Returning to the Scene of the Crime – My VCDX Design Customer

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of returning to the customer that was the subject of my VCDX Design Defense.

First, let’s travel back into time. It was mid-December, 2008. I was a VMware Delivery Engineer for my company at the time. The customer engagement was a VMware Plan and Design delivery. I had the audacity to design a virtual datacenter running ESXi 3.5.0 Update 2 on HP BladeSyStem servers booting from USB sticks. The Virtual Center server was a VM. This was my fourth or fifth Plan and Design engagement with my company, so it was a piece of cake to me.

There were many design constraints, which made things slightly more difficult for me. The BladeSystem infrastructure was brand new to the customer. They bought it based on an assessment report that I delivered to them in August of 2008. I had already performed a hundred of so assessments by then. At that time, the Virtualization Assessment was a $10,000 service, now it is usually offered at no charge by many companies. The problem was that a different project received a higher priority and many of the blades that were supposed to be used for the consolidation project were used for a RHEL based application. The Virtual Connect modules were already configured and everything was in production by the time I started the Plan ad Design engagement.

From a hardware perspective, they changed the traditional “Assess -> Plan -> Implement -> Manage” approach to an “Assess -> Implement -> Plan -> Manage” approach. This still happens to me more than it should. But it made for an interesting design defense to my review panel. Difficult scenario.

I had already taken the beta versions what were then called the Enterprise Administration exam and the Datacenter Design exam. I found out that I had passed the design exam while creating the deliverable documents for this customer. I was on my way to the final steps in becoming a VCDX. During the spring of 2009, I changed jobs, but used the design from this customer for my submission for Design Defense. It took about two weeks to complete the application for defense. It was returned once for additional work, but finally accepted. I was on my way to defend for VCDX at VMworld 2009 in San Francisco! The rest is history.

I was returning to a customer that, at the time, was new to general virtualization, to one that has at least five years experience under their belt. I had many questions on the train ride: Did they keep the original design or change it drastically? Did they love or hate the design? Did things go well after I left? How have they changed operationally and technically since then? Is any of the original team still there?

So what did I learn? Many things. The most important is that the biggest thing is IT is change. Nothing stays the same for long. These guys are on their third brand of servers. My design was around HP blades. They had a problem and changed to Dell. That was even worse for them, so now they have moved to Cisco. They also went from HP EVA storage to EMC VMAX and VPLEX.