Sometimes, you get caught in the switches…

I’ve been so happy working for such an amazing organization as VMware. My role has been challenging, exciting and a very interesting ride. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people, and play with really cool tech on which I hadn’t previously had the chance or time. The Software Defined Data Center is in many ways a huge step toward the future of infrastructure. VVols, vSan, and NSX are really game changers, and functionally amazing. In the Hybrid Cloud, we’ll probably find that these technologies, particularly NSX will make the migration of workloads a much more viable option.

Unfortunately, my team, Velocity, which was in many ways a skunkworks project, recently got disbanded. That has left me with some decisions to make. What to do next? How to leverage the things I’ve done thus far, and make a career choice that will give me the opportunity to shine, as well as give my employer the full breadth of my experiences?

I decided to join a great firm on the partner side called OnX Enterprise Solutions. http://www.onx.com/

OnX has a huge set of solutions in so many vast areas of solutions, including Cloud, Apps, Professional Services, and traditional consulting that the opportunity to provide end-to-end answers to real issues faced by today’s enterprises, with so many potential options in those solutions that I feel like a kid in a candy store.

We practically have any option available to us as potential solutions. I’ve incredibly excited to be joining such a great group of people, and to be able to deliver our customers so many of the things that OnX can do. And, if we haven’t done it yet, we are able to add new tech to the repertoire as new and exciting things become available.

It is just this kind of “outside the box”approach that truly makes the difference.

So, sometimes you do get caught in the switches, but sometimes, too, you get an opportunity you would never have had otherwise.

Please look for me at my home on Twitter @MBLeib, on LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/in/matthewleib  and here at my blog for great doings from our team.
ONX

Looking back on a tough year…

It’s been an interesting year.

In this year of deaths: Friends, family members, pets, and marriages; and new beginnings: jobs, new pets, friends with children born… I’ll include bizarre weather, the loss of a number of jets from the sky, ebola, strange fluctuations in the economic status of the world, Bill Cosby and Derek Jeter. The sad truth is that this has been a horrible year for most of us. It’s only natural to look back and my own life and say, “Phew, I’ve survived.”

I saw my daughter off to college for her first year, and have seen her grow into the remarkable, beautiful, smart, funny and savvy young woman she’s become. I miss her often, but am thrilled that she’s off and taking on life on her own terms.

I lost my dog Reggie to cancer, and while I still grieve, I made the decision to adopt a new puppy, Stella. She’s brought all the joy I once had with Reggie, as well as all the puppy goofiness that I needed. I’ll always miss Reggie, but never be too sad because I know that people rarely adopt a senior dog and my daughter and I gave him a great last couple years.

I began working with VMware back in August, and have been really ecstatic with the trajectory that my career has taken. True, I’ve had a number of setbacks in my job history, some of my own creation and others completely unavoidable, but through the kindness, support and belief of others in my abilities, I’ve become a member of an amazing team doing amazing things at an amazing company. Is it clear how happy this job has made me?

While I have countless people to thank for the good that has happened in my past, I’d like to call out a few who’ve been instrumental in my career. Chad Sakac (@Sakacc), Stephen Spellicy (@spellicy), Eric Ledyard (@eledyard), John Troyer (@JTroyer), Kat Troyer (@dailykat), Phil Bradham (@PBradz), Michael Letschin (@MLetschin), Caroline McCrory (@CloudOfCaroline), Chris Birdwell (@vDirtyBird), Jeramiah Dooley (@jdooley), Chuck Hollis (@ChuckHollis), Peter White (@PAWhite), and Mark Thiele (@MThiele), (this leaves off all my family and non-socially connected friends) and so many others have assisted me in recommendations, guidance, support, and just plain listening to me complain, that I simply cannot thank them appropriately. But, I will say thank you all, and my gratitude is immeasurable.

Matt, 12-31-2014

One Month In and SDDC

This past month has been another one of those “Firehose” months. This is such an exciting time for me in my career. VMware has been treating me quite well, and I’ve been having so much fun.

My team, the Accelerate Velocity team is dedicated to promoting the full stack of Software Defined Data Center. The SDDC is the most recent iteration in an evolution of converged architectures. I remember my first experiences with converged deployments at EMC, and being so impressed by the vBlock . So well thought out and robust. Since then, a number of newer approaches have been taken toward this concept. Companies such as Simplivity, Nutanix, and of course, NetApp have evolved the concept of merging Computer/Storage/Network into one highly detailed package. These approaches have grown in both dedication to unique use-cases, and scalability.

As you may know, I previously worked with Nexenta, one of the leders in Software Defined Storage. The concept behind “Software Defined” beyond the marketecture or buzzword status is that Commodity-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) with software focused on the task at hand can be leveraged to best utilize the highest level of performance from that hardware. The key is that software makes the difference. The better the software, the better the solution.

This concept has evolved over the past couple of years to include network with spectacular growth in companies like Nicera which was acquired by VMware, and Cumulus. Again, these software applications take advantage of commodity equipment rather than necessarily the more expensive mainstays in the space while providing a software layer that’s easily as robust, and often moreso than the embedded software that comes with the native components. These can also leverage API’s and third party apps like Puppet, Salt, and Chef to automate deployment to multiple devices or even to enterprise level rollouts.

One can certainly recognize that vSphere has done much the same thing with the virtualization of operating systems within standardized x86 server class machines.

Along comes the VMware with the most impressive attempt to tie all these pieces together. This is the SDDC approach.

As we move together in this blog, I’ll discuss some of the solutions we present, deployment methodologies, recipes and various components necessary to the creation of the SDDC.

Another new beginning

I’ve been fortunate in my career for a number of reasons. I’ve had the chance to work for many fantastic companies, had the opportunity to work on some amazing technology, and have retained positive relationships with all my employers after leaving. I’ve been able to increase my network, increase my knowledge of so many different areas of great tech within the industry, and promote these to some wonderful customers. I feel truly blessed.

Sometimes, a role comes to you that is so amazing that you can do nothing but change your job. Such a circumstance has arisen for me. While I’ve not been at EarthLink long, and bear only positives for their excellent organization, I’m taking a role at VMware as a Pre-Sales Architect, Accelerate Velocity Strategist.

 This group is tasked with focusing on new technologies being released by VMware, and getting these technologies rolled in as functional implementations by some of the highest profile organizations in the world.

I can be no more excited to be rolling into this group, with its leader, Eric Ledyard ( @EricLedyard ) and some of the finest engineers I’ve had the chance to meet in my career.

 

The opportunity gives me the potential for learning and growing my skills, and to work with a team that will truly challenge me toward the excellence I’m always seeking for myself. There is no greater compliment for me than to be welcomed into such a group, to be given the opportunity to be on the bleeding edge of an organization I’ve admired, and worked with for over a decade, and to evangelize these things to a phenomenal customer base.

 

I want to say thank you, and tell the world how honored and humbled I am for this opportunity.

GeekWhisperers and I

While at Cisco Live this past week, I was fortunate to be invited to be a guest on the Geek Whisperers. This was a real highlight of my trip. While it may just have been convenient, I was very pleased to be included. I have long listened to the podcast created by Amy Lewis, John Troyer, and Matthew Brender . Respectively: @CommsNinja, @MJBrender, and @JTroyer on Twitter. Distinct presences in social media, who’ve with knowledge, intelligence and humor debated cajoled and enlightened the whole concepts of social media and community. I told Amy, actually, that I feel like listening to the podcast is like sitting around with some friends and listening to some intriguing conversation to which I wish I could add my admittedly limited value. I guess this was that opportunity.

http://geek-whisperers.com/2014/06/the-collective-noun-of-influencers-episode-50/

Episode 50 seems a bit of a landmark as well. Image

As you can see, the production methodology of this show was not at the average levels for my friends, but surprisingly, the show sound quality was really impressive.

What makes their conversations so compelling for me is that I get to hear the perspectives of marketing and other approaches to what social media can bring to you and your company in ways I honestly about which I never thought. They’ve opened my eyes to a lot of thought in this vein that I’d really never even considered. And they do it consistently in a compelling manner that never lectures, but always intrigues. They talk of Twitter, Team Building, Branding, Communities, metrics and so many other things. Their guests are generally, with the exclusion of myself, experts in the field.

So, with an amazingly professional rig, we sat and discussed many of the issues in what can be a complexly textured conversation.

I have been a member of the social media world for a long time. When I was an employee at EMC, my boss, Chad Sakac (@SakacC on twitter) said simply: If you’re not already on it, get on twitter. So I did. I hadn’t really thought about a personal/professional blog yet, but I’ve now been on Twitter for over 4 years. I’d thought of what I wanted to say, and how I wanted to be perceived on Twitter and made a number of rules for myself. These guiderails were mine, and I could preach them to others, but that’s irrelevant. What your rules are, what you choose to show about yourself, and what interests you have either inside or out side the professional career. I think that we all recognize that what we do actually does become part of the digital archive forever. But how important is that aspect to you? What you choose to publish versus what you don’t should, in my mind, be guided by that basic rule. Those who do follow me know that I’m just as likely to tweet about music, the Blackhawks, as I am virtualization and storage.

Ultimately, many of the conversations that I’ve heard about these things, in my mind, have rolled up to common sense. Some of the things that I think about are my rules on curse words, my thoughts on politics, and my thoughts on religion. I rarely have these conversations in a public sense, or with my coworkers, so why would I use a different voice on public social media? Sometimes I think about the book “Everything I ever really needed to know, I learned in Kindergarten.” I do believe in honesty, kindness and tolerance. So I would on social media as well.

I recommend The Geek Whisperers highly, not just because I like these folks, but because I respect their opinions, and intelligent approach to a potential quagmire of a subject.

 

Second Time Around

Once again, the fantastic team at VMware, led by John Mark Troyer @JTroyer and Corey Romero have compiled a comprehensive list of vExperts. I am thrilled to be included in this elite corps. The vExpert community is not a certification, but more an industry recognition of efforts. These people who are bloggers, tweeters, and have years of deep experience in this technology we all love.

The full listing and blog post by Corey is located here:
http://blogs.vmware.com/vmtn/2014/04/vexpert-2014-announcement.html#comment-9611

My first acceptance into that group was gratifying to say the least, but to be recognized for a second year in a row is truly humbling.

It comes with great appreciation and true sincerity. My commitment to you, the community of readers, and technologists who use this great tech, that I will continue to push myself forward to deliver content of meaning, and assist my customers in implementing best of breed solutions.

Quite simply, I want to thank the team, and let my co-inductees how appreciative I am to be included.

Thank you-

Matt

My take on the Eras of Paul Maritz and Pat Gelsinger at VMware

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I was asked by TechTarget for my opinion on the comparisons of two giants of tech, and their leadership of one of my favorite companies:

This has been an interesting couple of years for VMware. With the transition from Paul Maritz to Pat Gelsinger as CEO, it’s only reasonable to look back and try to establish where each succeeded, where each failed, and what successes have shone during their respective tenures.

Maritz took over [for] Diane Greene when the company had some challenges. [VMware was] not embraced by the public, but by techies such as me who saw the potential benefits. Maritz brought the hypervisor and its capabilities to full functionality and made them rock-solid. By the time his role was determined complete, the industry surrounding virtualization had matured and many competitors had comparable hypervisor products. I remember when Maritz publicly stated the hypervisor was irrelevant and that the future was the application level. This was a bold statement for the CEO of a hypervisor company, but a true one, to be sure. I agreed with him at the time, and he’s been proven correct.

I admired Paul’s vision then and admire it now at VMware spinoff Pivotal. He’s an empire builder and a force.

Pat Gelsinger, who left Intel to join EMC, is another technology giant who has also proven his maturity and intelligence in the industry. He made an enormous decision while president of EMC to implement Intel processors in all EMC storage arrays. He standardized all storage devices on an industry processor, which ensured interoperability many years into the future. This proved to be a critical and quite prescient decision.

Upon taking over VMware, he built on Paul Maritz’s cloud vision with key acquisitions and strategic decisions. Gelsinger also renewed focus on VDI [virtual desktop infrastructure], which had been foundering for some time. A technology organization can only invest in so many technologies at one time, but this change can only help.

Gelsinger has authorized some exceptional acquisitions, namely Virsto on the infrastructure side and Desktone for end-user computing. I believe this renewed focus in not only internal growth, but also outside acquisition, shows an enormous dedication to the future.

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Another New Year / New Opportunity Posting

As many of my colleagues have been posting, I too have jumped from an amazing company: Nexenta focusing on Storage and Virtualization to EarthLink, focusing on Cloud, Services and hosting. My role will be that of a Principal Solutions Architect, and I’ll be focusing in my region, primarily in the Midwestern area of the US.

I’ve been feeling lately that some of my more discrete skills, those of OpenStack, Cloud, and some of the networking pieces that surround these technologies have become less categorically a part of my portfolio, and that I’ve had to work on them privately as part of my lab work, as Nexenta is a storage company by nature. While their technology is astounding, and I’ll continue to promote them when the solution is logical, I’m now allowed to bring whatever solution makes the best sense to my customer base. This will afford me the opportunity to bring to my customer a range of technologies via an agnostic approach with an eye toward “Solutioning” significant and creative approaches to their needs that will allow us to help them in ways they may never have considered previously.

EarthLink provides more than just traditional hosting, incidentally. They started out as a basic DSL provider, who had a rock solid model. When the shakeups started happening, and all the providers began falling by the wayside, they knew that they’d have to modify their business model or they would fail as well. They did. They added talent, management skill, and acquired some phenomenal companies. One notable acquisition was CenterBeam. These folks also invented Hosted Exchange, as well as creating Active Directory alongside Microsoft. This one gives access to an advanced set of controls within the Microsoft Office 365 toolset allowing for a massive improvement on the standard set of webtools included within what Microsoft offers in the standard product.

I am thrilled to be part of this fantastic organization and this great team. And, I look forward to this new opportunity with excitement and not the smallest amount of healthy anxiety.

Stay tuned for upcoming details on some very cool offerings from this very dynamic and exciting company in future posts.

Are you afraid of changes?

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I’ve been in this industry for a long time. In my experience, there are many organizational styles out there. After an interesting conversation with my friend @Daverdfw, over twitter the other day, I thought that I’d write regarding my opinions therein. Following is a list of a few types:

1)            This is the way we’ve always done it, and it’s worked for us well, so why change?

2)            We don’t know any better, because we’re inexperienced in management

3)            The scattershot approach wherein management will turn it’s approach on a dime

4)            Considered, but thoughtful, in which there are new ways to approach issues, and with due concern, changes are made

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In the first scenario, an organization may be aware of other approaches, but because they’ve become so entrenched in “How” they’ve done things all along they’re almost afraid to make changes. There are so many examples of this old-school approach. It could be that their tech is in place, and they refuse to consider disruption in their data center. It could relate to how/whom they hire. If they’re become used to hiring in one way, or for that matter, evaluating their employees in the same way, each by the same metrics, and thereby disregarding the individual contributions or characteristics of new employee styles.

 

In a second, which is prevalent under the models of so many startups. We see this quite often in the world of storage and virtualization in which I reside, wherein the management is so new to the game, likely thinking that they could “Do it better” in their previous work experiences, that they are unwilling to truly integrate the willingness to question their skills. The danger here is that again, the change that’s required is not being made, simply because the management is unable to see that they’ve got to. They don’t know nor would they be willing to consider a different approach, as they’ve got an inability to grasp different viewpoints.

 

The third example is endemic to startups, and can be an enormous problem. In this case, a company will try something, will give it an idea a chance, but not give it an opportunity to prove the value of the plan before making yet another change. In this way, so many plans fail. Even a bad plan needs a chance to establish itself. These can be marketing, hiring, and technological plans, as well as practically any other goal. How does the engineering department plan on implementing the correct approach, when they find no ability to rely on any specific direction? Clearly, scattershot approaches can wreak havoc in any company.

 

The last one I illustrated is one in which a considered decision, weight placed on all sides, careful thought, without haste is placed into decision-making. It’s good to give your plans time to gel, and to try to determine their capacity for success before making changes. By the simple evaluation of goals and deliberate motivation, an organization may keep their customer’s needs in mind, their engineering staff on task, and their employees from guessing what they’re going to have to count on next.

 

As I’ve said in this blog previously, communication is key to the continued success of a company. If a management team is unafraid to hear conflicting viewpoints, and to hear all sides, changes in course can be managed and overall goals will be kept in target sights even while being dynamic and embracing the changes that need to be made throughout the organization and disruption can be both embraced and fears can be mitigated.

As I enter my new role at Nexenta

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Many people don’t realize that Nexenta offers a second product beyond its world-class open Solaris based storage platform, but we do. This product, dubbed Nexenta’s VSA for VMware Horizon View, or NV4V for short, optimizes the VMware View experience well beyond what has become its standard implementation with so many qualified features that it may just prove to be an enormous game-changer.

 

When we created this product, our goal was to fix a problem that had plagued most View implementations as they’d moved from proof of concept to either secondary test rollout of View, or even full deployment. That problem had been that the IO requirements of VDI are often so demanding that existing storage platforms already implemented in these existing storage environments either, would need to be so drastically re-architected, or completely replaced in order to accommodate for the requirements of these projects. Many of these projects simply didn’t get implemented because of the high I/O requirements. So, we undertook an approach that changed the dynamic entirely to allow for existing infrastructures to coexist with the newly-created IO loads.

 

What we did was move these deployment methods off of the storage environment, and over to each server in the vSphere/View cluster environment. It may seem revolutionary, but in much the same way that Storage vMotion caused the storage related process to alleviate the workload off of where it should never have been (the ESX server) this process leverages ZFS technology and the raw horsepower of the ESX servers to deploy desktops; from the server architecture in a much more efficient manner. In so doing, we’ve made this most significant change to the difficulties faced by the VDI deployment far more efficient and put that load where it really should have been in the first place.

 

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We didn’t stop there. We made a new overlay methodology into the view interface, which streamlines the process for the administrator, making their choices easier and fewer so that when a series of desktops are to be provisioned, the process to do so is so very simple that it takes just a few simple steps, and a few simple choices to do so.

 

We weren’t done, though. If your administrator attempts to deploy too many desktops for your environment, the provisioning tool will actually let them know that the environment will not be able to handle it and why. This predictive analysis is simply built into the tool, and takes away so much of the guesswork from the job of the administrator.

 

And yes, you’ve guessed it. We weren’t yet done. We included another very cool feature from our storage environment that adds some massive functionality. In this we’ve built in on-line real-time analytics into processor, network and storage insight using tools like IOMeter. And, these are easily viewable from within our dashboard at a glance.

 

And while this works best with our own storage infrastructure, another key detail is that we can work very well with existing back-end storage in play as well. So, the customer may not need to perform a rip and replace when moving on to a full deployment.

 

This is a huge product for us, and I am thrilled to be moving from my role as a dedicated storage SE to a newly created role at Nexenta to one of an SE dedicated to this product and its future iterations. Expect to see more capital on this ingenious product in the future.

 

I look forward to working with you, and to the VMware End User Computing team to deliver these solutions to you moving forward.