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Monthly Archives: July 2014

Holistic Engagements Lead to Successful Outcomes

Ford DonaldBy Ford Donald, Principal Architect, GTS PSE, VMware

In my last post, I introduced an optimized consulting approach called the SDDC Assess, Design, and Deploy Service. The post focused on the technical blueprint, designed with common core elements, and the flexibility for custom implementation using modular elements. In this post, we’ll explore the process improvements that lead to holistic, mutually beneficial engagements.

The Work Stream Process
The six-step process takes into account both our prescribed starting point—the technical foundation—and the unique needs of the customer, with an eye towards a predictable outcome.

1. Solution Overview. We begin with an overview of the technical foundations and the new approach to help the customer understand the benefits of holistic consultation and the specific solution design. This sets a level discussion between the modeled approach and the pre-conceptions of how things work. Stepping back to review the approach gets us to the assessment phase quickly so we are all on the same page about how we’ll be working together.

2. Assessment Phase. In this phase, we assess what the customer already has in place, and where they would like to be at the end of the project. Some customers have strong opinions of design, others don’t. Defined gaps are where we come in with adaptations to the prescribed design, with layers and snap-ins added as desired.

3. Design Phase. Here, we bring forward the adapted solution, shaped to meet the customer’s needs and requirements, relative to our good starting point with the prescribed solution.

4. Deploy Phase. Given all the up-front work up to this point, deployment should be straightforward. We add what’s missing, modify what’s not right, and bulk up or whittle down to get to the adapted solution. Here we would add in things like Orchestrator if it’s not currently deployed, along with the Orchestration workflow library. These pre-defined, generalized, well-documented workflows are field-tested and designed so that we can easily provide support—this ensure that they are consistent across the board.

5. Knowledge Transfer. I like to call this the cool-down period. Here we take two steps back and let the environment learn, stabilize, and cool off a bit. For example, VCOps does best if it’s given three or four weeks to understand what normal is. This is a great time to train administrative staff on the new implementation and announce any operational or organizational transformations needed. It’s important to take the time to get a feeling for what’s new or changed, from interfaces and APIs to dealing with resources and loading up templates.

6. Solution Validation. In this phase we come together to look back and compare the results to the prescribed beginnings. If we haven’t hit the mark, remediation is required.

The Project Timeline
It’s important to note that each phase of the technical transformation has its own work stream process. No engagement should take on the entire thing as one major project. Rather, it should be a series of engagements that meet the customer’s timeline and adoption capability. The various stages will take place over a lengthy time period.

Traditionally, customer engagements have focused on the assessment or the design and deliver phase. By adding in the Solution Overview, and ensuring we’re all starting from the same point, we lay the foundation for success.


Ford Donald is a Principal Architect and member of Professional Services Engineering (PSE), a part of the Global Technical Solutions (GTS) team, a seven-year veteran of VMware. Prior to PSE, Ford spent three years as a pre-sales cloud computing specialist focusing on very large/complex virtualization deployments, including the VMware sales cloud known as vSEL. Ford also served as coreteam on VMworld Labs and as a field SE.

Working with VMware Just Gets Better

Ford DonaldBy Ford Donald, Principal Architect, GTS PSE, VMware

Imagine someone gives you and a group of friends a box of nuts and bolts and a few pieces of metal and tells you to build a model skyscraper. You might start putting the pieces together and end up with a beautiful model, but it probably won’t be the exact result that any of you imagined at the beginning. Now imagine if someone hands you that same box, along with a blueprint and an illustration of the finished product. In this scenario, you all work together to a prescribed end goal, with few questions or disagreements along the way. Think about this in the context of a large technical engagement, for example a software-defined data center (SDDC) implementation. Is it preferable to make it up as you go along, or to start with a vision for success and achieve it through a systematic approach?

Here at VMware, we’re enhancing the way we engage with customers by providing prescriptive guidance, a foundation for success, and a predictable outcome through the SDDC Assess, Design and Deploy Service. As our product line has matured, our consulting approach is maturing along with it. In the past, we have excelled at the “discovery” approach, where we uncover the solution through discussion, and every customized outcome meets a unique customer need. We’ve built thousands of strong skyscrapers that way, and the skill for discovering the right solution remains critical within every customer engagement. Today we bring a common starting point that can be scaled to any size of organization and adapted up the stack or with snap-ins according to customer preference or need. A core implementation brings a number of benefits to the process, and to the end result.

A modular technical solution

Think of the starting point as a blueprint for the well-done data center. With our approach, the core elements of SDDC come standard, including vSphere, vCenter Operations, vCenter Orchestrator, and software-defined networking thru vCNS. This is the clockwork by which the SDDC from VMware is best established, and it lays the foundation for further maturity evolutions to Infrastructure Service and Application Service. The core “SDDC Ready” layer is the default, providing everything you need to be successful in the data center, regardless of whether you adopt the other layers. Beyond that, to meet the unique needs of customers, we developed “snap-ins” as enhancements or upgrades to the core model, which include many of our desirable, but not necessarily included-by-default, assets such as VSAN and NSX.

The Infrastructure Service layer builds on the SDDC by establishing cloud-based metaphors via vCloud Automation Center and other requirements for cloud readiness, including a service portal, catalog-based consumption, and reduction of administrative overhead. The Application Service layer includes vCloud Application Director and elevates the Infrastructure layer with application deployment, blueprinting and standardization.

From our experience, customers demand flexibility and customization. In order to meet that need, we built a full menu of Snap-ins. These snap-ins allow customers to choose any number of options from software-defined storage, NSX, compliance, business continuity & disaster recovery (BCDR), hybrid cloud capabilities and financial/cost management. Snap-ins are elemental to the solution, and can be added as needed according to the customer’s desired end result.

Operational Transformation Support

Once you’ve adopted a cloud computing model, you may want to consider organizational enhancements that take advantage of the efficiency gained by an SDDC architecture. As we work with our customers in designing the technical elements, we also consult with our customers on the operational processes. Changing from high administrative overhead to low overhead, introducing new roles, defining what type of consumer model you want to implement – our consultants help you plan and design your optimal organization to support the cloud model.

The beauty of this approach shines in its ability to serve both green field and brown field projects. In the green field approach, where a customer wants the consultants to take the reins and implement top to bottom, the approach serves as a blueprint. In a brown field model, where the customer has input and opinions and desires integration and customization, the approach can be adapted to the customer’s environment, relative to the original blueprint.

So whether you’re building your skyscraper from the ground up, or remodeling an existing tower, the new SDDC Assess, Design and Deploy Service provides an adaptable model, with a great starting point that will help you get the best out of your investment.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post that gives you a look under the hood of the work stream process for implementing the technical solution.


Ford Donald is a Principal Architect and member of Professional Services Engineering (PSE), a part of the Global Technical Solutions (GTS) team, a seven-year veteran of VMware. Prior to PSE, Ford spent three years as a pre-sales cloud computing specialist focusing on very large/complex virtualization deployments, including the VMware sales cloud known as vSEL. Ford also served as coreteam on VMworld Labs and as a field SE.