• Category Archives Madness
  • Varrow Madness 2014 – Better than ever

    Warning: Awesome event coming

    Our annual technical conference Varrow Madness for 2014 is coming. This is the fourth Varrow Madness and last year was definitely an experience being behind the scenes and a part of the event. This year promises even more great content and quality speakers and oh by the way I will be there too but don’t let that stop you from coming.

    This is a free technical event focusing on sharing technical knowledge and networking with your peers centered around March Madness and having a good time. Did I mention that its also FREE

    Register here – Put Jason Nash as your referral… 

    With the speaker and session list this year, I wish I could go as an attendee and just listen in. Some of the distinguished guest & speakers this year will include:

    Our morning Keynote Speaker:

    Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work http://on.ted.com/i00bF  TED > This is our Keynote Speaker for #VM14 for #Varrow Madness #excited

    Other distinguished guests and speakers

    • Chad Sakacc
    • Scott Lowe
    • Rick Scherer
    • Mike Zolla
    • Chris Colloti 
    • Andre Leibovici 
    • And more.. this is just the beginning, there are over 37 sessions to choose from and lots of opportunities to meet industry experts and peers

    For the full agenda, hit our Varrow Madness Website and register today

    I will be doing an updated version of my Citrix Provisioning session and broadening that to include MCS at a bit deeper level. There will be more coming on this event as we get closer and I hope to see you there.


  • Varrow Madness Part 3: The Labs (behind the scenes)

    Varrow Madness had a heavy emphasis put on hands on labs this year. We Varrowites definitely like getting our hands dirty and we wanted to give you the chance to get your hands on the products as well. We wanted to give Madness attendees a taste of both VMware View and Citrix XenDesktop. and to see the technical pieces of the provisioning process required in order to deliver a virtual desktop to your users.

    Our overall vision for how the labs would run at Madness this year were built around our experiences with the hands on labs available at the major vendor conferences, such as VMworld, PEX as well as Citrix Synergy. Comparing our labs to these vendors set the bar pretty high and i think we achieved a very well developed lab. The Varrow Hosted labs for the EUC practice were not the only labs available at Varrow Madness either, attendees also had access to the full VMware Hands on Lab list hosted in the Cloud, the same revered labs that were available at VMware PEX to partners.

    Varrow Labs Behind the Scenes
     
    Dave Lawrence, Director of End User Computing at Varrow volunteered me to assist with putting the labs together several weeks before Madness. I was pretty excited about tackling this opportunity so I jumped at the chance.

    I wanted to provide details on the hardware and software setup that we used to accomplish delivering twenty plus isolated environments. Maybe this will inspire you on a way that you could use vCloud Director in your environment to enable your users, maybe spinning up multiple isolated or fenced vApps for your developers, testing a new product or a temporary project, the use cases are only limited to what you can imagine 🙂

    Lab Hardware 

    Compute

    • (2) – 6120XP FI
    • (2) – 2104XP IO Modules
    • UCS5108 Chassis
      • Blade 1 – B200 M1
        • (2) X5570 – 2.933GHz
        • 32GB 1333MHz RAM
        • N20-AC0002 – Cisco UCS M81KR Virtual Interface Card – Network adapter – 10 Gigabit LAN, FCoE – 10GBase-KR
      • Blade 2 – B200 M1
        • (2) X5570 – 2.933GHz
        • 32GB 1333MHz RAM
        • N20-AC0002 – Cisco UCS M81KR Virtual Interface Card – Network adapter – 10 Gigabit LAN, FCoE – 10GBase-KR
      • Blade 3 – B200 M2
        • (2) E5649 – 2.533GHz
        • 48GB 1333MHz RAM
        • N20-AC0002 – Cisco UCS M81KR Virtual Interface Card – Network adapter – 10 Gigabit LAN, FCoE – 10GBase-KR
      • Blade 4 – B200 M1
        • (2) X5570 – 2.933GHz
        • 24GB 1333MHz RAM
        • N20-AQ0002 – Cisco UCS M71KR-E Emulex Converged Network Adapter (LIMITED TO TWO 10GB NICS)
    • UCS5108 Chassis
      • Blade 1 – B200 M1
        • (2) X5570 – 2.933GHz
        • 24GB 1333MHz RAM
        • N20-AC0002 – Cisco UCS M81KR Virtual Interface Card – Network adapter – 10 Gigabit LAN, FCoE – 10GBase-KR
      • Blade 2 – B200 M2
        • (2) E5649 – 2.533GHz
        • 48GB 1333MHz RAM
        • N20-AC0002 – Cisco UCS M81KR Virtual Interface Card – Network adapter – 10 Gigabit LAN, FCoE – 10GBase-KR
      •  Blade 3 -B200 M3
        • (2) E5-2630 12 Core CPUs
        • 96GB 1600Mhz
        • MLOM VIC 
      •  Blade 4 -B200 M3
        • (2) E5-2630 12 Core CPUs
        • 96GB 1600Mhz
        • MLOM VIC

     Storage

    • VNX5300
      • (16) – 2TB 7.2K NL SAS Drives
      • (5) – 100GB SSD – Configured as Fast Cache
      • (25) – 600GB 10K SAS 2.5″ 

    Networking

    • N7K-M148GS-11L – 48 Port Gigabit Ethernet Module (SFP)
    • N7K-M108X2-12L – 8 Port 10 Gigabit Ethernet Module with XL Option
    • N7K-M132XP-12L – 32 Port 10GbE with XL Option, 80G Fabric
    • N7K-M132XP-12L – 32 Port 10GbE with XL Option, 80G Fabric
    • N7K-SUP1 – Supervisor Module
    • N7K-SUP1 – Supervisor Module
    • N7K-M108X2-12L – 8 Port 10 Gigabit Ethernet Module with XL Option
    • SG300-28 – GigE Managed Small Business Switch
    • DS-C9124-K9 – MDS 9124 Fabric Switch
    • DS-C9148-16p-K9 – MDS 9148 Fabric Switch
    • Nexus 5010
    • w/ N5K-M1008 – 4GB FC Expansion Module
    • Nexus 2148T Fabric Extender
    • Connected to 5010

    Thin Clients
    Cisco provided the thin clients that were used in the labs. The thin clients were capable of RDP, ICA as well as PCoIP connections. Each thin client station connected via Remote Desktop to a NAT IP into their assigned vCenter. The thin clients were Power over ethernet drawing very little power and may be representative in what you would deploy if you were planning a thin client deployment.

    vCloud Director
    Each UCS blade had ESXi installed all managed by a virtualized VMware vCenter 5.1. We used vCloud Director appliance to build the vApp for each lab and created Catalogs for each lab environment that we could check out for each workstation. We also had vCenter Operations Manager deployed so that we could monitor the lab environment.

    vApp Design 
    Each vApp or Pod in both the XenDesktop and the VMware View environment consisted of four virtual machines at the beginning. Each Pod or vApp was fenced off from the other to give each user their own isolated EUC environment. The networks on the vDistributed Switch for each vApp were dynamically built as each vApp was powered on.

    VMware View

    • Domain Controller
    • VirtualCenter – SQL, VC 5.1 – users remote to this workstation via a NAT IP to run through the lab
    • View Connection Server – View Composer
    • ESXi Server – hosting desktops – Virtualized ESXi

    Citrix XenDesktop

    • Domain Controller
    • VirtualCenter – SQL, VC 5.1 – users remote to this workstation via a NAT IP to run through the lab
    • Citrix Desktop Delivery Controller, Citrix Provisioning Server
    • ESXi Server – hosting desktops – Virtualized ESXi 

    The general script for both platforms would be to..

    1. Connect to vCenter from thin client via RDP
    2. Provision multiple desktops via product specific technology (View Composer for View and Provisioning Server for XenDesktop)
    3. Connect to provisioned Desktops

    And the Madness Begins

    We shipped and set up the server rack containing all the lab equipment as well as the workstations to the event the day before Madness. Getting a full rack shipped and powered at a site not built for it can have its challenges, luckily we have some really talented and knowledgeable people at Varrow that can navigate these issues. Madness was also the first chance we had to stress test the labs with a full user load. Later that evening we pulled all hands on deck and sent them all through the labs, there were a mix of technical and non technical Varrowites in the room pounding away at the labs. We were seeing workloads in excess of 10-15000 IOPs and thing were running pretty smooth….until I decided to start making changes by checking out the Citrix lab vApp from the vCloud catalog to make some necessary changes….

     This graph on the right should illustrate what happened when I kicked off the Add to Cloud task and when it ended, it crushed the storage kicking the latency to ludicrious levels. So the most important thing when running a lab was to keep Phillip away from the keyboard. You can thank Jason Nash for that screenshot and the attached commentary.

    The labs were a huge team effort, special shout out to everyone who helped us before, during and after the event, Dave Lawrence, Jason Nash, Bill Gurling, Art Harris, Tracy Wetherington, Thomas Brown, Jason Girard, Jeremy Gillow and everyone else at Varrow that helped out with the labs.

    A lot of work goes into putting together the labs and all of the labs, both Varrow Hosted EUC labs as well as the VMware hosted labs were well received and attended at Madness. I hope to be a part of the lab team next year, we were already talking about ways to expand the labs next year and how to expand the products we demonstrate and more. Can’t wait until next year, see you then at Varrow Madness 2014.


  • Varrow Madness Part 2: Citrix Provisioning Server Implementation and Best Practices

    My session at Varrow Madness covered Citrix Provisioning Services (PVS) Implementation and Best Practices. I have always been a big fan of this product even before Citrix purchased Ardence which would become Provisioning Services. The ability to stream the server OS over the network and the flexibility that this product gives you is amazing. Even smaller environments can benefit from the advantages of Provisioning Services.

    My session summarized many of the guides, Citrix articles as well as my own personal experiences with Citrix PVS over the years. I will also include the resources at the end of this post. I personally have installed, managed and configured PVS in environments ranging from a handful of servers up to 10000+ desktops with multiple sites including DR environments.

     

    While I have been in IT for many years and spoken in many difference situations from board rooms to conference rooms with co-workers and executives, there is something different about public speaking.Varrow Madness was a first for me in more than one way, not just my first Madness but it was also my first professional speaking role.

    I have prepared for public speaking over the years in many ways. I knew this was something I always wanted to tackle as I have considered submitting for sessions at various technical conferences. At a previous company I got involved in the public speaking organization Toastmasters which really helped me prepare for this moment. I can’t say I was completely prepared for this but I think it went well. The session ended on time but the questions continued right into the next session 🙂 Which I thought was awesome.

    I highly encourage anyone to take a chance and give public speaking or something that scares you a chance. Fear is OK, letting it control you is not.


    “Do one thing every day that scares you” – Eleanor Roosevelt

    Citrix PVS Resources


    I plan to do more posts around Provisioning Services and a few instructional videos as well. As always I welcome any questions and comments that you have below regarding this or any topic.  
     
     


  • Varrow Madness Part 1: General Thoughts on Awesomeness

    Varrow Madness is an annual conference put together for our customers and greater community centered around March Madness, focused on sharing ideas and knowledge, and its a free event. This was my first Madness and and I have now been with Varrow close to nine months and still loving it.  I’m amazed and stunned by this event my compatriots put together at Varrow along with the help of their partners. A lot of work goes into these conferences, more than I even imagined as a consumer of these events in the past. it really makes me appreciate the work that goes into the other events done out there, big and small, and especially the people that put them together.

    Varrow Madness is quite a show and if you get the chance next year, it’s an absolute must attend.

    I was going to write a short post following Madness but I have decided that Varrow Madness is just way too big and awesome to be contained in a single post so I will break it up into three posts.

    • Varrow Madness Part 1: General Thoughts on Awesomeness
    • Varrow Madness Part 2: Citrix Provisioning Server Implementation + Best Practices
    • Varrow Madness Part 3: Varrow Hosted EUC Labs

    Madness kicked off with Jeremiah Cook, our CEO and co-founder as well as a cultural leader at Varrow as well as our resident leader rapper. Jeremiah welcomed everyone to Varrow Madness followed by a great video about BYOB, Bring your own Bots inspired in order to introduce a great performance from iLuminate, the same group that has done performances on America‘s got Talent and other venues. I also learned that Jason Nash has Android devices and loves to look up funny cat pictures on the internet.

    Dan Weiss our Chief Operations Officer and co-founder joined Jeremiah and stage and talked about the sheer volume of events we had planned for the day and his rad dance movies. We also announced the winner of the Varrow Innovation Contest 2012, the winner recieved a free pass to the Vendor Conference of their choice. There were many submissions and I am sure it was exteremly hard to choose the finalist much less the actual winner, all of the submissions were fantastic.

    Check out each of the submissions below and congratulations to Alamance Regional Medical Center for winning the contest this year.

    Alamance Regional Medical Center

    Alamance Regional Medical Center participated in the Varrow Innovation contest and submitted their custom built Single-Sign-On solution that allows badge tap-n-go access for Citrix Xenapp. Alamance Regional was the grand prize winner of the Varrow Innovation Contest at Varrow Madness 2013. 

    American National Bank

    Varrow Customer Testimonial – American National Bank
    Finalist in 2013 Varrow Innovation Contest for their great work in running Active Active Datacenters with EMC Recoverpoint and VMware Site Recovery Manager

    Northern Hospital Surry County

    Varrow Customer Testimonial – Northern Hospital Surry County
    Finalist in 2013 Varrow Innovation Contest for their great work in running Active Active Datacenters with EMC VNX and VPLEX and Vmware vSphere

    Jesse Lipson, Citrix Sharefile VP and GM did the morning keynote. After the keynote, the day was packed with technical sessions from some of the industries greatest minds and I was there too. I believe there were 46 sessions for people to choose from broken up over four sessions, two in the morning and two in the afternoon. You can still find the agenda on our Varrow Madness microsite.

    I missed most of the afternoon keynote due to my work on the Varrow labs. The afternoon session kicked off with another performance from iLuminate and a keynote from VCE, President of VCE. I heard it was a great speech and plan to back and watch the recording when I have a free opportunity.

    Next year i hope we can record all sessions and provide those online as a learning tool. I know that I wanted to attend many sessions and was unable due to my other duties at the conference. One thing i heard from several folks (and I think its a good problem to have) is the difficulty in picking which session to pick.

    I spent most of the day in the Varrow Hosted Labs. The labs for both VMware View and Citrix XenDesktop were well received and attended, I will talk more about that in my upcoming Lab Post.

    In the next few posts, i will talk about my session on Citrix Provisioning Server and the Varrow Hosted labs. As always I welcome any comments that you may have and any questions.