Why AZ-900 now and what can you do to pass ?

The strange thing is that I took a Microsoft exam after nearly 7 years of never having touched MS study material and unbelievably I actually passed. So why now and what gives ?

As we started the lockdown period during the pandemic I wanted to challenge myself to learn something new. My role is focused around the VMware software ecosystem full time and so I wanted to really try something different but keep the context very much around what I do for my day job. Cloud is very much part of my role and so doing a certification around public cloud was very much on my radar. I’ve been procrastinating for so long and thought I’d take advantage of the Microsoft learning platform as they were running a free 2 day series a month ago which came with a free exam voucher. This was the incentive I needed to get my brain cells into gear.

I picked the Azure Fundamentals exam as I knew it would be a light introduction to Azure and give me the knowledge to understand the key value proposition and benefits to the Azure offering. I’m not advocating one cloud or another but having a basic knowledge of public cloud can be a good foundation for having an intelligent conversation with peers, customers, partners or indeed the average consumer looking to understand what cloud can offer.

If you haven’t read “Hit Refresh” by Satya Nadella then I’d encourage you to do so. The statement of “Learn it alls” having the knowledge to succeed with a growth mindset is really what spurred me on to do this exam.

Exam Resources

It really boils down to a few items that really helped my soak up the foundational knowledge to sit the Azure Fundamentals exam.

There’s a lot of resources out there but I personally used these and found them very good to give me a grounding on Azure.

Official MS Learning Resources with AZ900 learning path – https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/learn/certifications/exams/az-900

Tim Warner Youtube channel – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLYGZ9Q0oTOHfsI-3IAhvyc09ssPDfoePv

Skylines Academy AZ900 Study Guide – https://www.skylinesacademy.com/az900-azure-fundamentals-ultimate-study-guide

Skylines Academy AZ900 Course – https://courses.skylinesacademy.com/p/az-900

That really is it. Not a lot of resources I know but this was the foundation exam and I’d encourage anyone interested in public cloud to use these resources and take the exam.

Good luck !!!

Let’s all go back to the vRetreat

It wasn’t that kind of retreat……honest !!!

Not quite the event I imagined due to the current climate but I was lucky enough to attend the next instalment of vRetreat as organised by my good friend Patrick Redknap. Essentially it’s a community event designed to highlight various technology vendors with a panel of bloggers (me included) including some light fun. The event was originally planned for a day in Gloucester followed by some afternoon off roading but unfortunately we had to switch to a virtual event. What can you do……

I was joined but quite a few delegates including Ather Beg, Barry Coombs, Marco van Broeken, Ibrahim Quraishi and many others from the vCommunity. It was interesting doing this via Zoom for the first time but we all took the advantage of using video and this made the experience a whole more interactive instead of voice only.

We had both Zerto and Kemp on the podium presenting their latest updates and educating the audience into their value propositions. Let’s start with Zerto.


They’ve been around for a number of years and focused on Disaster recovery of virtual environments using replication with the added benefits of journalling to roll back to any point in time. They’ve now reinvented themselves to tackle the ever growing data protection landscape, embraced cloud and expanded their offerings. Of note on this occassion was the release of Zerto 8 which brings a lot more to the table.

Google Cloud is the next cloud where Zerto are able to offer their protection service moving on from AWS and Azure only previously. It’s good to see the story developing from a cloud standpoint.

Steve Blow also took us mentioned some of the on demand labs that are now available here – https://www.zerto.com/page/labs/

I’d say that the business proposition has certainly moved on from days of old and at the end of the day each software company now has to assess how they build on their value to customers by offering and leveraging other services that are in demand. For now the container strategy is something that is being investigated as data protection in container land is something that is required but as yet Zerto do not have an offering around this. I do expect something to address this as other vendors have already released offerings.

On the whole it is a robust and proven service offering that Zerto cater to although it must be remembered that the company is purely focused on virtual workloads and not physicals.

If you’d like to find out more then visit their website where they go deeper into their IT resilience platform – https://www.zerto.com/


Next up were Kemp who also focus on what they do best…..Load Balancing….

Now I’m profess that I’m not a load balancing expert but Kemp have been around a long time and their focus on load balancing has meant they do offer a lot in this space. The presenter – Frank Yue – was keen to point out that this is where they win the market as they don’t aim to tackle other features that other vendors seem to do. So think of Kemp as more of a specialist at load balancing than a generalist.

We were taken through several scenarios where Kemp works with the Horizon UAG (Unified Access Gateway) and how different scenarios can be adopted using Kemp as the front end for traffic. The reasons why Kemp suggest having a load balancer for Horizon are clear – High Availability & Scalability are key advantages here to having a solution like Kemp routing traffic to your UAGs as the last thing you’d want is an outage where users couldn’t get to their remote desktop. A typical deployment is shown below.

Kemp can take the physical or virtual form but Frank was keen to focus on the virtual platform as this is where the industry is moving. When you can deploy a virtual appliance in minutes instead of a hardware appliance over days then I know what I’d opt for. By the way Kemp also have a trial of their virtual appliance which you can access here – https://kemptechnologies.com/vlm-download/

I liked the fact that Kemp had template files which can be downloaded and applied to the VLB to make the deployment and configuration a lot quicker than manually filling out fields. They also support a wide variety of use cases and partners including Dell EMC – https://support.kemptechnologies.com/hc/en-us/sections/200428856-Templates-

Wrap Up

It was nice to see and hear from passionate presenters about how their technology can make a difference. Couple this with an excellent panel and moderator and what else would you want from an event like this. Let’s hope that next time we get outdoors and have something face to face where we can interact a lot more with the presenters but for now making use of collaboration tools helped to make this a successful event.

vExpert 2020 unlocked

A certain announcement was made recently and I’m super chuffed to be included in the next batch of vExpert accolades for 2020. I was not certain if I’d make the cut this year partly to blogging a lot less than previous years. Thankfully my contributions in the community with the OpenTechCast podcast as well as activities at VMworld and other events may have helped.

To be recognised for a seventh year means a great deal to me and shows how far the vCommunity has come. I have huge admiration for those that are in their 12th year and also for the first timers for showing determination in being involved and also going through the application process.

The programme continues to evolve and excel and thanks to a great community management team at VMware, it means people like me can continue to evangelise and help others in the community to understand and enable the greater VMware portfolio and its constituent parts.

My focus for 2020 will be ensuring I continue to share knowledge and also to increase my blogging where possible. Being part of this community has many advantages and the most prized possession is having access to a vast group of individuals who are experts in multiple domains. This is something I leverage constantly and something that makes this a unique experience.

For those who didn’t make the cut, please seek out your vExpert PROs who can help with your application criteria and never give up. One day you’ll also wake up to the surprise email….

Take care of your body and mind….the rest will follow…

It’s strange that I’m writing a blog post on this subject considering that most of the other posts have been about technology in some shape or form. I’ve recently been embracing lots of non-tech related subjects and practices so thought it would be a good idea to share these so I can help others out there thinking about the same subject.

Is it really worth my time ?

It’s often a question we ask ourselves because we are too busy with the day job but if you don’t make time for yourself, who else is ? There’s been a raft of posts recently on IT burnout, depression, stress and subjects surrounding this and I hate to read articles like this knowing there are things you can do to help yourself and others around you. Take this as a list of suggestions where you can create and adapt your own framework. What works for one may not work for others so I’ve given you the basis of a framework on which to steer your own path.

I’ve been reading many books around the subject recently and the book that really taught me a lot was this one.

The Miracle Morninghttps://amzn.to/2Jc8a69

It’s a fascinating insight into how you can influence and change your day ahead by adopting various strategies to help you keep in balance and positive throughout the day. Now truth be told, I don’t follow everything to the letter and this is why it is a framework but I have implemented various routines that eventually turn into habit. Habits are great things and can also be bad depending on what it is but we all know humans are very difficult to break habits and to adopt new ones. This is why it is important to stick with your plan however you choose to create it.

Hal Elrod has many interesting insights and I won’t have any spoilers for you but some of these routines can be completed inside 20 mins or less !!

What has worked for me ?

This took some time and I started one important routine which was regular exercise before reading this book. Nothing crazy that was too time consuming but simply cycling for 15-20 mins was enough for me right now. After reading this book I realised how important it was for the brain to do exercise as early as possible (hence habits to do before 8am) so this is now part of my routine on a semi-regular basis depending on my schedule.

The second item to mention is meditation. Now I know what you’re all thinking now but wait…….it does help…..believe me. I was also a skeptic and tried this previously and failed at making it a routine but having invested in an app (there are many out there but I use Calm) I can see that my brain, attitude and stress levels have changed for the positive. We all get sucked into work as soon as our eyes open in the morning but if we adjust our routine and don’t pick up our phones to check how many unread emails we have or what the latest is in the Slack group then trust me….you will also change.

It’s a journey and not a quick fix but if you want a new perspective on life and prevent stress and burnout at work then I would consider minor lifestyle changes to be a step in the right direction. You don’t have to do everything especially if you have other parts of your daily routine that already include some of the items mentioned in the book but you may find some useful tips along the way. The one I most appreciated is how exercise early in the morning can release certain chemicals in the brain that mean you are better set for the day ahead. When you exercise in the evening then these chemicals and changes to the brain cannot be put to good use although you could do a light exercise in the morning and a longer one in the evening if that suits your lifestyle.

As I continue to learn and read more areas for effective productivity whilst having a healthy work/life balance I will continue to share these thoughts on my blog.

Moving onto a new adventure…

With all the job posts I’ve read recently I thought it was time to add my own especially as I’ve had a few questions bouncing off various rumours and it looks like it’s the season for new jobs.

As you probably know by now, I joined EMC 3 years ago having come from being a datacenter customer for many years. Having had a lot of experience in virtualisation, Microsoft apps and a barage of other tech areas it wasn’t natural for me to join a company that was known for storage only but for me the intrigue of working for a vendor was always there. I never had the guts to make the move early on in my career as I always preferred the easy work hours and the simple life but when the role presented itself I was eager to have the conversation and 3 years later I’m still enjoying the world of presales. With the coming together of Dell and EMC it was perfect timing as this opened the door to other parts of the datacenter that I had more experience in and so I knew this was where I wanted to remain.

Having been exposed to many varying types of customer conversation and having the opportunity to travel globally and meet many people both internally and externally fit my profile perfectly as I always enjoyed having different conversations with varying job roles at the other end. Solving customer challenges and talking about how Dell EMC solutions can make a real difference is where I am most comfortable.

Since I was still predominantly storage focused and still passionate about all things VMware I was at a crossroads where I wanted to take a more focussed role on how the software defined era will shape businesses of tomorrow.  I’m always eager to learn more and step out of my comfort zone and in order to this I had to expand my sphere of influence and ensure I continue to develop my brand both internally and externally.

For this reason I’ve taken a new role and YES I will still be staying within the Dell Technologies family at Dell EMC. The pillars of digital transformation are strong and ones that I remain very close to and for that reason I knew I wanted to continue to build upon what I had started.

My new role will be focussed on the synergy between VMware and Dell EMC for Enterprise customers in the UK and Ireland being an enabler for both my colleagues and customers to understand the full value of the synergistic nature of the relationship from both a technical and business perspective. Bringing these powerhouses together under the banner of Dell Technologies is where the true value lies and it was clear to me that I could add most value by applying my skills to this rapidly evolving tech supremo.

It’s clear that the software defined datacenter and hybrid cloud represent the essential building blocks for companies to expand and grow in the digital age and I always knew I wanted to play my part in this journey.

2019 will be the year of realisation that organisations need to rationalise the amount of vendors they have to deal with and ensure they have a consistent and dependable technology vendor to depend on and so I’ve placed my big bet on this along with organisations seizing the opportunity to be more agile in the datacenter.

I wanted to thank all my friends, colleagues and managers who have helped me on my career path so far and I will continue to be a strong advocate for software defined technology adoption as the weeks and months pass by. 

Don’t hesitate to reach out for any knowledge on why the VMware portfolio on Dell EMC can help in transforming your life and your business objectives of tomorrow.

VMworld – Day 3 Wrap Up

Sanjay Poonen opened up as our host for the day.

The engines that are the powerhouse of the corporation are essentially focused around innovation and customer satisfaction. Bringing them together achieves high growth and a powerful story.

Skyline was a project mentioned that means customers have a proactive approach to support of the their essential infrastructure.

The economic impact is huge over the last 10 years. The revenue alone shows the impressive growth trajectory that VMware has enjoyed.

Sanjay swiftly moved on to show the economic savings from software defined storage and then software defined networking.

The ultimate killer slide was the ultimate economic impact of a hybrid cloud model.

Next up were some customer stories with Vodafone and Rentokil amongst them. Vodafone talked more about NFV (Network Function Virtualisation) and the pace of development in 5G and the research that is ongoing. The key point that Vodafone mentioned is that they are on a path to virtualising their network and telco foundation and looking at cloud.

Sanjay then focused in on devices and the proliferation of mobile.

The eye chart that summed it up was the economic value of Workspace One.

The digital workspace is the key to realising this value.

And so Sanjay brought in customers that have been focused on EUC solutions. The NHS christie group was up first talking about their Horizon and Airwatch deployments and how critical it is for healthcare professionals to be able to access data on any device whilst maintaining a high amount of security.

Airbus was up next to talk through a recent case of swapping out a fleet of blakberrys using the power of Workspace One.

Seeing Martha Lane Fox talk about her journey from Lastminute.com to working closely with the government was a truly inspiring moment. Humble, inspiring and a thought leader would sum up her journey so far.

Thanks for another great keynote.

My moments

I was also honoured and privileged to be interviewed by Aaron Buley who leads the Dell EMC HCI Technology Engineering team. Watch here to learn how community is important to me, Brian Graf and Gina Minks.

Lastly I took part in the vExpert Daily Panel which you can watch here.


VMworld 2018 – Day 2 Thoughts

I was lucky enough to have front row seats for today’s opening Keynote.

Thanks to all those at VMware for my blogger pass this year.

I also managed to grab Joe Baguley for a quick chat and a selfie with some fellow bloggers.

Jean-Pierre Brulard kicked off proceedings today and mentioned that we had a record 12000 attendees at the event.  VMware also celebrated the 20 year milestone at VMware. Impressive just to think it feels like yesterday when virtualisation was being played with.

Pat Gelsinger came up next to focus on “bridging the gaps” in the IT silos.

The significance here was that disruption has happened year on year whilst businesses continue to do well by focusing on making profit.

The number that matters the most to the environment was the carbon saving that VMware has made and has now achieved carbon neutrality 2 years ahead of schedule.

Tech superpowers

Cloud, Mobile, AI/ML and Edge/IOT are the key areas of focus that Pat mentioned as the key enablers for business and technology.

The best phrase I heard was AI is the 30 year overnight success. AI is game changing and we are merely scratching the surface.

Edge is accelerating and touching every aspect of society and it was clear from Pat that dramatic changes are happening all around us at a pace that has never been seen before.

“The application is the network” and the VMware vision fits around this message. You saw it last year and the vision is still alive of any app on any device on any cloud.


The next focus area was Security and that there are still flaws in the I.T ecosystem. People deploy tech all the time but security is still an afterthought. The model is shifting to intrinsic security built into every component.

Micro segmentation was talked about to prevent bad actors from horizontally scaling a datacenter. The key driver here is NSX and Pat was keen to convey the message of Security should be at the heart of every technology conversation.

With AppDefense being a part of vSphere Platinum, Pat mentioned that this is like “burgers & fries”. You always leave the restaurant with both and the emphasis here was that the VM and Security should be deployed hand in hand.

Adaptive Micro-Segmentation was introduced by tieing in AppDefense, vSphere & NSX.

Ray O’Farrell was up next with Vijay to show Appdefense in action through vSphere Platinum.


The demo that was showcased in the keynote showed hows Appdefense learns the behaviour of a VM through Machine Learning. This creates an application behaviour map so the policy can lock down the application by the ruleset that is trusted.

Again, Learn-Lock-Adapt, was talked about as the enabler to shrink the attack surface in the datacenter.


My favourite subject at the moment especially when it comes to hybrid cloud and multi cloud conversations. Pat was back on stage to give a definition of hybrid cloud – Consistent Infrastructure and Consistent Operations both within a Private & Public cloud. Cue VMware Cloud Foundation as the defacto standard for the base of the fully integrated software defined datacenter solution.

Mercy Ships was showcased as a company that has moved to an integrated HCI approach to delivering I.T to remote ships in the form of VxRail.

Swiftly moving onto Public Cloud, Pat mentioned the long running VMware Cloud Provider programme made up of 4,200 cloud providers and this has tripled in the last year. Pat brought on Arvind Krishna from IBM Cloud who have played a significant part of this journey to hybrid cloud.

IBM and VMware announced the first multi-zone region offering showing the strength of their continued partnership. They also announced a new VM + Container solution to modernise apps in a secure way using IBM Kubernetes as the orchestration engine.

The next focus are was the VMware and AWS relationship showing that the trajectory is ramping up as more regions come on board to ensure that VMware would be represented globally. Of course, of mention earlier this year was the Amazon RDS on premises solution. Pat demonstrated how the views that a developer sees both on premises and off looks very similar was looking at RDS.

Project Dimension was highlighted (announced earlier this year) to show the fully managed SDDC service from VMware that can be hosted on premises and at edge locations. By using VMware Pulse IOT solution at the edge and delivering the network edge via Velocloud, these game changing technologies will become fully mature over the next few months/years.

Cloudhealth, the acquisition made earlier this year, was mentioned for managing, monitoring and operating workloads in the cloud. Currently at 3500 customers and growing and I’m sure we will see more announcements as VMware matures their offerings with Cloudhealth now on board.


Pat then focused on the network and the important acquisition of Nicira. Now over 7500 customers using NSX highlighting the rapid growth of network virtualisation. With Velocloud and embedding this into the NSX and network fabric, Pat wants this to be the essential cloud networking fabric.

5G was an area that Pat said was an opportunity that lies ahead and will drive the tech superpowers mentioned above. Not sure how long it will take to get there but there is significant advantages to this new telco standard.


Pat moved onto Kubernetes and how containers should be leveraged on VMware solutions. Having an orchestration and management engine for containers is not enough and the infrastructure layer must still be managed.

The acquisition of Heptio was announced in order to accelerate the adoption of Kubernetes across the enterprise.

PKS was the next item of discussion and announced was VMware Cloud PKS where VMware run the PKS environment on AWS. More clouds to come soon but this is a major win.

PKS on VMware was the next demo by Wendy (Cloud Native Marketing) and Ray. The value prop here is that VMware manages the networking and operations.


Pat came back on stage to mention how devices are still important to consume services and data. Device proliferation is everywhere and Workspace One was the focus area of how to attacks the complexity of device management. Workspace One Intelligence can look into the OS spread and updates especially now that Windows 10 can be leveraged with the apps installed on the OS to check for compatability.

The rest…

Project Concord was talked about as the VMware Blockchain solution and VMware announced it was now released in Beta.

VMworld 2018 – Day 1 Thoughts

After arriving on Sunday it was a smooth logistical process from start to finish and I had a chance to meet up with a lot of friends & customers at the vRockstar event in the evening. This event is always great to meet up with like minded passionate individuals from varying backgrounds so is a good warm up to the event itself.

Monday was all about TAM day and Partner day. I elected to attend the VMUG session focused on Dell EMC and VMware HCI offerings as well as a captivating session by Brian Graf covering VMware Cloud on AWS.

Paul Mackay (EMEA CTO for Modern Data Center team) hosted a session focused on HCI in particular the use cases and outcomes that customers are asking for. He was assisted by Steffen Matthias who covered the technical aspects of Dell EMC HCI solutions and this was well received by the audience. It was a frank, informal discussion and I felt that this is what customers want especially when they can hear from vendors on how to get to the software defined datacenter and eventually hybrid cloud.

The rest of the day was spent networking with my customers and talking to the various VMware staff and old acquaintances at the various booths about the new themes this year.

The next few days are bound to be hectic with a lot of announcements and some interesting sessions so will give you my take on these as we go along with the event.


Reflections on Dell Technologies World 2018

It’s been a long time since my last blog post that I felt it was time to put some thoughts down on my recent trip to Dell Technologies World. I don’t always get a chance to reflect on long, exhausting and informative events but this year was a different year and I wanted to focus on the 1st Dell Technologies World.

The Main Event

Vegas is always a tricky place for the UK customer base to get to but for those that went I’m sure they have some good insightful memories and great stories to tell.

This year was different for me as I was honoured to have the task of helping out with a unique programme in the UK delivering a bespoke customer track for delegates that wanted to do something a little different and more tailored. Thankfully I wasn’t on my own and had the support of a good colleague and a great marketing team.

For me, the message came alive when it was clear that this was a less product centric event and more of a customer transformation event with future looking visionaries invited to talk about how they see the adoption of AI and IoT in the work place. Stories of companies turning fiction into fact is what really draws customers in. It was clear that this direction creates impactful messages and I was happy to see that the keynotes were focused on this higher level talk track.

The Social Village was perfectly staged with plenty of spots to relax and watch The Cube interviews or simply try and do some drone racing with some awesome looking VR headsets.

The expo floor was an abundance of vendors all offering something different from Microsoft to McLaren to even a few stands selling laptop bags. I think it was a good mix allowing attendees to feel it wasn’t just Dell centric but they had a pick of many partners.


It wouldn’t have been a show without some major announcement and the major one that was top of mind was the next generation in all flash array – The Powermax. Built on the solid base of VMAX engineering this really is the next generation storage array. I hear Tier 0 mentioned now and again and it’s hard to fathom what you’d use the array for but think of real time analytics, next generation computational sequences, AI and high demanding workloads. The introduction of end to end NVMe is a major game changer and the new SCM drives that come out later in the year will make this one heavyweight champion in the storage world. Certainly one that cannot be knocked out for the the title belt. If you want to find out more, head on over to the product overview – Right here

Customer community

This really was a bit different this year especially as traditionally there was no real community champion track similar to the vExpert or Cisco champion programme. It was good to see UK customers interacting and sharing knowledge and ideas with one another which makes a difference to vendors pitching products. I think having this on a global level would make it more appealing to new customers to engage with one another. I’m all about community and empowering our users to talk with one another so was very proud that some of the work I was helping with elevated the conversation to individuals sharing their personal war stories. Long may it continue !!

Wrap Up

I took away a lot of good memories and it was good to see friends and colleagues from other countries. The best moment was meeting 3 colleagues from Lebanon, Denver and Nashville who I met almost 3 years ago at bootcamp in Boston. Keeping friends and acquaintances in this industry is paramount for me and so I’d encourage everyone to keep their network alive and growing.

In my eyes, what seemed like a long and draining week was an immense success especially to all the UK partners and customers that felt the energy and got to converse with execs in the business along with watching Sting perform live. It’s an event that everyone has something to learn from or gain a new bit of knowledge and I’d encourage anyone to attend. Here’s to 2019…..


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