a reckoning for tech by the humans that work with it

Old School, New School – TR Dispatch v2n16

The TechReckoning Dispatch, Vol. 2, No. 16. November 22, 2015. In this issue: VMUGs vs Meetups, vExperts and similar programs, Diane Greene is back and Google Is Serious This Time, CloudPhysics, DevOps as #hugops, Self-indulgent Podcasts, Firehose of Links, and our yearly question: What Are You Grateful For? 

Greetings from the snowy Peak District of the UK. The big pile of rocks above is Chatsworth House. Very posh, even when they let the punters in.

User Groups: Old School vs New School

I just wrapped up a great UK VMUG UserCon. My closing keynote was a reminder that our working lifetimes are decades long with a call to action to gather your team of mentors and community peers and develop a career-long learning practice through side projects. I guess in England one could use the metaphor that everybody needs a Professional Shed in which to putter about.

The VMware User Group organization is remarkable: over 100,000 members worldwide with groups run by local volunteers. I love going to VMUGs and presenting at VMUGs, and because of my involvement with the vExpert program, many VMUG leaders are my friends. I believe they are a key tool for career growth if you are involved professionally with VMware tools. They’re a hot ticket for sponsors, too, because they are one of the few ways of directly connecting with enterprise IT pros.

But as I interact more with my clients in the open source and developer areas, I wonder if the VMUG model of user groups is about to be superseded by new, more lighter-weight models of user gatherings. To make an analogy to the companies themselves — heavyweight enterprise technology vendors being superseded by more nimble newcomers — is irresistible.

Not clear what I’m talking about? Check out Meetup.com for what’s going on in your town. Even in the English Midlands there are dozens of developer, open source, and technology meetups going on every month, some sponsored by companies, others by independent organizers. And Meetup.com is not even the whole story – lots of activity and events going on these days!

The differences between old school user groups and new school meetups:

  •  centralized control vs decentralized control
  •  third-party sponsors vs non-sponsored or company-subsidized
  •  multi-session meeting vs single session
  •  full afternoon vs evening
  •  multiple sponsors vs zero or one sponsor
  •  sponsor presentations vs brief sponsor mentions
  •  passive, listening vs active, hackathons
As I design these user group programs for companies, it’s not clear that a VMUG-style user group is universally appropriate for all companies or topics.

vExperts and Tigers and Bears, Oh My

It’s the end of the year and applications are open for programs like vExpert (deadline: Dec 18), EMC Elect (deadline: Nov 30), Cisco Champions (too late!), and Nutanix Technology Champions (also officially too late, but a little bird told me you might be able to get in).

As you might imagine, I’m a big fan of these kinds of programs. They have become win-win tools both for participants and the vendors that run them. I recently spoke about building this kind of influencer program at a local community conference. This isn’t to say that they can’t be completely screwed up when they become solely marketing tools for the vendors. I have a notion that when I started the vExpert Program in 2009, I should have emphasized that it was a networking program for technologists, not an award program. Over and over again, vExperts told me that the most valuable benefit they got from the program was the connections they made with other vExperts. vExperts came together to work on projects, to make each other smarter, and to get better jobs. As the number of people in the vExpert program go well over 1000, the program no longer feels like the exclusive award program anymore. But the “getting the most interesting people together in the room” aspect is still the best and works at most any scale. In fact, some programs, like IBM #CloudMinds (see also Amy Hermes on the Geek Whisperers), are primarily strong networking and discussion programs (IBM’s is CTO-level), and are great for the participants.

These programs can be super-rewarding and great career accelerators and are always looking for the interesting folks to join them. You don’t have to be a super scientist or Olympic-level technologist to qualify. Please don’t be shy about putting yourself forward.

Diane Greene’s back, baby, and things may never be the same

The big news of this week was that VMware co-founder Diane Greene will be joining Google to lead their enterprise cloud division. The method was via the acquisition of Bebop, the company founded by Diane Greene and her husband Mendel Rosenblum. This means that Google, always in the top three in cloud expenditures but still way behind Amazon in enterprise uptake, is proclaiming that it is Serious About Cloud. I worked at VMware during Diane’s tenure, but never worked closely with her. (I did see Mendel often in the kitchen eating peanut M&M’s.) Diane is famously hands-on, tearing through a lot of sales and marketing leaders during VMware’s growth phase, and with a long Monday executive staff meeting that pores through a thick report rolled up from across the entire company. It will be interesting to see how Diane will work within Google’s culture and processes, and if she can meld them with old school enterprise sales plays, but if there’s anybody who can do it, she can. Diane will also remain on the Alphabet Inc (nee Google) board of directors, which I imagine will make Diane’s relationship with Larry Page rather interesting.

Not Quite A Commercial

The fine folks at CloudPhysics just released some really interesting new features for reporting and root cause analysis. If you’re a vExpert or blogger who would like to learn more about these monitoring tools that are driven by VMware domain expertise and a global set of real-world data, holler at me and I’ll invite you to a private briefing. It’s pretty deep stuff, and I’m shocked by how terribly you’ve all set up your data centers and how easily CloudPhysics can figure that out. As always, I’m at jtroyer@techreckoning.com

I see DevOps People

I spent a day at the devopsdays Silicon Valley conference. Some things I can report:
  • More hugging on stage than at enterprise conferences (and yes, there is an RFC for hugs)
  • Organizing committee seemed fun, informal, and largely female
  • DevOps seems to run on T-shirts
  • Not a great place to, um, actually learn about DevOps (credit for that observation goes to Cote), but a good place to connect with other developers
  • Straight out of a stereotype, I met a bright-eyed post-college kid, just moving to San Francisco, sleeping on friend’s couch but just about to get his first programming job. We have no more apartments, but plenty of jobs.
  • The open space/unconference part of the event worked even though it was kind of hard to figure out where to go. I’d like to see more of this.
  • There may be too many cloud/app/container monitoring vendors
  • I talked to a company who said hiring continued to be difficult, especially for technical marketing people. A problem of (a) competition for hires (b) too many tech marketing candidates aren’t actually technical (c) too many actual engineers don’t want to be technical marketers, and (d) too many technical rockstars in other areas (say, infrastructure) don’t want to admit they are not experts in a new area (say, DevOps), and be willing to put on their Big Kid Pants and learn. On the flip side, if you’re technical, hey, lots of technical marketing engineer and developer advocacy jobs.

Loved #devopsdays as an example of a new school conference vs the old school events I usually attend.

Catching up with TechReckoning & Podcasts

I’ve been super sick and traveling, but we still have some good stuff there to check out. I’ll be resuming publishing news and links shortly. The goal here is to make this a community forum with a diversity of opinion — if you’d like to submit a topic, just email me. Everyone has asked me not to screw up the newsletter in favor of the site, so I’ll do my best.

Advice from engineers that’s good for all of us, in which I link to this article by John Allspaw, Etsy CTO: On Being A Senior Engineer:

They know that they work within a spectrum of ideal and non-ideal, and are OK with that. They are comfortable with it because they strive to make the ideal and non-ideal in a design explicit. Later on in the lifecycle of a design, when the original design is not scaling anymore or needs to be replaced or rewritten, they can look back not with a perspective of how short-sighted those earlier decisions were, but instead say “yep, we made it this far with it and knew we’d have to extend or change it at some point. Looks like that time is now, let’s get to work!” instead of responding with a cranky-pants, passive-aggressive Hindsight Bias-filled remark with counterfactuals (e.g.. “those idiots didn’t do it right the first time!”, “they cut corners!”, “I TOLD them this wouldn’t work!”)
End of the Enterprise Public Cloud?, where I survey the landscape and determine that all the enterprise clouds have figured out that they can’t out-AWS AWS itself, and have started to differentiate themselves.

TechReckoning Podcast #1: Even More Dell-EMC and the Solo Analyst Life with Justin Warren. We had a good chat about what life looks like when you need to get on a plane across the Pacific to actually meet with anybody. Analyst/consultant Justin Warren brought his MBA chops as a co-host.

TechReckoning Podcast #2: Dell, Storage, Skills, and Curation with Stephen Foskett. We hit Dell again, but I loved Stephen’s call to action about careers and skill sets — LOOK UP from your current job to see what the business needs. We also talk about the information tsunami and our curation tools. Stephen’s still an old school RSS user. I use new school Twitter mining tools.

The TechReckoning Podcast is on hiatus this week because of travel and illness (mine).

Geek Whisperers Ep 100: Treating Home Life As Seriously As Work with Nigel and Heather Hickey, where they talk about work-life balance, travel, business meetings for the home, and the F-U Card. Also The Importance of Being a Mentor with Cody Bunch – Ep 98, Thrive By Learning New Skills with Scott Lowe – Ep 99, This coming week check out Ep 101 – it’s going to be a doozy!

Speaking In Tech #184: Troyer. What a clever title! Anyway, check out this interview with me for more on What’s Going On With TechReckoning, Enterprise Public Clouds, and Newsletters.

Chat with Champions Ep 7: The big fish and little fish of leadership with Marten Mickos. Marten, who just signed on as CEO of security bounty company HackerOne, has a great conversation about his experiences with MySQL and Eucalyptus. I love this quote about expertise:

When I joined MySQL, I did not know Open Source, but I decided to become an expert on it. I didn’t know that you could just decide on something and then it starts happening. But after a number of years, I realized that I was an expert on Open Source, and people came to me for advice. It dawned on me how quickly things change. And even if you feel that there’s something you know nothing about, if you just decide to become an expert and you set your mind to it, you can actually do it in a reasonable time so that today, people somehow believe that I always was an expert on Open Source.

But that’s not the case. I just decided to make it a core skill of mine. And that has had profound impact on how I approach new challenges, because I realized that a human being can learn a lot in a short amount of time if he or she really is devoted to it.

Chat with Champions Ep 6: The value of long-term relationships with Chris Michel. Chris founded two community-based startups, including Military.com. This quote from the podcast speaks to me right now as I build out all these crazy projects with you:

So many people told me, including my board and advisers, that it’s okay to quit and we never quit at Military.com. We never quit, even when we were talking to bankruptcy lawyers we never quit; even when people were going to come to take the stuff from the office. We learned everything in those most difficult moments. For those of you out here listening that are going through a lot of challenges in your company, I hope you see it the way I did today, which is there’s a huge learning opportunity and a huge opportunity to focus on what matters and you might be really, really close to success. Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up,” and I think that that’s incredibly true.

Worth A Click

With the whole sick thing I’ve been lax about curating links, but if you want to check out my new system and sip from the firehose of links and click on them yourself like a caveman:  TechReckoning bookmarks at Pinboard.

Always Read The Comments

Last time I asked if you had any serious or silly headlines you’d like see in the future:


Cisco ACI: Who’s using it and why. Also, I imagine there should be some talk around VMware’s two new container related offerings. The vSphere one and the Photon one.

@MattThatITGuy (for April Fools):

Virtualization bubble burst; IBM buys server division back from Lenovo in a race to stay relevant

Just Hit Reply

It’s Thanksgiving in the US and although we’ve done it before, I always think it’s worth stopping and asking: What Are You Grateful For This Year? I’ll go first: the loving support of my wife; that AWS, Microsoft, and Google are pouring literally billions of dollars into their clouds so I don’t have to buy hardware; people who Show Up; and my new Shure SM7B microphone. Just hit reply to this note or email me.

The TechReckoning Dispatch. Archive & SubscribeEmail me. I remain grateful for your interest and attention in this stuff. Brought to you by pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine, dextromethorphan, guaifenesin, and doxylamine succinate. “My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.”