DELL Enterprise Forum EMEA 2014 in Frankfurt


As you might have noticed on Twitter I was in Frankfurt last week to attend DELL Enterprise Forum EMEA 2014. It was a great conference and very worthwhile going to. It was a week of multi way communication between vendor, marketing, engineering, partners and customers. I learned a lot. And I gave a lot of feedback. As a Dell TechCenter Rockstar and a Microsoft MVP in Hyper-V I can build bridges to make sure both worlds understand each other better and we, the customers get their needs served better.

Dell Enterprise Forum EMEA 2014 - Frankfurt

I’m happy I managed to go and I have some people to thank for me being able to grab this opportunity:

  • I cleared the time with my employer. This is great, this is a win win situation and I invested weekend time & extra hours for both my employer and myself.
  • I got an invite for the customer storage council where we learned a lot and got ample of opportunity to give honest and constructive feedback directly to the people that need to hear it! Awesome.
  • The DELL TechCenter Rockstar program invited me very generously to come over at zero cost for the Enterprise Forum. Which is great and helped my employer  and myself out. So, thank you so much for helping me attend. Does this color my judgment? 100%  pure objectivity does not exist but the ones who know me also know I communicate openly and directly. Look, I’ve never written positive reviews for money or kickbacks. I do not have sponsoring on my blog, even if that could help pay for conferences, travel expenses or lab equipment. Some say I should but for now I don’t. I speak my mind and I have been a long term DELL customer for some very good reasons. They deliver the best value for money with great support in a better way and model than others out there. I was sharing this info way before I became a Rockstar and they know that I tell the good, the bad and the ugly. They can handle it and know how to leverage feedback better than many out there.
  • Stijn Depril ( @sdepril, http://www.stijnsthoughts.be/), Technical Datacenter Sales at RealDolmen gave me a ride to Frankfurt and back home. Very nice of him and a big thank you for doing so.  He didn’t have to and I’m not a customer of them. Thank buddy, I appreciate it and it was interesting ton learn the partners view on things during the drive there and back. Techies will always be checking out gear …

Dell Enterprise Forum EMEA 2014 - Frankfurt

What did all this result in? Loads of discussion, learning and sharing about storage, networking, compute, cloud, futures and community in IT. It was an 18 hour per day technology fest in a very nice and well arranged fashion.

I was able to meet up with community members, twitter buddies, DELL Employees and peers from all over EMEA and share experiences, learn together, talk shop, provide feedback and left with a better understanding of the complexities and realities they deal with on their side.

Dell Enterprise Forum EMEA 2014 - Frankfurt

It has been time very well spent. I applaud DELL to make their engineers and product managers available for this event. I thank them for allowing us this amount of access to their brains from breakfast till the moment we say goodnight after a night cap. Well done, thank you for listening and I hope to continue the discussion. It’s great to be a DELL TechCenter Rockstar and work in this industry during this interesting times. To all the people I met again or for the first time, it was a great week of many interesting conversations!

For some more pictures and movies visit the Dell Enterprise Forum EMEA 2014 from Germany photo album on Flickr

The Hyper V Amigos Showcast Episode 2: Unmap


We’re back for our second episode of the Hyper-V Amigos show cast. In this episode we discuss and demonstrate UNMAP in Windows Server 2012 R2 a bit. As always it was fun to work with Carsten Rachfahl.

2 Hyper-V Amigos having fun discussing UNMAP

 

Here’s our fun and unscripted (other than the PowerShell used in the demos) attempt at showing you UNMAP behavior with Hyper-V and a DELL Compellent SAN

If you want to read more on our experiences with UNMAP search my blog https://workinghardinit.wordpress.com/tag/unmap/. I have prepared some links for you.

I still need to get the slides uploaded, but all that info is in the blog posts.

Enjoy!

EDIT:

In relation to the question below about not much difference between Dynamically expanding VHD/VHDX. That demo didn’t work out so well here so I include  some screenshots of a comparison I just ran:

This is the dynamically expanding VHDX. on an IDE controller, no ODX.

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This is the dynamically expanding VHD on an vSCSI controller, with ODX.

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So yes, losing ODX makes things slower for dynamically expanding VHDX, but it still beats a Dynamically expanding VHD that has ODX.  A VHDX is a lot better at dynamically growing than a VHD.

Speaking At The ITPROceed Event–June 12th 2014, ALM Antwerp


The Belgian IT Pro community is organizing the ITPROceed event a “technology geek fest” as they call it on their web site.

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It’s a joint venture between the IT pro community and Microsoft Belgium to help you all proceed in designing, deploying and operating Microsoft technologies.

The sessions will not only help you proceed but succeed as well. The speakers are Microsoft MVPs, MEET members & passionate community experts. They’ll share expertise & information gather by using these technologies in real life deployments.

A rich mix of technologies you have available and need today will be discussed like the Cloud OS, System Center, SQL, Office 365, Windows 8, Unified Communications, Lync, Azure and SharePoint.

I’m speaking

I’ll be speaking about the features in Windows Server 2012 R2 that make it “The Scalable & Capable Cloud OS”.

Come see how you can leverage the capabilities of Windows Server 2012 R2, a true cloud OS, to achieve powerful and scalable solutions. We’ll demonstrate how to use technologies as SMB Direct, DVMQ/vRSS, ODX, UNMAP, VHDX and Storage QoS. This will help you get the most out of commodity infrastructure and investment in Windows today.  We’ll share our experiences with you based on real life deployments to help you proceed and succeed.

Join us!

Really, make time in your schedule and attend this event by registering here.

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Attend the sessions, talk shop with your peers and discuss your questions with the experts. I’ll see you there.

Hyper V Amigos Showcast Episode 1: who we are


The very first episode of the Hyper-V Amigos Showcast has gone live. We’ll try to discuss & showcase Hyper-V and related technologies for benefit of all mankind.

In this first episode we introduce ourselves and talk a bit about on the state of our industry and how that relates to our jobs.

Carsten Rachfahl & Didier Van Hoye introduce themselves

Enjoy!

We Need Your Opinion On This Strategy, Vision, Management Issue …


Could you give us your opinion on this?

Lately people, managers, have asked me to give advice or at least my opinion on how to organize & manage IT. In the broad sense of the term. Infrastructure, software, services, support, on premise, cloud, data protection, security …  “Just think about it a bit”.

That question “Could you give us your opinion on this?” is a hard one for me.  I could say “read my blog”, the non technical posts. But my opinion is often too high level and they don’t they actually want that. They want a solution. And it’s not that I don’t think about it or don’t have an opinion. But I can’t focus on areas out of my expertise, my control and priorities.

Basically I cannot help them. Not because I’m that stupid or the matter is beyond our control. It’s because the way managers and organizations think is getting more and faster obsolete by the day.

The Issue

Our world, both privately and work related, is becoming more and more connected every day. That means there is a tremendous amount of input, leading to an ever continuing increase of permutations of ever more variables that come in to play. In short, complexity is on the rise at an enormous rate and will overwhelm us. Even worse is that this complexity only shows itself after things have gone wrong. That’s bad but, that also means there are probably many more relationships of cause and effect that haven’t even shown themselves yet. That kind of sounds like a time bomb.

How do you deal with this? Not in the way so many are asking for. And I’m not here to tell my managers or customers what they want to hear. I’m in the business of telling them what they need to hear as I deal in results, not services or studies. More often than not they are looking for processes and methodologies to keep central control over planning, execution, operations and change. All this while the rug is literally pulled away under their feet. There’s the problem.

Situations, technologies, solutions, frameworks, processes all have a time limited value that’s becoming shorter. So the idea that you can plan and control for many years ahead is obsolete in many areas in our ecosystem. There are just to many moving parts, that are changing too fast. So how do we manage this? What kind of leadership do you need? Well there is no easy answer.

How do I deal with this?

Personally I deal with this by working, collaborating & cooperating in a network, in “the community”. My insights, knowledge, help and support come from my network. Some of my colleagues, the contractors and consultants we hire are in that network. A lot of colleagues are not. Most managers are not. Why is that? They are stuck in a hierarchal world of centralized command and control that is failing them fast. At best they achieve good results, but very slow and at a very high expense. We can only hope that the results also don’t turn out bad. They want procedures & processes. Predictability & consistency but I deal with complexity in wide area of expertise that cannot readily be put into manuals and documentation. Not in a timely fashion. I’m in a dog fight (insert “Top Gun” theme). The processes & logistics provide the platform. Learn where procedures & methodologies work and where they’ll kill you. The knowledge and the skills we need are a living thing that feeds on a networked collective and are very much in flux.  I’m so much more better skilled and effective at my job through participating my global community than I can be tied into the confines of my current workplace they’d be mad not to leverage that, let alone prevent me from doing so. You can’t do it alone or in isolation.

An example

Yesterday was an extreme example in a busy week. I started work at 05:30 AM yesterday to set up a testing environment for questions I needed answered by a vendor who leverages the community at large. That’s required some extra work in the datacenter that I could have done by a colleague that was there today because I found out in time. I went to the office at 08:30. I worked all day on an important piece of work I mentioned in my network and was alerted to a potential issue. That led to knowledge sharing & testing. Meaning we could prevent that very potential issue and meanwhile we’re both learning. I went home at 18:30, dinner & testing. I was attending an MVP web cast at 20:00 PM till 21:00 PM learning new & better ways to trouble shoot clusters. I got a call at 19:10PM of a mate in Switzerland who’s running into SAN issues and I helped him out with the two most possible causes of this through my experience with SANs and that brand of HP SAN.  We did some more testing & research until 22:00 after which I wrote this blog up.

We don’t get paid for this. This is true mutual beneficial cooperation. We don’t benefit directly and it’s not “our problem” or job goal. But oh boy do we learn and grow together and in such help each other and our employers/customers. It’s a true long term investment that pays of day by day the longer you are active in the community and network. But the thing is, I can’t put that into a process or manual. Any methodology that has to serve centralized command and control structure while dealing with agile subjects is bound to fail. Hence you see agile & scrum being abused to the level it’s just doing stuff without the benefits.

Conclusion

This is just one small and personal example. Management and leadership will have to find ways of nurturing collaboration and cooperation beyond the boundaries of their control. The skillset and knowledge needed are not to be found in a corporate manual or in never ending in house meetings & committees. Knowledge gained has to flow to grow As such it flows both in an out of your organization. You’re delusional if you think you can stop that today and it’s not the same a leaking corporate secrets. Hierarchies & management based on rank and pay grades are going to fail. And if those managers in higher pay grades can’t make the organization thrive in this ever more connected, faster moving world, they might not be worth that pay grade.

I assure you that employees and consultants who live in the networked global community will quickly figure out if an organization can handle this. They will not and should not do their managers job. In fact they are already doing managers areal big favor by working and operating the way they do. They are leading at their level, they are leveraging their networks and getting the job done. They are taking responsibilities, they solve problems creatively and get results. It just doesn’t fit easily in an obsolete model of neatly documented procedures in a centralized command and control structure. They don’t need a manager for that, they need one that will make it possible to thrive in that ultra-connected ever changing fast paced world. Facilitate, stimulate and reward learning and taking responsibilities, not hierarchies. That way all people in your organization will lead or at least contribute to the best of their ability. You’ll need to trust them for that to work. If you don’t trust them, fine, but act upon it. Letting people you don’t trust work for and with you doesn’t work.

How to do this is a managers & leaders challenge. Not mine. I know when I’m out of my depth or when not to engage. The grand visions, the strategic play of a company is their responsibility. Getting results & moving forward will come from your perpetually learning, and engaged workforce, if you don’t mess it up. And yes, that is your responsibility. Cultures are cultivated by definition. So if the culture of the company is to blame for things going south, realize you’re the ones supposed to make it a good one. People don’t leave organizations, they leave managers ;-) And to paraphrase the words of Walt Disney … you’re in a world of hurt if they leave you but stay at their desk and on the pay roll. It’s called mediocrity, which also serves a purpose, providing commodities & cookie template services whilst letting others shine. But if you want to be a thriving, highly skilled, expertise driven center of excellence … it’s going to take lot of hard and sustained work and it’s not a one way street.

2014 Kicks Offs With A Microsoft MVP Award Renewal!


I can start of the new year at the office tomorrow by whishing everyone a great 2014 and talking to the CEO about making sure we schedule/budget for the MVP Summit in 2014 as I just got this e-mail in:

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This is great news. Somewhere this month, a box will arrive at my house with a new ring for the award trophy and a new MVP Certificate. The trophy itself stands proudly on a cupboard in my parents living room. I might have earned the award, but they made sure I was given the little backpack with the values & the education to make that possible. And while they don’t really understand the technicalities of what I do, they think the world of it when I fly of to the USA because Microsoft likes to talk to me Smile.

While you get the MVP award for contributions over the past year to the community you must realize that being active in the community is a very rewarding endeavor in itself. No, it’s not like you can put a hard dollar amount on it, nor want to. The value is that you help out a lot of people and in return effectively crowd source your IT issues to a global community. It help other and yourself learn and grow. We constantly need to figure out a lot of things in our line of business. Studying, thinking, analyzing, designing, implementing & supporting a wide ever changing IT stack is not a one person or one team job. Sharing insights & experiences (both good and bad) with your peers helps a lot. You grow a global network of highly motivated, experienced & skilled people. A network you can leverage & consult when you need it. A network that you contribute to when you can, where you can. That’s what it’s about. The cost of participating is dwarfed by the return as many hand help make hard work easier. Good bosses & smart organizations have figured this out. During a panel discussion at Dell World Jonathan Copeland used the metaphor that it take a village to raise a kid. I added to it that one day that kid needs to leave the village and go out into the world. Being active in communities helps with both. I’ve also talked about this here.

I’m very happy with my 2014 MVP Award. I cherish the interaction with my fellow MVPs and Microsoft. The 2014 MVP Global Summit is already on my agenda. I’m grateful for the opportunities it brings and the continuous privilege of learning & sharing. See you all on line, at conferences, think tanks & community events & in Bellevue/Redmond.

DELL World 2013 – Tour Of the Acoustic & Storage Testing Labs & Presenting at the Dell TechCenter User Group


While at Dell World 2013, a group of us had the opportunity to visit the Dell offices as part of the Trends in Data Center Technology Think Tank. We saw advancements in fresh air cooling, a hot house,

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the storage lab and, new to me, the acoustic labs. Below is a picture of Chris Peterson, the acoustic Architect (he was involved in the design of the DELL VRTX, which is a unique solution and achievement in the industry). Like wise the also have thermal engineers and both of these expertises are closely related.

I will never look at acoustic / thermal engineering for servers & storage in the same way I used to and I have way more respect for the effort and a better understanding of what efforts go in to this research and why.

For some more information on the acoustic lab read this white paper Dell Enterprise Acoustics and watch these videos:

Dell thermal & acoustic engineers discussing the VRTX
Chris Peterson on Dell PowerEdge Generation 12 Server acoustics

Next to all that I attended briefings, had one to one conversations with network, storage & server managers & engineers. I had a lot of information, questions & request to share from our Microsoft MVP Community in regards to our needs & wishes for the best possible support for Windows Server 2012 R2, Hyper-V, ODX, UNMAP, SMB Direct, SOFS, Management & cloud. I even jumped into an open source breakfast discussion on * cloud computing. Last but not least we joined fellow Rock Stars Jonathan Copeland (@VirtSecurity), Rasmus Haslund (@haslund) & Dell Tech Center’s community manager Jeff Sullivan (@JeffSullivan) to discuss what community & social media means to us.

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I also shared our experiences with Windows Server 2012 R2, Hyper-V, DVMQ, vRSS & ODX at the Dell Tech Center User Group during Dell World 2013.

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Want to talk and demo DVMQ & vRSS? Start with the basics: RSS Smile 

To all my community buddies a very festive end of the year and a great 2014! If you want to know even more about how rewarding being part of a community can be, check out this blog Mindset of the community by Marc van Eijk (@_marcvaneijk)

TechNet Top Support Solutions From Microsoft Support Blog


As this year comes to an end I’d like to draw your attention to Microsoft’s new Top Support Solutions blog on TechNet. It was created this as part of their continuous efforts to keep the various  technical communities informed about the most relevant answers to the top questions or issues experienced with their products. They identify these top issues by analyzing the question in their forums and their other support channels.

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So if you need to find answers for your self or your customers go take a look at the "Top Solutions Content" blog. Changes are you’ll find valuable information about the Microsoft top support solutions for several of their popular products in Server and Tools. It might save you and your clients or manager a lot of time, effort and money. It’s also a great resource to make your colleagues, community, user group or clients aware of.

I’m In Austin Texas For Dell World 2013


This is the night time sky line of where I’m at right now. Austin, Texas, USA. That famous “Lone Star State” that until now I only knew from the movies & the media. Austin is an impressive city in an impressive state and, as most US experiences I’ve had, isn’t comparable with anything in my home country Belgium. That works both ways naturally and I’m lucky I get to travel a bit and see a small part of the world.image

Dell World 2013

So why am I here?  Well I’m here to attend DELL World 2013, but you got that already Smile

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That’s nice Didier but why DELL World? Well, several reasons. For one, I wanted to come and talk to as many product owners & managers, architects & strategists as I can. We’re seeing a lot of interest in new capabilities that Windows Server 2012 (R2) brought to the Microsoft ecosystem. I want to provide all the feedback I can on what I as a customer, a Microsoft MVP and technologist expect from DELL to help us make the most of those. I’m convinced DELL has everything we need but can use some guidance on what to add or enhance. It would be great to get our priorities and those of DELL aligned. Form them I expect to hear their plans, ideas, opinions and see how those match up. Dell has a cost/value leadership position when it comes to servers right now. They have a great line up of economy switches that pack a punch (PowerConnect) & some state of the art network gear with Force10. it would be nice to align these with guidance & capabilities to leverage SMB Direct and NVGRE network virtualization. Dell still has the chance to fill some gaps way better than others have. A decent Hyper-V network virtualization gateway that doesn’t cost your two first born children and can handle dozens to hundreds of virtual networks comes to mind. That and real life guidance on several SMB Direct with DCB configuration guidance. Storage wise, the MD series, Equalogic & Compellent arrays offer great value for money. But we need to address the needs & interest that SMB 3.0, Storage Spaces, RDMA has awoken and how Dell is planning to address those. I also think that OEMs need to pick up pace & change some of their priorities when it comes to providing answers to what their customers in the MSFT ecosystem ask for & need, doing that can put them in a very good position versus their competitors. But I have no illusions about my place in & impact on the universe.

Secondly, I was invited to come. As it turns out DELL has the same keen interest in talking to people who are in the trenches using their equipment to build solutions that address real life needs in a economical feasible way.  No, this is not “just” marketing. A smart vendor today communicates in many ways with existing & potential customers. Social media is a big part of that but also off line at conferences, events and both contributor and sponsor.  Feedback on how that works & is received is valuable as well for both parties. They learn what works &n doesn’t and we get the content we need. Now sure you’ll have the corporate social media types that are bound by legal & marketing constrictions but the real value lies in engaging with your customers & partners about their real technological challenges & needs.

Third is the fact that all these trends & capabilities in both the Microsoft ecosystem and in hardware world are not happening in isolation. They are happening in a world dominated by cloud computing in all it’s forms. This impact everything from the clients, servers, servers to the data centers as well as the people involved. It’s a world in which we need to balance the existing and future needs with a mixture of approaches & where no one size fits all even if the solutions come via commodity products & services. It’s a world where the hardware  & software giants are entering each others turf. That’s bound to cause some sparks Smile. Datacenter abstraction layer, Software Defined “anything” (storage, networking, …), converged infrastructure. Will they collaborate or fight?

So put these three together and here I am. My agenda is full of meetings, think tanks, panels, briefings and some down time to chat to colleagues & DELL employees alike.

Why & How?

Some time ago I was asked why I do this and why I’m even capable to do this. It takes time, money and effort.  Am I some kind of hot shot manager or visionary guru? No, not at all. Believe there’s nothing “hot” about working on a business down issue at zero dark thirty. I’m a technologist. I’m where the buck stops. I need things to work. So I deal in realities not fantasies. I don’t sell methods, processes or services people, I sell results, that’s what pays my bills long term. But I do dream and I try to turn those into realities. That’s different from just fantasy world where reality is an unwelcome guest. I’m no visionary, I’m no guru. I’m a hard working IT Pro (hence the blog title and twitter handle) who realizes all to well he’s standing on the shoulders of not just giants but of all those people who create the ecosystem in which I work. But there’s more. Being a mere technologist only gets you that far. I also give architectural & strategic advice as that’s also needed to make the correct decisions. Solutions don’t exist in isolation and need to be made in relation to trends, strategies and needs. That takes insight & vision. Those don’t come to you by only working in the data center, your desktop or in eternal meetings with the same people in the same place. My peers, employers and clients actively support this for the benefit of our business, customers, networks & communities. That’s the what, why and who that are giving me the opportunities to learn & grow both personally & professionally. People like Arlindo Alves and may others at MSFT, my fellow MVPs (Aidan Finn, Hans Vredevoort, Carsten Rachfahl, …), Florian Klaffenbach & Peter Tsai. As a person you have to grab those opportunities. If you want to be heard you need to communicate. People listen and if the discussions and subjects are interesting it becomes a two way conversation and a great learning experience. As with all networking and community endeavors you need to put in the effort to reap the rewards in the form of information, insights and knowledge you can leverage for both your own needs as well as for those in your network. That means speaking your mind. Being honest and open, even if at times you’re wrong. That’s learning. That, to me, is what being in the DELL TechCenter Rock StarDELL TechCenter Rock Star program is all about.

Learning, growing, sharing. That and a sustained effort in your own development slowly but surely makes you an “expert”. An expert that realizes all to well how much he doesn’t known & cannot possible all learn.  Luckily, to help deal with that fact, you can turn to the community.

Attending The Global MVP Summit 2013 (November 18-21)


We have Windows 8.1 running on our desktops & laptops and meanwhile Windows Server 2012 R2 is crunching numbers in our (virtualized) data centers. So it’s time to grab one of those magnificent British Airways Boeing 747 aircraft seats once again and make my way to SEATAC. No rest for the wicked. BAS7400066

Yup, but for now I’ve parked myself in LHR whilst waiting for my flight. Soon I’ll be in the air again for the long haul to the USA. I’m off to Washington State, Seattle to be exact, and from there to Bellevue/Redmond. You might have guessed where I am going already, indeed to the Microsoft campus. I’m attending the Global MVP Summit 2013, November Edition. image

Apart from that magnificent educational & networking opportunity I will spend a lot of the “free” time discussing technology, visions & strategies with my peers and Microsoft employees. I’d like to thank the latter for their patience with me when bugging them with questions Smile. To my buddies, acquaintances & connections, I’ll see you soon. We have a lot to learn & discuss. That’s one of the reasons I’m off a bit earlier. It helps with the jet lag but it also gives me time to meet up with friends and acquaintances I’ve made in the Puget Sound area and talk shop. This helps to keep in touch with what’s happening over the world and to understand where their priorities are, what’s keeping them occupied. While I’m a firm believer in remote and teleworking there is value in getting your boots on the ground every now and then. It prevents tunnel vision and helps avoiding  teleology in our views while enhancing early detection of small trend changes to whole sale tectonic shifts. This is not to be confused with thinking you have a crystal ball or anything.

To my readers & community members I’d like to extend the invitation to pass along feedback to Microsoft. They do listen. So leave a comment, send me a mail (contact via Blog) or ping me on Twitter.

In case you don’t know, everything discussed at the MVP Summit is under NDA, even for MVPs of another expertise. So basically bar some tweets to find our where other MVPs I’ll be going dark.