Tag Archives: Career

Why you can, and should, write a book

I see more people are writing a book. This is good, because it is one of those achievements you will remember many years from now. You may forget the company you work for, but you won’t forget the book you’ve written. It’s like your baby, because the amount of effort required to write it. It’s also like your children, because you can see yourself in it. Your book has more connection to you than the companies you work for, because it comes from you.

And yes, it’s a item that deserves to be in your Bucket List.

I will not kid you that writing a book is simple. It is a test of your perseverance. You will doubt yourself along the way. It is normal.

So how do you approach it?

First, learn from others. Google “why write a book” and “how to write a technical book”, and you will find plenty of lessons learned from others who have walked down that painful journey.

I gave some tips in this blog post, so I will not repeat them. Instead, I will complement and summarise the post, now that I have more experience (and pain) from it. My 2nd edition should be announced soon. No, 2nd edition is not easier for me, as I decided to expand significantly.

A book has many stages, which first time author will find overwhelming. That’s why the google in the first step is important, so you have knowledge of what you sign up for.

  1. Preparation
  2. Approach
  3. Contract & Publisher
  4. Writing
  5. Reviewing and Editing
  6. Publication & Marketing
  7. Sustaining

Preparation

If you are not sure that writing a book is for you, then test your ability and seriousness.

Have a blog. If you cannot even write 5 blogs on the same topic (of a book), you cannot write a book. A small book of 100 pages equals 25 blogs. If you cannot even write 5 blog in a month, it will be a very long journey. A blog complements your book, so it’s something you should do anyway.

Write 1 chapter. Writing a chapter is much harder than writing a series of blogs. Be a small Contributor of someone else book. Even 1 chapter, which should be around 20 pages, is not a small undertaking.

Approach

  • Work with a close friend who have published before. It is good to have a coach or leader.
  • Aim small. Just 100 pages is a good start.
  • Be clear on the Primary audience and Secondary audience. It will prevent confusion later on when you are writing.
  • Once you are ready to be the main author, try to do it alone. Working with multiple authors can have its complication.
  • Avoid content that will get outdated soon. Try not to tie to a specific version of products. Products such as VSAN changes every 6 months!
  • Develop a Table of Content. For every chapter, write 3-7 points it will cover. It should not have too few points or too many points.

Contract & Publisher

  • Choose an Acquisition Editor (AE) that understands your topic well. I tried working with a large Publisher that knows VMware very well. Unfortunately, they only had 1 AE, and she did not understand VMware business, let alone my topic. So I had to explain VMware, virtualization, vSphere, and then justify why vRealize Operations is a topic that readers wanted to pay. After months of trying to justify the viability of the book, I decided to go with Packt. Vinay, the AE from Packt did not need any convincing as they knew vRealize Operations.
  • Be careful with the IP. Make sure you retain the right to change publisher in your 2nd edition. This is just in case. I’m happy with Packt.
  • If your book is based on your blog or other work, check that the Publisher can accept it. Some publisher only allow 10% public content.
  • If money is important, discuss in details on the level of transparency of the royalty. You might be shocked that there is very little transparency given to you. Ask them for a sample report. Ensure they have a website where you can login and check on demand.

Writing

  • Decide the writing style. For my case, in my region a lot of readers don’t speak English well. I remember how I myself struggled with basic English when I first learned it.
  • Make it consistent. Do you use I or We or You?
  • Use the publisher template. You should be able to get one without signing a contract. If you are writing for Packt, I can pass you the template.
  • If your book needs to have content that will get outdated, try to make that part a standalone blog. You then refer to the blog in the book. It’s much easier to update a blog than a book

Reviewing and Editing

  • Since you are writing technical book, you want to minimize Time To Market. You also do not want to drag beyond 1 year as you will lose momentum. One way to speed up is to have parallel process between Technical Review and Editing. This requires more work though.
  • The editor may not be someone familiar with the topic. So be prepared for feedback that is probably not relevant. You will work with probably 5 different people in the Publisher organization.

Publication & Marketing

  • Discuss the marketing strategy with the Publisher. Be prepared that this is a different person who may not have heard your book at all.
  • Ask exactly how much money will be allocated to market your book, and where the advertisement will be placed. Remember, the Publisher is getting the lion share, often >84%.
  • Have a person for the Foreword. You should allocate 2 weeks here, as it’s not simple to write one.
  • Avoid making it your personal book. If you work for a company, make sure your senior management appreciates what you do. A book that it relevant to your work should be supported by your company.

Sustaining

  • A book is not a one off engagement between you and your audience. You have blog, twitter, LinkedIn, etc. to keep that new relationship going. Use this media to keep them updated, and also to update your content.
  • A blog is also a good place to add complementary materials. You should give all the screenshots, codes, etc. so readers can reuse them.

Be an author. You can do it.

The rise of SDDC Architect

To me, the Q1 2015 launch of VMware products is the culmination of releases in the past 6 months. Together, they are making it closer for us as IT professionals to architect a data center that is defined in software. In the past, we typically limit our scope to around Compute component of the data center. Perhaps we did Compute + another component, but we did not normally architect the entire data center. We were not The Data Center Architect. I said we limit, as no one will typically complain if we go beyond that self imposed limit.

Going forward, it’s becoming a reality. You can take advantage of this and rise to become the SDDC Architect. VMware has been advocating the idea of Virtualization Center of Excellence. This team needs a lead, which is the SDDC Architect. An SDDC Architect uses the physical layer as resource provider, and virtual layer to define the actual data center.

A data center has several major components. We all know that, so let’s just summarise them in a table below:

ComponentRemarks
ComputeI prefer to call Compute than Server. With the converged infrastructure like EVO:Rail and Nutanix, the boundary between Server and Storage is not clear anymore
StorageThis includes back up, data replication, archive, snap shot, and other storage services
NetworkThis includes both the core network functionality (routing, load balancing) and security services (Firewall)
DR and DAA data center should not be stand alone. If a disaster strikes, the services should fail over to another data center which is physically apart.
Management Managing all the components above. Management has to be built-in into the SDDC itself, not a separate, distant tool.
SecuritySecuring all the above component.

From the above table, it’s clear that your circle of influence and your circle of concern is wide. You can tackle many areas now with software and virtualization. It is no longer bound to Compute. What can you use? The table below summarises the key products you can use. I’ve only listed softwares, keeping in line with the principle of Software-defined. I’ve listed some partner products as they value add by providing enhanced or missing functionality. They also integrate well into the respective VMware products.

ComponentSolution
ComputevSphere
StorageVSAN, VVOL, VDP Advanced (no longer charged)
NetworkNSX and 3rd party (e.g. Palo Alto, F5) who uses NSX API
DR and DASRM (with vSphere Replication or Array Replication)
Management vRealize Suite with 3rd party add on (e.g. management packs, content packs)
SecurityNSX (distributed firewall)
Hypervisor-based Partner solution that extends NSX, such as TrendMicro and Palo Alto

The above is the software. What about the hardware? There are many hardware now that is geared towards virtualization. They are not only virtualization aware, they integrate deep into VMware. I’ve used products such as Nutanix and Arista (in fact, still using Arista). There are also products such as Simplivity and Tintri. From VMware and partners, you have certainly seen EVO:Rail and the upcoming EVO:Rack.

What about cost? We are all expected to do more with less. There are a few progress that is your favour as an SDDC Architect:

  • The rapid improvement at the CPU level. In Q4 2014, Intel released an 18-core Xeon E5-2699 V3. This means a 2-socket ESXi host has 36 cores, 72 threads. This lets you consolidate more VM, or put hypervisor-based services. I’m seeing customers move towards 30:1 as global average. That’s a lot of savings. Beside hardware, space, power, cooling, VMware, you need to work out your Windows saving, Oracle saving, RedHat saving, etc. Know the total saving that entire company saves, not just your department.
  • The rapid growth of Distributed Storage. This is fueled by 4 factors:
    • on-going price reduction of both SSD and 10G ethernet.
    • the shrinking of disk form factor (from 3.5″ to 2.5″ to 1.8″). For example, you can get 24 SSD in a 1RU rack mount server. An example is Dell R630, which gives 23TB via 0.96TB hot-plug SATA SSD.
    • the enhancement on the motherboard enable Distributed Storage.
    • the cost and complexity of centralised array.
  • The on-going innovation on IP Storage. Distribute storage does not use FC. Enhancements on filesystems, VSAN, NFS make non-FC a more viable option than ever.

How does the role fit into an IT organisation? I guess it depends on the size of the company. Below is an example. The SDDC Architect plays a key and strategic role. It has a direct report to the CTO, or CIO. It has a wide span of responsibility and typically lead a team of specialists. Because it leads a team of experts, the role does not have to be an expert. In VMware context, the role does not have to be a VCDX, but it has to have sufficient hands-on knowledge with some level of troubleshooting.

SDDC Architect

What’s your take? Are you already an SDDC Architect? Are you seeing the window of opportunity to become one in 2015? I’m keen to hear your thought!

Looking back. Looking forward

Looking back, 2014 has been a good year for IT professionals earning a living with virtualization as their main skills. Virtualization and cloud computing continue to grow. While there are still a huge amount of physical servers installed base, x86 based VMs continue taking share in the datacenter. The physical servers in this context includes both x86 and non x86 (UNIX and Mainframe).

Non-x86 still accounts for around US$ 8 billions a year in 2014, so as virtualization professionals we still have a lot of target to work on. It will take many good years. The migration to X86 are certainly more complex than standard P2V, as application migration is required. But that’s also makes it more suitable for seasoned and experienced IT Pros. If it was easy, your job would have been replaced by a much more junior guy. There is already a post that drives that message, so I’m not going to elaborate.

2014 saw Virtualization entered the realm of Storage and Network. Yes, I know it certainly happened before 2014. In 2014 it became much clearer that Storage and Network will follow Server. They will all be virtualized. I think it won’t take Storage and Network very long, as the vendors & industry have learned from Server virtualization. This is a good news for us Virtualization Pros, as that means the job scope is widening and the game becomes more interesting.

Looking forward, I think in 2015, it does not take a prediction to see that NSX, VSAN, EVO will grow fast. It’s now a matter of projection. At my personal level, I’ve had customers buying NSX and VSAN in 2014. From my discussions with customers and partners, more will buy in 2015 as the technology becomes more common. The upcoming release will also help. I like what I see in the 2015 roadmap.

Related to virtualization, I see that Fibre Channel will continue its decline. 10 GE and SSD make the case for distributed storage compelling, especially at the entry level and midrange. Enhancements in vSphere in 2015 will also strengthen the case for IP Storage.

There are also other areas that virtualization can address better. One of them is Management. As datacenter becomes to have more VMs than physical servers, the management tools have to be built for virtualization. It has to know the differences between VM and physical servers well. In 2014, I’ve worked with quite a number of customers to help them operationalize vCenter Operations 5.x. Once the dashboards are tailored for each role, they found v5 useful. vRealize Operations 6 brings many enhancements that customers will find the product even more indispensable. I like what I see in 6.0. Knowing the roadmap for 2015, I think it’s going to be better (more complete features, easier to use, etc).

All in all, I am excited about 2015. The evolution continues, and I think the pace is accelerating. What started as server virtualization many years ago is now touching the entire datacenter.

What’s your take for 2015? How do you think it will impact your career? How do you plan to take advantage of the expansion of virtualization to Storage, Network, DR, Management, etc.? I’m keen to hear your thought. You can drop me an email at e1 at vmware dot com.

Have a great adventure in the bigger Virtual World in 2015!

[Update: I did a follow up post here]