May 1

VMworld, Booth Babes, Models in the #MeToo Era

Note: Computer Weekly’s article 2010 gave a what is meant to be a tongue-in-check guide to surviving life as booth babe… I’m NOT quite sure it hits the mark.


On last week’s VMTN Podcast (Talkshoe / Facebook Live) the discussion turned to VMWorld 2018. I asked our genial host, Eric Nielsen what the official VMworld Policy was towards the use of “Booth Babes” or “Models” was in the post-Weinstein, #MeToo era. It can hardly escaped peoples attention that this is a touchstone topic of our era. Recent events in the UK’s “Presidents Club” have highlighted the dangers of employing young women into the murky world of so-called “Corporate Hospitality” and conference events.

There’s something implicitly wrong with it because it is nearly always gender-biased. In that people employed to be “Booth Babes” are nearly universally young women – and the implication is that such events are uniformly populated by heterosexual men, who enjoy ogling women old enough to be their daughters, and in some cases grand-daughters. Of course, that doesn’t apply to everyone. #NotAllMen. However, the implication or message sent out by such activities suggest that the event is not for gay men or women of any sexuality.

I’m not least political correct or wishing to hector or carp. Indeed, a quick scour of the internet you’ll be able to find photos of me with “booth babes” at previous VMworld. This was something I used to do wind-up my EX who was convinced that I was living the high-life at VMworld, rather than busting my butt, and returning to my hotel room utterly shattered. I’m not especially proud of doing this on more levels than just one…

I also recall the discomfort felt at bloggers table one year when John Troyer raised the issue. I made the point that there were no muscle men in little gold metallic hot-pants for the delectation of the gay men or heterosexual women who attended VMworld. My assertion was despite the event being heavily dominated by men, it does rather assume they are heterosexual.

[[[Insert photo of man in gold hot pants]]]

Remember its the sponsors who engage in this crass behaviour. And by doing so they demonstrate scant regard for their clients, customers and attendees – as they assume they are as crass as their PR/Marketing Team. A little story might help illustrate the effect such actions of sponsors has on women attending the event. When I was employed at VMware I attended an event EXPO Event in Docklands – where I was helping a very well-known partner pitch their VMware related offering. As we were setting up one of the partner’s employees sidles up me and asked

“So what about her, eh?” 

He pointed in the general direction of a young woman, no more than 20, in an all in one lycra cycling outfit. Given her age and duties, I think it was safe to say she wasn’t employee, and wasn’t there to engage delegates with the technical merits of her booths technology. This is classic alpha-male “signalling” beloved of many a locker room in High School. It is a classic “are you one of us” test. Given my new status, you can imagine – I didn’t really feel like that I had anything in common with him. The young woman was younger than my step-daughter. I mumbled something and looked away. I felt awkward.

Things took a turn for the worst when the partner turned to a female member of his staff dressed in simple corporate polo shirt – the standard attire of regular booth staffer:

“Why don’t you wear something like that?” he said

So there I am stuck between them. The lady looks at me. And I think what do I do? Do I just let this slide? Do I leave it to her to say something? Looking for way out, I groped for my weapon of first defence – sarcasm.

“So… This must be Phase Two of the diversity and inclusivity training I have heard soooooo much about in your organisation?”

I hope my story gives you an idea of how “booth babes” sanctions and condones a certain level of behaviour – and contributes to making everyone regardless of gender or sexuality, feel incredible awkward, and he’s the important part – unwelcome. This event is not for you it says…


Anyway, back to my story. I asked Eric for VMware’s official policy on “booth babes” and “models” is…. Here’s what he was able to dig out for me….


“Hi here is what the event team responded with. I know they have kicked non-compliant vendors off the floor in years past. Since those high profile events, vendors take it seriously as does VMware.

———- event team response ——

Hi Eric,

Here’s our booth staff policy. This is part of the Rules and Regulations document that all sponsors and exhibitors must accept in order to participate in the event.

Booth Staff
* VMware discourages the use of professional talent for booth or demonstration staff. Show Management reserves the right to remove any person(s) from the Event or Mandalay Bay Convention Center that do not have an Event badge, are improperly badged, are unprofessionally or objectionably dressed or other persons that behave in a manner deemed unprofessional or objectionable by Show Management.

Amanda Johnson
Sponsorship Manager, Global Events


I think it is great that VMware has policy. But I have some concerns.

Firstly, I’m little bit troubled about the use of the term “discourages”. A stronger term would be “prohibits”.

Secondly, the emphasis on appearance rather misses a point (whilst highlighting an issue with the way some “booth babes” are scantily clad and often sexualised) For me the bigger issue is not this issue of how someone is dressed (I might add this is a deeply subjective judgement call) but the fact that anyone even someone “professionally attired” is at booth for how they look, not for what they know about a technology or what they contribute to the company.

I feel a better policy would prohibit professional “talent” or “demonstration staff” – and opt for “employees only” policy. I recognise this might unduly hit contractors who work for these companies, but aren’t on the payroll. But I feel unless a policy is 100% clear, it is open to “creative interpretation” and outright abuse. It could also impact on entertainment that is harmless – such as the magic acts you sometimes see. Perhaps once we have rid the IT sector “booth babes” the policy could be relaxed or allow for more discretion.

Finally, any policy of any type is really only as good as its enforcement. Eric reassures me that VMware takes this seriously, and due to its enforcement in the past – vendors have got the message. I wasn’t at last years VMworld so I can’t testify to that. I would be interested to know what you think?

Let me know via twitter?

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October 9

VMworld EU 2014: Take the EVO:RAIL Challenge!


Yes, I know it sounds like the Pepsi challenge!

Here’s what it is. In the Hangspace at VMworld there will be two EVO:RAILs and to entrants in the challenge will race against each other to setup an EVO:RAIL appliance. The fastest individual will win a coveted golden ticket to VMworld 2015. Space is VERY limited as only a group of 30 attendees to participate in the EVO: RAIL Challenge. If selected, you’ll be given the chance to compete in a race against time to build an EVO:RAIL Appliance. The two challenge participants with the overall best times will compete in the Final Challenge, which will take place on Thursday, 16 October at 12:00 in the Hang Space, Hall 7.0.

So if you want to take part. You need to be quick. You enter by completing this survey

Note: ** Pass valid for VMworld 2015 US or Europe Conference Pass only, all travel, hotel and all other expenses are the responsibility of the winner.

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September 5

VMTN Community Roundtable Podcast #294 – VMworld Wrap-up & Open Mic

In this weeks show myself and Eric chew the fat over the slue of announcements at last weeks VMworld. I dunno, but in this modern era’s taste of “Apple” style big-vision announcements – I occasionally feel the meat and potatoes is lost amongst everything be liquid, brave and having No Limits [You had to be there!]. For me the top news along side EVO:RAIL was how vCloud Automation Center was going to be “put on the internet” or what people say – made as SaaS based offering in the Cloud. Somehow I feel “put on the internet” is easier for Common People to understand. The thing is going to badged as “vCloud Automation Air”. Yeah, I could relate Air to vRealise and how things are liquid. But I won’t bother…

Anyway, if you want a round-up of VMworld click no futher!

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September 2

VMworld 2014 – SwagBag – The EVO:RAIL Special

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 10.55.25

It’s that time of year again, where I gather up swag from the VMworld Solutions Exchange, and stuff a bag with goodies. This year things are bit different – this year I have two bags to raffle away for charity. I have two EVO:RAIL branded bags which have the spoils of the solution exchange split between them. To stand a chance of winning the bag you must either attend:

The UK User Conferrence Event on Tuesday, November 18, 2014 at National Motorcycle Museum, near Birminghams NEC


The 21st VMUGBE+ Meeting in Brussels, Belguim on the Friday, Novemeber 21, 2014.

…and of course, buy a ticket from me. They will be £1 a strip at the UK event, an €1 a strip at the Brussels event…

All the monies raised will be donated to UNICEF, ideally via the VMware Foundation to double the amount raised…

But for now. Drumroll. I’d like to present the 4th Annual VMworld 2014 SwagBag Awards:

I would like to thank the vendors who donated “Quality Swag” including: Citrix, FlexEra Software, X-IO, Pure Storage, Zerto, Infinidat, HP, Hitachi, Veeam, QIRX, Unitrends, NaviSite, Emulex, Shavlek, Infoblox, OneDeck, UniSys, CPacket, vBrownBag, PernixData, Plexxi, and Eric Nielson of the VMTN Community Podcast,


August 25

What’s New at VMware VMwold: EVO:RAIL and EVO:RACK

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 16.00.06



You can post questions to the forum –

Resources (User Guide, Datasheet, Technical Videos)

Well, announced to today after much speculation is EVO:RAIL (the project formally known as “Marvin” or “Starburst). It’s not to be confused with EVO:RACK which a TechPreview, and developed by different team down the corridor at HilltopB.

If you want to see EVO:RAIL in the flesh, and your at VMworld – come down to the booth where you might end up talking to me OR head over to the special EVO:RAIL Zone where some of our hardware partners will be there to show you the tin, and talk about their work.

So the basics. EVO is from Evolution, and RAIL is from the fact that the product is 4-node box with vSphere5.5 and Virtual SAN ready to rock and roll. You can see the way things are going when it comes to building out a new environment with software-definited everything. You can either BYO (Build Your Own) by consulting the HCL and buying the supported hardware. You can approach VCE (VMware/Cisco/EMC) for a vBlock or NetApp partner for a referrence architeture based on FlexPod (VMware, Cisco/NetApp). Now there’s a third option – an EVO:RAIL… and shortly after that EVO:RACK.

You can see the EVO: RAIL as being part of the new catagory we called “Hyper-converged”. That distinguises itself from converged architectures (vBlock/Flexpod) because there isn’t a storage array here, but VMware VSAN.

Firstly, VMware is NOT getting into the hardware business – its working with its trusted OEM partners, to create a competitive market place for EVO:RAIL. You can vote with your regular hardware vendor, or you can shop around. It’s your choice. The speeds, and feeds will be be broadly similiar in the 1.0 release. It will be really up to the OEMs to compete with each other, and perhaps add additional services, support or whatever. That means the EVO:RAIL experience with OEM VendorA should be broadly the same as OEM VendorB.

Key Features – its a 2U box which contains in it 4-nodes running VMware vSphere 5.5 U2. You can couple together 4 EVO:RAIL appliances together to create a 16-node cluster (4×4). New EVO:RAIL appliances are discovered on the network, and are automatically configured and enrolled into the EVO:RAIL using the Zero Network Configuration methodology. Actually, a significant amount of work has done by our very skilled engineers to re-enginer this (something we call Loud Mouth), which has result in patents being filed. Each node in the EVO:RAIL presents 192GB of RAM, and 6-cores with two 10GB network interfaces (used in a Active/Standby Standard Swith configuration) with secondary 1Gbps BMC interface – management, VMotion, Virtual SAN and VM networking is all driven by the 10Gbps cards.  One EVO:RAIL appliance (populated with 4-nodes) presents 16TB worth storage which is a combination of SSD (for use with Virtual SAN) and HHD. Using some internal testing we reckon conservatively one EVO:RAIL will support about server 100VMs or about 250 virtual desktops. If you went all the way up to 4 EVO:RAIL nodes you would be looking at 400 server VMs in total, or 1000 virtual desktops. Finally, EVO:RAIL comes with its own patch management and upgrade process (which isn’t based on VMware Update Manager – you might be quite pleased about that?). So unlike some other solutions which come with their own unique upgrade/patch management technologies – this should be a simplier model to upgrading.

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 16.54.57

So what are the use-cases. Well, conventional server consolidation is one for perhaps a reasonable sized SMB (who needs more than two-node or three node cluster would provide based on something like vSphere Foundation). I think ROBO or perhaps retail sector may well be interested as well – and as EVO:RAIL is based on vSphere 5.5 U2, all the other technologies that intergrate with vSphere. So it could be used as target for vCAC or used in a colocation facilitity to be a target for SRM/VR DR scanarios. Personally, I think the SMB/ROBO segment will be where the product gets it fastest adoption. But I also I think that EVO:RAIL could sit along side an existing environment for specific  project – such Horizon View.

So in summary: 100% VMware, provided in a competitive marketplace delivered by OEMs you know. Not a single source appliance from a single vendor based around a VSA model, but embedded deep in the kernel. Although EVO:RAIL is 1.0 product – its based on technologies that have been tried and tested by customers around the world (ESX, vCenter, LogInsight). Get it up and running in minutes, and add additional EVO:RAIL appliances in scale-out model in even less time by autodiscovery process driven by Loud Mouth.

In my next blogpost I will be delving in more into what the customer experiences is like, and some of the requirements needed prior to setting up the first EVO:RAIL.

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August 19

My VMworld 2014 – Session List



Booth Duty:
I’ve #VMworld booth duty. Come and meet me in the EVO:RAIL Pavilion near the Solutions Exchange – Mon 1-3pm; Wed 1-3pm; Wed 2-5pm

If your not at this years VMworld Event – you can post questions to the forum –

The conferrence has video all about EVO:RAIL… Check it out here:

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 16.15.18

For some reason “No Limits” always makes me think of song by 2UNLIMITED – “No Limits”

This isn’t really my sort of beat-combo music, but its testiment to how some high-energy, high-octane danze music can give you an ear-worm…

Well, this post is long over-due but its really my own recommended list of VMworld 2014 sessions. These particular session are somewhat last minute, and they only appear in the schedule builder recently – so you may want to review your sessions if you have already done so – to free up some slots.  Before I name check those… I shoud pimp my own ride…

IMPORTANT: In order for these hyperlinks to work you must be logged in to BOTH the site AND Session Builder.

Hands on Lab

If you want to actually play with EVO:RAIL there is a HOL-SDC-1428 – VMware EVO:RAIL Introduction

INF1192 – Ask the Experts : Design Advice for Small and Midsize Business

Tuesday, Aug 26, 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM – Moscone West, Room 3002
Wednesday, Aug 27, 8:30 AM – 9:30 AM – Marriott, Yerba Buena Level, Salon 7

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.

SDDC1337 – Technical Deep Dive on EVO:RAIL, The new VMware Hyper-Converged Appliance

In this session,Duncan Epping and Dave Shanley with provide technical details for VMware and Hyper-Converged Infrastructure. Dave Shanley – Lead Engineer, VMware

Tuesday, Aug 26, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM – Marriott, Yerba Buena Level, Salon 1
Wednesday, Aug 27, 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM – Marriott, Yerba Buena Level, Salon 7
Duncan Epping – Principal Architect, VMware

SDDC3245-S – Software-Defined Data Center through Hyper-Converged Infrastructure

Monday, Aug 25, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM – Moscone South, Gateway 103
Chris Wolf – VP & Americas CTO, VMware
Mornay Van Der Walt – VP, Emerging Solutions, VMware

The Software-Defined Data Center is the indisputable future of IT. The question for you then becomes how to get your company and IT organization there and where do you start. Key consideration factors include choice, flexibility, time to value, ongoing maintenance, ease of use and budget, amongst others. With these in mind, and understanding that there is no single “one size fits all” solution, VMware offers several ways to get you to the Software-Defined Data Center. In this session, Chris Wolf, VP and Americas Chief Technology Officer, and Mornay Van Der Walt, a Vice President in Emerging Solutions, will dive deeper into new solutions based on vSphere and Virtual SAN that will transform the end-to-end user experience as you know it today—from initial purchase to deployment to ongoing maintenance and support.

SDDC2095 – Overview of EVO:RAIL: The Radically New Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Appliance 100% Powered by VMware

Monday, Aug 25, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM – Moscone West, Room 3001
Bryan Evans – Senior Product Manager, VMware, Inc.

Come learn how Hyper-Converged Infrastructure can simplify deployment and implementation of your Software Defined Datacenter.

SDDC1818 – VMware Customers discuss the new VMware EVO:RAIL, and how Hyper-Converged Infrastructure is impacting how they manage and deploy Software Definited Infrastructure
Tuesday, Aug 26, 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM – Moscone West, Room 3014

Bryan Evans – Senior Product Manager, VMware, Inc.
Michael McDonough – Director of Business Development and Alliances, VMware, Inc.

Come hear how VMware customers are utilizing Hyper-Converged Infrastructure in their vSphere deployments.

BCO2629 – Site Recovery Manager and vSphere Replication: What’s New Technical Deep Dive

Wednesday, Aug 27, 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM – Marriott, Yerba Buena Level, Salon 9
Thursday, Aug 28, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM – Moscone West, Room 2024

Ken Werneburg – Senior Technical Marketing Architect, VMware
Jeff Hunter – Senior Technical Marketing Architect, VMware

SRM and vSphere Replication are mature products that can be used as the bedrock of a disaster recovery plan for your virtual infrastructure. Come learn in technical detail how the advances in these key products in 2014 enhance the capabilities of DR, to protect any environment from small through enterprise environments. We will have top experts from VMware’s technical marketing group present to you on the use cases and features of these two products to give you a full understanding of what these new changes enable, and how they work.

STO2496 – vSphere Storage Best Practices: Next-Gen Storage Technologies

Tuesday, Aug 26, 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM – Moscone West, Room 2020
Wednesday, Aug 27, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM – Marriott, Yerba Buena Level, Salon 15

Rawlinson Rivera – Sr. Technical Marketing Architect, VMware, Inc
Chad Sakac – SVP, Global Systems Engineering, EMC
Vaughn Stewart – Chief Technical Evangelist, Pure Storage

This VMware Technical Communities Session will present a technical best practices with emerging storage technologies for vSphere. The storage industry is experiencing a high level of innovation that will influence your next datacenter refresh. Storage industry experts present this session in a vendor neutral perspective on best practices with storage infrastructure technologies spanning host-based acceleration, all-flash, and hyper-converged. Vaughn and Chad focused on delivering a deep technical session and have invited Rawlinson Rivera of VMware to join and expand the knowledge transfer. This session will present best practices that span connectivity, performance, availability and failure domains, data protection and automation.

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May 6

VMworld 2014 Voting…

Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 14.47.04

This year I haven’t submit a session to VMworld 2014. Never fear I will be there, either as co-speaker (assuming the session I’m helping with gets selected) or just as humble attendee. The session I’m hoping to co-speak on is actually a panel session.

Voting is now open to the public – so if any of these appeal – you know what to do!

1192 Ask the Experts : Design Advice for Small and Midsize Business

Brian Atkinson/Harley Stagner/Sean Crookston/Jason Gaudreau/Mike Laverick

It’s proposed by Sean Crookston who’s in my team. There’s a number of other sessions from folks in my team including:

1558 Why VMware NSX? Comparing your network virtualization options

Brad Hedlund, Engineering Architect, VMware

Sal Lopez, Sr. Technical Marketing Engineer, VMware

2342 Choosing the Right Cloud for Your Apps: Comparing VMware Hybrid Clouds and Commodity IaaS

Jim Armstrong, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, VMware 

2517 Panel Session – Customers talk about Advantages of Migrating from Competitive Platforms onto VMware

Haresh Khatwani, Product Marketing, VMware, Inc.

Multiple Customers Dierbergs, Exostar and Gridway Solutions, IT Executives, Dierbergs, Exostar and Gridway Solutions

1555 The Quest for the Holy Grail – Self Healing Systems Through Performance Monitoring and Automation

Thomas Bryant, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, VMware

2459 Your Most Important Data Center Decision: The Hypervisor Choice

Cameron Sturdevant, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, VMware

Stan Thampi, Server Operations, Project Leader, Cornerstone Home Lending, Inc.

Randy Curry, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, VMware

1195 Ask the Experts : A Deep Dive into Nested Virtualization

Doug Baer, Jim Mattson, Chris Wahl, Sean Crookston, William Lam

1307 Under the Hood: Comparing Virtual Infrastructure and Management Choices

Randy Curry, Senior Product Marketing Manager, VMware, Inc.

Sean Crookston, Competitive Marketing Engineer, VMware, Inc.

1360 Understanding the Forest for the Trees: Insight into the VMware Cloud Management Position Amongst the Crowded Vendor Landscape

Thomas Bryant, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, VMware

Ben Scheerer, Director of Product Marketing, VMware

1564 Virtualization Rookie or Pro: Why VMware is the Best Choice for Your Software Defined Enterprise

Eric Horschman, Product Marketing Director, VMware

Jeff Margolese, Sr. Director, Product Marketing, VMware

October 13

My VMworld 2013 EU Session List…

Well, I’m getting ready for the tip. Bags are packed, boarding passes printed etc. Heading of this year VMworld 2013 in Barcelona. Not sure if the event will be in Barcelona next year, but I’m hoping it will be elsewhere in Europe. That’s no slight on BCN by the way – myself and wife have had holiday there and will always cherish the time we spent in Guadi’s house and the cathedral. I’m just think of the people from outside the EU who travel to the event – I think its nice to show them the wide diversity of the continent. I’m thinking of places I have NOT been to in Europe yet (there’s still loads). So I’m voting for Lake Garda, Italy next year. 😉

Anyway, its fashionable to share one’s session selections online, and I’m one is always keen to be fashionable. THE MOST IMPORTANT session to me has to be:

PHC5752 – Data In, Data Out and Data Protected
Thursday, Oct 17, 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM
– Hall 8.0, Room B3

The reason being is its my session, so its kind of important that I’m there. Ostensibly its about vCloud Connector and how it can be used to move VMs/vApp from vSphere/vCloud Director into a private or public vSphere/vCloud Director environment. The emphasis in the session is on our own vCloud Hybrid Service – and flags up unique options from transfer such as the “Offline Data Transfer” (ODT) package. The session also looking briefly at the Data Protection – or in other words “backup” options that available in the vCloud Hybrid Service.

Of course there are loads of sessions I want to attend – mainly the ones I couldn’t get to at VMworld US. What I don’t get to see at the US/EU I will pick up on via the website. But this is my hitlist – note there are some overlaps – but I’m assuming I might fail to get into some of these, or miss the start….

VMworld 2013 – Event Itinerary

Continue reading

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September 11

The 1st Inaugural – VendorSwagVMworldBag Awards 2013


Before I begin I have a number of people to thank for making this possible. I’d like to thank the sponsors for supporting the VMUG, without them there would be no VendorSwag. Secondly, I’d like to thank Tim Gleed (@timgleed) for donating is VMworld Bag at VMworld US. Tim works for VCE and has helped on the vBrownbags as well.

Thanks Tim!

I’d also like to thank that guy on twitter who gave me is idea. I’ve tried in vain to relocate you. But I’m afraid I forgot your name. Whoever you are – you’re responsible for this cosmic karma.

Well, I say this is the 1st. But there was a VMworld SwagBag award a couple of years ago that me and David Davis jointly ran. During my travels around various VMUGs I’m often attracted to the free swag on offer in the solutions exchange. Of course, there is a lot of rubbish to be sifted thru – pens, crappy 2GB memory sticks stuffed with docs (but handy for giving to folks when you have a lot of photos to share with family or as boot devices for ESXi!) mints and so on.

What I have done is collected the very best of the VendorSwag I could find and stuffed them into anniversary edition of the VMworld 2013 Bag. The bag and its contents can be won if you:

a.) Attend the UK VMUG on the 21st Novemeber at the Birmingham, Motorcycle Museum. REGISTER HERE! Right now there’s special offer on hotel for those coming to stay the night before. There will be lots of very interesting speakers and its great chance to network with your peers. Confirmed speakers include:

Joe Bagley (Fresh from being on stage at the VMworld Keynote!)
Duncan Epping
Massimo Re Ferre
Brian Gammage
Ray Heffer
Cormac Hogan
Scott Lowe
Matthew Steiner


b.) buy a strip of tickets from me on the day…


c.) your ticket gets called out… You must be there to win it – and you MUST where my stupid sunglasses for a grip-and-grin photograph.

All monies raised will be donated to charity – possibly UNICEF or perhaps a UK-only charity. Haven’t decided yet.


Drumroll. The audience has settled. The lights have been dimmed. The 1st Annual VendorSwagBag Awards are about to begin. How will win best luggage tag? Who will win best supporting mints? Who will best stress ball? Watch the video to find out…

September 3

VMworld 2013: What’s new in vSphere5.5: Storage

Note: Special thanks to my esteemed colleague Cormac Hogan for answering some of my questions when I was writing this post. To learn more about VAAI unmap check out Cormac’s rather excellent blogpost: VAAI Thin Provisioning Block Reclaim/UNMAP In Action

There’s lots of news stuff storage wise in vSphere5.5. I could use this space to talk about VSAN (apparently the v is capitalized?!?!) and vFRC (stands for vSphere Flash Read Cache apparently the V is not capitalized and vFlash was regards as too snappy and easy to remember :-p ) – but I want to keep those separate for now, and focus on the core platform.

16GB Fibre-Channel Support

vSphere 5.5 now completely support 16GB FC end-to-end. Previously, 16GB was supported natively at the vSphere host, but once you got to the ports connecting to the storage array this was teamed to multiple 8GB. This looked like this:


Now with vSphere 5.5 the 16GB support is native to array, and looks like this:


I imagine that this was largely a Q&A effort with VMware working with its storage partners to get gear required qualified for the HCL.

Microsoft Clustering Services (MSCS)

Yeah, I know its mad. Folks still run MSCS in guest. I can’t believe it myself that this junk is still used, never mind that Microsoft persists in retro-fitting it to offer availability to VMs on Hyper-V. Talk about if all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. In fairness though a lot of people do still use MSCS to help with patching critical systems. You can’t help thinking if Windows was more robust as OS that the up times of single instance would be good enough for most people. Anyway, the news is that Windows 2012 clustering is supported. It took sometime, and the process was complicated by funkiness involved in the Microsoft EULA – the less said about that the better. The support has been extended not just to include FC backed storage, but iSCSI as well. iSCSI always worked for me in my lab, but it wasn’t QA’d and not officially supported. There’s also now support for iSCSI inside the guest OS as well as the iSCSI initiator in vSphere. I don’t see much advantage to using the Microsoft iSCSI initiator as it gives you more admin work to do…The other good news is 5-node MCSC cluster are to be supported on FC, iSCSI and FCoE. Sadly, MSCS will not be supported on ToE (Token Ring over Ethernet) 😉

Permanent Device Loss/All Paths Down (PDL & APD)

In rare case you can experience PDL/APD where access to storage is lost completely. That can be due to hardware failures or major power loss to the rack. APD and PDL are terms used in SCSI sense codes to indicate that storage has come unavailable. This starts life as indication of APD, and then moves to PDL status after a period of time. The difference is with PDL is that the host stops trying to reach storage it cannot reach. The logic behind the APD/PDL process has been improved, and should mean that dead devices do not lurk around in the storage device list. Remember that a vSphere host see’s 256 LUNs (0-255) maximum so cleaning up the list can be important. Of course, if the device comes back online, all that’s need is a rescan for it to be discovered, and the VMFS mounted.

VAAI Unmap

As you may (or may not) know VAAI Unmap concerns the process by which thinly provisioned data/vmdk disk space is recouped to the overall system. As you might know when you delete stuff in the world of computers, it doesn’t actually get deleted – just marked for deletion. That can cause problems in the thin world because disk space isn’t restored back to the overall storage system. It’s a particular pain in environments where large amounts of temp data is created and then destroyed again. VAAI introduced the SCSI unmap primitive to fix this issue. Initially, it was enabled by default in vSphere5.0 but then it was made a manual process with subsequent updates – that’s because of the law of unintended consequences – the unmap process could negatively affect performance on some storage arrays.

There have been some improvements made here. It’s still a manual process using the vmkfstools -y command (currently this is executed in the path of the datastore where you want to free up space and uses a % value to indicate how much free space to reclaim – it creates a temp file to handle the process, and care must be taken in specifying to high a percentage value, and accidentally filling the volume) with vSphere5.5 this % value has been changed to use a block size instead. The vmkfstools -y it’s joined by a new addition to the esxcli command – called esxcli storage vmfs unmap. The esxcli method does the unmap exactly the same as the vmkfstools -y. I think its addition is to make sure esxcli remains a complete toolset rather than having different commands for different functions. It’s taken quite a feat of engineering to maintain the unmap functionality, whilst accommodating the new 62TB disk size.

VMFS Heap Size

VMFS has a “heap size” value of 30TB limit on open files, that’s despite the fact that vSphere5.5 supported 64TB disks. Very rarely it is possible to run out of heap size, this was caused by the file system not clearing out indirect file system pointers correctly. Essentially, the issue was VMFS not evicting stale files system points in a timely enough fashion. Previous updates have fixed the issue by merely increasing the heap size value. In vSphere5.5 this issue has been properly addressed by improving the reclamation of heap space. It now means the heap size allocation has returned to a more acceptable level. So the 256MB heap size now allows access to all the 62TB available to a VM.