11 Feb

Should I Take VMware NSX Install Configure Manage or Internetworking Expert Fast Track ? – Part 1

I’m working to get deep on some of our networking technologies and was recently faced with a decision on whether I should take our ICM offering or go for the expert track. The ICM offering, like our vSphere ICM course is meant to show the basics of installing, configuring, and manage VMware NSX. The Internetworking Experts offering is geared specifically towards advanced networking administrators, specifically those that are Cisco based. As an expired CCNA who has spent a lot of time linking up virtualized infrastructures I have a lot of exposure on the basics. I even used to own almost 10 Cisco routers that I labbed up in preparation for the CCNP exams, but never quite got that far. When I looked at the two different blueprints I noticed a lot of similarity between the two and couldn’t decide which one would be the best fit right now so I did what any logical person would do, I enrolled in both.

Now I understand this is not a realistic thing for anyone to do, so I’m hoping to shed some light on the differences in this and a future blog post. As a VMware employee I can take these course pretty easily so I’m hoping to provide some perspective in that regards. The following is based on taking the ICM only at this time.

I am just about to wrap up the ICM course which I took as an on-demand offering (http://vmw.re/1AYPpdt). If you like not having to wait for everyone to join each morning for the course, flexibility to move at your own pace, and access to all lectures, labs, materials for 45 days then this is the way to go. To put it in perspective I’ve spent about 13 hours and gone through all the lectures for the course, and will be revisiting the labs next week. Later this month I’ll be taking the Internetworking Expert offering and will provide further opinions on that thereafter. 

So back to what I know so far. From the course descriptions we can see the following sections are exclusive to each offering, otherwise everything appears pretty much the same.



  • Routing Protocol Primer


Internetworking Experts

  • Nexus and UCS Architecture
  • Cisco Nexus switching architecture
  • Cisco UCS connectivity architecture
  • Cisco UCS profiles
  • Extensibility and Design
    • NSX API
    • NSX and Cisco design options

Having access to both course manuals I can get a better idea on the depth of content involved. Basically the ICM course not only spends additional time on routing protocols but also assumes the student does not have the prior exposure to some basic networking fundamentals. Where all that extra time that the Internetwork expert course focuses on Nexus and design options, the ICM will spend it focusing on the pure basics of networking, including coverage of MAC addresses, ARP tables, VLAN Tagging,etc.

I can tell you that for me I actually needed this exposure again, so there was a lot of value in running through those materials. Now with that said, I really want to understand the architecture and how I can use it with Nexus and UCS. Additionally I find the last section regarding extensibility and design of great use, which the ICM course does not cover. If you need those two pieces you can only get them in the Internetworking Experts offering and my recommendation would be to reference the course data sheet and make sure you have a firm understanding of all the basics of networking protocols and some basic routing as well prior to the course. If you are very new to anything beyond the basic levels of networking than the ICM course may be a better fit. 

I hope to have a better opinion on the two once I take the Internetworking Experts offer later this month. I will update this post or post a part two at that time.


09 Oct

So, You Want In On Technical Marketing?

I recently noticed some chatter on getting into technical marketing and I thought I’d share my thoughts. As someone who is now in technical marketing, but also wondered the same exact thing almost two years ago the topic is something I am familiar with. At that time I was mentally checked out from what I was doing and knew I needed a change. I came to the conclusion that I wanted a job in technical marketing.

So you’ve decided you want in on tech marketing, or at least you think you do. I think the first thing that is important to understand is what you are really after. Don’t make tech marketing the end game per se, but if you want to be more social and do more blogging, events, etc then go ahead and do that. It will serve you well in your career regardless. In fact this is probably the most common advise you’ll see and I believe it was discussed on an episode of the Geek Whisperers podcast, which has a lot of talk about careers and tech marketing so its super relevant to the topic at hand.

I think as with interviewing for any position, persistence and effectively selling yourself is important. Nobody was in tech marketing before they got in to tech marketing, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t certain skills that are being looked for. At a minimum you should have a solid writing sample you can point someone to. As always referrals are the best way in the door, utilize relationships you have to get a call back or find out more about a position. This is very important. I went from not being able to get a call back to having a couple offers and some other prospects in the works.

When it comes to technical skills you should have them of course. It is my belief that the tech cred is what is going to get you the interview, but it is the soft skills that are going land you the job. This is the area that most tech people will need to focus their attention on. If you are fortunate enough to get yourself on the phone with someone I don’t feel you should need to justify your tech cred, unless the person interviewing you is asking. Instead take the time to show how you can bring the technology together with your abilities to communicate and produce content, whether it be blogs, presentations, or serving as resource to the marketing organization.

Now with all that said not all tech marketing roles are the same. Some may require you to go to conferences regularly and be constantly on the road, others may require very little travel(that’s me). Not all tech marketing roles are going to require you, or sometimes even want you to tweet or blog.

I certainly don’t have all the answers, but If you want to know more feel free to reach out, I’d love to help.

15 Aug

VMworld 2014 : Where I’ll Be At and What I’m Excited About

VMworld 2014 is just around the corner and I’m excited to get the opportunity to speak on a few occasions and experience and view session on others.This post is as much about shamelessly plugging a few things I’ll be involved with as it is a chance to put this all to paper for my own use. One of the downsides of being a VMware employee now is I can’t build a schedule and pre-register, but this allows customers and partners to attend the sessions they want and after all this is for you.



9:00 a.m. We’ll see how ambitious I am, but the Hands-on-labs are open at 9:00 a.m.

1:00- 4:00 Opening Acts(again we’ll see how ambitious I am) (http://blog.vmunderground.com)

4:00-7:00 Solutions Exchange Welcome Reception – Free food(i think) and a chance to meet and talk with all the companies and vendors there before the mayhem of VMworld beings. I found last year this was a great chance to say hi to a few people I knew and check out some of the vendors  before things started getting crazy with sessions and other things starting.



9:00 a.m. General session and then whatever the day brings me(probably a lot of socializing, lunch with old co-workers, and some sessions)

5:30-6:30 VAPP2457 – Hitting It Out Of The Park: vSphere and MLB Network – I am a huge baseball fan so this one should be interesting.



9:00 a.m. General session

1:00-2:00 INF3472-GD – HOL environment with Doug Baer
Group Discussions are a good way to join together with peers, guided by a VMware expert, and discuss a VMware key topic as selected by the group. I’ll be in the room with some of the same individuals from the nested virtualization tech talk on Wednesday to be part of the discussion. Love this format and I think everyone should try and make at least one group discussion, but size is limited so register early.

5:00 – 6:00 INF1192 – Ask the Experts : Design Advice for Small and Midsize Business – Jason Gaudreau,  Mike Laverick , Harley Stagner, Brian Atkinson, Sean Crookston


8:30-9:30  INF1192 – Ask the Experts : Design Advice for Small and Midsize Business – Jason Gaudreau,  Mike Laverick , Harley Stagner, Brian Atkinson, Sean Crookston

11:45-12:15 VMworld vBrownBag Tech Talk : Nested Virtualization & Dev/Test/Home Lab Panel which will include Sean Crookston, Doug Baer, Nick Marshall and William Lam . Post any questions you may have that you’d like addressed as this will be recorded.



I won’t be attending any sessions on Thursday and will instead be enjoying San Francisco with family in the morning, followed by a San Francisco Giants game at noon before departing for a quick stop in Palo Alto.


Other sessions I can’t attend but I think are important technologies and that I have for my watch later list are…

  • STO1965 – Virtual Volumes Technical Deep Dive
  • BCO1454 – Data Protection with VDP Advanced – What’s New Technical Deep Dive and Best Practices
  • STO1279 – Virtual SAN Architecture Deep Dive
  • BCO2701 – vSphere HA Best Practices and FT Tech Preview
  • STO2521 – Virtual SAN Best Practices and Use Cases
  • NET1468 – A Tale of Two Perspectives: IT Operations with VMware NSX
18 Jun

Turn the VMware vSphere Web Client into a Mac App

I personally am not a a fan of having a ton of browser tabs open at the same time, or applications at all for that matter. I find it easier to navigate applications on my mac if they have a pretty little icon at the bottom of the screen. Additionally with OSX I’m a big fan of full screening applications and a three finger swipe to switch between items. I was looking for a solution a while back to this problem and found it.

For OSX, a pretty cool app is available that I have been using and best of all the basic version is free. Fluid (http://fluidapp.com/) lets you take websites and turn them into something that is more of an ‘application’. There is a decent user base for this as I’ve been able to simply Google a few problems I’ve had and resolve any issues as result of certificate issues or flash for example.

For 4.99 you get some additional premium features that I think are well worth the purchase price including the following:

-Create Fluid Apps with Separate Cookie Storage. (Preferences → Security → Cookie Storage)
-Pin Fluid Apps to the Mac OS X Status Bar. (Fluid App Menu → Pin to Status Bar…)
-Use Userscripts or Userstyles in your Fluid Apps. (Window → Userscripts)
-Use Lion Full Screen mode in your Fluid Apps. (View → Enter Full Screen)

As for creating the application for the vSphere Web Client there are few items you may need to consider, certificates and flash. I initially experienced a issue with ‘a blocked plugin’ and In my case I don’t use Safari, so it turned out I didn’t have flash installed. Additionally you will likely have certificate issues and fluid won’t allow you to proceed unless you go into Safari and accept the certificates for the websites. By default Fluid also seems to block pop-ups and you‘ll want to enable pop-ups for this app so you can see the console sessions as needed.


Dock 2014-06-18 09-03-36

vSphere Web Client 2014-06-18 09-08-35

16 May

Some Quick Thoughts on Presenting

Fresh out of TechEd, a couple of thoughts came to mind this week about how I could be more effective in the way I deliver a presentation. One of my big goals this year has been to throw myself in the fire and present as many times as possible. This recently included a small classroom based training session with 12 participants, where I was critiqued and then forced to watch myself on video again. To me, it was more uncomfortable then speaking in front of ~100 people at PEX!



This probably stuck out more then anything after being fresh out of the aforementioned presentation training. Let the audience have time to absorb your thoughts, you don’t have to fill the whole time with your thoughts, and…..


You Don’t Need to Know Everything

People don’t expect you to know anything, and if they do they are unrealistic. If it is a topic you know well then you are going to know more then mostly everyone in the room. And what if you are presenting in front of some guy who wrote a book on the topic or some blogger? You may even know more than them, I mean they even let me write a book! If you get a question you don’t know,leverage the crowd to add to to the discussion.


Don’t be Ben Stein

Lots of boring and monotone voices in our field, which mine tops the list. If possible I think its most effective to alternate speakers. Also try and cut loose a little bit and don’t be afraid to…..


Be Authentic

I think the best people I’ve seen present are quite honestly comfortable with who they are, their message, etc. It doesn’t mean they aren’t nervous necessarily either. And please, don’t rehearse jokes. It is usually obvious, in my opinion, and you are best served going with the flow of the presentation and getting your one-liners in as you can if you are a wannabe comedian like me. In addition to this be truthful and honest about your message and answering questions you receive. This is especially important when it comes to ……



Along the same lines it is very important to respect the competition. If anything this is most important for you and your credibility. They most effective competitive messages I’ve seen typically don’t mention the competition or at least very little. They simply show the audience your organizations/products strengths, and…….


Don’t Tell the Audience What They Should Think

While I think your message should be clear about what you want the audience to gain out of something, statements that tell the audience they should do x/y/z or a/b/c will happen to them are not only wrong, but I think they are often ineffective and counteractive to the message that is being delivered.



If aren’t already familiar with the FeedForward program I recommend you check it out and the following links relevant to the topic below. In short it is a community driven program with the goal to increase participation in VMUG events. If you are attending a VMUG then you definitely have something that could be shared that would benefit others in the group.



11 May

Why Aren’t You Using Nested Virtualization ?

As someone who is leveraging nested virtualization for almost everything at this point, I often wonder what roadblocks people are running into, or if there is a reason they aren’t doing so. So tell me by posting a comment to this post, why isn’t your virtualization lab nested?

For me I have set everything up to the point where I cringe anytime I need to boot up a physical server and set it up, since it now takes me longer to do so. Of course there are specific networking requirements and considerations for managing the environments, but continued development such as VMware Tools for Nested ESXi continue to allow me to push my lab infrastructure to the fullest. For me, nested virtualization is the only way to go

Relevant to this topic I have submitted a panel session for VMworld, session id 1195, Ask The Experts : A Deep Dive Into Nested Virtualization. Whether it be questions regarding CPU compatibility, networking, infrastructure design, or automation, I have assembled a panel that is truly the set of experts on nested virtualization, and this should make this panel discussion an informative and enjoyable session.

If you want to learn more about why you should leverage nested virtualization, then make sure you vote before this Friday!

Session 1195, Ask The Experts: A Deep Dive Into Nested Virtualization


07 May

Vote for any VMworld Session and Win a Package of VMware Press Books

Congratulations to the remaining U.S. based winners! They have been notified via email over the weekend . Again thanks to VMware Press for providing these books for this giveaway



Congratulations to the two international winners, who I’ve notified by email. They have each received a digital copy of the five books mentioned later in this post.

Please be on the lookout next week for the U.S. based winners. Sorry for the delay, I will notify those winners once I have the books in my possession and arrange for shipment.


Of course I hope you have voted for all of my sessions for VMworld, but you don’t have to vote for any of them in order to have a chance at winning some free books. There are 27 books in total spread out across 7 winners.

What do you have to do?

Goto http://www.vmworld.com/voting.jspa , login with your VMworld account, and vote. Then post a comment to this blog or email me (vmworld AT seancrookston.com) indicating you voted and your location, along with any contact information you want to provide.  I’ll randomize the names and select 5 grand prize winners on the morning of May 17th  23rd.

What can you win?

-Three of these will receive physical copies of all five of the books below, but you must be in the U.S. as I’ll be shipping these out at my expense.

-Two other grand prize winners will receive digital copies of the same five books. This is for non-US based folks only.

-I’m also be giving away two copies of the book I co-authored with Harley Stagner, Managing and Optimizing vSphere Deployments.


Interested in writing a book?

A big thanks to Joan Murray, the  acquisitions editor at VMware Press who provided me with these for this giveaway. I had only asked for a few digital copies to avoid shipping stuff around the globe, but she came up with a nice set of books. If you have a great idea for a book, VMware Press is the place to start and the process of working them from beginning to end was awesome.


Managing and Optimizing vSphere Deployments | ISBN-10: 0321820479 | ISBN-13: 978-0321820471 image

*Note actual book will have my name first. Just wanted to rub this in Harley’s face = )

Administering SRM 5.0 ISBN-10: 0321799925 | ISBN-13: 978-0321799920


VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide (with DVD): VMware Certified Advanced Professional 5 – Data Center Design ISBN-10: 078975018X | ISBN-13: 978-0789750181


Networking for VMware Admins ISBN-10: 0133511081 | ISBN-13: 978-0133511086


Official VCP Cert Guide ISBN-10: 0789749319 | ISBN-13: 978-0789749314


07 May

Five Home and Work Lab Focused Sessions to Vote for at VMworld 2014

If you are reading this, you probably have a work or home lab that you use to test VMware products and solutions. The following five sessions are up for voting and focus on this such topic, showing a number of different ways to accomplish various testing and education use cases. Make sure to vote for the ones that interest you most.

I am of course particularly excited about session 1195,  Ask the Experts : A Deep Dive into Nested Virtualization . I rely 100% on nested virtualization in my lab and with the continued improvements and enhancements that have been developed I think everyone should know what their possibilities are. What excites me most is not just the content, but the individuals who have agreed to be part of the panel who truly are experts when it comes to nested virtualization.




We’ve all seen or heard of the Hands-On-Labs at VMworld. Most of us wish we had something similar. Something that would allow our developers to do rapid prototyping, some way for engineers to quickly roll out testbeds and sandboxes for new software, or someplace that our teams could use to teach others about new features and functionality. My company set out to do just that: Build our own “Hands-On-Labs”. With some vision, a lot of patience, and time the Hammer labs were built. With the right hardware and software we now deploy complex environments in minutes instead of hours or days. Where, in 8U we can host dozens of labs and 100′s of TB of data. Through a combination of vSphere, vCloud, and vCAC we managed to revolutionize our Lab infrastructure. These are the lessons we learned and the story for how you can do the same.




How would you like to test the latest VMware technologies such as VSAN faster, and without the need for more hardware? Whether it be for your home or work lab, nested virtualization enables you to do more with less. With nested virtualization it is no longer required to purchase and configure expensive hardware, allowing you to build your own white box or leverage your workstation’s hardware using VMware Workstation or Fusion. VMware enthusiasts leverage nested virtualization to play with the technologies they implement and love to use.




Come join us to learn about a new and exciting product called Project NEE and hear what it can do for your organization. Project NEE provides the mechanism to deliver true hands-on education content to anyone on the planet at cloud scale. It allows you to train on anything that you can install on an operating system. Unlike traditional CBTs, you get true system level access to an environment all the way from startup to shutdown. We provide a complete turn-key solution that requires no installation and very little setup. Use our cloud or your own cloud or any of 200+ partner vCloud Director Environments. Scale to as many students as you want without any worries regarding capacity. It is as simple as 5 minutes to sign-up, setup and you’re training. No special client downloads needed. It’s just that easy and powerful.




VMware has embarked on a new mission to improve the way our customers and partners evaluate our products. The answer is through the VMware Hands-on Labs program. We have served over 5 Million minutes of lab time to our users around the world and continue to grow everyday. In this session you will hear about how we develop our content, a peek under the covers and learn about our day to day life on how we bring to you the Hands-on Labs. In the session we will also cover how you can run your own workshops for your peers, customers and partners. This is a great session for anyone looking to reduce the amount of time it takes to evaluate VMware products, reduce the sales cycle and impress your colleagues.




2013, users of nearly 10,000 hands-on labs consumed more than 85,000 VMs during the week of VMworld in San Francisco.

Get behind-the scenes information about how the VMware Hands-on Labs are created tested, scaled and monitored for our large events and the free online service.

Come see a short presentation about the infrastructure and get your questions answered. Possible topics for discussion are Architecture, Products, Content Creation and vPod Design, Maintenance, Availability, Automation, Monitoring, Testing, Scaling, Performance and more.

If you have ever been curious to get a look behind the curtain, come to this session and bring your questions for the team

06 May

Five SMB Focused Sessions You Should Vote for At VMworld

It is official, voting is open for VMworld sessions at http://www.vmworld.com/voting.jspa . If you’ve been through the list already you will notice that there are a lot of submissions that can drown out some of the ones that may focus on your area of interest or expertise. I wanted to highlight some of the SMB focused sessions I would like to attend, or that I’m participating in of course.

Help shape VMworld for SMB by voting for sessions by 1192, 1307, 1651, 2763, 2093


Vote for session 1192 to attend an SMB focused design panel


Join several industry experts to talk about the considerations that come into play for small and midsize organizations. IT administrators at small and midsize businesses wear many hats, which requires a breadth and depth of knowledge of not just the technology, but the business as well. In this interactive design workshop, we’ll go through some of the most common challenges we see customers facing when moving towards the next generation of virtualization. Considerations will be made including management, backups, storage, & networking. 

In this interactive design workshop we’ll start by laying the foundation for virtualization. Whether your organization is new to virtualization or looking at your next steps, we’ll discuss how to gather requirements and design a robust solution. We’ll talk about properly sizing the solution based on the gathered requirements. We’ll further discuss how to protect your environment from failure and where you can most efficiently allocate your budget when doing so is a constraint. Specific consideration will be made to topics of discussion initiated by the panel and audience.

Vote for session 1307 to see what managing a virtualization infrastructure looks like from the other side


Do you want to see how much more efficient operating and managing a VMware based virtual infrastructure is when compared to the competition? It is commonplace for competitors to claim equivalence or superiority using feature based comparisons of their solutions versus ours.

Join us as we go under the hood and see first-hand these key differences from the administrative perspective.


Vote for Session 1651 to see the power of VDPa for SMB


Do you currently backup your VMware vSphere virtualized environment? Do you currently backup your Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Exchange or Microsoft SharePoint application data consistently? Do you ensure a copy of your data is securely stored offsite? If not, then this is the session for you!!

We will cover off the benefits of running VMware’s vSphere Data Protection Advanced within your SMB to backup your virtualized environment both efficiently and reliably and also how you can replicate that data offsite for disaster recovery purposes. We will show you how vSphere Data Protection Advanced is capable of backing up physical and virtual application servers such as Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft SharePoint all from an already familiar user interface and with great simplicity. You will also be pleased to know that you can leverage the power of EMC’s Data Domain appliance to further enhance your company’s backup strategy.

So, if you want to understand more about VMware’s vSphere Data Protection Advanced appliance and how it can benefit you then come along to the session.


Attend session 2763 to see how SMBs can transition to a true private cloud


One of the challenges to any small to medium business (SMB) is the transition from the traditional virtualization model to a true private cloud infrastructure. The attendees will be given the tools that they need to move towards a more effective way to operate their virtual infrastructure.


DRaaS is going to be huge for many organizations that don’t have a dedicated DR site, attend session 2093 to find out more


Your organization can use DRaaS to replicate not only data backups, but also its virtual environments, and store them at a cloud-based, offsite location. When disaster strikes, replicated data can be restored and infrastructures run in the cloud as virtual machines. There are many benefits to this virtual-to-cloud protection approach, but the key is to keep it in balance with your overall solution mix. Leveraging a multi-environment platform of physical, virtual and cloud-configured technologies is the best way for an organization to play it safe and improve storage utilization across the enterprise.