VMUG Advantage: Its Not a Sales Pitch When You Love the Product

My final post of #Blogtober2018 is going to be about a program I love and a must have for anyone who works on VMware technology, VMUG Advantage. My transition to IT is almost entirely self taught. I depended extensively on my home lab as a method to generate experience. Looking for demos, NFR, free trials and home lab licensing became an art form for me. To this day I have never found a better source than VMUG Advantage.

VMUG Membership

Note the red arrow. EVALExperince gives you access to practically the entire VMware product line. You don’t have to signup for VMware Advantage to enjoy the benefits of VMUG itself. You can join the VMUG community for free here. This will get you access to meetings and UserCons which are invaluable for networking and just plain fun. But the icing on the cake is EVALExperience.

Financial benefits

The financial benefits for test takers cannot be understated. At the time of this writing the VCAP exam cost 450$. One test will almost pay for Advantage itself. If you currently do not have a VCP or greater, then you will most likely need a training class before you can sit for the exam. These classes can be thousands of dollars. The 20% discount that EVALExperience gives on training classes can quickly become no small sum.

Learning and Experience

But more to the point, I want to emphasize the main benefit of Advantage is not  financial. What was and still is important to me is experience. This is experience that you might never be able to gain access to on your own. When I started out in IT, I put experience gained by the EVALExperience program on my resume. When asked about it by potential employers, I explained that it was in my home lab. I would challenged the interviewer to put me in front of a console and see what I could do based solely on experience I gained from my home lab. “If I can do it, it really does not matter where I learned it from, ” I would say. I would never have been able to say that without EVALExperience.

I’ll leave you with a list of the benefits below. Save money. Get experience. Join VMUG Advantage.

EVALExperience

Discounts

20% Discount on VMware Training Classes
20% Discount on VMware Certification Exams
35% Discount on VMware Certification Exam Prep Workshops (VCP-NV)
35% Discount on VMware Lab Connect
$100 Discount on VMworld Attendance

Licensing

Data Center & Cloud Infrastructure
VMware vCenter Server v6.x Standard
VMware vSphere ESXi Enterprise Plus with Operations Management

Networking & Security
VMware NSX Enterprise Edition
VMware vRealize Network Insight

Storage and Availability
VMware vSAN
VMware Site Recovery Manager

Cloud Management
VMware vRealize Log Insight
VMware vRealize Operations
VMware vRealize Automation 7.3 Enterprise
VMware vRealize Orchestrator
VMware vCloud Suite Standard

Desktop & Application Virtualization
VMware Horizon Advanced Edition
VMware vRealize Operations for Horizon

Personal Desktop
VMware Fusion Pro 11
VMware Workstation Pro 15

Sources: Licensing Discounts Signup

 

Don’t Be the Angry IT Guy

I have not always been in IT. My previous roles have been in healthcare as a practitioner. Being able to look from both sides of the glass, I often muse about the perception of IT people . Angry is the most common perception, but also elitist, rude and someone who makes you feel dumb. Us non-IT people would talk around the cooler about how so and so had met one of those criteria. We had one guy who was so rude to a colleague the she would break down and cry. Ironically, I now work in IT and can better understand frustrations. Across a number of roles, I have been in situations where someone might have seen me as any angry IT guy. Now seeing both sides of the fence, I wanted to write a quick post about how we as IT people can bridge the gap.

The Angry IT Guy

Stereotypes are often unfair or flat out wrong. But at the same time they can be a window into group perception. Like it or not, the angry IT guy is one of the most common perceptions. It is so common that Saturday Night Live parodied it (Nick Burns). Of course, an IT person will counter that if you had to deal with what they had to deal with, you would be angry too. But I must challenge my IT colleagues by saying that is not good enough. I have found four truths that help me be kind and professional, while still being able to get things done.

Truth 1: Computers Can Make Even Smart People Feel Dumb

My first job was at a help desk for an outpatient clinic system. On a daily basis, I worked with doctors and their computers. I would watch and observe the doctors interactions with computers and see their frequent frustrations (often directed at me). But I though hard about how to respond. I could tell that their lack of computer knowledge made them feel dumb. Apart and unrelated to me, they felt dumb. People are accustomed to feeling confident in what they know. This can lead them to avoid working on things they don’t know. Many of the doctors I worked with found it easier to not learn the details of computing and instead direct frustration at IT staff. “This never works” sounds a lot better than, “I don’t know how this works” in the eyes of most people.

The solution was to enable the doctors. While always being mindful of what I was saying and how it might inadvertently make them feel dumb, I would encourage them and guide them to the correct steps. I would often write instructions and tape them to their desks. They where grateful and I excelled. Now you might argue, “We can’t babysit or help people who don’t want to learn.” But frankly, I focused on how the interaction helped me. I was seen as someone who “bridged the gap”. It helped my career and I moved out of the help desk role quickly.

Truth 2: Computers Can Make Even Dumb People Feel Smart

Be humble and approachable. Hubris is ugly. IT people deal daily with complex technical details that require absolute precision. So when you have successes, it can be exhilarating. The problem arises when we use computer knowledge as the gauge for someones skill set. Each person is different and they contribute their own knowledge from study and life. It can be easy to view someone as dumb if they ask what we think is a simple question. But the problem is that people see our judgement of them. If you happen to watch the video I linked above, Nick Burns eventually tells the woman to “MOVE”. Everyone around could see that in essence he was judging her as not smart enough. That’s never going to help you in life. Being aware of this has helped me as I have moved up over the years. No matter how complex a system I might be working on, there is always someone smarter than me.

Truth 3: People Don’t Have To Learn the Computer Details If They Don’t Want To

Anger often comes from feelings of unfairness. IT people have complained to me in the past that its not fair that they have to teach people even simple things one day only to have the same person ask them again the next day. Frustration quickly builds when people don’t want to learn about computers. But the thing for me is this: they don’t have to. I don’t want to learn the details of how to fix my car. I don’t care. Funny thing is my mechanic does not care that I don’t learn either. He benefits from it. But you might argue again, “Why do I have to do everything for people who are unwilling to learn?” You don’t. Provide them the tools to learn, and in a patient, understanding manner, explain that you can’t help today and encourage them to follow the steps you previously provided. When your perception changes about what they “should” do, so will your experience with them and ultimately, their perception of you.

Truth 4: IT Is Not The Point

This one can be hard to swallow for many of us. But ultimately, IT is a tool for a company to succeed. I have seen many IT people, including myself, be offended when people point this out to us.  Our natural reaction is, “This place would not function without me!” But the truth is, a company would fall apart if anyone didn’t do their job. Information Technology, while important, is no more important than other part of the business. Everyone who works for the company is contributing and should be recognized as such. Once again, your perception of yourself shapes how you interact with non-IT staff. If you see your job as more important than others’ jobs, its going to show when you interact with others. There’s no way around that.

I hope these truths have been helpful as you think about how you can bridge the gap in your professional life.

 

 

No Theory Here: Adding ESXi Hosts to a Windows Domain

Here we go, round two for #Blogtober2018 – Tech Edition. The tricky thing about writing technical content for a blog is that most likely it has already been covered and covered in better detail. Today’s post is no different, so I’m going to post some links to great guides that go in depth on how to join an ESXi host to a domain. So if you want more detail or really want to know the “why” and “how”, check these out:

https://kb.vmware.com/s/article/2075361

https://www.altaro.com/vmware/how-to-join-esxi-to-active-directory-for-improved-management-and-security/

http://vcloud-lab.com/entries/esxi-installation-and-configuration/join-domain-esxi-to-an-active-directory-ou-powercli

But my goal in today’s post is function over depth. No theory, only practical application. I’m going to provide a script I wrote to join all the hosts in a specific cluster to my domain., focusing on providing something that quickly gets the job done, while avoiding theory if possible.

Part One: The Setup

There are two main things I needed to do in AD before adding ESXi hosts. First, I needed to create an AD Security group to hold accounts that will be used to log into ESXi. This is the group that users must be a part of to authenticate to the ESXi host once joined to the domain.

New-ADGroup -Name "VMware Admins" -Path "OU="VMware Admins",DC=domain,dc=root" -GroupScope Global -GroupCategory Security

Save the group name; it will be used as an argument for one of the parameters in the script we use.

The second thing I needed to do was get the canonical name where I wanted the newly created host computer accounts to land once it was created. I had previously created the OU, so all I needed now was to get the canonical name and save it:

Get-ADOrganizationalUnit -Filter "Name -eq 'ESXi Hosts OU you want to use'" -Properties canonicalname | Select-Object canonicalname

Same as before, save the canonical name since you will be using it as an argument later.

Finally, ensure the following are true before running the script to avoid any errors later on:

  • Ensure ESXi host and domain controllers share NTP source.
  • ESXi host must have an A record in the domain.
  • Proper firewall ports must be open on ESXi Hosts. If you have a restrictive setup, be sure to check that the appropriate ports are open.
  • Write down the canonical name and security group mentioned above.
  • Be sure to run this with both AD and vCenter permissions.
Part Two: Function Over Form

I used a function and mandatory parameters to help ensure we don’t forget anything. So to break it down:

  1. Connects to vCenter
  2. Loops through each host in cluster joining to domain
  3. Updates ESXi host advanced setting with the AD Security group
  4. Removes .domain.root for the Set-ADComputer cmdlet
  5. Updates AD description with the argument you passed to the $DescriptionUseQuotes parameter
function Set-JSESXiDomainJoin {
[CmdletBinding()]
param (
[Parameter(Mandatory=$true)]
[string]$clusterName,

[Parameter(Mandatory=$true)]
[string]$domainInCanonicalNameFormat,

[Parameter(Mandatory=$true)]
[string]$user,

[Parameter(Mandatory=$true)]
[string]$password,

[Parameter(Mandatory=$true)]
[string]$descriptionUseQuotes,

[Parameter(Mandatory=$true)]
[string]$ADAdminGroup,

[Parameter(Mandatory=$true)]
[string]$VIServer

)
#Does check for required modules
#Requires -Modules ActiveDirectory
#Requires -Version 3
#Requires -Modules VMware.VimAutomation.Core

#Connecting to vCenter
Connect-VIServer -Server $VIServer

#Loop through each host in cluster
foreach ($esxiHost in (Get-Cluster $clusterName | Get-VMHost)){

#Join host to domain
Get-VMHostAuthentication -VMHost $esxiHost | Set-VMHostAuthentication -Domain $domainInCanonicalNameFormat -User $user -Password $password -JoinDomain -Confirm:$false

#Updates advanced settings with AD security group
Get-AdvancedSetting -Entity $esxiHost -Name Config.HostAgent.plugins.hostsvc.esxAdminsGroup | Set-AdvancedSetting -Value $ADAdminGroup -Confirm:$false

#Removes domain name from the host, leaving only hostname.
$esxiHostName = $esxiHost.Name.Split(".")[0]

#Updates description in Active Directory
Set-ADComputer -Identity $esxiHostName -Description $descriptionUseQuotes
}
}
Part Three: Success

It should look something like this when you run it:

 Set-JSESXiDomainJoin -ClusterName "ClusterName" -DomainInCanonicalNameFormat "domain.root/ou/ou" -User "jamey"-Password "secret stuff" -DescriptionUseQuotes "ESXi Host - VMware is the best" -ADAdminGroup "VMware people" -ViServer vcenter.domain.root

How I Stumbled Into the #vCommunity and How You Can Too

Normally I’m a technical guy who rarely blogs about things that are not technical in nature. But this month I signed up for a contest called BLOGTOBER: Tech Edition. (Side Note: If you have even a passing interest in blogging, I encourage you to go sign up here.)  I figured I would start off Blogtober  with a thought piece about how I got involved in such things as a blogging challenge.

How I Got Started

I started out on a help desk taking phone calls. But early on I recognized something that holds true for technology jobs. The person who shows interest and the willingness to learn moves up. So I poured myself into my studies. I tirelessly searched the internet for study material for whatever certification I happen to be studying at the time. This is when I found and fell in love with vBrownbag, which was my first introduction to a technology community.

After about a year at my help desk job, I got promoted and handed one of my favorite projects of all time. The company I worked for did not use virtualization in their environment, but my boss at the time encouraged me to change that. Having no experience with VMware, I was doubtful, but not deterred. Over the next year I converted the majority of our infrastructure from physical to virtual using only the Mastering VMware book by Scott Lowe and the vBrownbag YouTube videos. It was an amazing experience.

I am blessed to say that as time passed, I have moved up and changed jobs a few times. I am now a VMware administrator for an international children’s hospital system, a role I truly love. Now that we’ve got the background out of the way, this is where the real story begins.

My Journey to the vCommunity

In June of this year I had the opportunity to attend HPE Discover 2018. Being excited to go,  I naturally wanted to share. So I get on Twitter and sent out the following tweet:

At the time I rarely used Twitter, so this next part might seem strange to all you Twitter vets out there. I was surprised to find that people I didn’t know commented that they were coming too. One of them was Tim Davis (@vtimd) who I happened to follow on Twitter. So I thought, “Ok, cool. It might be random, but I’m going to say hey to this guy if I see him at the conference.”

Then, the next day I saw this tweet:

At this point, I was really intrigued. Tim Smith (@tsmith_co) sent out a tweet looking to meet up with some people socially at the event. Again this might be the norm for those versed in the vCommunity and Twitter, but for me at the time it was revolutionary. Feeling like I was on a roll from the earlier tweet, I hit LIKE. I thought, “Why not? If I see this guy, I guess I’ll say hey!” For the next week, I searched Twitter looking for events at the conference and people to meet up with. (I actually never got to meet up with Tim Smith, but his idea inspired me nonetheless.)

Fast forward to the conference. By then I was regularly using Twitter and really upping the number of people I followed. I also naturally started to engage more with those people. At the conference, I met Tim Davis (@vtimd) who was working at the VMware booth. Admittedly, it was a bit out of my comfort zone, but I went up to him and introduced myself. In the conversation we started talking about careers and he said, “Getting on Twitter was the best career move I have ever made.” I remember thinking, “What?” It didn’t really register with me then that Twitter could be such a great catalyst to expanding your network both socially and professionally.

Being the vBrownbag fan that I am, I eventually made my way over to the vBrownbag stage. Again, a bit out of my comfort zone, but I started introducing myself to some of the presenters that day. I met Philip Sellers (@pbsellers), Luigi Danakos  (@NerdBlurt), Matt Crape (@MattThatITGuy), and the man himself, Alastair Cooke (@DemitasseNZ). I had a chance to ask questions and hear how these guys got involved in what I would later come to know as the vCommunity. As fate would have it, Matt happened to be doing a talk called “Growing Your Career Through the vCommunity”. You can check it out here. After his great talk, he personally encouraged me to get involved. It was as simple as that. Get involved.

When I got home to Tampa, I committed myself to follow up on Matt’s words. I had been attending our local VMUG, so at the next meeting I voiced a desire to get involved. Turns out there was an opening for a co-leader:

Now You Do It

So there you have it, my journey into the vCommunity. But its not enough to tell you about my experience without encouraging YOU to “Get Involved.” As it turns out, its not that hard. The community is growing and vibrant. There is no barrier to entry. Ken Nalbone (@kennalbone), in his blog post titled Live Outside Your Comfort Zone. It Will Be Worth It, gives the most practical advice I have seen about how to get involved in the vCommunity. He says, “I decided to march straight up to anyone I recognized that I had not spoken with before and introduce myself.” In a nutshell, its that easy.

Finally, one thing I didn’t consider are the tangible benefits of getting involved in the vCommunity. Through such programs as VMUG Advantage, vExpert and other vendor-sponsored activities, you can really get access to great software and more swag than you know what to do with.

For the tl;dr folks, behold!

Jamey’s Guide to Getting Involved in the vCommunity
  1. Create a Twitter account.
  2. Follow all the people on this list.
  3. Genuinely engage with them. It does not matter that you have not met them in person.
  4. Don’t be shy, be bold (even if it takes you out of your comfort zone a bit :)) Everyone is welcoming and there are no dumb questions.
  5. Watch Matt’s vBrownbag talk at least 5 times.
  6. Read these post about others’ experiences: Ken, Tony and another Tony
  7. Go to VMUGs/VTUGs/UserCons, basically any technology event you can.
  8. Give back, however that looks for you.
  9. Most importantly, don’t think you don’t have anything to contribute, because you do.
  10. “Get Involved”