An Engineer’s Perspective of #ZertoCON2018

ZertoCON 2018 just finished and it was an exciting three days full of announcements, networking, and learning.  If you haven’t already had a chance to check out Navisite’s VP of Product Management, William Toll’s blog which discussed Nicholas Thompson’s keynote session it can be seen here.

In this blog, I will be discussing the end-to-end experience and some of the key takeaways from the conference. In comparison to ZertoCON 2017, there were notable changes in format. ZertoCON 2018 broke apart what was previously an extended keynote session in the morning into two, spread hours apart.

There were many opportunities to network and share ideas with not only Zerto engineers and leadership, but also with technology and business professionals who are interested in learning more about Zerto.  There were a lot of announcements related to product advancements which will redefine how the industry sees Zerto and its impact into the future.

As a Lead Engineer in Navisite’s Cloud Services Practice most of my focus was around deep technical dives, as well as networking with other partners and clients on what they’re spending their time on in the Zerto, virtualization, and data protection worlds.  The key takeaways I had after attending were:

  • Zerto is expanding on backups and making a real run at other backup solutions. Their differentiator is an elastic journal which can have checkpoints spanning from seconds to years.
  • The BCDR market as a whole is expanding at an extreme rate and the growth in ransomware has driven businesses to invest in mitigation options such as Zerto.
  • Zerto did a great job in tweaking the format of the conference, they were able to expand keynotes without creating marathon long sessions. Zerto is pushing a transformation from being only a DR solution, replicating between sites, to expand into being an IT Resilience Platform.

Zertocon2018 – Day One

Arrival

Last year we started day one with a great partner session, with access to Zerto advanced training, followed by the Zerto Certified Professional Advanced test at the end of the day.  This year the first day had less focus on the training and certifications and more focus on hands-on labs.  Certifications this year were incorporated into a mix of sessions and labs.

ZertoCON 2018 lab computerZertoCON 2018 Event Hall

My first observation upon arriving to the labs was how well organized they were. There were a lot of helpful people in Zerto shirts walking around, and a reception table for signups.  There was tremendous interest in the labs, as within an hour of opening, all labs had over an hour wait.  Despite the wait they had a SMS connected system setup to text you when the lab you signed up for was available. This worked really well and after a little hall walking and chatting with others my turn came quick.

The Lab Experience

Once I sat down I noticed my lab laptop was not at the expected starting screen. The engineer in me went into troubleshooting mode and did the tried and true level 1 activity: the reboot. As we all know, you can’t ask for help if you haven’t rebooted!

Unfortunately the reboot did not solve my problems so I walked back to the desk and asked for some help from the Zerto zExpert (Zerto Staff).  I noticed this was one of the escalation engineers who personally came onsite at my office to review some issues we had in the past. I’ve exchanged many emails with this engineer and it was great to chat with him. They quickly resolved my lab issue and I was off to races.

Overall the lab format was great and very easy to move around in.  Performance for the labs was GREAT, I was never sitting waiting for a screen to repaint or browser to finish loading.  The lab activities themselves were a good mix of mid-level troubleshooting to advanced scripting and automation.

ZertoCON 2018 banner

ZertoCON 2018 – Day Two

Day two kicked off with the first keynote, one of the guest speaker keynote speakers.  Last year the big guest keynote speaker was General Michael Hayden (Former CIA and NSA Director), and his main topic was around global security.

This year we got two guest keynote speakers, one on each day.  The first here was Nicholas Thompson, Editor in Chief, WIRED.  This was a great kickoff to the event and Nicholas did a great job with “The Future of Being Human”.  If you want to read more about this keynote, you can check out Navisite’s other blog post here. Here are some images that I was able to capture from the keynote.

After the first guest keynote the sessions began.  I think they did a good job with the number of sessions per time slot.  Some conferences struggle with this, and Zerto didn’t overload us with too many options.  My first session was “Birds-Eye View of the Clouds” presented by Zerto Cloud Architect Derek Adair, with a view on how Zerto helps enable the multi-cloud dream some organizations are trying to obtain.

There were lots of conversation around Azure and vCloud Director-based (VCD) clouds.  This was a great example of the networking opportunities we get at these conferences, as Derek is Navisite’s assigned Cloud Architect and he did an excellent job talking about Navisite’s core competencies and we had a chance to chat on these topics one-on-one later on in the week.

ZertoCON2018 Session 1

After lunch we got our second keynote of the day, presented by Ziv Kedem, Zerto’s CEO.  He talked about the state of the company, and the industry as a whole.  This keynote also included a number of customer success stories.  The overall theme was Resiliency and Readiness. He noted they had over 350 partners in the ecosystem, and Navisite got a front-and-center shout-out here, and it was extremely nice to see our hard work and efforts recognized.

ZertoCON 2018 2nd Keynote, Ziv Kedem, Resiliency and Readiness

The big tease was backup advances in Zerto 7, and what appears to be a shift by Zerto to doing more in the backup space. Unfortunately, we were left hanging, waiting for the details tomorrow in the fourth keynote…that’s one way to keep people around ‘til the end of a conference!

Interestingly enough, while Ziv was talking about unexpected interruptions, the attendee next to me had his phone ring with the ringer on full volume, and just to add insult to injury, he answered!  This was caught on video by the Zerto twitter team, and you can see me awkwardly sitting there:  https://twitter.com/Zerto/status/998979992292818946.

Later in the day there was another round of sessions with good technical deep dives, including a troubleshooting session with some of the support team members.  There was also a very detailed session on APIs, PowerShell, and scripting, which went into automation and API-based options, and fueled a great Q&A session, showing this was an area of interest fora lot of partners.

It’s great to see Zerto expanding and improving in this area.  We had a number of Azure sessions in the afternoon which focused on overall cloud agility. Yet again, there was another call out for cloud partners and a number of comments on multi-cloud enablement.

The last session for the day was “Inner Workings of the ZVM”.  This was my favorite session of the event, as it was an extremely deep dive on the orchestration, management, and automation which comes out of the ZVM.  The presenters here are ZVM software engineers and they were able to answer a number of complex questions during Q&A.  Lots of learning and networking overall for day two.

Why am I Really Doing DR, Chris Patterson, Dana Gardner, Anthony Siano, Navisite, IEEE GlobalSpec

ZertoCON 2018 – Day Three

Day three kicked off with the third keynote, guest speaker John Morency, Research Vice President at Gartner.  The main topic was on the data protection industry as a whole, and in typical Gartner fashion, it focused on lots of conversation around analytics, and data was presented from a number of surveys.  The overall takeaway expanded on Ziv’s comments from the prior day, that the data protection and resiliency market is expanding at an extreme rate.

A Zerto customer, Jayme Williams, was invited to the stage as a speaker (go figure it was the phone call guy from day two).  He had a great quote which really stuck with me: “Always develop a cloud strategy and define a plan, take on the mentality that we are the champions of change and be the leaders.” Following the keynote from John, we were off to sessions again with some great partner-centric sessions.  It was noticeable this year that Zerto included a number of sessions dedicated for partners, and these really stood out.

They were great opportunities to talk with other cloud providers and partners about what they’ve been seeing within the Zerto space, as well as an opportunity to gang up on the product teams on hot topics which impact the cloud provider space overall.  This level of interaction was exciting, and we as the technical ‘troops on the ground’ hope for additional interactions like this going forward.

Also on day three was Navisite’s Panel session “Why Am I Really Doing DR?”,presented by Dana Gardner, an analyst with some big social media presence.  Alongside Dana was Chris Patterson, Sr. Director of Product Management at Navisite, and Anthony Siano, Director of IT for IEEE GlobalSpec.

Anthony is a consumer of Navisite’s cloud services, and he provided an excellent success story around IEEE GlobalSpec’s experience in Navisite’s cloud, noting that despite a reduced staff, after moving to Navisite he sleeps better at night, over when he was in the data center management business.  It was also great to chat with Anthony after the session on his overall experience and observations with Navisite.

Rob Strechay, ZertoCON 2018 final keynote

The final keynote session was the long-awaited product roadmap review teased by Ziv on day two.  This keynote was presented by Rob Strechay, SVP of Product, Zerto (Zerto Red pants and all).

We see Rob every year at ZertoCON and he and his team work with us regularly for feedback on requirements and this helps us to get up to speed with the future of the product.  Rob always has a very engaging presentation and this year was no different, with the biggest highlight focusing on Zerto’s transformation efforts to become an IT Resilience platform in version 7.

The new version creates excitement around expanding the journal, allowing for years of data retention, versus the days currently retained in today’s iteration.  It’s a huge change, and if executed well, could be a game-changer for the entire disaster recovery industry.  Below I linked directly to Zerto summary of this, for additional details.

The only disappointment I had as  a technical guy, was not being given insight into the “how” – will this be obtained by multiple journals, what would be the impact to my storage space and performance?  I expect this information will start to trickle out over the upcoming months.

https://dcrw001v7bkif.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/The-Zerto-IT-Resilience-Platform_10557.pdf

If you’re interested in finding out more about Navisite’s disaster recovery solutions, including Zerto, please visit https://www.navisite.com/solutions/managed-data-protection-replication-solutions, call us at (888) 298-8222 or contact us here.

For a deeper dive on some ways to improve your disaster recovery practices, download our new whitepaper, Best Practices to Leverage the Cloud for Disaster Recovery, or check out our recent webinar with Zerto, Don’t Let Ransomware Hold Your Critical Apps Hostage, available on-demand.