Training, Professional Services or Do I Try it Myself?

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

-John Wooden

Training, professional service or do it yourself (DYI)? This is becoming a very common question for most of my clients and I would guess for the industry as a whole. While I am speaking specifically of virtualization (hypervisor), this of course could apply to many aspects of the current data center. So what is an IT team supposed to do? When does a system administrator admit he/she cannot complete task at head and in a way stick his own neck out? Where does budgets come into place vs. deliverables such as timelines, service levels etc? All very interesting questions, but answers are a bit complex.


Personally I am proponent of education in all aspect of like not just the technical side. However, training has some serious drawbacks and may not be a true option when looked at carefully. For one it is much more time consuming than most people realize or maybe want to admit. Plus ones absorption rate varies widely between individuals. I know people who touch something once and are “experts” while on the other hand people who have done the same thing a hundred times still needs reminders how to finish the task. Not to mention that the individual trainer/provider makes a huge difference. Lastly, classes usually require time away from the office and can put a person in a worst situation than before trying to catch up and learn new stuff at the same time.

With that said, there is a huge upside here. This learn to fish mentality provides higher adoption rate, customer satisfaction and allows the customer be less dependent on a particular partner or vendor. All in my opinion can be a huge value add for getting some classroom & lab time.

 Professional Services

Of course I want to be careful here since I work for a professional service (PS) company. The drawbacks are nothing new. It tends to be expensive and add up to 30% to projects budget. Managing the PS partner at times can be difficult and a time waste almost breaking even with doing it yourself. Plus, and it is a big plus, it puts the requestor in a vulnerable position with both his management and the PS partner. One, he/she s vouching for this service and in a way sticking their respected necks out while at the same time admitting they don’t have the capacity to do this themselves. The PS partner thinks they are dependent on them and lets be honest most of the time they are, and tend to use that to their advantage whether they do good work or not.

The good news if that you find a good partner most of these problems solve themselves. Value partners will not only do the work but train you as they move through the process meeting SLA’s and budgets. They will do their work in a timely manner putting your project ahead of schedule and make you the advocate look like a rock star. They are fair on price and try to work within your budget range and adapt as needed. Finally, someone else is on the hook and can, good or bad, be a scapegoat if the project ever goes sideways. Food for thought.

Do It Yourself

My favorite because it tends to be my motto but tends to get me in trouble more often than not. For one if you are lacking the base foundation of skillsets you could end up costing yourself a lot more time and money than expected.  With that I mean, It tends not to be a good use of company resources and your time could be better used doing the tasks you’re a good at.  And then the biggest negative, and I see this every working day of my career, is that it isn’t done right and causes huge headaches in the short or long term. Poor performance almost always boils down to bad infrastructure designs that a quality PS partner would have avoided in the beginning.

However there are some upside to the DIY approach. For instance people tend to learn best by doing and it pushes you to expand your knowledge. The cost aspect if avoiding the above mistakes can be huge and set up a dependence that is unmatched. You own the keys to your data center and no one is driving but you! This is a huge advantage when negotiating with vendors, partners, and even management. Lastly, It provides you the best job security I could imagine. As the designer and implementer you become almost irreplaceable as no one wants to reverse engineer your solutions.  Now granted this is only the case if it is done right and you don’t cause a huge outage.

Final Thoughts

In the end I tell clients a mixture of all of these tends to be the best fit. Of course depending on the scope and product I do recommend certain avenues. If it is tier 1 and 99.999 uptime application then by all means spending a few dollars here and there would be a great investment to ensure success. If it is a low priority project that needs little success and are not under a time crunch then it is great to roll up your sleeves and get to work. The one thing I will say is that education and classes should be included with every project. If you are not learning how things work you will always be susceptible to be vendor locked, and no one wants that except the vendors.

Personal Update

“The only constant is change.” Heraclitus

It is funny how fast time can seem to go by. I took a small break from blogging due to my hectic work life and found that it ended up being months since my last real post.  This morning I was gently reminded of how long it has been and here I am back at it.

For my first post back from my unofficial hiatus I wanted to give a little background on some of my personal/work life that has shifted (positively) that prompted the forced break. Warning this has nothing to do with VMware, virtualization or Technology. Read at your own discretion.

First and foremost my amazing wife (hoping she is reading this) and I are expanding our family by one in November. This would be our first child and it has been, to say the least, a colossal paradigm shift full of excitement, anxiety, and accelerated transformation. We are more than thrilled, however it has made us (me mostly) think about every detail and different aspects of our lives and actually focus on the future with a much stronger intent.

This new and very mature train of thought led us down a path of some more immense changes.  For example, we decided to basically gut and remodel our house. I decided a minor career change was in order, more on that later, and we begin the adjustment period of preparing for a larger family. Our 2-year Boston Terrier has no idea what is in store. For that matter I don’t think I do either.

Ok, now back to the job change. I decided to leave my wonderfully cozy familiar office (with a view) and some amazing people to work from home (no view) for a very tiny, may not even be the right adjective, virtualization and storage consulting company. Let me put it another way, I went from a 5+ year job at a nationally awarded, highly recognized 1000+ person technology services company to a 20 person local, although well known, hyper focused consulting firm. It was an enormous professional adjustment. As time goes on I will post more on this change, overall it has been amazing and I am neck deep in the most advance and new technology that is out there. It is really cool.

So to recap: I have been exceedingly busy learning the new gig, putting my house back wall at a time, and trying to pick which college my child will attend that most of my “outside of work” things have been put on hold.

The good/great news I am settled and getting back to the swing of things and I have a lot to write about over the next few weeks. The industry had again changed, rapidly and with VMworld coming up there is a significant amount of new and exciting stuff coming!

Thanks for your patience during my vacation.


Open Virtualization Format

Open Virtualization Format Specification (OVF). Which is a little talked about open standard developed for packaging and distributing virtual appliances (think cloud, SaaS and much more). It is developed by the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF), which is a group of key figures from companies such as, IBM, VMware, NEC, Microsoft, Dell, Intel and more. Below are some of the high-level highlights taken from the latest release:

  • Optimized for distribution
  • Optimized for a simple, automated user experience
  • Supports both single VM and multiple-VM configurations
  • Portable VM packaging
  • Vendor and platform independent
  • Extensible
  • Localizable
  • Open standard
  • 1.1 included the following:

    • Capability for file system-based images to increase flexibility at deployment time
    • A property attribute to hide password values at the user interface
    • Joliet extensions for ISO transport image

    A good example of how OVF can be used is Zimbra which VMware acquired earlier this year. Here is a link to how you can test Zimbra using OVF.

    As well, check out VMware’s market place for other examples.

    Link to the official VMware OVF Tool User Guide.


    Thanks for visiting my site! In short this is a side for me to write about and share advice, trending topic, how-to’s and industry news related to all things virtual. At times I may even stray to related topics such as storage and networking.While I can hope, this won’t be an exhaustive resource and may not even follow any rhyme or reason. As well, I do not claim to be an expert and I may make the occasional mistake. Please remember this is something I do on the side during my free time. Finally, while I do work in a related industry, this a personal site and doesn’t reflect the views of my company.

    Thank you very much!