain on for a while before committing to an answer.

I’d say overall there’s a good mix…and it probably goes something like this:

  • vRealize Automation – 50% – The main focus of the exam, but make sure to cover the other areas below.
  • NSX – 10% – Make sure you know how to configure the appliance and how it ties into vRA. Knowing SNATs and DNATs was essential. I was happy last week that my colleague,¬†Tim Curless, had just completed a new NSX Multi Machine blueprint in the Ahead vRA lab which we had been talking about.
  • vCloud Connector – 5% – I didn’t study up enough on this but there were some questions around it that I have no idea if I got right or not.
  • vRealize Orchestrator – 5% – more just how it relates to vRA. Know how to connect stubs to vRA, and how to configure an advanced service and you’re good to go.
  • vSphere – 25% –¬†Definitely a big chunk on vSphere including performance, troubleshooting. There were a lot of questions around DVS and host failures. Usual stuff on how to restore a vmnic to get management back. Nothing that was crazy difficult except the odd question they throw in to stump you.
  • vCOPs – 5% – Some questions around ¬†troubleshooting and performance. I’d say this was the part I didn’t spend any time on really and I got away with it.

All I can really add is just make sure you study the blueprint and make sure you’ve spent considerable amount of time in vRA. I highly recommend going over the IaaS guides in great detail as well. Not only did it help me fort he exam, but I definitely learned about some new updates that had passed me by.


My reading material…

Overall great exam. VMWare did a nice job making sure you have all the fundamental knowledge across all their products, and not just vRA.

Please respond and share your experience! Would love to know how others felt about the exam, and if you’ve taken the VCAP Cloud certs yet?



vRealize Automation 6: Changing Lease Expiration Notification

Vector red expired stamp


One of the features I love about vRealize Automation is the ability to give out leases to various business groups for their VMs. It’s fantastic for Dev and QA environments. One annoying thing however, is that the default notification for expiration is 7 days, and there is no apparent way to change it in the UI. In fact it would be nice if we could send multiple warnings out. Perhaps the first warning 7 days before, and the second warning a day before the VM expires? That’s for a future discussion though.

For now, here is how to change the number of days before the user is sent a lease expiration notification:

1. RDP to your IaaS Windows Server and locate the “ManagerService.exe.config” file located in “C:\Program Files (x86)\VMware\vCAC\Server”



2. Open the file and search for “DaysNotifcationBeforeExpire”. The default should be set to “7”.



Change it to the number of days you desire? I personally like a 2 day notification, but it’s really a preference that makes sense for the users of your Cloud.

Note: While you are here you can also adjust many other automatic e-mail notification events from their defaults.¬†Anything you change to true will result in an e-mail notification. For example: Changing¬†PowerOff=”false” ¬†to ¬†PowerOff=”true”¬†will result in an e-mail notification every time the machine is powered off.

3. Save the File

4. Restart the vCloud Automation Center Service

Select Start > Administrative Tools > Services and restart the vCloud Automation Center service.


And there you have it! Lease expiration notifications when you want them!

While this solves the problem, hopefully VMware will create the LeaseExpirationNotifcation as a Stub so that we can call out directly to a vRO workflow when the lease is about to expire.