A Look Back at 2015

The end of the year is just a few days away.  It’s time to take a look back at 2015 and a look ahead at 2016.

Year in Review

I got to experience a lot of new things and participate in some great opportunities in 2015.  Highlights include:

  • Presenting at the first North Central Wisconsin VMUG meeting
  • Wrote for Virtualization Review
  • Made a career change.  I went to Ahead as a Data Center Engineer
  • Attended Virtualization Field Day in June as a delegate
  • Was selected to be part of the VMware EUC vExperts group
  • Rebranded my blog.  I changed the URL from seanmassey.net to thevirtualhorizon.com


When I wrote my 2014 Year in Review post, I had also set three goals for 2015.  Those goals were:

  1. Get my VCDX
  2. Make a career change and go to a VAR/partner or vendor
  3. Find a better work/life/other balance

I accomplished 2/3rds of these goals.  In April, I made the move to Ahead, a consulting firm based out of Chicago.  This move has also enabled me to have a better work/life/other balance – when I’m home, I can now pick up my son from school.

I haven’t started on my VCDX yet, and this goal is sitting in the waiting queue.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  First, there were some large areas in my selected design that I would have had to fictionalize.  Secondly, and more importantly, there will be other opportunities to do a design based on an actual client.  I plan to keep this on my goals list and revisit it in 2016.

Although obtaining my VCDX will be my main goal for 2016, I have a few other smaller goals that I plan to work towards as well:

  • Write More – Although it can be time-consuming, I like writing.  The thing is, I like it as a hobby.  Writing professionally was an interesting experience, but took a lot of the fun out of blogging.  I would like to get back into the habit of blogging on a regular basis in 2016.
  • Expand my Skillsets – I’d like to spend more time learning the private cloud and automation toolkits, especially things like Puppet, Chef, and OpenStack.  I’d also like to spend more time on HyperConverged solutions like Nutanix.  I plan on expanding my lab to be able to dabble in this more. 

Blog Statistics

I didn’t do as much blogging in 2015 as I did in 2014.  There are a few reasons for this.  First, I passed on participating in the Virtual Design Master 30-in-30 challenge this year.  Second, a lot of content I would have written for my blog earlier in the year was directed to Virtualization Review instead, so I did not have a lot of original stuff to write.

I normally don’t care about blog stats, but I think it’s a fun exercise to take a look back at the year and compare it briefly to previous years.  As of December 27th, I had written 21 blog posts.  This was down from 90 posts in 2014.  Page views are about the same.  I ended 2014 with 151,862 page views by 55,471 visitors.  Year-to-date in 2015, I have had 151,862 page views by 64,618 visitors.

Some key statistics are:

And a Big Thank You Goes Out to…

I’m not on this journey alone, and another great year wouldn’t have been possible without the vCommunity.  A few people I’d like to call out are:

  • My wife Laura for weathering the transition to a consulting role
  • Brian Suhr – who has enabled me to take the next steps in my career
  • Jarian Gibson and Andrew Morgan
  • The entire team at Ahead for being some of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with and always having time to help someone out with questions
  • Stephen Foskett and Tom Hollingsworth for inviting me to participate in Virtualization Field Day

Looking Ahead To the Future

“You might feel that somehow, you’ve lost all your fizz.
Or you’re frazzled like a…um…frazzled thing.  I’m not sure what it is.”
From Happy Hippo, Angry Duck by Sandra Boynton

For the last year and a half, I’ve worked for Faith Technologies, a large electrical contractor with offices in five states, in Menasha, WI.  I have a great manager who has encouraged me to grow and get involved in the greater IT community.  That manager has also lead one of the best teams I’ve worked on to-date.

While I have learned and accomplished a great deal in this role, it is time to move on.  Today is my last day with Faith.

While Faith is a great company, and I have a great manager and work on a great team, I didn’t see a path forward to reach goals that I had set for myself. 

I will be starting a new role next week Tuesday.  My new role is a big change for me as I will be moving from the customer side over to a partner. I’ll be going to work with another awesome team, and I’m looking forward to the challenges that this new role will bring.

The Things I’m Thankful For–#VDM30in30

The United States is celebrating Thanksgiving today.  It’s a day to sit back, take stock of the good things in your life, and give thanks to the deity of your choice for them. 

It’s also a day for lots of turkey, football, family, and ironically (and unfortunately) the day that people rush out to buy the things they want at extremely low prices.

A Quick History Lesson

Tradition holds that the “First Thanksgiving” was held by the Pilgrims in 1621 to celebrate the harvest and give thanks to God for seeing them through the year.  That festival, which lasted three days, was celebrated with the Wampanoag tribe. 

The Thanksgiving holiday that we enjoy today wouldn’t be ritualized until 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln issued an order declaring the last Thursday in November to be a national day of thanksgiving, and it wouldn’t be fixed to the fourth Thursday in November until 1942.

What I’m Thankful For

I have a lot to be thankful for.  Some of those things are:

  • My wife, who is an amazing woman who puts up with a lot from me.  She is the rock in my life, and I would be lost without her.
  • My kids, who push me to keep learning more and never settle so they can have a chance at even better opportunities than I have.
  • A great community that now includes many friends and has provided opportunities to learn from the best at what they do
  • A great boss and amazing co-workers

Today is a day to think about the people and the things that you’re thankful for.

Quick Bites–Nexenta 4 Released, Horizon 6 Announced

Nexenta 4.0.1 Reaches GA

Earlier this week, Nexenta announced that the Community Edition of Nexenta 4.0 was generally available.  This long awaited release uses an Illumos-based kernel and adds several new features including support for SMB 2.1.

I have the new version set up in my lab, and it seems to be working well so far.  The issues that I experienced with the previous versions no longer appear to be an issue, and it has been running rock solid for the last couple of days.

You can read the release announcement here.

Note: The download link is not currently active on the Nexentastor website.  The ISO was available for download until recently via a direct link.

Horizon 6 Announced

Yesterday, VMware announced the latest version of the Horizon end-user computer product suite – Horizon 6.

The newest feature in Horizon 6 is an RDSH application remoting solution that is built on PCoIP and Blast that puts VMware in direct competition with Citrix.

I look forward to getting this product into my home lab for testing.

VMware’s New Certification Policy

Over the weekend, VMware quietly announced a new certification policy – existing holders of the VMware Certified Professional and higher certifications would need to recertify within two years of their most recent certification or lose them.  This announcement has caused a bit of an outcry on social media channels as the news spread.

After taking some time to think about it, the policy makes sense.  VMware releases a new version of vSphere every year, and while the new versions are usually marketed as point releases, they contain a lot of changes and additions to the way that the underlying system operations.  There are enough changes that vSphere 5.5 is a different beast than vSphere 5.0.

The policy, which you can read in full here, is that you have to recertify within two years of your most recently passed exam.  If you passed a VCP on January 1st, 2013, you would have until January 1st, 2015 to pass the same VCP, a VCP in another category, or a VCAP exam for your certification to remain valid.

VMware isn’t the first vendor to propose, or implement this sort of policy.  This has been Cisco’s policy for years, although Cisco allows the certification to remain valid for three years instead of two.

VMware’s motivations, as outlined in the announcement, are to ensure that VCP holders are keeping their skills up to date.  Some members of the VMware Certification team have also made comments in #vBrownbag podcasts about wanting to increase the number of people who hold VCAP-level certifications, and the requirement to recertify is one method to encourage that.

My Thoughts

There are other vendors, and entirely other fields, that require certification/license holders to retest, relicense or recertify on a regular basis.  And while someone in IT doesn’t have as much on the line as a medical professional, teacher or a licensed/bonded engineer in the mechanical/structural/electrical/aerospace/etc. disciplines, VMware does have a vested interest in making sure that it’s certification program retains it’s value as their products change.

However, this change is far from perfect.  The biggest issue that I have with it is that certifications are only valid for two years.  I think that certifications should be valid for three years, or VMware should at least provide a 1 year grace period where someone with a lapsed VCP could take a new exam without having to retake the class.

I also think that there needs to be more of an incentive to go take the VCAP-level exams.  These exams, especially the administration ones, require a lab set up to practice the items on the exam blueprint.  In order to encourage this, I think that VMware should provide anyone who registers for a VCAP-level exam with NFR license keys for the products covered in the exam.

One thing that I think VMware did right, though, is that they granted a one year grace period and removed classroom prerequisites for anyone who holds an older VCP.  This will allow a number of VCP holders to get current without having to sit through classroom training.

My Experience With PernixData in the Lab

As solid state drives continue to come down in price, it’s easier to justify putting them in your data center as they provide a significant boost to storage performance.  All solid state drive SANs exist, but unless your SAN is up for replacement or you’re starting a new project that requires new storage, you’re probably not going to get the capital to rip and replace.

So how can you take advantage of the insanely high performance that solid state drives provide without having to invest in an entirely new storage infrastructure?  A couple of companies have set out to answer that question and put solid state drives in your servers to accelerate your storage without having to buy a new SAN.

One of those companies is PernixData.  PernixData has built a product that uses solid state drives on the server to accelerate fibre channel, iSCSI, and/or FCoE block storage.

Disclosure: This post was written using a beta version of PernixData FVP 1.5.  I am not affiliated with PernixData in any way.

What is PernixData?

PernixData officially labels the FVP product as a “Flash Hypervisor.”  What it does, at a base level, is act as a storage caching layer on the host for block storage that can accelerate reads and writes.  It can share flash amongst hosts in a cluster and is fully compatible with vMotion, HA, and other vSphere features.


PernixData FVP has two main components – a management application that runs on a Windows server and some new multipathing plugins that support that PernixData features that need to be installed on the hosts.  A SQL Server database is required, and it can be run on a SQL Server Express instance, and a vCenter account with administrator privileges is also needed.

PernixData’s multipathing protocols are enabled once they are installed on the host, so the only additional configuration that is needed is to configure the flash clusters and the virtual machines or datastores that will take advantage of PernixData.

Overall, the installation and configuration is very easy.  The documentation is very thorough and does a great job of walking users through the installation.


When I was running PernixData in my lab, it was pretty much a maintenance-free product.  Once it was put in, it just worked.

So how do you know that PernixData is working and actually accelerating storage?  How do you know if your VMs are reading and writing to the local flash drives?

PernixData includes a vCenter plugin that provides great visualization of storage use.  Graphs can show information on local flash, network flash, and datastore usage for a virtual machine or a host.  These graphs are a much better way to visualize IOPS and latency than the graphs on the vCenter server performance tab.

Host IOPs - 1 Week

Host Latency - 1 week

Unlike a lot of reviews, you won’t see any performance graphs for how it improved storage under load.  I didn’t run any of those types of tests.  If you are interested in performance results that pushed the envelope, check out Luca Dell’oco’s performance testing results.

Other Notes

My home lab is mostly dedicated to running VMware View, and I run a lot of linked clone desktops.  PernixData is compatible with linked clone desktops.  I was initially confused about how PernixData worked with linked clones, and I wasn’t sure if PernixData was caching the same data multiple times.  The explanation I received from Andy Daniel, one of the PernixData SEs, was that if the data was being referenced from the linked clone base disk, it was only being cached once. 

System Requirements

As long as there is room on your servers for at least one solid state disk, PernixData can be added into the environment.  It doesn’t require any special hardware and supports SATA, SAS, and PCiE solid state disks.  It is supported on ESXi 5.0, 5.1, and with the latest version, 5.5.

PernixData is storage agnostic.  It will work with any block storage SANs or storage devices that may be in your environment.  I used it with 4GB Fibre Channel and a server running OmniOS and saw no issues during my trial.

NFS is not a supported protocol, and there are other products that will provide similar features.

When to Use It

There are a couple of areas where I see PernixData being a good option.  These include:

    1. VDI deployments
    2. Resolving storage performance issues

This is a very attractive option if capital or space is not available to upgrade backend storage.  Based on the most recent pricing I could find, the cost per host is $7500 for the Enterprise license with no limits on VMs or Flash devices. 

I’m used to working in smaller environments, and the finance people I’ve worked with would have an easier time justifying $20,000 in server-side flash than an entirely new array or a tray of solid state drives for an existing array.  There is also an SMB bundle that allows for four hosts and 100 VMs.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of use cases for PernixData, and if you need storage performance without having to add disks or spend significant amounts of capital, it is worth putting the trial in to see if it resolves your issues.

2013 – A Retrospective

Life is Change.  It’s a good thing.” Lise Hampton Edgars – Babylon 5: The Wheel of Fire

Looking back, it’s hard to believe how big of a year 2013 was.  If the page quote wasn’t enough of an indication, a lot has changed from this time last year.  At the same time, it has been an exciting year to say the least.  Most of it was in the latter half of the year.

As this post goes up, I will be getting ready to head down to Milwaukee to take the VMware Certified Advanced Professional Data Center Design exam.  That’s a big shift from where I was a year ago when I was taking the vSphere Install, Configure, Manage training course.

My top five posts from 2013 were:

  1. Utilizing Offsite Backups to Seed Backup Copy Jobs in @Veeam #V7
  2. Scripting Exchange 2010 Backups on Windows Server 2008R2 using PowerShell and Windows Backup Service
  3. VMware View Pool Recompose PowerCLI Script
  4. vCenter Server Virtual Appliance 5.5 SSL Certificates – Part 1
  5. vCenter Server Virtual Appliance 5.5 SSL Certificates Part 2 – Certificate Installation

And some of my highlights from this year were:

  • Attending my first VMworld
  • Getting VCPs for Data Center and Desktop virtualization
  • Giving my first presentation at the Wisconsin VMUG
  • Becoming more active in the VMware community as a blogger, on Twitter, and by participating in community activities like VMUG and vBrownbag.
  • Changing jobs and moving to a position that is lower stress and will allow me to grow more

The biggest change, though, hasn’t quite come yet.  My wife and I are expecting our second child, a girl, at the end of March.

I hope everyone had a wonderful 2013 and has a wonderful 2014!