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Thursday, April 14, 2011

How I Made Millions of Dollars in 15 Minutes

OK good. . . the catchy title worked, and you’ve committed to reading this post. So let’s get to work on making your millions.

Lucky for us technology guys and gals, there are still plenty of C-level employees at companies everywhere who have yet to witness all the benefits of VMware first-hand. Steve Duplessie with ESG just published the following statistics:

• 58% of organizations have virtualized less than 1/3 of their servers.
• Thus far IT owned applications dominate what’s being virtualized. File/Print, etc. 59% haven’t virtualized ANY “mission-critical” applications.

So why are there still this many laggards? These execs have all read countless articles showing how much money they’ll save with virtualization, but often times they haven’t seen the benefits of virtualization beyond simple consolidation. I’m going to show you how to open their eyes in just 15 minutes.

I have done this demo multiple times for audiences from CEO, CIO level, all the way down to customer facing business executives. Each time it has literally been shock and awe, and although I can’t give all the detailed numbers, I will say that the purse strings were blown open and FINALLY our project has a green light. . . millions of them in fact.

This post assumes you have at least rudimentary presentation skills, and understand how to communicate well with people at the executive level.

Fitting vSphere’s “Greatest Hits” into only 15 minutes is not an easy task. It took weeks of careful planning, and test runs before I was able to get everything timed just right. Each time I have presented this, it has gone beyond 15 minutes, but only because there are lots of great questions coming from the audience. I expect you will see the same results if your audience is somewhat intelligent.

After going through a list of features I thought might be interesting to executives, I pared it down to just three in order to make my time limit of 15 minutes. If you have more time, that’s even better, but we all know these guys are very busy.

And that brings me to my first tip: Try and schedule your demo during the winter months so that tee times won’t conflict with your meeting.

Here’s how my 15 minute demo goes down.

Most of your audience will probably already have some idea of what virtualization is at this point, but it’s still a good idea to make sure you cover a few quick points on the basics. I do this while showing them the vCenter console. I show them the virtual machine view, and tell them about typical x86 workload resource usage, and how virtualization allows us to maximize our hardware investments, etc.

Important: Make sure you clarify for them what a “host” is, and whatever term you use for a guest, whether it’s “server”, “VM, or “guest”. You need to emphasize this point up front, and multiple times during your demo so people stay on track and understand what exactly they are seeing.

The first feature I show is a simple cloning operation. By now in your career, this may be old hat, but believe me your executive audience will be impressed by this.

Always make sure you give the benefits when showing any feature. I start my cloning operation while telling them what I’m doing, and then while it runs you’ll have time to explain the benefits. Try and tailor the benefits around how they will impact the customer. Whether the customer is an internal one, or an external one, your audience will appreciate this point of view.

Tip: Use something like BgInfo on your VM’s to show the server name so that your audience can follow more easily. If you don’t use BgInfo, at least change the wallpaper to show the name.

With server cloning, I touch on how valuable it is to be able to clone a server that is having issues so that Development or QC will be able to reliably duplicate a bug or issue. Explain how tough this is in a traditional environment where you have to try and duplicate an issue on a server that is not 100% identical. Also explain how a server can be cloned to test patching or an application update without impacting the production environment, or the customer.

This section should run 3-4 minutes, depending on your SAN speed. If your SAN is slower, do it on local storage to get it done faster. When it’s done, make sure you change the VLAN so you don’t get a conflict, and boot it up. You can quickly just login to show them the server is identical to the one you cloned. You don’t want to spend more than 5 minutes on this one if your allotted time is only 15 minutes.

This is a perfect time to share the next tip: TEST ALL THESE STEPS several times. Time yourself each time, and even do a few dry runs with your team if possible. This will ensure your demo comes off flawless, and that’s important. Believe me when I say some of these people are looking for a reason NOT to virtualize. Most of the time, it has less to do with virtualization, and more to do with fear of change.

My next demonstration is vMotion / Maintenance Mode. This will be mind-blowing for your audience, especially if any of them have a technical background. I start off by telling a story about how some fans have stopped working on one of our hosts, and we need to get the new fans installed before it overheats. (Make sure you know which host has your intended vMotion candidate ahead of time) We can’t wait for the maintenance window.

Normally in this situation, a second cluster node, or hot spare would have to be brought on line, which would mean a short outage for the customer. In this demo, we don’t have time to enter Maintenance Mode, so we’re going to vMotion a single server. I explain that this is how Maintenance Mode works, and how this will be transparent to our customers, and then I prove it.

Bring up a console session on the server to be vMotioned. I use an IIS server as an example, as it’s customer facing, and they understand that well. In my console session, I start a ping -t to another server. In this case, it’s an application server, which the IIS server needs to maintain contact with, or customers will be impacted. Then I execute my vMotion. You might need to explain what “ping” is, so that everyone is on board.

After the server vMotions, I show them that we didn’t drop any packets, and that the customer has not been impacted, and then show them that the VM is on another host. I always reduce my DRS automation level before the demo. I don’t want them to see other migrations happening while we’re demoing. That would spawn a discussion we don’t want to have right now. This takes us to the 10 minute point, barring any questions.

Inevitably at this point, someone usually asks what would happen if the server just failed with no warning. This plays right into your hands, as it’s the perfect segue into your next feature. Fault Tolerance. If they don’t ask, then you ask.

For FT, I setup an FTP server using FileZilla. You can setup whatever works best for your business, but make sure it is something that can clearly demonstrate that customers will not be impacted by an outage. I have preselected a “customer data file”, and setup a simple “FTP Client” VM with FileZilla Client.

I did have to adjust my incoming FTP speed for the server so that the file wouldn’t complete too quickly. You’ll want to make sure you have enough time to test a failover operation, and show the file transfer still going from both the client, and server perspective. So either select a huge file, or bump down your bit rate for the client in the FTP software.

Open up a console session on the FTP server, and then point out the “secondary” instance. Open a console session to the secondary. With both sessions side by side, poke around in the primary and open some windows, a browser, or whatever. You’ll want to demonstrate that the servers are in lockstep with one another. Open a console session to the FTP Client.

At this point, I explain how the customer is sending us this file, and start the transfer. I then explain that the particular host that the FTP server lives on is going to go down without warning. Show them the host name. You can simulate this with the Test Failover option.

It will take less than a minute, during which you will want to point out the bytes transferred on the server, and the client. Point out that the client has no errors, and then you’ll see the secondary come back online.

Again, show the host name so they can see that it has indeed changed servers. I found it helpful to time the file transfer so that it would complete right around this time. Then you can show them the server, the completed file, and the client, once again explaining how the customer has no idea that a server went down in our datacenter.

If you don’t get gasps or applause at this point, you did it wrong. Once again, PRACTICE this over, and over before taking it to the executives! You don’t want to be up there looking like Bill Gates demoing Win98. You want to look like John Chambers demoing the Cius.

Wrap up with an explanation that these are just three of hundreds of VMware features, and then answer the questions that follow. At the end, these people will be frantically searching for their checkbooks. Your millions should start flowing after the next budget committee meeting.

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