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.

Storage Field Day 6 – Videos now available


The Tech field day series of events has now been running for a few years and I’m a big fan of the way companies are invited to pitch their solutions and roadmap faced with a panel of expert bloggers and experts in a particular field. These events are sponsored by Gestalt IT who are led by the vision that is Stephen Foskett (@SFoskett).

These sessions are broadcast live and then the recorded material is then shared on YouTube and Vimeo. If you’d like to understand more about the premise of what this seeks to achieve then head on over to the Tech Field Day website – Link

For those of you interested in finding out more about the innovative storage companies taking the world by storm e.g. Nimble, Nexenta, Tegile etc., head on over to the recorded videos and learn how storage is becoming a software defined commodity rather than your traditional array in the datacenter

Youtube Videos

Vimeo Videos


VeeamON 2014 Sessions – FREE online


The first annual VeaamON conference was held a couple of months ago in Las Vegas. If you weren’t lucky enough to attend then the Keynote and top 5 sessions, as voted by the attendees, have now been made available for consumption.

Of course if you were lucky enough to attend then you will have access to all the sessions online. You lucky participants !!

I can highly recommend the ‘Keynote’ and also the ‘Veeam v8 What’s New’ videos showing how Veeam has changed as a company and innovated to make it a leading differentiator in the Enterprise Backup space.

VeeamOn 2014

Veeam Availability Suite v8 is here


Just in case you’ve been hiding or been on a long vacation, Veeam have announced its final release of the much talked about v8 software updating both its Veeam One and Backup/Replication product in one swoop – Link

The eagerly anticipated update has many cool features and far too many to list here so I suggest you read the ‘What’s New’ document to familiarise yourselves with the new innovations in the product – Link

As always, I’d recommend installing this in a Lab environment to get the most of the testing the new features before launching into your production update.

I’m sure many backup admins and Virtual admins will be looking forward to the innovative features that come with this release and as always, read the product documentation before questioning how particular features work. Good luck !!

VMworld Day 3 & 4

Its been a long time coming but I hadn’t got time to publishing my final couple of days but wanted to get this out.

Day 3 was all about my last few sessions and also talking to some more vendors. I attended a brilliant presentation featuring real customer cases all around D.R. and their business continuity processes and what they had learned in their various journeys. It was interesting that a representative from VMware was also on stage and they seem to always be learning from product sets and improving business processes internally which is refreshing to hear. I also talked to IBM at their stand and to Fortinet about their security solutions. Infinio was also on my list as I know they have a compelling acceleration product likened to the Pernixdata product. It was also an opportunity for me to view a demo of the free Veeam edition that can back up physical machines. I met up with Niels Engelen (who I already knew from twitter) who walked me through the product and it looks so intuitive and very similar to the standard Veeam interface. Kudos to Veeam for finally exploring the need to backup the last few physical servers and also workstations that people may be considering.

I attended the customary VMworld party later on that evening and got a chance to see Simply Minds on stage. Although I’m not a big fan of theirs its still live music and enjoyed the night conversing with a the vGeeks I’d met over the last few days. I must say the DJ was very good and they could have kept him longer than 10pm but the night had come to an end and it was time for me to go back to the hotel and pack.

Day 4 was the final day and luckily I had packed the night before so was all set to check out on time and leave the luggage at the conference center. All went smoothly as I had done this before and for me this was just a final chance to attend the Solutions Exchange and also to try and meet one of two bloggers who I had met earlier in the week. It was uncanny that I saw so many people from the exhibition hall on the plane and many vendors. Wonder what the D.R. plan would be for losing that many key staff in one hit ???

I can say I thoroughly enjoyed the event and learned so much. It was great to meet new faces and old ones and I’m hoping to stay in closer contact with the bloggers I conversed with. Feet are a little sore from all the walking but this is part and parcel of walking the conference floors and should heal up soon.

VMworld Day 2 – Liquidity and Air

A slight delay in this blog post but couldn’t be avoided.

Day 2 was all about VMware showing its journey and evolution in the SDDC (Software defined DataCenter) and Pat Gelsinger was covered off all the major software updates as well as the improvement of the partner ecosystem which now includes HP and HDS in the EVO Rail (Another converged infrastructure block) stack. This is designed more for the SMB space and I’m looking forward to hearing more about its bigger brother, EVO Rack, when it’s released. Sanjay Poonen took us through the EUC landscape and how the the new Horizon Flex solution will improve container desktops and also the local desktop offerings on both Mac and PC devices. Another great stage presence from Sanjay and he clearly showed his passion for the area he has been put in charge of.

I made it a point to attend a few session yesterday on vRealize Ops Manager and then wanted to talk to some vendors at the Solutions Exchange.


As always there are plenty of key players demonstrating their SDDC vision and how convergence is being shown. I talked to both IBM and Nutanix on their new platforms to tackle this. I met my good friend Yossi Siles from the storage team in Tel Aviv who walked me through IBMs vision for vVols and it’s good to know they are catching up with the competition (finally !!). I also had a good chance to talk to a Nutanix UK manager who took me through their webscale vision and their ever increasing market share in the hyper converged infrastructure area.

I had some time booked with Nimble storage and it was good to have a deep conversation with Nick Dyer and Charlie Whitfield who are great spokesmen for the company.They explained their growth had increased over a year and have shipped over 700 units which is up from around 100 last year. The Storage market is big enough for everyone to take a segment of revenue and Nimble seem to be doing very well with a wider range of storage units to meet both performance and capacity demands. Very impressive !!

I also took part in the ‘Destination Giveback’ initiative. This is designed for VMworld attendees to donate to charity through the VMware foundation. Simply put, fly a paper airplane as far as you can and this equates to Euros that you can decide to allocate funds to a category such as Children, Women, Health etc. I was lucky enough to hit the €1000 mark and go straight on the leaderboard. Skills in aeronautical design I guess ??


Finally, I managed to attend the annual Veeam party that was very mellow until Ratmir Timashev (Veeam CEO) grabbed the mic and thanked his partners and customer base. It was a lot more vibrant after this but I had left early in order to get some rest before Day 3 and rest my aching feet.

Stay tuned for more from a Day 3….

Countdown to VMworld Europe – This is it

Its just over a week before I jet off to Barcelona for the annual get together with like minded virtualization enthusiasts. I won’t be listing all the sessions I am attending but am looking forward to more networking and community sessions this year.

Not to be missed are the vBrownBag sessions – vBrownBag TechTalks.

These are great community led presentations and very different to the standard sessions you find at the event. I’ve also volunteered to be on the vExpert panel on Wednesday so why not come and embarrass me further by watching.

Be sure not to cram too much into the day as you’ll find that the community and networking elements of the event are great to share ideas and catch up with people you only know by their twitter handles.

You can catch me in sessions / blogger area / various parties (vRockstar, Pernixdata, Veeam etc.) and I hope to meet some new faces and introduce myself as more than a twitter bod. If you see me, come and say Hi. I’m not your conventional blogger as I’m a manager and not a consultant or an Ops guy so you may learn something about being on the other side of I.T.

See you there !!

VMworld 2014 US is imminent. What’s next ?

Indeed what’s next and what can we look forward to the US conference starting in a few days.

I won’t be there myself but have the fortunate pleasure of gracing the European conference again this year. On the plus side this means that I’ll be able to follow the conference in the US very closely and bring you the stories that count.

I see some great new innovation from VMware themselves especially around the vSphere core changes and a certain Project Marvin…Its also going to be jam packed with vendors with an interest in Storage and computer acceleration in the datacenter in order satisfy the need for virtual machines to work faster and with less latency eliminating the favourite storage bottleneck.

I’m looking forward to seeing posts from some of my favorite bloggers who are out there but I’ll be sure to provide my own thoughts as well as content links from other bloggers in the field so stay tuned.

I’ll leave you with this thought. If last year was the year of VDI or SDN or any other acronym you can think of, could this be the year of all things Air ? Let’s see how branding and marketing play an important role in the festivities that lie ahead.


1 2