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Category Archives: Careers

VCDX-NV Interview: Ron Flax On The Importance Of Network Virtualization

Ron Flax is the Vice President of August Schell, a reseller of VMware products and IT services company that specializes in delivering services to commercial accounts and the federal government, particularly intelligence and U.S. Department of Defense. RonFlaxRon is a VCDX-NV certified network virtualization professional and a VMware vExpert. We spoke with Ron about network virtualization and the NSX career path.

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The most exciting thing about network virtualization, I think, is the transformative nature of this technology. Networks have been built the same way for the last 20 to 25 years. Nothing has really changed. A lot of new features have been built, a lot of different technologies have come around networks, but the fundamental nature of how networks are built has not changed. But VMware NSX, because it’s a software-based product, has completely altered everything. It enables a much more agile approach to networks: the ability to automate the stand-up and tear-down of networks; the ability to produce firewalling literally at the virtual network interface. And because things are done at software speed, you can now make changes to the features and functions of networking products at software speed. You no longer have to deal with silicon speed. It’s very, very exciting. With a software-based approach, you can just do so much more in such a small amount of time.

What we’re hearing from customers, at this point, is that they’re very interested to learn more. They’re at a phase where they’re ready to get their hands dirty, and they really want to understand it better. What’s driving a lot of adoption today is security, it is our foot in the door. When you speak with customers about the security aspects, the micro-segmentation capabilities, you may not even have to get to a virtual network discussion. Once you get the security aspect deployed, customers will see it in action and then a few weeks later will say, ‘Hey, you know, can you show me how the new router works?’ or ‘Can you show me how other features of NSX work?’ That’s when you can start to broaden your approach. So these compelling security stories like micro-segmentation or distributed firewalling get you in and get the deployment started, but ultimately it’s the flexibility of being able to deliver networks at speed, in an agile way, through software, through automation, that’s the home run.

I also think clients are excited about being able to deliver services more quickly to their business units. In the space I work in, the U.S. Federal Government, the workforce is typically segmented into a server team, storage team, network team, maybe a virtualization team. They haven’t gotten yet to the point where they have a cloud team, so it’s all kind of meshed together. What tends to happen in these siloed environments is the business, or the end user, is waiting on one of these factions to get their job done before they can deliver services. In a lot of cases it’s become the network team that acts as the long pole in the tent and gets things organized for getting a solution built. If they are the log jam, well…

With network virtualization it’s possible—it’s quite easy, in fact—to bring that capability to the virtualization guy, the server guy, the storage guy, or even the end user if you deliver this as a full Software-Defined Data Center or SDDC. Essentially you create a self-service interface, where the end user can actually build and create their networks for themselves. They no longer have to wait for the storage team to have enough storage, the network team to create the networks etc. They can do it themselves. So that’s a big “aha” moment for a lot of customers, They realize: ”we actually can deliver something secure, that works, and that’s isolated to the business in a reasonable amount of time.”

Seeing this transition made me realize that getting my VCDX-NV was a great opportunity. I just felt like if we were going to be in this market space, if we were going to be considered NSX experts, we had to have at least one person, if not many people, who were officially qualified by VMware. The experience was great. VMware went out of their way to really make a strong impression on us, and to invest in every candidate, to make it so that as many of us as possible would succeed and get through the process. I’m not going to say it wasn’t hard! The process is what it should be. It definitely will test you. But if you’re a network engineer, you’re going to want to learn as much as you can about networks. Certainly if you’re a CCIE and you have those skills, and you’ve passed certification for the physical network and all of the related design concepts. I would strongly advise you to get some form of NSX certification with VMware, even if it’s not the full VCDX-NV. The more you know, the more it’s going to help you. You still need to understand the underpinnings, the physical network, but you have that already, so take advantage. Learning about the software aspects of network virtualization can be instrumental in your job growth, your advancement. It’s going to help you in your career.

At the end of the day, this is technology. Technology changes very rapidly. Anybody who’s been around the technology world knows things change at a very, very quick pace. You can’t rest on your laurels. You have to retool yourself. You have to always retool yourself.

VCDX-NV Interview: Chris Miller Talks VMware NSX Certification

Chris Miller is the principal architect for AdvizeX in Columbus OH. He runs the NSX program from a technical and marketing perspective, including Chris Miller-AdvizeXenterprise pre-sales support and go-to-market strategies.

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I started my career as a traditional Cisco networking guy. I spent 10 to 15 years as a network architect. But I’d been tracking what was going on in the community, with Open Flow and some of the other technologies. When I saw what VMware was doing, it got me pretty excited. I thought, ’It’s pretty revolutionary what’s going on here.’ I immediately jumped on the opportunity to take part in NSX.

In terms of enterprise customers, we weren’t initially seeing a lot of adoption in the market. Then VMware announced the Nicira acquisition, and Cisco announced what they were going to do with ACI, and heads started turning. I realized, you know, here are two of our largest partners putting their investment dollars behind this technology. And then, when I saw what NSX could do, and the benefits it could bring, it was very clear to me that this was the next wave.

What excites me most about network virtualization is that you essentially don’t have to worry about change control as much anymore. Now I can start building my services application to application. Everything is independent. I don’t have to get on the phone with folks and explain everything that I’m doing for every little change. It’s amazing. I am also excited about what this does for the private cloud. I think that the pieces that we’re missing for private cloud are primarily network and storage. We’ve had the compute for some time. This gives us a way to extract the networking pieces with NSX and the storage pieces with VMware. Now we can be hardware independent. Companies have been trying to look like Google and act like Google for years now; I think this is the technology that will finally enable them to do it.  So that is what is exciting, there is a there’s a whole new set of things for us to work on now – like private cloud.

Despite all this possibility, there are still people who aren’t convinced this is going to happen. Whether we like it or not, the industry’s changing. Networking’s changing. Even if you never did any network virtualization, you’re going to have to figure out how to integrate with the cloud—and a key component of that is the network. So us networking guys are going to have to change our skill sets, and we’re going to have to start thinking from a more converged perspective, from a cloud unintelligible perspective. By pursuing the advanced certification, you’re tooling up to understand that, and to be able to deal with what’s coming. So, to anyone who says he or she doesn’t really need to know about network virtualization, I’d say, “Ask mainframe guys how they feel about not needing to know S86.” It’s the same concept.

And getting certified now will have it’s advantages. Look at the CCIE, for example. Companies are seeking the low numbers, right? People will put ‘CCIE-50’ on their resumes. There’s a lot of prestige around that. Five years out, it’s going to be the same for VCDX-NV. So I’d say, if you can get in early, you’re getting in on a cutting-edge new technology; you’re getting a highly sought-after, well-respected certification before anybody else. Worst-case scenario? It builds your resume. Best case? It helps you tool up for the future. You’re either going to adopt, or you’re going to get left behind.

 

VCDX-NV Interview: Greg Stemberger

Greg Stemberger is an IT professional who started working in networking in 2000. Working in network operations at Sprint, he managed some of the Greg-Stemberger-Force3largest enterprise networks in the world as the Managed Services Operations Engineer focused primarily on routing and switching. He managed more than 20,000 Cisco devices in his initial role at Sprint. Greg has three CCIEs: in route/switch, security, and service provider. He’s also a member of the first group of VCDX-NV certified professionals.

What excites you about network virtualization?

Virtualization is actually nothing new to me, to be honest, because I’ve been dealing with multi-tenancy, which really in my mind, started on the WAN side where VPNs were really one of the first early versions of introducing multi-tenancy and segmentation of the network, and leveraging virtualization-type technology on hardware. It’s just fascinating to see how much that’s evolved and taken off in the compute world. Now, we’re coming back together full circle with SDN. The network is now playing catch-up with how much agility and flexibility virtualization has provided to the compute world. I believe I have been doing virtual networking for a number of years now, but obviously it’s morphed into something much more powerful today than it was five, six year ago when I was just doing virtual routing and things along those lines.

As you went through network virtualization training, did anything surprised you?

I’m amazed at how powerful the network functions have become down to compute level. I didn’t fully grasp how much flexibility is possible down to the network level in virtualization. I just assumed that you needed a piece of hardware to do that, a dedicate piece of hardware, but software has come so far that now we could potentially deliver a lot of the same capabilities at very scalable rates down on an x86 fixed platform.

How do you think getting certified in network virtualization will help traditional networking professionals in their career?

I think it’s a natural evolution that more of network intelligence is going to continue to extend into the software realm, because of the power of computing today, and the power that software programming brings. I don’t think anybody can challenge the fact that network virtualization brings so much agility and power to networking that we never had before. Obviously, looking at NSX and understanding what’s possible in terms of software-defined networking is just a great salvation towards understanding the networks of the future.

What would you say to someone who said “I don’t need to learn about network virtualization?”

I would argue that they maybe don’t understand the power that SDN brings to a network environment. I think you start to understand the value of the proposition around SDN when you realize you can streamline the operational efficiencies of how you manage an IT infrastructure from the network down to the compute into one system, and you see how fast services can be either enabled from scratch based on a business need or changed based on a business requirement much more quickly and efficiently.

Does a networking professionals existing skill set diminish in value with network virtualization?

That’s a great question. I get into these conversations a lot with peers of mine. To be honest, I don’t see any risk to the skills that we have today. The network in many ways will still fundamentally rely on some sort of underlying protocol control plane that needs to be understood, especially in regards to how traffic moves between end points or between nodes in the network. Having that strong engineering skill set to understand how the control plane and how the data plane is forwarding packets, which lends itself well to any strong network engineer, is going to be very important moving forward. It’s just that there’s an evolution in our skill set in terms of how we manage and design and implement these networks that’s going to evolve and I think it’s evolving for the better.

Anything else that you think someone should know?

I guess one interesting thing is that I actually haven’t spent much time on vSphere and or VMware products prior to this. This has actually motivated me to go back and learn vSphere and some of the core virtualization products that VMware brings to the table, because I need to understand those better to really fully grasp what network virtualization and NSX brings to the table. It’s actually a win-win.

 

VCDX-NV Interview: Chris Wahl

Chris Wahl is a Senior Solutions Architect at Ahead, located in Chicago, Ill.  He has more than 14 years of experience as an IT Pro. Chris originally went to school for networking, and has a bachelor’s degree in networking and communications chris-wahl-redmanagement. More recently he’s been doing sys admin work in sys admin engineering, architecture, and data center focused projects. His certifications include VMware VCDX #104, Cisco CCNA data center and CCNP router and switch certifications for which he also teaches classes, and several other VMware, Cisco, Microsoft, and HP certifications. He is also one of the first VCDX-NV certified professionals

What excites you about network virtualization?

I spent quite a few of years managing every type of virtualized infrastructure you can imagine, ranging from very small and medium sized businesses, to a 16,000 person enterprise with over 1,000 virtual machines. In every instance, the roadblock was always the network to the point where in the large deployment that I managed, we would just plan that any network change would take three weeks even if it was just a VLAN on a port. We could pretty much guarantee that it would be about two weeks to make the change, and another week to fix it because it wouldn’t be made correctly. So, the idea of making the physical infrastructure more like plumbing which we can just make work, and then using network virtualization overlay technology is extremely attractive, because it eliminates days and weeks of real world issues that I have run into as a data center focused engineer and completely hated.

How can networking professionals benefit from network virtualization? Why should they not be concerned this will devalue their skills or make them less important?

In my mind, having gone through this as a sys admin originally focused on Novell and microcomputers and mainframes, and then transitioning to Windows and Active Directory, it’s pretty much the same story all over again. You have a base set of skills and experiences that feed into problem solving, the ability to abstract requirements or constraints out of a design. Then there’s that fundamental understanding of how things should be put together, regardless of the operating system or the network in this case. So as a networking professional, it’s more of the same. You’ve been exposed to a number of network architectures from different vendors and the protocols that go with them. None of that is really changing. It’s just that now there are new ways to make that particular piece of the data center better and faster. I actually view this as an opportunity to increase value, make yourself much more integrated in the workflow for the application or the stack, and really offer some ways to differentiate your business or if you’re a consultant your practice from others that don’t ride on this wagon.

As you’ve gone through network virtualization training, has anything surprised you?

Two things stand out. The first is there’s a cardinal rule you can’t route within the hypervisor. With network virtualization you can finally go beyond just Layer 2 switching and really focus on Layer 2/3 routing and offer dynamic flows to the network within a single hypervisor across hypervisors. That to me is huge.  It really opens up a lot of opportunity to go back to the drawing board on the design.  In the same vein, I feel that the ability to do source-based firewalling is extremely impressive. I was just blown away to the fact that we can apply policy basically ACLs at the source port of the Hypervisor and even prevent the VM from putting traffic on the wire if it doesn’t pass policy. That is extremely powerful. When I work with customers, it’s always been a challenge working around firewalls and how we’re going to logically and physically separate the network into these different segments. Firewalling capabilities from with a network virtualization platform puts the whole design on its head. It lets you step back and really reanalyze how you’re doing design and architecture.

What would you say to someone who said “I don’t need to learn about network virtualization?

Well in reality, they may just be bogged down spending 80% of the time keeping the lights on, and I can understand the personal investment that it takes to work on these skills outside of work. A lot of us don’t get the opportunity or the support we would like from our employer to really stretch our legs on these new technologies at work. In addition, some IT shops probably just don’t care. They’re just going to say, we’re not interested in this. I need you to continue being a router or switch jockey because that’s what I hired you to do. My advice would be that’s total nearsightedness; that’s only looking at today’s wants and needs. Network virtualization, it’s a huge game changer. The companies that embrace it are going to be infinitely more dynamic and scalable and able to complete at a whole different level. Therefore network virtualization is going to happen, and getting on the train right now is better than standing in front of the train because you’re going to get hit by it. I would say get on it now while there’s a lot of opportunity to learn and really understand while things are so new. That way when your company says, “Man, we’d really like to do something with network virtualization,” or another opportunity comes up at a different company, you can jump right on it and land with both feet firmly on the ground and start running.

Anything else that you think someone should know?

I would recommend that IT pros not focus too much on the individual technologies, or all of the hype between this vendor and that vendor. I think it’s important for everyone to take a breath, take a step back, look at the ecosystem, look at the open source products that are coming out, look at the vendor products that are coming out and really understand the differences and the similarities. Don’t ask “which product?” Ask “what would benefit my design” and then pick a starting point. Because if you look at SDN and network virtualization, and try to learn everything at once, it’s overwhelming and you’re going to feel like there’s just no way you can learn all of this. But if you pick a starting point of one project or one particular way to implement it, and use that as a landing point to gain education around the technology, it’s going to be a lot easier.

Network Virtualization at VMware Partner Exchange 2015

VMware Partner Exchange (PEX) is your one-stop shop when it comes to learning about network virtualization and the technology extends VMware’s vision of the software-defined data center. At this year’s event, we are offering both an executive track and a technical track to help partners build their businesses and advance their knowledge, as you take customers on the path to Virtualizing the Network.

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If you are a partner that is new to network virtualization, we have a program/learning path where you can send two people to PEX and to achieve their network virtualization competency by attending the 3-Day NSX Install, Configure and Manage Boot Camp prior to the start of the conference. Participants can then attend the free instructor-led VSP-NV and VTSP-NV boot camps during the conference. Continue reading

Free Seminar – Advancing Security with the Software-Defined Data Center

We’re excited to take to the road for another edition of our VMware Software-Defined Data Center Seminar Series. Only this time, we’ll be joined by some great company.

VMware & Palo Alto Networks invite you along for a complementary, half-day educational event for IT professionals interested in learning about how Palo Alto Networks and VMware are transforming data center security.

Thousands of IT professionals attended our first SDDC seminar series earlier this year in more than 20 cities around the globe. Visit #VirtualizeYourNetwork.com to browse the presentations, videos, and other content we gathered.

This free seminar will highlight:

  • The Software-Defined Data Center approach
  • Lessons learned from real production customers
  • Using VMware NSX to deliver never before possible data center security and micro-segmentation

Who should attend?

People who will benefit from attending this session include:

  • IT, Infrastructure and Data Center Managers
  • Network professionals, including CCIEs
  • Security & Compliance professionals
  • IT Architects
  • Networking Managers and Administrators
  • Security Managers and Administrators

Agenda

  • 8:30 a.m. Registration & Breakfast
  • 9:00 a.m. VMware: Better Security with Micro-segmentation
  • 10:00 a.m. Palo Alto Networks: Next Generation Security Services for the SDDC
  • 11:00 a.m. NSX & Palo Alto Networks Integrated Solution Demo
  • 11:45 a.m. Seminar Wrap-up
  • 12:00 p.m. Hands-on Workshop
  • 1:30 p.m. Workshop Wrap-up

Check out the schedule and register. Space is limited.

Learn more at http://info.vmware.com/content/26338_nsx_series

Roger

New VMworld 2014 Hands-on Labs with VMware NSX Goodness

In 2013 we introduced VMware NSX Hands-on-Labs for the first time. The NSX 1303 Hands-on-lab has been by far one of the most popular labs, giving you an in-depth view of VMware NSX. Hands-on-labs are one of the best ways to get a good tour of the product. You can take all of these labs online at http://labs.hol.vmware.com/HOL/catalogs/ . It requires a registration, but is open to everyone. .

This year at VMworld we introduced several new NSX labs to give you a deeper look at NSX, and to showcase the depth of integration NSX provides with 3rd party partners and other VMware products. All of the new 2014 Hands-on-labs have been published and are available to you. Here is a quick tour of the labs and what you can expect to see.

 

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If you are just getting started with NSX and want to know what Network Virtualization is all about, we recommend you start here.

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This lab will walk you through five modules of exercises:

  • NSX Components – Host Preparation, Controller deployment
  • NSX Logical Switching – building VXLAN logical switches
  • NSX Logical Routing  - Distributed Routing, Dynamic Routing with OSPF
  • NSX Distributed Firewall – Micro-segmentation with NSX
  • NSX Edge Services – Load-balancing, SSL VPN

 

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Once you have completed the introductory lab, we recommend taking the advanced lab which is designed to showcase some of the new features in NSX 6.1. You can read and excellent summary of these new capabilities in Chris Wahl’s blog, “NSX 6.1 Announced, Contains Plethora of Enhancements.”

This lab covers the following areas:

  • Configuring DHCP Relay so that you can use NSX with external IPAM Services
  • Scaling out Layer 3 routing with Equal Cost Multi-Pathing (ECMP) and Dynamic Routing Protocols. Yes we actually build out the topology below in the lab! That’s the power of network virtualization.

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  • Building out L2VPN services for multi-site and hybrid cloud connectivity services
  • Integration with 3rd parties using Service Composer and Trend Micro AV & IPS with NSX. You will see how to register services and how NSX is a platform to integrate with 3rd party services in this exercise.
  • Networking Monitoring with NSX & Riverbed Cascade – we will even show you how you can monitor with NetFlow in this exercise 

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The two labs above will surely give you a good view of NSX as a network virtualization platform. Next, let’s see how NSX integrates with other VMware products to build out a complete Software-Defined Data Center. This lab shows the integration capabilities offered by NSX with VMware management solutions.

First up, we will learn about Self-service IT, and how you can deliver applications quickly to your end-users with the integration of vCloud Automation Center and NSX. You will build out a multi-machine blueprint with networking and security, and then deploy it.

Next, if you want to learn about automation and the NSX API, we will walk you through exercises in using vCenter Orchestrator and using the NSX REST API to create a security group. This will give you the fundamentals of NSX automation which you can easily extend upon as you deploy NSX in your own environment.

The third exercise is about operations. We will show you the new NSX Management Pack in vCenter Operations. We will walk you through the dashboards and you will learn how you can actually not just monitor but also troubleshoot you network.

At this point you are surely on your way to become a NSX Ninja

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If you want to use OpenStack with NSX and vSphere – we’ve got you covered too! We will walk you through OpenStack on vSphere itself and then show you how to connect it to deploy networks with NSX from OpenStack.

And Of Course There Are More

Those are the main labs I would recommend, but there are others too. There’s a lab where you can learn more about the IT Outcome of Fast Infrastructure Delivery and Application Automation (HOL-SDC-1413) which has some NSX goodness with vCloud Automation Center, or learn about the IT Outcome of Policy-based Compliance and Network Security (HOL-SDC-1414).

If you want to learn about NSX and the partner integration framework you can take HOL-PRT-1462 which will walk you through the NSX and Palo Alto Networks next-gen firewall integration labs and HOL-PRT-1464 which is focused on how you can use NSX Service Composer and Symantec Data Center Security: Server.

In all we have well over 24 hours of labs, and you can sign-up even if you did not go to VMworld. It is always available 24/7, so if you have a few spare hours and want to learn about NSX you can take the lab.

And I will let you in on a little secret. We actually run the labs on NSX. So as you learn, you are also a user of NSX!!!

You can always sign-up for a NSX class offered by VMware Education.

Happy learning!

Nikhil

VMware NSX: Helping Make the Software-Defined Data Center Real in 2014

Software is the foundation that is powering the next evolution of networks and data center Training-PEX Postinfrastructure in today’s digital age. The manifestation of this trend is the software-defined data center, which gains momentum in the market on a daily basis. VMware is committed to providing the knowledge required for the adoption of the new operating model for the network in the era of the software-defined data center. To help the industry take advantage of the opportunity to virtualize their infrastructure, and specifically the network, VMware is providing the programs, curriculum and blueprints to help you capture this transformational opportunity. At VMware Partner Exchange (PEX) in San Francisco this week, we outlined three ways we’re helping to make the software-defined data center real in 2014. Continue reading

VMware NSX Labs Available in Hands-On Labs Online Portal

At VMworld 2013 in San Francisco, we launched the VMware NSX network virtualization platform to the world. During the keynote, our CEO Pat Gelsinger was joined by representatives from CITI, GE and eBay to discuss the promise of network virtualization and VMware NSX, and more than 20 partners announced support for the platform.

But perhaps the most successful part of our launch were the VMware NSX Hands-On Labs.  These labs were by far the most successful at the show. Attendees consumed more than 2,000 sessions, totaling 124,000 lab minutes during the four days of VMworld. That is roughly equivalent to locking yourself in a room with your laptop and doing nothing but take this lab 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for three months straight.

And now, we are bringing the labs to you online. Remember to participate in the HOL Community page at http://hol.vmware.com/, take labs at http://labs.hol.vmware.com/.

HOL-SDC-1303 – VMware NSX: The Network Virtualization Platform

A Tech Preview of the exciting new VMware NSX for vSphere product announced at VMworld. Learn how VMware NSX virtualizes your network and simplifies your datacenter operations. This lab is currently based on a beta version of code and you may encounter some user interface issues during the lab exercises. The lab will be improved with newer code as the product moves closer to release. For now, brave the rapids, jump in with both feet and have a go at at VMware NSX, the network virtualization platform.

Enroll in HOL-SDC-1303

HOL-SDC-1319 - VMware NSX for Multi-Hypervisor Environments

Also a Tech Preview, this lab focuses on the multi-hypervisor version of VMware NSX. This is a great opportunity to see how Vmware NSX can support non-vSphere portions of your datacenter.

Enroll in HOL-SDC-1319

Roger Fortier

 

The Future For Network Engineers

Like many of you out there, I am a Network Engineer. We have spent much of our professional lives learning about networking technologies. We’ve invested countless hours studying for certification exams, designing customer networks, learning about product capabilities, network scalability, network management and operations. Oh, network operations…dare we count the number of sleepless nights spent in maintenance windows, supporting P1 cases, escalations and performing complex troubleshooting.

I’m proud to be a network engineer, and I can safely say that dedication to the networking craft has paid off. So, how am I supposed to feel when I hear people say that networks are “holding us back?” That application deployment and speed of provisioning are compromised by “archaic and complex network processes?” What are they getting at? This is the world that we have come to know and love.

If I stop for a minute and try to understand these complaints, I quickly discover I have experienced all of them, in one form or another, throughout my career. You know what I am talking about my fellow net-heads: Continue reading