VMware vSphere Manager’s Guide for Beginners

Vsphere Manager's GuideVCP for Hire (Book One)

A Manager’s Guide For Hiring vSphere Virtualization Engineers & Administrators…

You’ve just been promoted to manager, now what?

It’s not an easy task to keep people and technology in sync. And it’s not an easy job to keep up with all the new business requirements and new projects coming down the pipe.

The Think Service First Series are short and easy to read guides for helping new managers get started. These eBooks take the guesswork out of running a busy infrastructure team.

Written by an experienced vSphere Cloud Manager, each book in the series will cover different topics. So take advantage of years of insight from someone who has worked through the difficult problems faced while growing a 30 host cluster into a robust cloud with more than 600 ESXi hosts and nearly 7,000 virtual machines.

This is the first book in the series and it’s a dedicated guide for managers who are recruiting & hiring VCP talent for the first time. This system details important keys every IT manager should know about different types of virtual environments, roles, and the unique skill sets needed for each. (Book two is about another important topic, how to troubleshoot vSphere).

VCP for Hire is a guide to help choose the best possible virtualization (virtualisation) talent who can get vSphere to the next level and keep it there. People are the difference and it takes hiring the right talent to ensure vSphere engineering and operations are handled using best practices in order to keep tier-one business applications running at tip-top performance while at the same time reducing downtime caused by best efforts and inexperience.

• A manager’s guide for screening VCP talent and choosing the most experienced candidate.
• Covers the different challenges managers face in small, medium, or large vSphere cloud environments.
• Explains in detail the different roles and responsibilities required to build a complete virtualization team from virtualization engineers and administrators.
• Breaks down the skills and expertise required to perform different daily virtualization engineering and operational tasks based on job roles.
• Provides a framework of information for creating job descriptions.
• Includes detailed interview questions specifically written to help screen through VCP candidates and find the keepers with the most real-world vSphere cloud experience.

And let’s not forget the important lessons learned!

Let “VCP for Hire: A Manager’s Guide for Hiring vSphere Virtualization Engineers and Administrators” be a guide for setting your virtualization team and vSphere cloud infrastructure apart from the rest.

Manager’s Guide for VMware Beginners

Table of Contents

  • Don’t Erase This Whiteboard!
  • Manager to Manager Advice
  • Leverage My Mistakes
  • This is Not Another Technical How-To Guide
  • Small or Medium to Large Environments
  • Small (Fast Paced & Agile)
  • Medium to Large (Established, Standardized & Methodical)
  • Engineering, Support & Operations
  • Two New Job Titles
  • Technical Qualification (Skills)
  • Virtualization Engineer (VE)
  • Virtualization Administrator (VA)
  • Hybrid VE (Small Environments)
  • Virtualization Job Descriptions
  • Ten Must-Ask Interview Questions


Don’t Erase This Whiteboard!

Months after Andy had moved on; the vision of his ideal virtual environment was still drawn on the whiteboard he had given to another teammate. In the upper right corner written in red marker were the words “Don’t erase this whiteboard!”

Andy was a “Rock Star” Virtualization Engineer who everyone, including me respected. This whiteboard had a vision of the perfect vSphere virtual environment, and we wanted to keep it around as a guide until someone else could whiteboard a better design.

In VCP for Hire, I discuss my keys for recruiting virtualization talent who can get your vSphere Cloud Infrastructure to the next level and keep it there.

These keys will focus on the roles, qualifications, skill-sets, and job descriptions of those who do the following: design, build, and sustain top performing vSphere Cloud Infrastructures that are scalable, streamlined, standardized, and automated.

By no means do I assume to know it all, nor am I suggesting my keys will work for everyone, or in every IT environment. However, one thing I am certain is all virtual environments and IT cultures are different, and therefore require different approaches.

Manager to Manager Advice

I’ve never worked anywhere with a clear direction for what they wanted to do in hindsight. My advice for infrastructure managers is to do their best to stay ahead of demand. Forecasting virtualization requirements 90 – 180 days in advance is key to giving your team the time they require to plan adjustments to network, storage, and other environments that could be adversely impacted.

Help your team to get comfortable pivoting (changing direction) when the business changes, this is an ongoing challenge everyone faces in today’s market.

Build good communication and trust between other technology teams so they do not become your roadblocks. In larger environments that have a separation between network, security, storage, and server technologies, it can become a difficult job to keep your roadmap on track. Especially if each technology group has its own roadmap and you are all going in a different direction. Try to stay aware of what others are planning and provide your feedback.

Leverage My Mistakes

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time researching and designing solutions for virtualization. In doing so, I’ve worked for a few very large companies and I’ve seen and supported VMware installs with just about every configuration conceivable (good and bad). The sizes of these environments ranged from a few ESX/i hosts running just 10 virtual machines (VMs), to nearly 600 hosts with over 7000 VMs.

In this eBook, I’ll try my best to help anyone with plans of the building, scaling, or rescuing a vSphere Virtual Infrastructure, to do one important thing – hire highly talented, effective, and productive team members.

I’ve learned a lot through mistakes: how to locate, screen, interview, hire, and deal with highly skilled virtualization engineers. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert, but I can provide slightly better guidance than your HR department or a headhunter trying to place a contractor.

Another advantage I bring – I’m already doing it and have had the privilege of working with, hiring, and managing some of the best VMware talents around, anywhere. As I write VCP for Hire, some of my team members have started careers at VMware or other top-tier solution providers. That says a lot for their skills and some for my talent picking and cultivating talented professionals.

Lessons Learned

1)    Having the best people on your team who can design and build a virtual infrastructure right the first time will make your job easier but remember not to sacrifice team dynamics for new talent unless you’re planning to rebuild the team (sometimes rebuilding is necessary, and sometimes passing on the sharpest candidate is best for the team).

2)    Remember a team is made up of people with thoughts, ideas, feelings, and opinions (learn to listen).

3)    Using a Kanban Board to post and track tasks and progress will help keep your team organized and working on the top priorities.

This is Not Another Technical How-To Guide

VCP for Hire is not another “nuts and bolts” technical “how-to” guide for building vSphere Cloud Infrastructure. There are already plenty of excellent books for that on Amazon that is written by much smarter people than myself.

I’m also not addressing technical or design issues because I’ve learned through experience that every environment is different. There are literally 100’s, if not 1000s, of different ways servers, networks, and storage equipment can be configured and each has a unique challenge and best practices.

No, this eBook focuses on something more important than how-to install and configure ESXi and vCenter. It’s a guide on how to recruit the best VCP from the crowd who can install and configure ESXi and vCenter better than the rest. That’s the difference between this guide and a technical how-to guide.

Lesson Learned

1)    You don’t need to be the smartest infrastructure manager; you just need to be surrounded by the right team.

2)    Sometimes a person with a great personality adds the most value to the team.

Small or Medium to Large Environments

Here’s a quick description of the two most common environment types I’ve seen, actually there are three because you can combine the other two and get a third. I’m sure there are plenty more.

Small (Fast Paced & Agile)

The first environment is a small, fast-paced, environment that supports product development, and an Agile Project Management method is being used. These environments are normally operated as a lean startup company within a larger more established company and “stuff” gets built overnight without thought for the long-term impact, or without consideration that someone will eventually need to clean up the mess. Speed and the ability to pivot are the benefits.

Tips: 1) Keep these one-off environments of ESXi hosts and VMs from spoiling your team’s standards, or becoming the norm. 2) Always keep in mind what is considered development today can, and may become, production tomorrow. 3) Track progress and celebrate accomplishments.

Medium to Large (Established, Standardized & Methodical)

The second environment is medium to large in size, and for the most part, is well established and standardized. There are many different types of technologies integrated, and you are most likely involved in the normal projects that medium to large companies do at some point – trying to save money by standardizing, optimizing, consolidating, and automating. These environments are normally slow to change and methodical in process.

Tips: 1) Create a technology roadmap with 90-day milestones to help guide your leadership and stakeholders. 2) set priorities for what are the most important tasks that need to get completed. 3) Track progress and celebrate accomplishments.

Note: In both cases discussed, any hard-to-support environment will always be a problem long after the developers have moved on to something new and your team will be left maintaining servers until someone can migrate them to a standardized environment.

Unfortunately, in my experience, it’s a large undertaking to get time and approval for the move so your team will be stuck. If it’s any consolation, I’m sure other more famous companies still have a few bad infrastructure designs left in production from their startup days.

Lessons Learned

1)    Stay ahead of demand for capacity. Try to work out any issues causing you delays. Roadblocks are not good.

2)    Don’t create repeatable hard to do, or follow, processes that frustrate your team. If they are complaining there’s probably a good reason.

3)    For smaller companies, fast is better, and for larger companies, best is better.

Engineering, Support & Operations

I’ve divided roles into three major categories: Engineering, Support, and Operations. This helps to understand them easier and aligns with best practices.

Depending on the size of your operation, these roles may be handled by a team of several employees, or by just you. Either way they still likely exist. Next, I’ll cover who gets assigned these roles.

Read the rest of this story…

Vsphere Manager's Guide

VCP for Hire:

A Manager’s Guide for Hiring vSphere Virtualization Engineers and Administrators

Joe Sanchez, VCP

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