Before I start this blog post, I want to mention that I am of sound mind and that all my faculties are functioning. With that cleared up, I want to start with some context.
Throughout my IT career, I have always built my knowledge based on what I believe is credible within the market place. This hasn’t ever been from a technical perspective, rather a business point of view. Don’t get me wrong technology can be cool, but being cool without a use case means you won’t have a very long shelf life.
The pace of change within IT is significant, to stay up to date and relevant requires dedication, discipline and perhaps most important of all time. Time away from family and friends locked away in a quite room reading, watching online courses and spending hours building environments in your home lab. With this in mind, when I focus on studying technology, I want to use my time efficiently on what I believe will yield the highest reward for the least investment.
It was back in 2014 when I defended the VCDX-DCV unsuccessfully, you can read about the effort to prepare in ‘VCDX Submission – By The Numbers‘ and what went wrong in the post ‘VCDX – What Went Wrong?‘ This may sound counter intuitive, but the path to defending the VCDX is a journey that I would recommend anyone to take as it pushes you to the next level in terms of understanding business requirements and translating those into a technical solution. It sharpens your technical knowledge and hones your written and presentation skills, enabling you to quickly dissect and disseminate relevant information from customer meetings/workshops into proposals, high level and low level designs.
So why am I pleased that I failed the VCDX, if I enjoyed and would recommend the journey? A number of reasons which I have highlighted below.
The requirement for traditional virtualisation skills are shrinking, customers are upgrading and expanding their clusters without needing to engage third party companies. They are used to maintaining interopability matrix’s between vSphere components and have performed numerous inplace upgrades on their existing hardware.
At the point of infrastructure lifecycle refreshes, customers are often looking to consolidate and to achieve a greater return on investment. The advent of hyper converged technologies to simplify the ‘hardware stack’ along with ongoing maintenance is something which makes sense both operationally and financially.
A customer might require some assistance to migrate to the target platform, but when they are consuming it, where does the next the next requirement come from?
If I had passed the VCDX, I believe that I would have been labelled ‘the virtualisation guy’. From your employers perspective, they may have invested in your VCDX journey then they want to use your skillset and will want to ‘tout’ your expertise in RFP responses, proposals and in front of customers to gain an ROI from their investment.
For some, I’m sure this makes perfect sense and they would relish being the ‘virtualisation guy’. However I prefer being the ‘guy’ who makes things happen and can lead a project across every technology area rather than being an SME.
I believe that being ‘pigeon holed’ would have reduced my career opportunities and earning potential and I wouldn’t have been in the position I am today.
When you have invested time and effort in obtaining an elite certification it is natural to want to keep it up to date. This then leads to the treadmill effect, renewing your certification by passing the ‘Advanced’ level exam every two years to maintain your ‘VCDX’ certificate.
I would have felt obliged to stay on this treadmill which would have meant continuing to focus on traditional virtualisation to maintain top percentile skill levels.
Perhaps this is unique to me, but after spending such a large amount of time learning the intricacies of ESXi, vCenter, SRM and vROPS, I had become an SME but if I was completely unenthused by vSphere. I wasn’t able to summon the excitement or passion to continue learning, I needed something fresh to focus on.
Over the past three years since I failed the VCDX, the customer landscape has changed. Clients want to leverage the public cloud to enable them to expand their datacentre footprint around the globe without the cost of standing up their own environments. They want to utilise IaaS, PaaS and SaaS technologies such as Office 365 to reduce the burden of maintaining hardware and infrastructure related items which bring little to no value to the business. Customers are seeking alternatives to costly areas such as DR where they can leverage the public cloud to reduce their on-premises DR footprint whilst maintaining the same service levels.
The opportunities that I see from customers no longer have traditional virtualisation as the main piece of their requirements, it is now a small subsection of a transformation programme.
I used to believe in VMware as a business, the technology and innovation they used to drive was second to none. However, I feel that they are struggling to stay relevant and have lost their way. In the core virtualisation space, the feedback from customers is that ESXi is expensive and on the next infrastructure lifestyle refresh they will be investigating reducing their ESXi estate or replacing it entirely.
VMware tried hard with vCloud Air but basic offerings such as DRaaS fell short see blog post vCloud Air DRaaS – The Good, Bad & Ugly leading to customers seeking alternatives. It was without great surprise that VMware decided they couldn’t compete with the likes of AWS and Azure so have partnered with AWS in a bid to maintain relevance and market share. This small statement alone speaks volumes, I believe this also links into vRA as well, how long until these businesses decide they no longer want to manage and maintain their bespoke workflows and seek to leverage SaaS or PaaS offerings?
I do however believe that VMware got Horizon View correct and is a viable alternative to Citrix in the VDI and application publishing market. Again though I’m not sure for how long as recent customer demand has leaned towards leveraging the public cloud to create global ‘VDI’ pods (which I have designed and delivered using Citrix on Microsoft Azure). Unless VMware have a suitable answer to this I can see Horizon View sales dwindling.
The announcement of VMware on AWS did spark my interest, I’m not entirely convinced this will be a game changer. I will put together some thoughts on this on another blog post, as I’m really struggling to see the benefits apart from ‘legacy systems’ which could be the market share that VMware is after. Again though, I’m sure that Storage Spaces Direct will soon become a PaaS offering on Microsoft Azure giving you the ability to run ‘legacy systems’ on public cloud.
For me, the journey to VCDX and also failing has been enlightening. I was a fairly new starter with my employer when I embarked on the elite certification, this provided early visibility of my capabilities which enabled me to work on some great customer engagements. Perhaps more importantly was the failure of the VCDX which meant that I wasn’t ‘pigeon holed’ but was seen as a person who makes things happen. Which lead to the opportunity to work with customers across multiple technologies transforming them to utilise both on-premises and public cloud.
This may sound like it comes from a place of unicorns and rainbows, but I get out of bed everyday and look forward to work, this isn’t only due to my awesome colleagues but the sheer breadth and depth of the customer solutions I’m trusted to lead. I thank my VCDX failure as the pivotal point in being able to achieve this.