Category Archives: Job

Exam prep & experience: Citrix NetScaler Advanced Topics: Security, Management, and Optimization (1Y0-340)

In May 2018, Citrix released their new Citrix Certified Expert – Networking certification, which completet the networking certification path at the upper end (blog post on training.citrix.com). The track starts with the Associate (CCA-N), the lower-level certification is a requirement for achieving the higher-level certification, continues with the Professional (CCP-N), and ends with the Expert (CCE-N) certification. This is pretty cool, and I’m very happy that Citrix now offers the CCE-N, because the expert-level certification was missing all the time.

kmicican/ pixabay.com/ Creative Commons CC0

Everything is cool… except you have passed exam 1Y0-351 to gain your CCP-N. In this case, you have to pass 1Y0-340 until Dec 31 2018. Otherwise you have to start with the CCA-N, after the validity period of your CCP-N is over (3y after passing the exam).

Bad move, Citrix, bad move. I’m really disappointed. I passed 1Y0-351 in Nov 2017, and now, 12 months later, I have to book, pay, and pass 1Y0-340 if I not want to start with a CCA-N in Nov 2020. Bad move, Citrix, bad move!

Exam 1Y0-340 is titled as “Citrix NetScaler Advanced Topics: Security, Management, and Optimization”, where as 1Y0-351 was titeld as “Citrix NetScaler 10.5 Essentials and Networking”. You can assume that more in-depth knowledge is needed to pass the exam, as it was necessary for 1Y0-351. Note the “Advanced Topics” in the exam title.

But what are these “advanced topics”?  According to the exam prep guide, the perfect candidate for the 1Y0-340 exam can deploy and/or manage

  • Citrix NetScaler Application Firewall (AppFirewall) to secure application access in a Citrix NetScaler 12 environment, as well as
  • NetScaler Management and Analytics System (NMAS) to administer a Citrix NetScaler environment, or
  • Optimize NetScaler-managed application delivery traffic

Citrix NetScaler Application Firewall (AppFirewall)

You should take an in-depth look at these topics:

  • Application Firewall Overview
  • Application Firewall Profiles and Policies
  • Regular Expression
  • Attacks and Protections
  • Monitoring and Troubleshooting
  • Security and Filtering

NetScaler Management and Analytics System (NMAS)

  • NetScaler MAS: Introduction and Configuration
  • Managing and Monitoring NetScaler Instances
  • Managing NetScaler Configurations
  • NetScaler Web Logging

Optimize NetScaler-managed application delivery traffic

  • Integrated Caching
  • Front-End Optimization
  • Tuning and Optimizations

How to prep?

The exam prep guide referres to the NetScaler documentation, as also to training material. Unfortunately I don’t have access to the newer training material, only to the training material from my CNS-220 course. But hey: At least we have tons of publically available NetScaler 12.0 documentation available!

The exam prep guide has a section in which Citrix outlines sections, objectives and references. You will find links to the NetScaler 12.0 documentation, as well as knowledge base articles, or blog posts. Go through it. Read it carefully!

The exam prep guide also outlines the section titles and weights. Two areas stand out:

  • Section 4: Attacks and Protections, and
  • Section 8: Managing and Monitoring NetScaler Instances

The section weights are directly map to the number of questions in the exam. If the exam has 60 questions, and section 4 has a weight of 21%, at least 12 questions will relate to “Attacks and Protections”.

How did it go?

First things first: I passed with a good score. The exam had 62 questions and I needed at least 62% to pass the exam. I passed with 82%. As a non-native English speaker that took the exam in a country where english is a foreign language, I got 30 minutes extra, resulting in 120 minutes for 62 questions. Plenty of time…

What should I say? It was a multiple choice test. Read the questions carefully. The exam guide did not lie to me. It came pretty close to the topics that were described in the guide. For most questions, my first “educated guess” was right. Sometimes, the least dumb answer seemed to be correct. ;)

It was a bit frustrating that Citrix has changed product names. NetScaler is no “Application Delivery Controller”, MAS is now known as “Citrix Application Delivery Management”. There was a button which showed a mapping table “old name – new name”.

If you are experienced with Citrix ADC deployments and configuration, I think the exam prep guide is enough to pass the exam.

Good luck!

What is in the bag?

Michael White published the third release of his “What is in the bag” blog post. In reference to this, I would like to share the content of my bag.

I used a RIMOWA Salsa business trolley for several years. Unfortunately, it broke in June 2017 and a repair was refused by RIMOWA. I was very disappointed of the product quality and the customer service experience with RIMOWA.

I decided to switch to a backpack, which felt much more comfortable than carrying or pulling the RIMOWA trolley.

Since November 2017, I’m using an Eastpak Floid Ash Blend2. It is a small backpack, with just enough space for my equipment. The whole backpack, with all its content, weighs about 4 kg.

Eastpak Floid Ash Blend2

Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

When I’m on the road, a Lenovo ThinkPad T480s is my primary working device. It has a 14″ WQHD display, 16 GB RAM, and a 512 GB nVME SSD. It is running Windows 10 and the 3 cell battery with 57 Wh capacity allows me to work 8 to 12 hours without a power supply.

CAISON 14 inch

Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

I really take care of my devices. Because of this, my ThinkPad is stored in a CAISON 14 inch sleeve, when it is no used.

I also use an Lenovo ThinkPad X250 as fallback or during projects, when I need a more smaller device (e.g. doing networking stuff at a datacenter). But this laptop isn’t in my backpack. :)

My X250 is also carried in a sleeve, if it is no used.

Of course, I carry a few accessories around with me. They are safely stored in a BUBM bag.

BUBM bag

Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

First, there are a lot of small things in it:

  • 2x Trancend 64 GB USB 3 Sticks
  • Patriot 8 GB USB Stick
  • Intenso 8 GB USB Stick
  • 16 GB MicroSD Card
  • DELL 10W AC Adapter with USB Outlet
  • 2m CAT 6 Cable
  • 0,5m CAT 6 Cable
  • Lightning to USB Cable
  • Micro-USB to USB Cable
  • Apple EarPods with 3.5 mm Headphone Plug

In addition to that:

An external HDD for software and backups. I use a Transcend StoreJet M3S 1 TB USB 3 HDD drive. It has a USB 3.1 Gen 1 interface and it is Military-grade shock resistant. This makes it a perfect fit for me. It stores all the software I possibly need during my work (several releases of VMware vSphere vCenter, ESXi, Windows Server, Veeam Backup & Replication, HPE Support Pack for ProLiant etc), as well as my Veeam Agent backups. Of course, the hard drive is encrypted. :)

Transcend StoreJet M3S 1 TB USB 3 HDD

Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

Both laptops have an Ethernet port. Nevertheless I’m a WiFi fan. The MikroTik hAP ac² is primarily used as a WiFi-to-Ethernet bridge. If necessary, I can hook devices to the additional four switch ports (10/ 100/ 1000 Mbit). The switch can do much more, but in my case, it is primarily… a bridge. A very nice feature is the PoE-In capability. I have the power supply with me, but most times I power it with PoE.

MikroTik hAP ac²

Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

The MikroTik hAP² offers PoE-In, but only passive PoE. So I need a 802.3af to passive PoE converter. I use this 802.3af PoE converter from Ubiquiti.

802.3af PoE converter

Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

The ThinkPad trackpad is good, but sometimes a wireless mouse is better. I use a Logitech M185 wireless mouse. Pretty solid, nothing much to say about it. :)

Logitech M185

Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

Another Logitech device is my Logitech R400 Laser presentation remote. I had it multiple times the situation, that such a device was not available during presentations, so I decided to buy my own remote.

Logitech R400 Laser presentation remote

Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

Another important device for customer presentations: My Lenovo USB-C Travel Hub. It offers, beside a USB 3 and a GbE RJ45 port, two ports for external display connection (VGA and HDMI). The travel hub is connected with USB Type-C to my ThinkPad.

Lenovo USB-C Travel Hub

Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

My ThinkPad T480s was delivered with a 60W USB-C AC adapter, but I decided to buy a smaller Lenovo USB-C 45W AC Adapter.

Lenovo 45W Travel USB-C Power Supply

Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

For notes and sketches, I use a simple notebook and two LAMY pencils, a LAMY logo (brushed) pencil, and a LAMY logo ballpoint pen.

Notebook and LAMY Pens

Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

That’s it. That is everything a have in my bag.

What is in your laptop bag?

Exam prep & experience: VMware Certified Advanced Professional 6 – Data Center Virtualization Deployment Exam (VCAP6-DCV Deploy)

TL;DR: I have passed the VCAP6-DCV Deploy exam today. :) I want to thank Fred, Dominik, Frank and Jens-Henrik for kicking my ass. Without you, I would have taken the VCP 6.5 delta exam. Thank you!

As often, the whole thing started with a tweet. A tweet about my expiring VMware Certified Professional (VCP) certification.

To my surprise, several of my followers recommended to go for the VCAP6-DCV Deployment instead. Okay, so many smart people can’t be wrong.

I booked the exam, prepared for the exam, took the exam today – and passed!

27 questions in 205 minutes (25 minutes extension for non-native speaker) is a pretty challenging task. I was able to answer all questions in the given time. I left the test center with a good feeling, and after an hour I got the mail that I have passed the exam! Woohoo!

Preparation is everything

Preparation and time management. That’s all. Easier said than done. ;)

Make sure that you have read the exam guide. This document is intended to provide detailed information about the objectives covered by the exam. It was crucial for me to get a feeling about what I have to learn. I have been working with VMware vSphere since ESX 2.5, that’s a pretty long time, yet I do not know everything. Especially things like vSphere Data Protection, Auto Deploy or some certificate-related tasks are not day-to-day tasks.

I premillary worked with Kyle Jenners VCAP6-DCV Deployment Study Guide and and the VMware Hands-on-Lab. The VCAP6-DCV Deployment is not a MC test, like the VCP exams. You have to do real tasks. So experience is crucial to pass the exam.

Because I don’t have a lab, I used the VMware Hands-on Lab instead. I can recommend these three courses:

  • HOL-1911-01-SDC (What’s New in VMware vSphere 6.7)
  • HOL-1808-01-HCI (vSAN v6.6.1 – Getting Started), and
  • HOL-1827-01-HCI (VMware Storage – Virtual Volumes and Storage Policy Based Management)

Unfortunately, there is no course available that covers vSphere Data Protection and vSphere Replication.

But there was also another reason, why I have used the HOL: The VCAP exam environment is based on the interface of the VMware HOL. This was pretty helpful, because I was able to get in touch with the interface prior the exam.

Due to security restrictions, the exam environment does not support some keys and shortcuts, e.g. CRTL and ALT. To my surprise, the Backspace key worked in my enviornment. Many people stated, that the Backspace key isn’t working. Because of this, VMware has published an Interface Guide. Make sure to read it! And learn how to get around these limitations. There is also a pretty handy YouTube video with tips and tricks:

To test yourself, you can use this free VCAP-DCV simulator. The simulation provides scenarios that are equal to the scenarios from the exam. This is pretty handy to get a feeling of how good you are prepared for the exam.

VCAP6-DCV Deploy Exam Simulator – FREE

You have ~ 7 minutes per questions. If you don’t have an idea how to answer a question, move on! Write down the number and some keywords, then move onto the next question. Instead of waiting for tasks to finish, move onto the next question and come back later to check the task result.

I took the exam at Blue Consult in Krefeld (Germany). This was a recommendation of one of my followers (Thanks Dominik!). Fortunately, Blue Consult has keyboards with US layout in their test center, which makes it much easier for me. The performance of the exam environment was quite good. No lags or hanging sessions.

What’s next?

I will book the VMware Certified Advanced Professional 6.5 – Data Center Virtualization Design exam as soon as I passed the NetScaler CCP-N exam, which I have to take until end of December 2018 (Thank you Citrix… NOT!).

VCIX6.5-DCV FTW! :)

HPE Networking expert level certifications

A couple of days ago, I took the HP0-Y47 exam “Deploying HP FlexNetwork Core Technologies”. It was one of two required exams to achive the HPE ASE – Data Center Network Integrator V1, and the HP ASE – FlexNetwork Integrator V1 certification. It was a long planned upgrade to my HP ATP certification, and it is a necessary certification for the HPE partner status of my employer.

You might find it confusing that I’m talking about an HP ASE and a HPE ASE. That is not a typo. The HP ASE was released prior the HP/ HPE split. The HPE ASE was released after the split in HP and HPE.

The HP/ HPE ATP is a professional level certification, comparable to the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA). The HP/ HPE ASE is an expert level certification, so the typical candidate for a HP/ HPE ASE certification is a professional with three to five years experience in designing and architecting complex enterprise-level networks.

Requirements

There are different ways to achieve this certification. Regardless of the way you chose, you need a certification from which you can upgrade. This does not have to be a HP/ HPE certification! If you hold a valid CCNA/ CCNP or JNCIP-ENT, you can upgrade from this certification without the need of a valid HP/ HPE ATP Networking certification.

If you want to earn the HPE ASE – Data Center Network Integrator V1, and the HP ASE – FlexNetwork Integrator V1 certification in a single step, you need at least one of these certifications:

  • HP ATP – FlexNetwork Solutions V3
  • HPE ATP – Data Center Solutions V1

Or if you want to upgrade from a non-HP/ HPE certification:

  • Cisco – CCNP (any CCNP regardless of technology)
  • Cisco – Certified Design Professional (CCDP)
  • Juniper – JNCIP-ENT

Now you need to pass two exams:

HP2-Z34 (Building HP FlexFabric Data Centers)

The HP2-Z34 exam focuses on deployment and implementation of HPE FlexFabric Data Center solutions. Therefore, the exams covers topics like

  • Multitenant Device Context (MDC)
  • Datacenter Bridging (DCB)
  • Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS)
  • Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE)
  • Ethernet Virtual Interconnect (EVI),
  • Multi-Customer Edge (MCE),
  • Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links (TRILL), and
  • Shortest Path Bridging Mac-in-Mac mode (SPBM).

HPE offers a study guide to prepare for this exam: Building HP FlexFabric Data Centers (HP2-Z34 and HP0-Y51). I used this guide to prepare for the exam (eBook). The guide was of an average quality. Its sufficient to prepare for the exam, but I used other materials to get a better understanding of some topics.

HP2 exams are web-based exams. To pass the HP2-Z34 exam, I had to answer 60 questions in 105 minutes, with a passing score of 70%. The exam was quite demanding, especially if you don’t have much real-world experience with some of the covered topics.

HP0-Y47 (Deploying HP FlexNetwork Core Technologies)

The HP0-Y47 exam covers the configuration, implementation, and the troubleshoot enterprise level HPE FlexNetwork solutions. The exam covers different topics, e.g.

  • Quality of Service (QoS)
  • redundancy (VRRP, Stacking)
  • multicast routing (IGMP, PIM)
  • dynamic routing (OSPF, BGP)
  • ACLs, and
  • port authentication/ port security (Mac-auth, Web-auth, 802.1x)

I used the HP ASE FlexNetwork Solutions Integrator (HP0-Y47) study guide to prepre myself for the exam. Unfortunately, it had the same average quality as the HP2 Z34 guide: Good enough to pass the exam, but don’t expect to much.

HP0-Y47 is a proctored exam. I had to answer 55 questions in 150 minutes, with a passing score of 65%. The exam is not very hard, if you were familiar with the covered topics. Experience with ProVision and Comware is absolutely necessary, because both platforms have their peculiarities, e.g. processing of ACLs, differences in Stacking technologies, commands, STP support etc.

It took me some time to prepare for both exams, despite the fact that I work with ProVision and Comware Switches every day. So I’m pretty happy that I passed both exams on the first try.

My tool chain for 2018

Each of us has his or her personal tool chain. Depending on your job role, the tool chain will look different. My personal tool chain does not have changed much over the last few years, but if I added or removed a tool to my tool chain, this change was often influenced by other peoples tool chain.

Rainer Sturm/ pixelio.de

My primary work device is a Lenovo ThinkPad X250 (Intel i5 5200U, 8 GB RAM, 250 GB SSD) with Windows 10. I’ve added a 6 cell battery, so I have ~ 95 Wh of battery capacity. This gives me ~ 16h of battery lifetime with my common workload. The 12,5″ screen seems to be small, but it’s okay as I have two 24″ displays at the office. It’s small, lightweight, long battery life and powerful. I awaited the new Lenovo Thinkpads, that were presented some day ago on the CES. But Lenovo removed the Ethernet port on the X280. So this is not longer an option. Maybe the T480 with an additional 72 Wh battery… Devices and accessories are safely stowed in an Eastpack Floid Ash Blend2. It’s a great backpack, light and not too big.

Browser and Office

I have used Google Chrome for years, but with the latest Firefox release I switched back to Firefox and disabled all Google services I used before. I even try to avoid using google.com and use duckduckgo.com instead. Microsoft Office 2013 is corporate standard, so nothing much to say about it.

Knowledge Management

I primarily use two tools to dump my brain onto my hard disk. One is Microsoft OneNote, the other one is XMind 8 Pro. I’m using OneNote to store snippets, meeting protocols, summaries etc. in two notebooks. One notebook is for customer related stuff, the other notebook is for knowhow and snippets. A third notebook is shared between colleagues and me. I often use the web version of OneNote, available on onenote.com.

Tools

Royal TS is an awesome remote management solution, helping me to keep track of all those RDP and VNC sessions. And it can do much more. I switches from PuTTY to KiTTY last year. KiTTY is a PuTTY fork with some nice additions, like folders or scripting. My VMware application stack consists of the good, old VMware vSphere C# Client (don’t judge me…), PowerCLI and the VMware vSphere Remote Console. The web-based Clients are onboard as well. Filezilla is something that I’m using for years. FTP, S/FTP oder SCP are common protocols, most times used to upload firmware, or download config files from network devices. Wireshark is another veteran in my tool chain. Nothing much to say. The army knife in case of network troubleshooting. Authy is pretty new in my tool chain. I discovered it some weeks ago as an alternative to the Google Authenticator app in my iPhone. A pretty cool app. I can have the same accounts on my smartphone and in a desktop app. No need to grab my phone if I need 2FA at my laptop. And, IMHO a big benefit, an encrypted backup of my 2FA accounts. But 2FA or MFA is only one factor. The other factor is the password and I’m forcing me to use different passwords for different services. I’m getting older, so I use Keepass to store my usernames and passwords in a safe, password protected and encrypted database.

Development

I’m not a developer. But sometimes I have to write scripts in PowerShell or Python, transform data etc. My developer tool chain is full of well known tools. Notepad++ is my favorite text editor for years. ISE Steroids is still my favorite PowerShell IDE, even if I have Visual Studio Code installed. But this is mainly used for Python. ISE Steroids variable monitoring function is superior. Currently, I don’t get my mind wrapped around the VS Code debugging mode. But I swear that I will try it in 2018! GitHub Desktop is mandatory, not only for PowerShell and Python snippets, but also for my scripts and dot files (VIM, ZSH etc.).

Other stuff

Sometimes I like to hear music during work. I love Spotify. I don’t have to run VMs on my laptop, but when I have to, VMware Workstation Pro is my desktop virtualizer of choice. For reading PDFs I switched from Adobe Reader to Google Chrome, and after removing Chrome, to Foxit Reader.

Continuity vs. change

Note: I trashed this blog post several times. But I would like to express my point of view (hey, this is my blog. :D )

Some weeks back, I had an interesting discussion with a HR consultant. Bottom line: You ruin your career, if you stay for more than 3 years at the same company. IMHO this is bullshit.

I have started my IT career, right after school, with an apprenticeship at a local IT company. I finished this apprenticeship three years later, and my employer offered me a position as IT-Technician. Until 2004, I changed my employer three times. There were good reasons for each change. I learned pretty much in these years. The last change took me to my current employer. I have started as a Technical Consultant in October 2004. Today, thirteen years later, I’m leading the consulting and services business unit. There is a good chance I will not leave this company until retirement. At least not for the same or similar job role.

But is it a good idea to work for such a long time for the same company? What about challenges, motivation, perspectives, and income? How can you develop yourself, if you are working for the same company for such a long time? Isn’t this boring?

Challenges

Challenges are important. They help us to develop ourselves. Sure, customer projects can be challenging. But that is not what I mean. The biggest challenge, that we are all facing, is our job! Technology is changing so fast, and it will never stop. I’m a infrastructure guy. I don’t think that I have to explain how things like virtualization or cloud have changed the way we build infrastructure. “Never stop learning” is one of the biggest challenges in our job.

Motivation

Money is a bad motivator. It motivates only for a short period of time. Once you get used to it, the motivation is gone. “Strive for perfection” – that is something that motivates me. “Strive for perfection”, regardless if it is for a project, or for your own skill set.

Income

Is income everything? Nope, it is not. I had the chance to earn much more money. But at what price? Travelling from monday to friday, and leaving the family again on sunday? To be one of many highly skilled employees, with a manager in oversea? Ôr doing stuff I don’t want to do, just because it is well paid? That was never an option for me. What about working hours? Amount of travel? Car policy? Employer-funded pension? Having a safe job? To work for the founder of the company, and not for the shareholders. Money is not everything.

Perspectives

Good employees rarely remain unrecognized. Companies, that strive for sustainability, should try to promote employees. Often it is better to raise someone from the team into a manager role, than hiring someone from outside of the company. This opens perspectives for employees. Sure, sometimes you have to hire someone from outside. There are different reasons for this.

Should I stay or should I go?

It is not reprehensible to move forward, if the  conditions no longer fit. But it does not have to be bad to stay with an employer, and to develop itself and the company.

vExpert 2017 – My 2 cents about the increasing number of vExperts

Last Wednesday, VMware has published a list with the vExperts for 2017.

I’m on this list. I’m on this list for the fourth time, which makes me very happy and proud. I was surprised that I’m on this list. I have written only a few blog posts last year. I sometimes tweet about VMware, and I am active in some forums. The focus of this blog has shifted.

Are there too many vExperts?

Eric Siebert from vsphere-land.com wrote a blog post about the vExpert announcement (vExpert 2017 announced and there are still too many vExperts & vExpert class of 2016 announced – are there too many vExperts). Eric thinks that VMware makes it to easy to be a vExpert. There is no definition what it means to significantly contribute to the community.

Yes, Eric is right. The criteria are very “spongy”. And that is a problem. But it is not the problem. When the VMware community grows, the number of vExperts increase automatically.

Betteridge’s law of headlines – the answer is always no

Look at other community programs (Veeam Vanguard, Cisco Champion, PernixPro, Microsoft MVP etc.). These community programs were designed to reward individuals that have highly contributed to the community. These awards motivate individuals to contribute to the community. And if individuals contribute significantly, they are awarded for this. The increasing number of awarded individuals will motivate more community members to contribute. More individuals will be awarded. It’s a self-sustaining process. A process that will help your community to grow.

When you design such a community program, you don’t want to have a small elite group of individuals. You want that your community grows. But you must use the right criterias, and you must held the level high enough. You must not reward anyone, that missed the criteria. Otherwise the title becomes inflationary and loses its importance and reputation.

VMware should work on these criterias. They should rise the bar. But they should make the criterias and the election process transparent for everyone.

Fight the chaos: Design your toolbox properly

You need tools and methods to accomplish your daily tasks. No one will deny this insight.

I would like to give you an insight into my box of tools and methods. These tools and methods work for me, but they do not have to work for you. The design of your personal toolbox depends on your job.

Depending on who you ask, my job role consists of several roles: Currently, I am working as a consultant, head of the business unit, pre-sales consultant and technical account manager. That’s what you get when working in a very small company… And because of these different roles, my personal toolbox may differ from yours.

Daily Toolbox

Independent of the task, role or customer, some tools are always in use.

Google ChromeBrowser
Microsoft OutlookMail
Microsoft OneNoteKnowledge Management
MyLifeOrganizedTo-Do list, task management & personal organizer
XMindMind Mapping Software

Google Chrome and Microsoft Outlook don’t have to be explained. I use several extensions for Chrome, like OneTab, chromeIPass, Clip to OneNote, Adblock Plus, Ghostery and SwitchyOmega.

Microsoft OneNote is my personal notepad, I use it for notes, snippets, sketches, code dump etc. I don’t take paper with me.In the past, I used it on my iPad and my laptop, but for about a year I only take my Lenovo X250 with me. And if I do not have my laptop with me, a simple Internet browser or my iPhone is enough to get my notes.

MyLifeOrganized is similar to OmniFocus. It’s a very powerful tool for to-do lists and task management. I’m currently testing it, and I really like it. But it’s not cheap (MOL Pro for Windows $59.95,  MOL Pro for iPhone $29.99, Cloud Sync for 12 month $14.95).

XMind is available for free, but there is also a Plus and Pro version. I switched from Mindjet MindManager to XMind, because XMind was capable to read MindManager files. Mindjet MindManager is really expensive, and after leaving the FernUniversität Hagen, I was not entitled for academic discounts anymore. But XMind is really similar to MindManager. I like the concept of mind maps and I use it quite often for project planning and management.

Productivity

Microsoft WordWriting docs,  proposals etc.
Microsoft ExcelCalculations, data processing, proposals
Microsoft PowerPointPresentations
Internet ExplorerSometimes you need it…
Notepad++Powerful text editor

Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint are self-explanatory. Sometimes I have to use the Internet Explorer. It is 2016 and there is still software out there that simply does not work properly with Firefox or Chrome. It’s a pity… Notepad++ is a free (GPL licensed) source code editor and Notepad replacement . Good piece of software and it’s free!

Admin

When I’m working for customers, I mostly need three tools: An internet browser, something for RDP connections, the vSphere C# client, and a SSH client.

Royal TSConnection Management Software
VMware vSphere C# ClientStill necessary for some tasks…
KiTTYA PuTTY clone

Royal TS makes my life so much easier! Royal TS is a connection management software for RDP, VNC, SSH based terminals or web-based interfaces. It also includes credential management. Very handy!

The vSphere C# client is mandatory. Even if I have not explicitly listed it, I also have installed the Client Integration Plug-In in the vSphere Web Client, as well as the VMware Remote Console.

KiTTY is a PuTTY clone. KiTTY is a fork from version 0.67 of PuTTY and includes some features like portability, automatic password, session filter, send to tray and many more.

Pre-Sales

HPE SalesBUILDER for windowsPre-Sales configuration tool
HPE Ninja STARS for HPE 3PARSizing tool for HPE 3PAR StoreServ

I often work with HPE products, and because of this, the HPE SalesBUILDER and the HPE Ninja STARS tool are quite often in use. Both are available to HPE Partners only.

Development

I’m not a developer, but sometimes I have to write code, mostly PowerShell.

Windows PowerShell ISE with ISESteroidsPowerShell IDE
VMware PowerCLIPowerShell interface for managing VMware vSphere
GitHub DesktopVersion control and source code management
Python 3.5 IDLEIntegrated Development and Learning Environment

For PowerShell, I use the Windows PowerShell ISE with ISESteroids. ISESteroids is an  add-on for the Windows PowerShell ISE, which extends the ISE with many, many useful features. I have written a blog post about it.

VMware PowerCLI is self-explanatory and a must, if you are frequently working with VMware products.

I have rarely used GitHub Desktop to manage my code, but I have decided to change this for 2017. I use GitHub Desktop to sync my code between my two laptops (one for work, and the other for lab, projects etc.).

I’m still in the process to learn Python, and I have written a blog post months ago why I want to learn Python (Hey infrastructure guy, you should learn Python!). I played a bit with PyCharm Community edition, but now I’m using the Python IDLE again. It’s basic functionality is enough for the moment.

Methods

A fool with a tool is still a fool. You are nothing without supporting methods. I mainly use three different methods:

You may be wondering about this list, because GTD and Pomodoro are both time-management methods. And you may wonder how Kanban fits into this list. It’s all about the flow.

The idea behind GTD is to get tasks out of your head by writing them down, and breaking them down into smaller work pieces. This allows you to focus on accomplishing tasks. Btw: Mind mapping is a great way to graphically depict this.

Pomodoro uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 20 to 25 minutes, separated by short breaks of 5 minutes. After four intervals, a break of 15 minutes is given. This technique can improve mental agility, and help you to focus on the currently active task. But what if a distraction pops into your head,? Write it down, then get back on the active task. That is the link between GTD and Pomodoro.

Kanban implements the pull principle in Lean Management. It limits the work in progress, thereby avoiding waste through multitasking and context switching. Kanban uses visual elements (cards on a board) to visualize the current state of the work and the workflow.

Summary

This box of tools and methods works for me in my current situation. Feel free to leave a comment, or write a blog post about your tools and methods.

VCP7-DTM certification beta exam experience

Nearly a month ago, a tweet caught my attention:

These beta exams are a cost-effective way to achieve certifications. The last beta exam I took, was the VCP6-DCV beta. Because I already had the VCP6-DTM on my to-do list, the new VCP7-DTM beta exam was released just in the right moment.

As already mentioned in the blog post of the VMware Education and Certification Blog, there are primarly three reasons to take this beta exam:

  • get certified
  • low costs (only 50 USD)
  • identify strengths and weaknesses

Beside of this, VMware can test the questions and is getting feedback to increase the quality of their exams.

Exam preparation

The beta exam preparation guide is quite comprehensive.  Desktop and Mobility (DTM) is not only about VMWare Horizon View. VMware Horizon Mirage, App Volumes, User Environment Manager, Thin App, IDM/ Workspace are also part of the exam.

Section 1 – Install and Configure Horizon Server Components

  • Objective 1.1 – Describe techniques to prepare environment for Horizon
  • Objective 1.2 Determine procedures to install Horizon Components
  • Objective 1.3 – Determine steps to configure Horizon Components
  • Objective 1.4 – Analyze End User Requirements for Display Protocol Performance Knowledge
  • Objective 1.5 – Diagnose and solve issues related to connectivity between Horizon Server Components

Section 2 – Create and Configure Pools

  • Objective 2.1 – Configure and Manage Horizon Pools
  • Objective 2.2 – Build and Customize RDSH Server and Desktop Images

Section 3 – Configure and Administer VMware Mirage

  • Objective 3.1 – Install and Configure Mirage Components
  • Objective 3.2 – Configure and Manage Mirage layers
  • Objective 3.3 – Configure and Manage Mirage Endpoints

Section 4 – Configure and Manage Identity Manager

  • Objective 4.1 – Install and Configure VMware Identity Manager
  • Objective 4.2 – Manage VMware Identity Manager

Section 5 – Configure and Manage User Environment Manager

  • Objective 5.1 – Install and Configure VMware User Environment Manager
  • Objective 5.2 – Manage VMware User Environment Manager

Section 6 – Configure and Manager App Volumes

  • Objective 6.1 – Install and Configure VMware App Volumes
  • Objective 6.2 – Manage VMware AppStacks and writeable Volumes

Section 7 – Configure vRealize Operations for Horizon

  • Objective 7.1 – Manage VMware Workspace Portal

The preparation guide outlines some documents, which can be used to preapre for the exam. Although I’m working with Horizon View on a regular base, I had some “blind spots”. I used the official documentation and my lab to prepare for the exam.

The exam

The exam contained 175 questions, and I had 245 minutes to answer all the questions. I arrived early at the test center, because I had booked the first available slot for that day. I did not expect to be able to answer all the questions. View, Mirage, App Volumes, Workspace and IDM were the main topics, only a few questions about ThinApp and vROps for Horizon. Many questions were about administrative topics, where to click to achieve something, or where a specific option is located. There were also some questions about requirements, supported databases etc. As far as I can judge, these were all fair questions. If you have intensivly studied the documentation, you have do not have to fear this exam. Experience in administration is a great plus.

I really do not know if I have passed it. It will take some time. The results will be available after the beta phase. If I don not passed, I have at least gained experience.

Why VARs should rethink their business model

Okay, the headline of this blog post is a bit provocative. This blog post is not written from the vendor perspective. It’s the perspective of someone, who’s sitting between the vendor and the customer. A value-added reseller (VAR) is typically located between vendor and customer. And the business model of a VAR is typically based on selling hardware, software and service.

Added value

The typical customer doesn’t have the time, money and the know-how to transform business requirements into a bill of materials (BOM). It’s a “make-or-buy” decision. And “buy” is often better than “make”. The customer needs a partner who helps him to transform the business requirements into a solution and a BOM.

Even “simple” things, like a new server, are sometimes complex. What memory configuration? How many disks? Which controller? Which CPU for which application? Who ensures that the firmware is upgraded? Who labels the cables during rack-and-stack? These things are not self-evident. Sure, servers are commodities. You can buy a HPE ProLiant from an online shop. You can buy expansion enclosures for a HPE 3PAR from an online shop. You can buy nearly everything online. But what customer risks it to buy crap? At this point, a VAR can offer added value.

The downside of a buyers market

IT budgets are under considerable cost pressure. The customer always wants the best price. And there are many VARs. As a VAR, you are not in the best position. Information technology is a buyers market. As a VAR, you must offer added value and the best price. Customers love free advice… and then they buy from an online shop, or from another VAR that was cheaper.

Cloud eliminates hardware/ software revenues

Cloud offerings are awesome! For customers… But they are the plague for VARs. Usually you need to sell more billable hours to achieve the same margins with cloud offerings and service, as with a combination of hardware, software and service. And your employees need different skills. Take the example of Office 365. To date, a VAR has sold 200 licenses for Microsoft Office (Open License). Now he sells 200 E3 plans. Revenue is not the same. Maybe a little more service for the implementation of Office 365 and AD FS. Or Microsoft Exchange. Many customers consider the use of Exchange Online (often as part of an Office 365 deployment). Or Microsoft Azure instead of VMware vSphere on-premises. No hardware, less software, similar amount of service, but a different skills.

Develop your business model

Cloud offerings and “price-conscious” customers are forcing VARs to rethink their business model. Decreasing margins and a highly competitive market make the sale of hardware and software increasingly unattractive. But cloud offerings require other skills from your sales and technical teams. Such fundamental changes need time, patience and leadership to be successful.