About Sandesh...

A proud citizen of India living in the city of Pune. A software engineer by profession with more than decade of software development experience, currently innovating at Vmware. An active social worker associated with one of the biggest NGOs in the world, the Art of Living. Thanks for visiting my blog, leave me a comment if you like what I scribble here!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Quick News Flash...

Happy Holi Friends...

0. Had the time of my life earlier this month at the World Cultural Festival in Delhi, India. Feeling fortunate to be part of an event of such an unprecedented magnitude. Look out this space for more on this biggest celebration on the planet so far...

1. Launched my tech blog at WordPress starting this year at https://networkingthoughts.wordpress.com/
Check out this page where I maintain the list of hot SDN/NFV and Cloud startups on my radar: https://networkingthoughts.wordpress.com/sandys-sdn-cloud-hot-startups-list/

2. Started executing on my personal technical skill set upgrade plan of the year. The top skills on my priority list at this moment are Python & GO programming languages and POX & OpenDaylight SDN controllers on top of KVM/OVS.

3. Preparation is in full swing for the upcoming Borathon on the theme of MultiCloud... Happy to get the VM instances up & running in AWS EC2, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure. IBM Softlayer and VMware vCloud Air VMs are in the making at the moment.

What are the interesting things you are working on these days?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

OVS/OVN Tech talk by Ben Pfaff at VMware Pune

Last week Ben Pfaff was among the folks from VMware HQ in Palo Alto visiting our Pune R&D office. Ben is a Principal Engineer in Networking & Security Business Unit, involved in development of the same product line which I work on at VMware. Ben came on board when VMware acquired the SDN startup Nicira Networks backin 2012. In case you didn't know the founders of Nicira such as Martin Casado are the inventors of SDN which is transforming the networking industry since last couple of years. Ben has been a lead developer of OVS project and recently Ben's paper on Open vSwitch won the Best Paper award at NSDI. He was kind enough to speak to the tech community in Pune on the topics of Open vSwitch and Open Virtual Network. It's kind of interesting how the idea of this talk came to life...


Off late I have started following twitter handles of the key players including Ben, involved in VMWare NSX and the Network Virtualization industry in general. So when I saw Ben's tweet on OvsCon 2015 about the OVS goodies he has, I asked him if he can send them over to Pune so that I could use them in evangelizing the project locally in the industry as well as academia. Within a few minutes came Ben's reply that he is scheduled to fly to Pune next week and will handover the goodies to me that time. It was pleasant surprise to me given that it was something like 2:00 AM in PA at that time. Ben showed a keen interact to interact with the students in Pune academic circles which I am associated with i.e. engineering colleges such as PICT, COEP, SIT, etc. where I either teach as a guest lecturer, guide under-grad systems projects or provide assistance to their campus hiring initiatives. Since the colleges are having winter vacations at the time, I gave Ben the option of doing a talk for the OpenStack community in Pune and I volunteered to organize the same! With that began the preparation to host the talk at Vmware in a week's time...

The channels used to contact the prospective interested folks included popular social media channels such as focused LinkedIn groups, Google plus announcements, facebook posts, tweets, google forms etc. The other way used to reach out to the audiences was through the VMware employees who had connections in the companies working in the domain of networking & virtulazation such as Red Hat, Cisco Systems, Calsoft, Intel, etc. Unfortunately the option of announcing OpenStack meetup did not work out in time, so we weren't sure how many folks would actually turn up for the talk on such a short notice, even though it was a free talk at a central location in Pune. With one day left for the talk, I had only about 25 confirmations in hand and so was wondering if we would have the hall full or empty or half full & half empty ;-)

Fortunately whatever little campaigning and praying we did in the whatever small amount of time we had paid off, and around 50 folks reached the venue to fill up the hall to its capacity! Ben's talk was great as usual and I noticed that he made significant changes to the slides he presented to the internal VMware audience to make it more suitable for the open source project community. Also this talk was more focused on OVN rather than OVS which he had covered in his presentation to VMware R&D team. Overall the talk was well received and there was a lot of post-talk interaction and networking before everyone left the venue. Here are a couple of picture of the event thanks to our in-house director of innovation, Girish Mujumdar...

If you missed this talk but wanted to learn more about OVN, then check out the video of a similar talk given by the OVN team at the last OpenStack summit in Vancouver in May 2015...

Happy holidays and a wishing you a happy new year in advance!!!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Flying... sorry, falling from 15,000 feet in the sky

In India, working for IT MNCs is usually associated with hi-tech work, flexible / long work hours, and the most important of all fat salary packages. Apart from these attributes there is the possibility of an all-expenses-paid foreign trip to some of the dream destination countries such as US, UK & France. At times such business travel is required for visiting clients if you happen to be in a services company like Infy. And some times it is done for collaborating with the cross-geo team mates if you happen to be in product companies like Cisco & VMware. The later was the case with me after I joined VMware from Cisco last year! I had a chance to visit the company HQ in Palo Alto, California for a couple of weeks in April this year. Since I had visited the same part of valley i.e. San Francisco bay area for more than a couple of times before, there were not many places of interest left to visit on my list. I have seen most of the popular tourist spots in the beautiful city of San Francisco, spent great weekend times at the wonderful Disneyland and Hollywood studios in Los Angeles and driven down the scenic roads down the pacific coast for hours. So this time I wanted to do something different, that kind of experience which is hard to get locally and that which you can not do when you are travelling with family :-) Thus having see the ZNMD movie, the idea of doing sky diving was born in my mind!

A bit of research on the internet revealed a good sky diving school in the bay area and the weekend spot registration over a phone call was real quick. The dent was 300 bucks for a 15K feet fall + 75 bucks for personal video shoot. After I shared the idea with my co-traveler colleagues from Pune, one of them got excited and signed up for this adventurous experience of a life time. So the next day we made reservations with the folks at Sky Dive Monterey Bay over the phone. We set out on a Sunday morning hoping that the weather conditions would be perfect, and reached the Marina airport to find a large group of enthusiasts already queued up take take jumps in batches of 5/10. After completing the paper work, each of us was assigned an instructor and a cameraman and we were briefed by a 60 year old veteran skydiver on how it is done. While the other batches were flown up & dropped down in front of us throughout the morning, we decided to grab a quick lunch at the nearby town and were happy to find a great family run mexican deli where we ate sumptuous portions of nachos and fajitas. After coming back to the base camp at the airport we were taken to the air strip by a bus where we waited to board the mini plane which was continuously making trips to throw people out of its belly every half an hour. It was fun to watch the expressions of the folks who landed after the dive in the lawn in front of our sitting area. Finally our turn came and before we knew the plane was in the air ready for the drop out.

My instructor Jason Inamura was a cool man whereas the video shooter was a super enthusiastic person. Both were jumping out of the plane 10 times a day, but each of them had a different air of personality around them. One common thing between them and all of the jump masters doing the tandem jump was the fact that they were enjoying their jobs to the fullest. As the red light in the back of the plane went off and the green light glowed, I could sense that the moment of truth had arrived. I was the 2nd person to get thrown out of the fuselage as the speed of the plain appeared as if it was coming to a standstill. We quickly walked to the exit door and off we jumped in a jiffy. And man what a view it was!!! On one side there was the serene blue water sparking up to the edge of the infinity and on the other side there were lush green farms in all sorts of shapes giving way to tiny lines of roads connecting herds of villages spread across the landscape.

Those 60 seconds were some of the most magical moments of my life. Floating out there like a bird with no worries just taking in the view was something I can't explain in words. The only sad part was that just like the instructor had said earlier during the briefing, the fall did not last long and Jason pulled the trigger right when I had started enjoying the views after giving a few poses to the cameraman who was continuously circling around us. The rest of the journey down as pretty fast as Jason got me ready for the landing. He even gave the control of the flight in my hands which was a unique experience watching the flight turn left & right with just a tilt of hands on either sides. The landing was much smoother than expected and the cameraman was there ready to cache my experience in the disk. Overall it was an out of the world experience worth every penny spent. And I would love to do it again on the next opportunity with my wife wanting to jump out with me this time :-) So here it is the flight that lasted not so long...

My experiments with the standing desk

Couple of years back I got introduced to the "Standing Desk" concept while I was on a business trip to my company's office in the silicon valley. It seems the concept is becoming popular in the software industry in the valley. After studying its benefits, I decided to go for it while I was working at Cisco... Now its been more than a a couple of years since I am using it, and i must say that I am loving it :-)

Next week I will turn 1 year old at VMWare's Pune R&D center. Like most of folks joining from Cisco, I am quite excited to be part of an R&D team of a pure software company. With VMWare entering networking market there is a huge scope for innovation here and I can feel it every day with so much of brainstorming happening around events like Borathon & RADIO!

Coming to the topic of this blog… after joining here last year I setup my standing desk in the office cube and started using it everyday. As a result there were a few inquiries from curious neighbors & passerby’s why am I using a standing desk. Many of the folks here who have visited VMWare Palo Alto office have seen people standing while working. Some of them thought the reason for those people to use a standing desk could be back pain or some similar health issue. So here I am striving to shed some light on what are standing desks and how one can benefit from them...
Q. So what is a standing desk???
A. 1. Visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standing_desk or 2. Visit my desk for a live demo!

Note that my “standing desk” is pretty much a jugaad. If you go to some of the tech companies in valley such as Facebook, Cisco, Google or Linkedin, you will see all sorts of adjustable standing desks & chairs.
Q. Why use a standing desk?
A. You can find a lot of material on the web about the health benefits of using a standing desk. For a quick glance checkout this link. My only motivation for using the standing desk is to enjoy the health benefits of standing while working.  Some of the benefits include more calories burnt during the work hours, improved metabolism, better posture etc. resulting in lower risks of acquiring some of the diseases resulting from prolonged practice of sitting during work hours. I have been using a standing desk for more than a year now, and I can vouch by its benefits. Of course sometimes it is tiring to stand & work the whole day. So I follow a pattern of alternating between standing & sitting. I am using RSI Guard software which gives alerts at predefined intervals to switch between the standing & switching postures. Having two monitors really helps here. I have mounted one monitor on a elevated desk platform whereas kept the other one on the usual desk platform.
I would definitely encourage the reader to try out using a standing desk. And I would be glad to hear your comments & feedback after doing so…
Happy Standing!

Innovation @ VMware

Last year I switched jobs from Cisco Systems to VMware. Both are great IT companies to work for, and I feel proud & fortunate to get a chance to work for both of these MNCs. Both are considered industry leaders and bitter rivals now a days with VMware entering the cloud and network virtualization market after the Nicira acquisition back in 2012. Never the less both Cisco ACI & VMware NSX products are doing great in the market despite of tough competition from numerous startup entering the arena lately. Another fact to be noted is that most of VMWare NSX software runs on top of Cisco hardware, so in a way they are still complimentary to each other!

Having worked at the telecom gateway development group (MITG - formerly Starent Networks) at Cisco for close to 5 years, I am glad that I made the decision to join the Networking & Security Business Unit of VMware, which is lead by none other than the inventor of SDN, our SVP Martin Casado. What I am really happy about working at VMware is the amount of innovation opportunity that it gives to its R&D employees through various events and activities. I am hereby mentioning a few of the opportunities which I got a chance to know and participate in at the VMware Pune office. I am sure there are many more avenues of innovation at VMware which I am yet to come across during my tenure here...

I was curious when I walked the corridors of VMWare Pune office for the first time, about the plethora of wall posters promoting R&D opportunities inside the organization. Are these mere marketing gimmicks or what? But after I joined the company and saw some of these events in action, I must say I am really impressed by the amount of innovation happening inside the organization.

First up was the India R&D hackathon event called Borathon. Its a two day event where groups compete to code and present prototypes of their own ideas around a particular emerging area of technology. The theme of the first Borathon was "container technology and its integration with VMware products". It was the hottest topic of discussion in the company when I joined. The next hackthon in Pune was based on the theme of "Internet Of Things" in which people who had never worked on embedded hardware built prototypes of brilliant ideas using Raspberry Pie boards in just a couple of days! The most recent Borathon was based on the theme of building apps for vCloud Air, which is the cloud services offering (similar to AWS) recently launched by VMware. Again we saw great ideas coming from all corners of the R&D organization including our managers!

The next was the annual tech event of VMWare R&D organization called RADIO. Many of the innovative VMware products and product features have begun as a paper at the RADIO conference. Its a great event to showcase your innovative ideas and garner support for the same. Every year BUs sponsor a few engineers to go & visit the event in SF. On similar lines there is an annual customer focused event called VMWorld which is attended by thousands of customers, partners, and analysts in the industry.

VMworld has a US version which happens in silicon valley and an european version which happens in Barcelona every year. It is a platform where the latest VMWare products are launched, an expo of vmware & parner solutions is held, and many hands on labs and demonstrations are conducted. Though this is essentially a sales organization event, BUs also sponsor a few of their R&D folks to attend this event.

This year my BU conducted a hackathon competition named NSBU JAMZ where cross-geo teams of 15-20 folks worked hard to deliver parts of our key demos for presenting at the  US VMWorld. One good thing about such hackathon events is that even if your team is not the winner, you get lots of nice goodies (as JAMZ participants we got excellent noise cancellation head phones apart from the usual t-shirts, USB thumb drives, bottles and back packs) and not to forget the great food served 24x7 during these events.

There is always a lot of fuel to keep the innovation going at VMware Pune. Some of the innovation inspiring events which I attended so far include a two days workshop on innovation, an innovation quiz, presentations by and focused group discussions with patent attorneys from US, next generation product discussions with visiting product managers from other VMware offices, etc.

My first submission of IDF at VMware (Idea Disclosure Form i.e. submission of an idea for filing patent with US PTO) happened earlier this year as a result of research work done in partnership with a professor from IIIT Delhi who visited our Pune office as part of our faculty internship program.

There are many programs which incubate & foster projects of innovation in VMware. One of them is the XLR8 program which is funded by CTO team to gather a team to build prototype of ideas which transform into the next generation products of VMware. Another is called "flings" under which any employee can release their own implementation of an idea for public use on the VMware website. It is something similar to the projects hosted under Google labs. Last month I participated in a hackathon based on the theme of building a Ruby on Rails CMS portal for an internal web application. These events serve as good avenues of learning something totally new apart from your routine work to enhance your skill set.

Coming to skill up-gradation at VMware... apart from the week long product specific training workshops for new joiners, there are many avenues of learning at VMware. Plenty of soft skills & tech skills workshops are conducted for a targeted set of audience e.g. managers, senior staff engineers, etc. For those wanting to enhance their skills in a particular technology area, there is a "Take 1" program using which one can attend professional courses/workshops/conferences with VMware sponsorship. After completion of certain years of service at VMware employees are also eligible for a "Take 2" program under which they can work on a project of their choice in another team/group for a couple of weeks. And then there is a "Take 3" program under which one can take a break of 3 months from their regular work to pursue an idea/project of their choice.

VMware also aims at nurturing the local talent and industry in various unique ways and one of those is by sponsoring and hosting events such as the CIIE Cloud GrowthCamp to groom the core teams of cloud-based startups in Pune. I was lucky to be invited to participate in this program from VMware's side and found it very inspiring to listen to and interact with the best startup innovators in the city.

Last week I and my team traveled to VMware Bangalore to attend a two day conference on security called MooseCon 2105. I was one of the speakers there and I had a fun time demonstrating real life hacks on web applications. The web security workshop was well conducted by the VSECR team, which is a group responsible for ensuring product security across all products at VMware.

Speaking about university relations at VMware India... VMware recruits the best of talent from India's IIT campuses every year. I can say that as I had the opportunity to visit IIT Kanpur last year for the campus selection. At the local level VMware has signed an MOU with COEP in Pune. Under this partnership every year VMware hires freshers from COEP, the students get onsite internship opportunities, VMware staff designs & delivers a curriculum course on the campus, sponsors and participates in their annual tech event (Mind Spark), etc. I was part of the selection panel for COEP campus recruitment event this year and we were happy to get a couple of good hires for our teams from the event.

Another good thing is that at VMware employees are encouraged to have active university connections as per their choice. I am continuing to guide engineering projects from various colleges in Pune university (so far I have guided projects in PICT, VIT, MIT, and Cummins) as an external guide in my personal capacity / under the Geeks of Pune banner. I also visit Sinhagad COE as a guest lecturer, and the topic of my last session there was "virtualization and software defined networking (SDN)".

In general I would say VMware is a great company to work for and I am having fun here. If you would like to join our R&D team in USA or India, check out our careers site and drop me a line if you find an interesting position listed there...

Happy Hacking!