Melbourne VMUG User Conference 2014

Nathan Wheat opens the 2014 MVMUG User ConferenceThe Melbourne VMware User Group User’s Conference is over for another year, and we set a new attendance record, with 374 people there for at least part of the day.

There was a real buzz to the event this year. The venue was full of people early in the morning, and there were plenty of animated conversations in the hallways. The addition of whiteboards at each end of the exhibitor’s hallway was a great idea, and they got a good workout with people grilling the resident experts.

International speakers took over the main stage for keynotes throughout the day, with Brad Hedlund (@bradhedlund) kicking things off in the morning, talking about what the new NSX features (from VMware’s Nicira acquisition) will do for networking in the VMware world. Seeing my old friends OSPF and BGP floating around in a VMware diagram was a little bemusing. Technologies are converging all over the place these days.

The lunchtime keynote saw Chris Wahl (@ChrisWahl) give us the rundown on NFS the protocol and putting to rest some FUD about NFS datastores. If you’d like to see Exchange support VMDKs running on NFS datastores, do lend your support to the IdeaScale campaign here:

The final keynote was from Scott Lowe (@scott_lowe), who stepped us through the implications of all this convergence. He emphasised that people in one IT discipline will be under even more pressure to communicate with others, networks talking to storage, virtualisation to networks, etc. He also very kindly gave me a big shoutout for my presentation earlier in the day.

I did a talk about how infrastructure staff will need to update their skills to stay relevant in an age of mass-automation. I drew parallels with the mechanisation of the late 1800s, when machines took over a lot of jobs that were previously done by skilled labourers. There were more people at my talk than I expected (the room was packed, with a bunch of people standing at the back) so it looks like I hit upon a topic that’s top-of-mind for a lot of people at the moment.

There did seem to be an undercurrent of anxiety about job security throughout the day. People are increasingly aware that IT infrastructure jobs in particular are going away, replaced altogether by automation. Several speakers, including Scott, touched on it in some way, and I was attempting to provide some guidance to people about what they could do about it, to protect themselves from becoming obsolete.

During Q&A at the end of my talk, we heard from a man in his early 50s, who had been made redundant recently. He was a technical specialist, though it seemed he had specialised more by accident than by choice. His job had been moved to Mumbai, and there were no other jobs like it here in Australia. Not any more. Having cautionary tales right there in the audience brought home the message I was trying to communicate, and I don’t think I was the only one slightly unnerved by it. The questions at the end, and the conversations afterwards, highlighted to me that the folk in the trenches are far more aware of the world around them than at any previous time.

On a brighter note, a young man in the audience named Mark (whom I recognised from my talk last year) told me that he’d done some marketing courses as a direct result of my talk last year. He found them interesting and useful, and it’s incredibly gratifying to me that I’ve had a positive impact on someone. In answer to the man in the audience who asked why I gave the talk: The engineer who was made redundant, and Mark, are why. I only hope that someone who was at my talk yesterday finds it useful in the same way Mark did, and can hopefully reposition themselves before their company decides their services are no longer required.

I also recorded some audio interviews with speakers and attendees, which I’ll post over the next few days with a bit of luck. You’ll hear Chris Wahl, Simon Sharwood, Scott Lowe, Josh Odgers, and Michael Webster share their thoughts about VMUGs and the industry more generally in what is an interesting and challenging time to be in IT.

Thanks to everyone who came along to the conference, and particularly to those who came to my talk. I hope you got enough out of it to have made it worth your time.

And please take the time to return your attendee surveys, or to get in contact via email or Twitter, to give us feedback on the day and how we can make it even better next year.

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