CoreOS Fest 2017 Synopsis

I had the opportunity to attend the CoreOS Fest 2017 in San Francisco for a day this past week. There are lots of exciting things happening in the cloud native space, and CoreOS, with its heavy influence with Kubernetes is at the forefront of much of the innovation. The conference itself was on the smaller side, but the amount of emerging technology focused sessions was impressive — I will be excited to see how it grows over the coming years. While there, I was able to attend the session by one of Adobe’s Principle Architects — Frans van Rooyen. (Frans and I worked together from 2012 – 2014 at Adobe.)

In his session, he spoke about several fundamental architecture principles and how they have been applied in the new multi-cloud initiative at Adobe. The platform they have built over the past two years is capable of being deployed inside a data center, inside AWS, inside Azure and even locally on a developers laptop — while providing the same experience to the developer or operations engineer.

The platform is based on CoreOS and uses the Ignition project to provide the same level of provisioning regardless of which cloud platform the workload is deployed on. I hadn’t heard of Ignition or how it operated to provide the level of provisioning it does and will be a technology I investigate further into now. If you are interested in learning more, I encourage you to reach out to Frans over Twitter.

Frans has also spoken about the multi-cloud platform at Mesoscon, focusing on the inclusion of Apache Mesos — the session can be watched on YouTube.

 

 

VCDX Sample Architecture Design Decisions

In preparing for my recent VCDX Defense, I read a great deal of articles and a few books to better understand how to properly document and justify the design decisions I was making. One book in particular provided valuable insight that has helped me not just with the VCDX certification, but also in becoming a better Infrastructure Architect.

In this blog post, I will cover the approach taken when preparing my VCDX documentation with regards to providing insight and justifications for the design decisions made within my VMware Integrated OpenStack architecture.

In preparing for my recent VCDX Defense, I read a great deal of articles and a few books to better understand how to properly document and justify the design decisions I was making. One book in particular provided valuable insight that has helped me not just with the VCDX certification, but also in becoming a better Infrastructure Architect.

In IT Architect: Foundation in the Art of Infrastructure Design (Amazon link), the authors state:

“Design Decisions will support the project requirements directly or indirectly…When a specific technology is required to meet a design goal, justification is important and should be provided. With each design decision there is a direct, intended impact, but there are also other areas that may be affected…These options and their respective value can add quality to the design you make and provide insight into why you took a specific path.”

As I thought through the impact of each design decision, I tried to identify several key points, including:

  • Justification
  • Impact
  • Decision Risks
  • Risk Mitigation
  • Requirements Achieved

After I had identified each of those key points, and in some cases multiple points, for each category I made sure they were properly documented. The book provided an example table to draw inspiration from, in addition Derek Seaman did as well on a blog article. I modified the examples to fit my writing style and then included a specific table for each design decision made at the end of each major section or heading within my architecture documentation.

An example of the table and categories showing the reasoning behind a set of design decisions from my VMware Integrated OpenStack VCDX Architecture document:

vcdx_design_decision_sample

Now, when I need to revisit a design decision or another architect is reviewing the decisions within the design, there is additional information to provide insight into the thought process. It also helps to highlight what impact the decision has on the architecture as a whole.

Beyond the table and the relevant information for the design decision, it may be necessary to highlight the alternatives that were considered. As we know, there are usually multiple ways to meet a requirement — “showing your work” and being able to explain why you chose to do X versus Y in the VCDX Defense is an important aspect of the process. I found doing so within my documentation useful and you may find that to be true also.

Enjoy!

The opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own and based solely on my own VCDX certification experience. They may or may not reflect the opinions of other VCDX certification holders or the VMware VCDX program itself.


Arrasjid, John Y., Mark Gabryjelski, and Chris McCain. “Chapter 2, Design Decisions.” IT Architect: Foundation in the Art of Infrastructure Design; a Practical Guide for IT Architects. Upper Saddle River, NJ: IT Architect Resource, 2016. 49. Print.

VCDX Sample Architecture Table of Contents

During the process of writing the documentation necessary for the VCDX certification, I read several books and a fair number of blog articles. One article in particular that I found helpful was from Derek Seaman’s blog.

In the spirit of paying it forward, I am going to share my own table of contents for others to use as a starting point. No two will be the same and some of the things I included may not be necessary in your own design — you may even feel there are sections that are missing from my own. If nothing else, I hope it can be a starting point for you in the journey towards earning the VCDX certification.

During the process of writing the documentation necessary for the VCDX certification, I read several books and a fair number of blog articles. One article in particular that I found helpful was from Derek Seaman’s blog.

Sample VCDX-DCV Architecture Outline

In the spirit of paying it forward, I am going to share my own table of contents for others to use as a starting point. No two will be the same and some of the things I included may not be necessary in your own design — you may even feel there are sections that are missing from my own. If nothing else, I hope it can be a starting point for you in the journey towards earning the VCDX certification.

Enjoy!

The opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own and based solely on my own VCDX certification experience. They may or may not reflect the opinions of other VCDX certification holders or the VMware VCDX program itself.

OpenStack Client Docker Container

OpenStack has been my world for the past 8 months. It started out with the a work project to design and deploy a large-scale VMware Integrated OpenStack environment for internal use. It then became the design I would submit for my VCDX Defense and spend a couple hundred hours pouring over and documenting. Since then it has included helping other get “up-to-speed” on how to operationalize OpenStack. One of the necessary tools is the ability to execute commands against an OpenStack environment from anywhere.

The easiest way to do that?

A short-lived Docker container with the clients installed!

The container is short and to the point — it uses Ubuntu:latest as the base and simply adds the OpenStack clients.

# Docker container with the latest OpenStack clients

FROM ubuntu:latest

MAINTAINER chris@virtualelephant.com

RUN apt-get -y update && apt-get -y upgrade

RUN apt-get -y install python-openstackclient vim

Follow that up with a quick Docker command to launch the instance, and I’m ready to troubleshoot whatever issue may require my attention.

$ docker run -it chrismutchler/vio-client

Where I am not a developer, I find the usefulness of creating these small types of Docker containers really fun. The ability to quickly spin up a container on my laptop or whatever VM I find myself on at the time priceless.

The repo can be seen on hub.docker.com/chrismutchler/vio-client.

If you need a OpenStack Client Docker container, I hope you’ll give this one a try. Enjoy!

Post-Defense VCDX Thoughts

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” -Theodore Roosevelt

That quote from Theodore Roosevelt sums up rather well the VCDX certification. The VCDX certification takes a great deal of effort, pain and difficulty to accomplish. My personal journey included multiple defense attempts — much to my dismay and benefit. Fortunately, it was all worth it!

I am VCDX #257!

The VCDX certification requires a significant amount of time to earn. If I had to estimate it, I would say I spent between 200+ hours working on my design documentation, defense presentation, mock defenses, Q&A sessions and just general research. The submitted design was also an actual work project, so some of that time investment was for my job — an added benefit not all candidates have.

The one lesson I would share with others thinking about or pursuing their own VCDX certification is the following — be careful who you ask advice of or take advice from. If they have not been a panelist in the past, their view into what to do (or not to do) is going to be mostly opinion. The VCDX program held a Q&A call the Friday before the defenses began in May.

On the call were Joe Silvagi, Simon Long and Karl Childs — all three are heavily involved in the program. The most frequent questions asked by the candidates started with the phrase, “My mentor says” or “The community says”. In nearly every instance the response from Joe was along of the lines of that isn’t right.

Attend one (or more) VCDX workshops prior to submitting so that you can ask questions and reach out to the people running the workshops to get trustworthy responses.

That’s all the advice I have to give.

There is an African Proverb, and the quote is outside one of the VMware conference rooms, that says:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

This is true of the VCDX certification. I got to this point not because I went alone, but because I went with others.

My wife – No one on this earth has supported me more. The countless hours over the past two decades of late nights as I strived to advance my career. This is as much her certification as it is my own.

Rich Steck (Adobe) – He mentored me during one of the most difficult years in my career. He challenged me to figure out where I wanted to go and to find paths to get there. Most importantly, he listened.

Frans van Rooyen (Adobe) – Already a brilliant cloud architect in his own right, he mentored me in my role as a Compute Platform Engineer for two years. He let me constantly challenge all of the decisions we were making (on-the-fly) as we built a rather large private cloud across the globe. He introduced me to VMware technologies and helped me gain the skills I would need to land my dream job at VMware in two short years.

Andrew Nelson (VMware) – While at Adobe, Frans introduced me to Andrew. Andy and I spoke at VMworld together in San Francisco and Barcelona in 2014. We briefly worked on a book together, during which time he told me if I wanted to get a job at VMware, I’d be surprised how quickly it would happen. I had an offer for my current role barely 1 month later.

OneCloud Architecture Team (VMware) – My dream job came with the opportunity to work with 3 double-VCDX certification holders. The first architecture review board call I attended they tore into another architect over his vRA design and it was at that moment I knew I was going to have to step up my game significantly to play with them. What a blessing it has been to work with them for the past two years — each of them has helped me grow my skills as an architect immensely. They taught me to critically challenge a design decision, not just for the sake of arguing, but because we are trying to understand the rationale for the decision.

Their support continued from afar as I went through the process of submitting and defending my design for my own certification. When I got the email saying I was now VCDX #257, they were right there celebrating my success with me.

Thank you to each of you for helping me realize my dreams and earn the VCDX certification!