Guide to Hardening vSphere 4.1 for Dummies

13 03 2011

Just a quick post but found this to be an interesting read on hardening vSphere 4.1 so thought I would share…


Passion as Purpose

30 01 2011

There was a time when former wives and some friends would start rolling their eyes at this point, but I’ve noticed that, over the years, city folk with no poetry in their souls have largely dropped out of my life on their own accord, so now there is little or no eye rolling to deal with. It’s just fishing season. The most natural thing in the world.

That is a passage from a book called Even Brook Trout Get the Blues by John Gierach, which a dear friend of mine recently gave to me. This particular excerpt rings loud and clear for me as I stare down my departure for what is arguably the trip of my life (at least up to this point).

For some time now fly fishing has slowly crept in and began to take over all aspects of my life, outside of my family and career of course. You may have noticed the BMW race car on the header of my blog…it represents my other main hobby which is cars, and specifically road racing. Even a year ago if you would have asked me where I was going on a free weekend I would say to the race track, but not anymore. If I have a free day now, I am headed to the mountains, or closest body of water, to get my fish on.

You see, I finally realized that I have passion for something beyond it just being a hobby or a way to spend the waking hours. This passion drives me to be the best that I can be at what I set out to do, and to experience it in the fullest way possible. Therefore with the blessing of my wife and a very accommodating employer, I am departing this coming week for Patagonia…the southernmost area of Chile and Argentina in South America. I’m going down there with one purpose…to catch beautiful fish, i.e. huge trout, in one of the most remote and pristine natural environments on earth.

Thinking back to the gift, it really surprised me when my friend gave me a book about fly fishing as he isn’t any kind of fisherman himself, and definitely doesn’t know anything about fly fishing other than the few tidbits of information that I’m sure have sunk in from hearing me blabber on about the subject. But he didn’t have to understand it at all to recognize my passion for fishing. When you have true passion in what you do it is unmistakable to everyone around you.

As I focus on this passion I realize that it carries through to all aspects of my life…my beautiful wife, my family, and my career. While I’m sure it could be argued that most people have passion for their family and wife, there probably isn’t a ton of people that are truly passionate about their job. I can happily say this isn’t the case for me.

It’s hard to believe that I am sneaking up on my 2 year anniversary at Varrow…my how the time has flown. Sure, it has been a roller coaster ride but I think the main reason that it has gone by so fast is that for the first time in my professional career I finally have passion in what I do for a living. No doubt I love technology as much as the next techie, and it is a blessing when you get to focus on best of breed solutions like we do…but ultimately it’s the passion for your company and tribe that drives love for your professional career.

Heck, my boss and co-founder of the company has so much passion about what he has helped to build that, as an example, he gave us all black hoodies at our Christmas party and had us put them on as he played the wrap song he wrote about the company called “Black and Orange” which are the company colors…I dare you to beat that!

Really the passage at the beginning of my blog isn’t about fishing at all, but more of a realization that if you are passionate about what you do, you will surround yourself with like-minded people that believe in the same thing. The naysayers in life will weed themselves out in the end, leaving only the people that matter most. This type of passion is no longer a hobby to me but rather my purpose in all aspects of life.

Whether its work or personal, find something to be passionate about and make it your purpose in life.

As a shameless plug…if your amped up after hearing all of this talk about passion and you have experience in the technologies listed on our website,, then please feel free to reach out to myself or apply on our site. We are looking for experienced people to join our awesome culture and to further grow the Varrow tribe!

Hello from Middle Earth: SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger

9 01 2011

First of all, don’t get it twisted…I’m not a Lord of the Rings super geek, not that there is anything wrong with that.  In about a month I will be embarking on a trip to Patagonia, or for those of you that are geographically challenged the area comprised of southern Chile and Argentina.  For me, being an avid fly fisherman, this is a trip of a lifetime and one that I have dreamt about for a long time, but more on that in another post.

The specific areas where I will be fishing are extremely remote, even by “American West” standards.  For example, one of the lodges where I will make base camp for a week is a 2 hour flight, 3 hour 4×4 drive, and 1 hour jet boat ride from the closest metropolitan area.  The lodge itself is completely self-sufficient will all food raised locally on-premise, solar power and basically no connection to the outside world other than the jet boat and a satellite phone which can only be used in case of emergency.

Since I will be traveling alone in some instances and will basically have no communication to the outside world, I have been looking for a cost effective way to call for help if I get myself into hot water.  On a more positive note I simply wanted to ability to let my wife, friends and loved ones in general know where I am on a periodic basis, and that I haven’t been eaten by a giant trout.  OK, well maybe that’s a bit of a stretch but anything can happen when your that far into the wilderness.

In comes the SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger…a purpose built satellite messaging and emergency communications device.

At an MSRP of $169.99 the price is right compared to a satellite phone, and it ultimately provides all of the functionality that I’m looking for in terms of allowing me to call for help as well as providing a tracking system for my wife.  Wait a second, did I just really say that…um maybe I should rethink the tracking part.

There are several different features so listed below is a brief summary:

  • SOS function to notify emergency services of your GPS coordinates in the case of a life threatening situation.  There is a GEOS International Emergency Response Center which will alert the proper authorities worldwide and you can pay extra on your service plan to enroll into the GEOS member rescue benefit.  This extra service covers up to $100K of rescue expenses and will even engage a private SAR contractor if needed to get you to safety
  • Help function which allows you to notify personal contacts that you need assistance in a non-life threatening situation.  Like SOS, you can pay extra on your service for SPOT assist which will contact professional services to provide non-life threatening assistance on land or water
  • Check-in/OK function that allows for you to let loved ones know that you are OK and can also send your GPS location along with a pre-programmed message.  The messages can either be sent as an SMS text or via email, in which case a link to Google Maps is included which shows your location.  Your waypoints are also stored in your service account for later reference and you can even integrate them into a SPOT Shared Page, which is what I’m going to try and do from my blog site
  • Custom Message feature enables you to create and send albeit small, but custom messages as a secondary OK message, which can also be linked to your GPS location.  I’m going to create one that reads “I just caught a huge @$#!ing fish!!” and send it to all my fishing buddies back home 🙂
  • Track Progress feature which allows you to send your GPS waypoints in near real-time back to your SPOT account which can then be setup on your SPOT Shared Page where friends and family can access to track your location on a Google Maps interface

All in all it’s a pretty cool device for the money.  There is a $99 yearly fee for service and some of the additional add-on features that I mentioned above can up that to around $162 a year, but that’s pretty fair if you compare it to satellite phone or even mobile text services…which may or may not work depending on the situation or area.  I can see this type of device being pretty handy even in the states if you do any type of adventure travel or heck, even if you are driving in a remote area that doesn’t have cell coverage.  It’s a small insurance policy to leave in your wife’s or kid’s car if ever in remote areas.  I often fish only 2 hours from my house but it’s a very remote canyon, the Linville River gorge, and all it would take is a slip on a rock to break a leg and without something like this I would be in a bad spot.

Oh yeah…I almost forgot about the reference to Middle Earth.  This was something that came from one of my favorite DVD’s of all time, and appropriately used as terrain of Patagonia is very much other worldly.  If you haven’t ever heard of the ‘Trout Bum Diaries’ or later developed ‘Fish Bum Diaries’, then I would highly recommend you check them out, even if you aren’t an avid fisherman.  They are highly entertaining and a completely new genre of adventure fishing entertainment that are really as much about travel in remote areas of the world and culture as they are about fishing.

How Much Can EMC Storage Save You on VDI?

20 12 2010

A while back I wrote about a Reference Architecture white paper that EMC released which highlights the benefits of FAST and Enterprise Flash Drives in a VDI environment, specifically with VMware View 4.5.

As many of you may remember, FAST stands for Fully Automated Storage Tiering, a suite of features which allows you to both beef up SP cache for reads and writes using SSD drives, as well as tier storage at a granular level across multiple types of drives. Sounds fancy right? Well, when you combine the benefits of FAST with a storage resource intensive workload such as virtual desktops the results are staggering.

If you want a recap of the solution specifics than feel free to review the white paper or read my previous blog, but what I’ll hone in on here is the bottom line. I built 2 comparable arrays based upon the specific configurations outlined in the white paper. The array which was configured with traditional FC and SATA drives with no FAST or EFD’s required 5 300GB 15K, 96 450GB 15K, and 15 1TB 7.2K drives to match the performance of the same model of array with FAST enabled and 5 300GB 15K, 15 450GB 15K, 1TB 7.2K, and 5 100GB EFD drives. That’s 76 less disks to achieve the same level of performance…which demonstrates the power and efficiency of leveraging EFD’s at an overall lower cost per I/O when performance is key.

When the rubber meets the road, that difference in drives equated to a savings of $165,000, based on list price, for the exact same model of array. This is the kind of direct and measurable reduction in TCO which makes virtual desktops a reality for most organizations.

The Cedar Tree

5 12 2010

Well, it’s finally happened…I have succumbed to the social pressures of the blogosphere, and have finally decided to write about something other than technology.  If you have followed my blog in the past you know this is a rarity to say the least, so here we go…

As a Yadkin County, NC native I quite frequently travel up and down Highway 421.  If you have ever driven the stretch of road between Winston Salem and Yadkinville around the holiday season you may have noticed a random cedar tree on the southbound side of the highway covered in Christmas lights.

For years now I have driven past this tree and really haven’t given it much thought other than “geez, someone must really have a lot of time on their hands to decorate a tree on the side of the highway”.  However, on a recent night it finally hit me as I was driving by in the rain after having a really bad day.  I’m driving, thinking about all the crappy stuff that happened that day…the more and more I think about it the worse I feel.  And then I see a distant glimmer through the rain and darkness that distracts me from my thoughts.  As I get closer and closer I realize that it’s that damn Christmas tree!  For a moment I forget about all the bad things that were haunting me and focus on the tree…and you know what, it completely changed my mood and outlook on life.

A few days past and I decided to try and get a closer look at this so-called random Christmas tree.  Upon further investigation I realize that this thing must be several hundred yards away from any house or structure.  That means that someone went to the trouble of running several hundred feet of extension cord to simply hang Christmas lights on the side of the highway.  While at face value this may look  like a seemingly pointless act, it certainly made my day and has made me very happy on several subsequent occasions.  And it’s probably a pretty safe bet that I’m not the only one that uses Hwy 421, so I’m sure that I’m not the only person touched by this random act of kindness.

The point of all this is each and every one of us can and should take a moment out of our day to perform a similar, random act of kindness.  Sure, you can call me a bleeding heart, but the reality is it takes no more effort to be nice to someone as it does to be mean.  Whether or not you decide to buy out your local Lowe’s of extension cords so you can hang Christmas lights beside the closest highway is up to you.  But it can really be something as simple as holding a door open for someone, or writing an unsolicited email to say thanks, or just smiling…the list can go on forever.  Whatever you choose to do I can guarantee it will be paid back in full and then some.

Have a happy Holidays and blessings to you and your loved ones!

Free EMC VPLEX Training

28 11 2010

Earlier this year EMC released they’re new storage virtualization technology, VPLEX.  In a few words, VPLEX allows for the creation of true heterogeneous storage pools across multiple arrays and data centers, therefore stretched across  multiple physical locations. The magic around cache coherency allows for systems to simultaneous access the same storage again across distance, making such features as long distance vMotion a reality.

While it has been out a few months now, I’m finding that in a lot of instances customers are still confusing the difference between true storage HA and traditional replication…and specifically the business challenges and needs that each address.  One simple way to gain a better perspective and understanding on how this technology can benefit your organization is to take advantage of free VPLEX training that EMC is currently offering via the site below.

So What’s New in DART 6.0?

18 10 2010

With all the excitement lately around the release of FLARE 30, Unisphere and FAST, the fact that there was also a major code release for Celerra has been somewhat overshadowed.  Sure, fully automated storage tiering is pretty sexy, but there is some strong substance with DART 6.  Listed below is a brief rundown of the high points with this new release:

– Support for the new Unisphere management console

– Support for pNFS (Parallel Network File System)  pNFS is an optional extension of NFS 4.1 which allows for all of the traditional benefits around file sharing through NFS, but allows for significantly faster file transfers via a high speed block protocol.  This is in concept similar to EMC’s MPFS (Multi-Path File System) but uses an open source client instead of the EMC MPFS client

– The number of NDMP streams has been increased from 4 to 8 for the NS-G8 and NS-960.  Open source NDMP client software is also now supported for HP-UX, Oracle Solaris, RHEL, and SUSE Enterprise to enable simple data copy, relocation and migration

– A single NS-960 and NSG8 X-Blade will scale up to 256TB FC and/or ATA IP of storage capacity, with full support of replication, iSCSI and MPFS.  (The single file system size limit of 16TB has not been increased)

– The DART OS has now been migrated to the AMD 64/Intel EM64T instruction set which allows DART to address more than 4GB of memory.  While may seem somewhat insignificant now, it lays the foundation for future improvements in capacity, performance, and innovation in general

– IPv6 support for CAVA, CIFS, Usermapper, iSCSI, Kerberos, Replicator 2, NFS 4, NTP, and XLT

– The following securing and auditing related features have been added:

  • User-selectable auditing: Once enabled by an Administrator, auditing will start automatically upon control station reboot for both the primary and standby control station
  • Independent auditing by primary and standby control stations: When two control stations are present, they will be able to audit simultaneously and with independent configurations
  • Administrative roles for CLI: Extends the existing GUI-based administrative roles. Customers can now limit specific Celerra functionality in both GUI and CLI to roles such as Backup Administrator, Security Administrator, etc., as well as custom roles
  • CEPA (Celerra Event Publishing Agent): Now adds NFS auditing applications to the existing support for enterprise quota management and anti-virus applications. This initial support works with the Veronis DatAdvantage software

– A Warm Boot feature has been added which speeds up the data mover reboot time by around 2 minutes through eliminating fixed-time aspects of the reboot process such as hardware reset, BIOS, as well as POST

– DART 6 supports SMI-S clients through the addition of an SMI-S provider to enable the management of Celerra via CIM operations for NAS

– DART code upgrades can now be carried out by the customer through the Unisphere interface requiring no assistance from EMC or an EMC certified partner