Hello Triangle!

Today I start my new role as a Technical Architect Consultant with Triangle specialising in Datacenter Automation.

Triangle have been a VMware Partner for over 10 years and they were recently made one of 13 Elite partners worldwide for their work with delivering SDDC solutions.

How I first encountered Triangle was as a customer back in 2008 when they were hired to conduct an assessment of our production environment to see what we could virtualise. At the time I found them to be knowledgeable and easy to work with and based on more recent experiences with talking to Donal, Miriam & Christian there is still that ambition to help solve problems for customers and deliver a quality solution.

Having worked in various large 24×7 enterprises for the last 9 years the time was right to move into a customer facing design and implementation role where I could bring my knowledge and experience to a wider set of clients. I’m also very much looking forward to working with the new team and learning from them.

Let the adventure commence!

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Farewell Betfair

After 3 years & over 100,000 deployed VMs it’s time to move on. Amongst all the project work and cool tech I had the fortune to use I got to make some really good friends and probably the odd enemy but hey that’s life…
I’d like to think I’ve embraced the 5 Betfair values (Will to Win, Pace, Respect, Smart & Disciplined). Certainly working at pace in an agile environment you learn to roll with the punches and start to expect the unexpected! Almost every 2 weeks we were set automation challenges that had never been done before, those late nights with the guys writing code and testing it to death made us firm friends with a level of respect and trust that can only be earned through cold pizza & Nerf guns. Even after most of the team left we’re still in constant contact swapping war stories and keeping tabs on each others’ families.
We wouldn’t have succeeded in delivering what we did without the incredible support of Ronan, Scott, Brendan & the management in VMware GSS in Cork. The number of P1 & P2 tickets they reacted to was absurd and yet helped us deliver solutions at a ridiculous pace. The vCAC, VCO, AppD & NSX teams also deserve a solid pat on the back for helping us deliver what we did.
So farewell Betfair… I wish you all the best with the imminent merger with Paddy Power. With the inrush of two pretty amazing IT teams it’s going to be an awesome talent pool!
What’s next? Well that deserves another blog post in a couple of days time…



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Containers with VMware Photon

A few days ago I was set a challenge by a buddy to test out VMware’s new containerisation solution called Photon. I had heard the theory and seen the demos at the VMworld keynotes but had never tried to deploy it before.

I have used Docker before as part of the slick implementation on my Synology NAS. From which I’ve ran cacti and the usual lamp stack so I had a vaguely enough skills to try Photon.

What I came across was a well documented installation blog post by Massimo Re Ferre & presumably the rest of the Photon team. Download a script, change its permissions and execute. It was a slick installation routine (I’ll attach the install log shortly) which installed everything I needed on my Mac. An ESX 6 VM, the Photon controller and all the relevant networking plus three images to deploy (Kubernetes, Swarm & Mesos).

I managed to deploy a Kubernetes cluster quite quickly:


However the Mesos image doesn’t seem to be valid as I got the same error each time I tried to execute the usual ‘photon image create …’. To be honest that was the only fly in the ointment and for all I know it was something I did wrong.

Now that Photon can be deployed on my Mac I intend to deploy it on a couple of ESX hosts and perhaps get this blog (or at least the WordPress front end running it) running from a Photon container (or containers plural). It’ll be a good test of an actual implementation.

So go read up about Photon on GitHub and if you’re so inclined contribute and improve it!


I’ll be writing a further blog post in the coming weeks on my thoughts about Photon & NSX integration, Photon in vCloud Air & also then the management & operational overhead this will demand in your IT department.


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Solar Astrophotography

I’ve been turning my hand to Astrophotography recently and usually we all think of it being a nighttime activity however after some experimentation I’m going to be trying some daytime shots of the surface of our Sun.

My first proper attempt revealed some active sunspot activity on the surface of the Sun!



I was able to verify that it wasn’t simply dirt on my sensor by visiting the Soho spacecraft’s website which gave an almost live view of the Sun’s surface. The picture below is from two days after the shot above however with the sun taking 11 days to rotate you can still see the primary sunspots in both images.

Soho Sunspots

To develop further I’ll need to find myself a mylar or ND filter as it took my camera to extremes to get the picture (1/8000 sec, f64, iso 32, 1000mm using the Nikon 200-500mm f5.6e with 2x tele). Not only that but I had to wait for a passing cloud to go by do as to reduce the light even further, hence the haze across the shot.

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Supermoon Eclipse

New Lens, Eclipse, Insomnia. The perfect combination… Luckily there were no clouds in the sky at the time which is a rarity in Ireland however the big challenge was to get the focusing right on the moon when there was almost no light to help, after about 100 photos I managed to pull out some of my better attempts. I have 18 years to learn from last night before the next Supermoon Eclipse in 2033!
All shots were taken at 1000mm (200-500mm with 2x tele converter) on the morning of 28th Sept 2015.


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Astrophotography – A First Attempt

I’ve recently been admiring a friend’s amazing shots on Flickr and got the urge to try my hand on some astrophotography myself. I live in Dublin city where light pollution is pretty bad so my options are limited so while on a trip down the country I couldn’t resist a clear nights sky!

The photos were all taken at Woodstown Strand in Waterford, it’s a beach that doesn’t show up on many maps so if you’re in the locality stick the following GPS coordinates into your iPhone: 52.190827, -6.983683

The other aim for the trip was to try out the new Nikon 200-500mm f5.6E lens I recently received. When the moon shots were taken at 500m it was already far sharper than my previous attempts using a 70-200mm VRII with a 2x tele. When I added the teleconverter to the 200-500mm the moon suddenly filled the frame. My next issue was that the moon moves, and not just moves but races through shot pretty quickly if you zoom in on live view. As a 1000mm alternative to a telescope I was quite happy with the outcome of the moon shots. I can only imagine what an 800mm exotic lens would make if it all!

For a city boy I was amazed not only by how many stars were visible but also that I could easily make out satellites and shooting stars with the naked eye, indeed there’s plenty of streaks in the photos above if you look closely enough. I think the next steps will be invest in a star tracking rig and have one of my long lens aimed some of the interesting features in the sky!

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Nikon 200-500mm f5.6E Unboxing

Today I got a delivery of the latest Nikon super telephoto lens, the immense 200-500mm f5.6E. So far my main comment is that it’s a beast to hold but I can see the new possibilities for my photography career, airshows and birding will be a lot more interesting.

One interesting note is that with the TC20E-III I was still able to get autofocus to work even though it’s not meant to work beyond f8.

Here’s some unboxing pics, hopefully I’ll get some decent daylight in the next few days for some decent samples.

IMG_4318  IMG_4319
IMG_4320  IMG_4321
Above & below: compared with a 70-200mm VR II. Camera attached is a Nikon D810 with MB-D12 battery pack

IMG_4323I was tired so dug out the monopod for some late evening shots (TC20-III attached)

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My VCIX-NV Exam Experience

VCIX-NVLast week I sat the new VCIX-NV exam from VMware which is based all around NSX 6.0 for vSphere. The exam itself is just like a VCAP-DCA/CIA type exam with a real live lab and having to conduct various tasks relating to what I would consider BAU operational tasks and proper deep-dive networking troubleshooting questions.

There were 18 questions to be answered in 3 hours with some being relatively easy and others being time consuming and rigorous. Unusually there was a comment section to give feedback which was dually used due to some inaccuracies and a misspelling in the questions.

The exam lab itself was pretty straightforward and a casual review of the environment in viClient was enough to understand the setup. Unfortunately to administrate NSX you must use the web client and, unsurprisingly, it was its usual self whereby it was sluggish and prone to crashing.

I didn’t use any online resources or study guides as my day to day job for the last 2 months has been around NSX 6.1 and setting up DLR’s, ESG’s and DFW in a production environment. Getting actual time with the NSX product is vital to pass the exam so if you can’t get your hands on the software then you will need to spend several hours using the hands on labs.

I can probably sum up the exam with a list of Pros and Cons:


  • The exam covers what is in the Blueprint and no more
  • The tasks can be done within the timescale (but the screen refresh issue will impact you if outside the US)
  • The tasks are real life operational type activities that an NSX admin will be required to know
  • There was a good emphasis on network routing knowledge and not just the usual vSphere admin tasks. A network guy won’t need to know a huge amount about ESX & vCenter to get the job done but must be familiar with the basic administration of a vSphere environment
  • The troubleshooting element of the exam means you need to have at least a CCNA R&S knowledge of networking, it’s not an exam you can wing with knowledge of vSphere dvSwitches and vShield Manager.


  • The usual screen refresh issue for the Admin exams occurred making the most basic of tasks take minutes instead of seconds. Ask for more time if you’re having a pretty horrific time of it. Please VMware/Pearson place a few labs in the EU. Based on the system time in the environment it was likely to have been running from somewhere on the west coast of the US, 5000 miles away!
  • There were errors in some questions which can really throw you. Also some of the questions are vague so you have to put a security hat on and make a solid guess at what might be the right end result.
  • It’s possible to trash the environment within the first few questions so BE CAREFUL!!!!

I received the result after 5 working days and am pretty chuffed to have passed.

Posted in Computing, NSX, VMWare | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

My VCP-NV Experience

As most VMware Pros will have heard the VCP-NV (Network Virtualisation) exam is out and is primarily all about NSX. Since the announcement I’ve been doing some reading up on it and took a hands on lab to get a better understanding about how it all works. Today I sat the exam and thankfully had done enough to pass.

While I will admit to being a bit of a VMware cert junkie the recent VCP-NV coincided with my day to day job where I’ve been also recently evaluating various virtual routing products such as the Brocade 5400/5600 vRouters, the Cisco 1000v + ASA Cloud Gateway and currently NSX. This was from a starting point of the the incumbent VCNS & vShield Edge devices underpinning the private cloud I use daily. This gave me a bit of an advantage in the exam as I am well aware of the vShield edge capabilities and how VXLAN works.

Anyway onto the exam itself… This is not an exam for the networking novice and certainly it helps if you’re up to a CCNA level of knowledge. The 120 questions you face are all based on the exam blueprint but not all directly relate to NSX itself. There’s plenty of ‘low hanging fruit’ by knowing:

  • …the differences between a vSS and vDS
  • …what a VTEP is
  • …what a ‘mtu’ has to do with networking
  • …what multicast is and its limitations
  • …the upgrade path to NSX 6
  • …what the difference is between traditional edge networking and the new world of distributed routers and firewalls
  • …that you don’t need vSphere to use NSX. You can happily run it over KVM and/or XEN and get the same network abstraction

Getting through the study in the two weeks meant getting very familiar with the NSX design guide, the admin guide and the installation guide. I also found the VMware lab, HOL-SDC-1303,  to be an invaluable resource.

As final preparation for the exam I went through Paul McSharry’s excellent VCP-NV sample exams and the VMware supplied sample exam.

Best of luck in going for the VCP-NV, it’s a nice challenge and I really know NSX a lot better than I did. It’s just a shame that the closest you can get to play with the product is in a HOL and not in your home lab. Maybe someday soon…

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My VCAP5-DCA Experience

Last month I sat the VCAP-CIA exam which I previously blogged about. This month it was the Datacenter track which took centre stage with the VMWare Certified Advanced Professional 5 – DataCenter Administration exam. Again I took the exam in the only exam centre in Dublin, Sure Skills and spent the next 3.5hrs in a fierce battle against time and a laggy interface! I ‘think’ I answered 18-19 correctly, 4 partly answered and 3 skipped due to time pressure. I should have gotten over the 300 pass mark, I’m hoping I squeezed 400 though for personal pride although I know I didn’t spend half enough time studying (the story of my college career!)!

The exam itself (as per the blueprint details) is 26 varied questions touching pretty much the whole vSphere environment. As a veteran of 6 years of vCentre and ESX(i) in enterprise environments the majority of the exam was pretty much second nature but the questions involving PowerCLI or the VMA were ones that definitely required study prior to the exam. My home lab was heavily utilised and reconfigured multiple times in order to keep me as sharp as possible in knowing where to go first time to change a setting. When I changed my Synology from being loaded with SATA disks to SSDs it introduced me to claim rules and the tagging of SSD LUNs. Swapping between vSS and vDS for my networking and setting up iSCSI bindings kept me familiar with the various vDS settings. While these may or may not have been topics on the exam (I ain’t giving a brain dump to anyone!) it is on the blueprint and it also helped make short work of a few questions due to familiarity in those areas. To be fair my day-to-day job is pretty technical and I’m working on vSphere everyday but some settings I can’t touch readily (due to something silly called Change Control!) so everyone should have a small lab so they can break and fix stuff on a regular basis. Indeed my next lab change is to move from my Windows based 5.5 vCentre to the 5.5 vCentre Server Appliance… That’s what I do for fun after hours!

Recommendations for study

  • Obviously the official Blueprint is the number one document to read and to understand the boundaries of the exam (there isn’t much it doesn’t cover…)
  • I highly recommend the VMware vSphere Optimize & Scale videos from Pluralsight (formerly known as TrainSignal). You need to set aside a good week of evenings to go through them all but if you’re alert and remember what Jason Nash tells you then you’ll be in great shape for the exam
  • The Unofficial Official VCAP5-DCA Study Guide by Jason Langer is an excellent breakdown of the exam content. Download the PDF to your iPad/Kindle as your number one blueprint breakdown!
  • The official VMWare courses are usually a safe bet (if a tad expensive). The recommended course is the vSphere: Optimize and Scale course. Bear in mind the VCAP5-DCA exam is based on vSphere 5.0 (for the moment) so there’s no SSO or web-client. AutoDeploy is Stateless only (i.e. no Stateless caching or Stateless Install options). No vRAM tax to worry about. If you take the vSphere: O&S 5.1 or the (beta) 5.5 courses you’re likely to cover many things not on the exam, just be aware of that. I understand the VCP5-DCV exam may be bringing in 5.5 questions come the new year so the VCAP exams may go the same way, doing the 5.5 course will be a better plan if they do alter the blueprint next year and that’s when you plan on sitting the exam.
  • Since we’re talking about vSphere 5.0 (circa 2011) we’re also talking of the days where Windows 2003 was still King! Bear that in mind and ‘reacquaint’ yourself! Don’t expect Windows 2012 to be popping up in the environment…

Exam Technique

  • Re-read my VCAP-CIA blog entry as most of the suggestions are still valid
  • This time I kept track of the how many minutes had elapsed after answering each question. For the first half of the exam I took 1hr 40mins so I knew I was going to be running right up to the 3hrs 30mins allowed. It helped pace myself with the exam questions and allowed me to set aside time to dip into the PDFs to attempt some questions which were outside my comfort zone. The PDFs really are a luxury you can’t afford to rely on except if you have time to spare (lucky you!).
  • Another laggy RDP session slowed me down. Don’t maximise your windows (VIClient, putty, etc) unless you really have to, the less of the bitmap that has to be transmitted over the RDP session the better and the faster the response in the interface. I really hope VMWare have a few labs setup closer to Dublin next time I have to do a DCA or CIA exam.
  • Have a Brownie and a cola before you go into the exam room! No food or drink allowed and you’ll need energy to keep your brain running throughout! (The tasty Brownie was made by my wife, thumbs up to her!)



My take on the VCAP5-DCA is that it wasn’t as scary as some sites made out with the constant mentions of esxtop performance monitoring and CLI work around every question. Good old VIClient can still do the majority of the donkey work. I’ve nothing against the PowerCLI and VMA future but sometimes with the requirement to get a job done quickly the old ways sometimes are the easiest! Again, like the VCAP-CIA, if you can handle the DCA exam then thumbs up, you genuinely know how to manage and maintain a vSphere environment! Now the wait for the result…

Next on my list… VCAP-CID…

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