Update (14/12/2015): Videos have now been uploaded to the London VMUG shared drive so I’ve updated the post with links to the sessions.

Like last year, I had a chance to attend UK VMUG UserCon 2015 this year too and looking at the line up, I simply couldn’t miss the opportunity. As I am working independently now, these gatherings are of even more importance to me as not only there’s learning; it’s my chance to catch up with all my colleagues and learn from their experiences. So, here is my account of what happened.

In the past few years, a tradition of #vCurry has started, which is the night before the actual event. As the name suggests, there’s curry, drinks, great chats and once everyone is suitably nourished, a quiz. Stuart Thompson – “The Quiz Master” always manages to find a great mix of factual and fun questions to ask and there are prizes at the end to win. As a special gift for the winners this time, Matt Northam arranged a “12 Beers of Christmas” Box by Real Ale, which was enthusiastically accepted by all winners.

Everyone thoroughly enjoys the night and gets ready for the busy day ahead. There is an added bonus of getting registration out of the way. It’s a great event in itself and is highly-recommended to attend if you’re attending next year (you are right??)

There was a packed agenda this time with great sessions so it was an early start. I always get there early as not only the breakfast is great but you get a chance to meet a lot of people, before the day gets really busy. UK VMUG always manages to attract good speakers so you’re spoilt for choice. In fact, it does get annoying as many a times, you get torn on which sessions to attend as they’re all so good! I was in this dilemma this time too and wanted to live tweet the important bits so decided which ones to attend in advance. It was just a coincidence that all of them were in the Britannia Suite!

Alaric Davies started the proceedings in his usual witty and entertaining style. He introduced the great organising team, mentioned the “Passport to Prizes” (a card you fill as you visit all the sponsor stalls and win prizes at the end), VMUG Advantage (that I also subscribe to – great value!) and the big London VMUG VMworld Giveaway. This year, four tickets to VMworld 2016 (2 US, 2 Europe) were given away as prizes at the end of the event!

In the end, he thanked the sponsors without whom, this great event will be impossible to arrange.

Up next was Joe Baguley – VP and CTO of VMware EMEA. His talks are always entertaining but thought-provoking at the same time. This time, the conversation was about many hot topics of today such as Containers, Microservices and industry’s move towards software-defined infrastructure. He also talked about Bi-Modal IT (or even Tri-modal, as discussed in this excellent article by Simon Wardley) and where we fit in the chain.

Yes, that was my favourite quote from the session. The key message to take away from his presentation was that we should all play our part in finding efficiencies in the “Data –> Analysis –> App” cycle for our environments and that ultimately is what will keep us all relevant in the fast-paced world of tomorrow. Here is the video of his session.

After “Mingling with Sponsors” for a bit, next for me was Eric Wright and his session about why it’s important to add OpenStack to our IT portfolio. You may already know him as a very popular blogger and an OpenStack enthusiast. His excellent course on PluralSight introduced me to the world of OpenStack so it was great to finally meet him in person. His message was that OpenStack is getting better and to the extent that it’s finally gaining traction in the “Enterprise” world. So much so that even VMware has recognised the fact and is working hard to make smooth integration of it with vSphere one of its priorities. He also said something that rings true for any system of today and was my favourite quote from his presentation:

The key takeaway here was that being a one-trick pony in IT is not great for career longevity and adding OpenStack to your IT expertise will certainly help to make you versatile and in demand. Here is the video of his session.

My dear Xtravirt ex-colleagues Sam McGeown, Jonathan Medd and Michael Poore (who has recently joined VMware) were next to talk about Cloud Automation and their experiences with different customers. It started with why would it be useful to learn and implement automation in your organisation. According to them, one of the benefit is being seen as a hero! It was also very interesting to hear about their “War Stories” and what are the lessons learnt from them. It was great when Jonathan told the truth to everyone i.e. learning JavaScript is not optional when working with vRealize Orchestrator

but he then continued giving tips on how to best make a start. He also told us that Spotify is actually a development tool! Michael talked about how to ensure requirements are properly documented and confirmed, before starting development, manage changes and the process of gradually translating the requirements into deliverables. Here is the link to their excellent presentation.

That took us nicely to lunch time. As always, there was a great selection at lunch and I caught up with some more colleagues during it. Also, had a quick peek at some sponsor stalls before the second half started.

Next up was the session from Josh Atwell and he talked about why it’s important to use automation to manage the next generation datacenters. There are so many products now that integrate and one has to be capable of creating the bit of glue that allows them to talk and holds them together. Like Eric Wright before him, he reiterated the need for APIs to be available and knowing the use of them to automate everything seamlessly. He also talked about Policy-based management for storage and also the need for a DevOps Culture. Here is the video of his excellent session.

Then there was a double act by Ricky El-Qasem and Alec Dunn, about Canopy’s migration from vCloud Director to vRealize Automation. It was originally a private cloud environment based on vCloud Director, which wasn’t customizable but provided everything they needed at the time. VMware’s decision to discontinue it forced them into migrating the environment to vRealize Automation and the presentation was about the pain-points encountered during the journey and what they did to resolve them. It wasn’t all doom and gloom as there were some examples in there where vRealize Automation allowed them to do something they weren’t able to do easily with vCloud Director. Here is their entire story in video.

Last tech session after that was from Frank Büchsel about vRealize Automation and lessons learnt. He started by saying that everyone who has come to hear praise for the product should leave the room. For those who don’t know, before joining SimpliVity, he was in VMware Suppport Services and used to deal with all major incoming issues. After that dramatic start, he went through all the issues that people might face with the product in the various phases of their deployments and how to avoid them by following best practices. Here is the link to the video of Frank’s session.

Then there was the closing keynote by John Troyer. It was about the technologies and strategies for the IT people of today to deal with the demands of IT world of tomorrow. With all the talk during the day focussing on how the IT world is changing towards software-defined everything and automation etc., it was an important reminder to all about the need to learn the new skills to stay relevant. As there are so many new skills to learn, he proposed to choose carefully to master some and know about other skills that are relevant and interesting. Also, he emphasised the importance of community relationships and certifications to keep pushing oneself. See the whole video here.

That brought the sessions to an end. By the way, the presentations mentioned above are available here. You should bookmark this location as all London and UK VMUG presentations are uploaded here. Prize-giving was next and the lucky participants won their prizes and most-importantly the VMworld US and Europe 2016 tickets. I can tell you that the recipients couldn’t believe their luck!

Then came the surprise of the day: After so many years of great service, Alaric Davies, Jane Rimmer and Stuart Thompson have decided to step-down from London VMUG leadership. They’ve done so much over the years that I can’t even imagine VMUG without them but can understand their decision as arranging these gatherings is an enormous drain on one’s time. I thank them for all the time they’ve spent arranging such wonderful events and wish them a happy VMUG retirement.

If you want to fill their boots, you have the chance to apply until midnight, Thursday 26th November. Click here to go to The London/UK VMUG Committee Candidate Survey page. I hear that there are quite a few good submissions already so be quick!

I guess the key message from this UserCon was to constantly keep evolving your skills as the pace of development is fast and moving towards efficiency via automation. These are the requirements of tomorrow and essential learning to remain relevant.

That wraps up another UK VMUG for me. Not only I attended a lot of useful sessions but I also got the chance to meet a lot of my colleagues. Like the ones before, it was informative and fun at the same time and I can’t wait for the next one.