• Category Archives Varrow
  • Things just got real: Varrow Enterprise Hybrid Cloud

    Varrow just announced their release of its hands-on enterprise hybrid cloud environment they are showcasing at the Carolina Panthers game on Oct 30th. I got to see a live demo and it was impressive to say the least and I don’t impress easily. A lot of work obviously went into it led by Josh Coen and Chris Horn of Varrow.

    This demo was exciting to see and it showed what these solutions can do when combined and set up properly. I have seen a lot of demos and several companies talk about setting up a true hybrid cloud envionrment but this was one of the first time I saw all of the puzzle peices put together.

    From the release regarding the goals of the lab.

    In the design of its hands-on enterprise hybrid cloud, Varrow set out to build a hybrid cloud environment where both public and private cloud resources could be monitored and managed from one point of control, where workloads could easily be moved to and from public and private clouds, and where normally complex and time-consuming tasks are automated and reduced to a few mouse clicks.

    Cloud has always been a bit of hype and buzzwords but this is the closest I have seen to the “vision”

    Automation is something I find near and dear to my heart and can be a complex undertaking but is well worth the effort and was one of the highlights for me. It is one of the lynchpins of a true Hybrid Cloud in my opinion. There is a lot that goes into this solution from a technology standpoint.

    The infrastructure platform for Varrow’s hands-on enterprise hybrid cloud is built upon industry leading solutions from VMware, Cisco and EMC.  The VMware software stack is built around VMware’s vCloud vRealize suite and includes integration of VMware’s vCAC, vCO, LogInsight, and vCOPS with Cisco UCS compute and Nexus 9000 switches, providing full 40Gb connectivity and a solid foundation for software-defined networking (SDN).  EMC storage infrastructure includes Isilon, XtremeIO, VPlex, VNX, VNXe and VMAX; all storage platforms are abstracted and managed via EMC’s software defined storage platform, EMC ViPR. The Varrow Enterprise Hybrid Cloud is currently federated with Peak 10, Amazon AWS, Azure, and vCloud Air, allowing for the seamless migration of workloads from the Private to Public Cloud.

    From what I saw in the demo I think they nailed it and it was very compelling. This was not just another cloud presentation or bullet in a product brief talking about product capabilities.  This was not vaporware. They actually pulled together all of the pieces you would imagine in a real hybrid cloud scenario and showed it from an Administrator’s view and how people at various levels of the business could see and interact with it.

    Things just got real.


  • 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 Year 1 (And Oh btw, we are hiring)

    It is hard to believe that is has been a year since I joined Varrow (over a year actually, I joined last July). This past year has been one of the busiest and best years I have ever had working at any company. I won’t say that this year hasn’t been without its challenges and that this or any company is perfect so I will also mention challenges as well as highlights over the past year. At the end of the post I will mention some of the types of positions Varrow is currently looking for, cause I need help :).

    One of the best things about Varrow to me is our Culture. Varrow’s culture here is hard to describe to people that don’t work here.  Saying that the company or the culture is awesome just doesn’t justify what it is like to work here. I have been doing some introspection lately on what makes it one of the best companies I have worked for.

    Some of the reasons I believe Varrow is a great company to work for:

    • The People 
      • A lot goes into the hiring process here and they are very selective on the candidates which they hire to make sure they will be a good fit for our customers, and to make sure they are a good fit within Varrow. You can have all the skills in the world and not be a good fit, and we can teach you the skills you need but we cant always make this the right fit for you. That fit goes both ways as this job is not for everyone. I talked about that here back in April on Consulting
      • I think every employee here plays a role in making it a great place to work but a lot of credit goes here to our leadership team that started this business and continue to drive it to success. Jeremiah Cook and Dan Weiss are both people that foster and build upon the things that I think make this company great and have maintained that even with rapid growth.
    • Sense of Connection (in a Virtual World)
      • I really feel a connection with the people I work with even though I am remote probably 80% or more of the time. Through regular team building, company events (such as Varrow Madness) and use of Social Media, along with regular calls, Varrow stays very connected and in tune. Local Pow-Wows and random dinner conversations are a regular occurrence here. We often travel in the same areas and find reasons to get together to talk shop and have a good time (Ask AJ Kuftic about joining his Fried Chicken Quest or talk to Jason Nash about guns). 
    • Evolving (knowledge and abilities)
      • Varrow is filled with some very talented folks at all levels, and they feed off each other (not literally like zombies though) and this fosters this constant evolving of ways to stay on top of the latest trends and technologies. There are some very innovative training programs being developed internally for people at all levels.

    This video I found on our Varrow Linkedin Page really made me think a lot about these things.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=i1Ux6hDnPPE

    Highlights over the past year: (in no particular order)

    • Varrow Madness – Annual Technical Conference featuring our best and brightest delivery technical content as well as guest speakers all centered around March Madness. Last year I helped build our Varrow Labs for Citrix XenDesktop delivered on vCloud, I learned a lot from that experience, it was also a good chance for me to share some Citrix PVS knowledge around best practices
      • This year Varrow Madness will be in Charlotte on March 20, 2014. Registration is already open for next year, drop me in the referral if you found out through here. The Engineers are trying to beat the Sales team on Registrations
    • Oil Changes – Regular company events where we get together to update each other and share ideas and drive internal innovation. These are a lot of fun and we also throw some killer parties
    • Company Kickoff– We usually have a big company kickoff at the beginning of the year, similar to an oil changes but Bigger, Badder and stronger (Gentleman, we have the technology)
    • Latest and Greatest Technologies – I often get the chance to play with some really cool products such as Citrix HDX 3D Pro to delivery high resolution images for workloads like AutoCad and medical imaging, XenMobile, XenDesktop 7 and more…

    Challenges over the past year: (Again in no particular order)

    • Travel – Travel here is much better than I have had in some previous positions but still is a challenge as i can sometimes spend quite some time on the road in between engagements. How much I travel varies considerably as sometimes I am at home for weeks and other times I am gone every week but I am home every weekend. I also rarely fly any more (I will miss my Airline status when that expires).
    • Keeping Up with the Jones’s (Wait I am a Jones..) – Staying on top of any technology can be quite the timesync especially as new products are released. I push myself in this regard as I try to maintain several areas of knowledge and even develop new ones. This is both a challenge and a highlight. It plays a lot into the work/life balance.
    • Spending Quality time with the family (during the week) Weekends are almost always dedicated to the family, sometimes I sneak some times here and there when nothing is going on to work. During the week when I am gone is sometimes hard as I like to put my boys to bed, read bed time stories, even help with homework. A big burden of doing all these things and more fall on my wife during the week and I couldn’t do this without her. She is my rock and I love her very much.
    • Growth – This again is a good thing and it can also be a challenge to not only maintain but keep exceeding expectations. 

    With all of that being said,  it has been an amazing year and I feel pretty lucky to have landed here. Varrow is now an extended family for me, and I love it here.

     Varrow is hiring.
     
    As I said in the title about “And Oh btw we are hiring”. I did not write this page as a recruitment page but thought I would throw this out here as were growing fast and have needs for numerous positions.

    So if you are interested and want to chat about coming to work for Varrow or know someone that might be a good fit, you can reach out to me at pjones@varrow.com, you can also reach out to me on twitter @P2Vme.

    Some of the Specialties we are hiring for currently include, but is not limited to just the following. You can also check out our current openings on our careers page.

    • Storage – EMC
    • Backup and Recovery
    • VMware
    • VMware View 
    • Citrix
    • Networking
    • Project Managers
    • Account Executives


  • 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.  
     
     


  • What’s Happening at Varrow October 2012 Edition

    I am starting a new monthly series about what is happening at Varrow that I will start at the beginning of each month. This will cover any events, lunch and learns etc that happen in the upcoming month.  Most of these events will happen in North and South Carolina as well as Southern Virginia. If you are in these regions or just want to see what we are doing at Varrow, I encourage you to keep reading.

    October 09, 2012 8:00 AM

    The mission of the Carolina Technology Conference is to educate and inspire people to enter the field of technology. We look at the conference as a technological deep dive into a variety of relevant topics facing IT managers and engineers today. It’s an extremely worthwhile event for anyone work… More Details

    Lunch and Learn – Charleston, SC

    October 10, 2012 11:30 AM

    Location: Grill 225

    Varrow Presents: Virtualizing Business Critical Applications While there are compelling benefits to virtualizing business critical applications, there are also many factors worth considering — performance visibility, trending+analytics, differences in standard server virtualization vs. T… More Details

    October 11, 2012 11:00 AM

    Location: Marriott Resort and Spa at Grande Dunes

    The South Carolina Primary Health Care Association’s 29th Annual Conference will be held at the Marriott Resort and Spa at Grande Dunes, 8400 Costa Verde Drive, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on October 11-14, 2012. The Planning Committee and staff are working eagerly and are committed to making th… More Details

    October 11, 2012 11:30 AM

    Location: Ruth’s Chris

    Varrow Presents: Virtualizing Business Critical Applications While there are compelling benefits to virtualizing business critical applications, there are also many factors worth considering — performance visibility, trending+analytics, differences in standard server virtualization vs. Tie… More Details

    October 12, 2012 11:30 PM

    Location: Fleming’s

    Varrow Presents: Virtualizing Business Critical Applications While there are compelling benefits to virtualizing business critical applications, there are also many factors worth considering — performance visibility, trending+analytics, differences in standard server virtualization vs. Tie… More Details

    October 17, 2012 8:00 AM

    Location: Asheville Crowne Plaza Resort

    The fall education & training symposium will be October 17-19, 2012 at the Asheville Crowne Plaza Resort. There will be pre-symposium training on October 16-17. We anticipate approximately 250 registered members for the event. Registration is planned to in early July 2012 for members & exhibitors…. More Details

    October 18, 2012 9:00 AM

    Location: South Carolina State Archives

    What: Educational and Networking event for SCHIMSS Where: South Carolina State Archives, 8301 Parklane Road, Columbia, SC http://scdah.sc.gov/Pages/default.aspx When: October 18, 2012 from 9am-4pm Registration: Information coming soon! Last year’s event was a great success and… More Details

    October 23, 2012 11:30 AM

    Location: Ruth’s Chris

    Varrow Presents: Virtualizing Business Critical Applications While there are compelling benefits to virtualizing business critical applications, there are also many factors worth considering — performance visibility, trending+analytics, differences in standard server virtualization vs. Tie… More Details

    October 24, 2012 11:30 AM

    Location: Ruth’s Chris

    Varrow Presents: Virtualizing Business Critical Applications While there are compelling benefits to virtualizing business critical applications, there are also many factors worth considering — performance visibility, trending+analytics, differences in standard server virtualization vs. Tie… More Details

    October 25, 2012 11:30 AM

    Location: Old Original Bookbinders

    Varrow Presents: Virtualizing Business Critical Applications While there are compelling benefits to virtualizing business critical applications, there are also many factors worth considering — performance visibility, trending+analytics, differences in standard server virtualization vs. Tie… More Details


  • Raliegh VMUG Aug 10 2012 Varrow Jason Nash presenting

    Mark your calendars for August 10th for the next Raleigh VMUG meeting.  This meeting we’ll be talking Virtual Networking and Virtual Network Troubleshooting.

    Jason Nash (@TheJasonNash) of Varrow [and TrainSignal fame] will be presenting on network troubleshooting and available to answer your virtual networking questions.

    Registration link is here!  http://www.vmug.com/e/in/eid=544

    Registration is encouraged but not required to attend!  We will also have #vBeersRaleigh after the meeting at Carolina Ale House at Brier Creek.

    Raleigh VMUG
    August 10, 2012 – 1-4PM
    RTP Center
    12 Davis Drive
    RTP, NC  27709
    Intersection of I-40 and Davis Drive

    Blatantly stolen content from Josh Atwell at vTesseract 


  • Varrow Lunch & Learn Series VMware View on Cisco UCS

    Are you interested in VMware View and Cisco UCS and have questions. Are you going to be in the Carolinas or Virginia in the near future. If so you are in luck. Varrow is hosting a series of Lunch and Learn events about VMware View on Cisco UCS hosted by Dave Lawrence. Come join us,  you won’t be dissapointed.

    In these presentations, we’ll explore:

    • What’s new with VMware View 5.1
    • The New Storage Accelerator – See how this technology is dramatically changing VDI storage design
    • How to leverage VDI to significantly reduce costs
    • How UCS’ scalability and VMware integration helps VDI reach its full potential
    • Demo – View Client for iPad – it’s a game changer & it’s cool!

    Join us for lunch and you will have an opportunity to experience the powerful benefits of the advanced feature set available in VMware View’s virtual desktop infrastructure. These are the advanced features that convinced Gartner Group to name VMware View the clear solution leader and visionary in the virtual desktop arena. We will also demo a live VMware View environment showing you the View Manager, and a few different clients.

    Cisco UCS has seen an amazing adoption rate due to its single management, impressive scalability, and the best VMware integration features of any server platform. These combine to make it the best platform for hosting VMware View.

    Related Links
    Other upcoming Varrow Events – Check back here often. I will try to keep you updated as well
    Dave Lawrence’s Blog – VMguy

    Now don’t get your hopes up about me being there, I will be out delivering these solutions, somebody has to get the work done 😉