For those of you who are ready to deploy your first Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) on VMware Cloud on AWS, there is a little bit more than meets the eye when it comes to the initial deployment. As a part of the VMware TAM Lab series, I demonstrate how to deploy an SDDC from start to finish, including the configuration of the VPC in AWS.
**SHAMELESS PLUG** – Subscribe to the TAM Lab YouTube channel. We are covering all VMware Technologies and use cases….including how to go about building your own home lab. Check it out!!!
If you are reading this then you probably already have an understanding how fast Amazon Web Services rolls out new features and services. It’s impossible to know everything about AWS and I definitely struggled in my preparation for this exam. I set out to get certified almost two years ago but simply never could find the best time to take it. Truth be told, after rescheduling three times in 2018, I let my test expiration lapse because I literally didn’t have time to sit for it. In 2019 I was determined to pass the Solution Architect Associate exam as my 2018 failure was hovering over me like a black cloud. I am excited and relieved that I recently passed and I want to pass along some tips for those of you who want to be a certified AWS Solutions Architect. **Once I set a test date, I prepped for about six weeks.**
Leverage AWS Free Tier – This exam was not easy for me as I spend over 90% of my time with VMware solutions and all my AWS exposure was after hours. That being said, leveraging the AWS Free Tier proved to be a lifesaver when preparing for the exam. There are some things that you will use in practice labs that may cost a few dollars but every cent is worth it. You will need hands on experience setting up S3, EC2, and VPC from scratch. The free tier makes it all possible with next to zero dollars in cost. My advice….look at as an investment.
A Cloud Guru – Ryan Kroonenburg and team have done all of us a great service in making several AWS constructs easy to understand. The cost was well worth it. I didn’t get a membership but did purchase the AWS Certified Architect Associate course. I reviewed each session twice and went through the VPC, S3, Databases, and HA Architecture content several times. Make sure you understand all the labs!! I went through the practice tests as well but I didn’t quite find them deep enough to help me prepare. I had to find another test prep course…Whizlabs!
Whizlabs! – I can confidently say that without Whizlabs AWS Practice Tests , I would not have passed the exam. Whizlabs provides great content that is similar to the exam and detailed explanations to each test question. I purchased the practice exam questions for under $10 at Udemy. As a matter of fact, they are having their Black Friday sale right now! DON’T TEST PREP WITHOUT IT!!!
AWS.com FAQs – For S3, EC2 also read all about Database Services. There will be some questions that come straight out of the FAQs.
AWS Certified SA Official Study Guide– I wouldn’t say this is a must have but for those of you who like having something physical in your hand to study, this will do the trick. I found some of the diagrams and summaries helpful.
Architecting on AWS – This three day course helped me with better understanding AWS concepts and best practices. I don’t view this as a must but it was well worth my time.
Practice, Practice, Practice – Understand the exam format helped me prepare. You will have plenty of time to answer all 65 questions if you practice beforehand. Understanding the concepts around VPCs and networking is a must. Also know RDS and DynamoDB inside out!!
As the VMware-AWS partnership continues to grow, it’s important for both companies to understand each others’ services. This exam was on the tough side but I felt well prepared by the time I sat for it. Preparing for this exam has definitely helped me in conversations with customers as they not only move vSphere workloads to VMware Cloud on AWS but also look for ways to innovate with AWS native services such as S3, RDS, Lambda and more. I highly recommended getting this certification. It’s well worth it!! Good luck in your studies and feel free to reach out to me if you have questions via Twitter @vSeanLambert or reply to this blog!
In a previous blog, I highlighted Workload profiles and how they should be used in right sizing your VMWonAWS environment. Since my last blog, the sizer has been updated not only with a new URL but with several new features. One of which is that you can now choose either i3 or R5 instances depending on your workload needs. You will notice that when you select an r5 instance, you are automatically assigned 15 TB of AWS Elastic Block Storage (EBS) aka Elastic VSAN. For more information regarding Elastic VSAN, click here.
Similar to the previous version, you will be able to see the results of your workload inputs. Another new feature is ribbon across the top that allows you get into the data!! Information is key when sizing your environment and this section of the sizer gives you everything you need.
As a part of the recommendation, you can see below that the sizer has identified my SDDC to be storage bound due to my storage requirements. This gives me a good idea where I will need to grow going forward.
With the continued interest and adoption of VMware Cloud on AWS come two topics that always come to the forefront once you get passed how cool it is…..HOW MUCH DO I NEED? and HOW MUCH IS IT GOING TO COST?! To get the full picture, you will need to capture the details of your environment. There are several tools available and luckily enough, Bill Roth from VMware highlighted these tools in a blog a few weeks ago. In addition to his mention of RVTools, which is very popular, I would also encourage you to reach out to your….shameless plug…VMware Technical Account Manager. They have an additional toolset that can help you right-size the environment. Take a test drive and size today!!
re:Invent 2018 was a week full of exciting announcements that kept me running from one session to another as well as took me out of my comfort zone as a technologist. There was so much going on that it was difficult to digest every session let alone keep up with all of the services and industries that AWS is in. However, these are my takeaways…..
The AWS-VMware partnership runs deep! As previously mentioned, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger was the only other CEO to join Andy Jassey on stage during his keynote where they announced AWS Outposts. I’m excited to see how customers use the service and the use cases behind them. In addition to the keynote, the VMware Code booth was busy from opening to close as we covered IoT (Raspberry Pi with sensors), Wavefront, VMware Cloud on AWS, and more. It was great to see so much activity and help customers realize that VMware is heavily invested in the cloud and can bring immediate value as customers continue to develop their cloud strategy.
If you haven’t heard the words, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Reinforced Learning, or Neural Networks….you WILL!! With services like SageMaker, RoboMaker, DeepRacer, DeepLens, Polly and more, intelligent software is here. From a VMware standpoint, we changed the SDDC acronym at VMworld 2018 from Software Driven Data Center to the Self Driving Data Center as we are working to build intelligent software in products such as vRealize Operations, NSX Data Center, and AppDefense as well as services like NSX Cloud and VMware Cloud on AWS. I would advise everyone to get a base understanding of AI and ML. It will benefit you greatly as skills will need to shift due to learning being built into software. I personally believe that things such as host and server configurations will be a thing of the past. Infrastructure as code is here and we all must learn to adapt. I recommend picking up Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artifical Intelligence by Ajay Argwal, Joshua Gans, and Avi Goldfarb.
Get outside your comfort zone! re:Invent hosts some of the smartest people I have ever been around. re:Invent is not the time to keep to yourself and only bounce from session to session. Go see the exhibit halls, demo booths and more. Although you may get your badge scanned countless times and receive pointless swag, you may come away with some valuable connections and insight. Take this amazing opportunity to grow your professional network!
There is too much to learn in one week! Consider re:Invent a conference that you will never be able to attend every session you want. The sheer scale of this event makes getting to everything impossible. However, with YouTube at your fingertips, you have an opportunity to review sessions you attended as well as see some you may have missed.
I know this post is a little late. I have been wanting to post this for some time. re:Invent was awesome and I can’t wait to attend next year!
Last full day at re:Invent for me but it ended on a really good note. The morning was spent attending Werner Volgels’ Keynote that covered new database services, serverless, and more! I highly recommend watching.
The next session I attended put me on my heels. My background is in systems administration and operations. I am not a developer but my main goal in attending re:Invent was to stretch myself and learn more about what Andy Jassy refers to as “builders”. I believe that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are going to be major disruptors in all industries so I jumped at the chance to learn more about them. I attended a session on the newly announced AWS Deep Racer. This was a 2.5 hour workshop where I learned about Reinforcement Learning (RL). This is the main type of machine learning behind Deep Racer. The standby line to get into the session was at least 100 people so I’m lucky I pre-registered for this one. This session was attended by developers, robotic specialists, ML scientists, and those who simply wanted to learn more about AI. The surprise of the session was that each of us was given a Deep Racer for attending!!! The irony was that we had to pick up the car and then take it to the FedEx store to have it shipped to our homes if we didn’t want to carry it on the plane. I’m pretty sure AWS could have leveraged someone who’s really good at shipping things to my door….but who cares….I got one!!!!
After sending my Deep Racer off for home delivery, it was time for some R&R at the hotel before re:Play. Re:Play is the party held on the last night of the conference. The only time I have seen so many people in tight spaces have been at major sporting events or amusement parks. PEOPLE EVERYWHERE!! Even the line for the men’s restroom was insane! The laser show and dodgeball were entertaining. It was great to see all the excitement after a long week of sessions. After about an hour of bumping into people, I decided to call it a night. Day 4 = 20,545 steps (10.18 miles)
Day 3 I attended a breakfast to celebrate the great things that VMware and CloudHealth are doing with our partners and customers. I’m excited about the multi-cloud functions the service has and how it will help customers get their arms around better managing their public cloud instances from security to costs. Here’s a link to VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger and CloudHealth CEO Tom Axbey discussing the acquisition and strategy going forward. During breakfast, we watched the live steam of Andy Jassy’s keynote. The next 2.5 hours of announcements were announced at an insane pace as I struggled to keep track. Once Andy started telling the story of Hybrid Cloud, I knew something cool was coming. Low and behold, Pat Gelsinger (VMware CEO) joins him on stage to announce AWS Outposts!!! There are so many exciting things about this announcement. In a nutshell, we are letting users choose between on-premises servers and storage, which can be ordered in quarter, half, and full rack units. AWS Outposts can be upgraded with the latest hardware and next-generation instances to run all native AWS and VMware applications. A second version, VMware Cloud on AWS Outposts, will let customers use the VMware control plane and APIs to run the hybrid environment. After the keynote, I headed back to the Expo Hall to see what kind of attention the AWS Outposts message was getting and it was fairly packed! There’s a lot of interest around this technology. Very exciting! I spend a few hours there talking to several other VMware attendees at our booth and on the floor. It was awesome to see all the customer meetings. VMware and AWS are going to continue to innovate together, that much is clear.
My last session of the day was ENT313-S Running Production Workloads in VMware Cloud on AWS. VCSA and Hybrid Cloud Extension (HCX) all-pro Emad Younis and VMWonAWS Director Alex Jauch presented. Alex and Emad focused on the deep partnership between VMware and AWS that makes this service possible. If you want to know more about use cases, how the service is built, and how to quickly migrate workloads between on-prem and VMWonAWS, look no further than this session.
This is where things really get moving. I’m happy to say I didn’t regret gorging myself with wings the night before and was ready to hit the ground running to see re:Invent in full swing. Day 1 step count…15,308 (7.57 mi). I started off the morning by attending everyone’s favorite topic….SECURITY!!! This session was spent debunking 13 Cloud Security Myths. A few things that I already knew were reinforced. One, public clouds are more secure that on-prem data centers. Two, security should be the first thing you think about when deploying everything from applications to infrastructure. Three, if you continue to follow older security models that have been around for years, you are missing the entire point of the cloud!
Next up was a two-hour workshop getting some hands-on experience with the AWS Virtual Private Cloud (VPC). VPCs are the backbone to everything AWS including VMware Cloud on AWS. Although I have taken some online classes via AWS and A Cloud Guru, it was great to spend more time setting up VPCs as it is core to understanding how AWS works. We worked in groups of six where we set up VPC peering with each other. My main takeaway….have a concrete plan for the CIDR blocks you choose for your VPCs. If you don’t plan correctly, you will have to start over. A tool given out by the architects running the session was http://subnet-calculator.org/cidr.php . Bookmark it! An added benefit to the workshop was $25 in AWS credits!
Next stop was the Expo Hall and welcome reception. Of course, the hall was massive with hundreds of booths and all the SWAG you can handle. I decided to take a look around beforehand so I knew where to get “the good stuff.” Since I’m a VMware guy, it was awesome to see us well represented we even have our newest members of the family in Heptio (met Joe Beda at the booth) and Cloud Health with booths of their own.
The last session of the day was a VMware Cloud on AWS Deep Dive with Andy Reedy and Jin Zhang. If you ever get a chance to spend time with Andy, I would recommend it. I met him two years ago at some customer meetings and he is a fantastic architect. He got into the weeds with VMWonAWS regarding the host hardware and the interconnectivity between the vSphere hosts and AWS native services. We even went into the i3 and r5 models for EBS backed VSAN. It was a great session. As I have said before, AWS and VMware have a deep partnership to make this service available. The pace of innovation is blinding! Day 2 is next!!