The Changing Role Of the VMware Admin


This week I was at the New England VTUG at Gillette stadium doing various presentations, from a panel discussion, to a Network Virtualization Keynote, to a Panel Q&A.  As always the event was awesome and the attendance was increased from last year, and the Patriots we outside practicing so that was a good thing since it’s the playoffs.  However, after my Network Virtualization session, I got some interesting tweets regarding the fact that VMware Administrators don’t know much about advanced networking, but they do know about storage and server administration.  I guess I’d like to address the changing role of the VMware Administrator from my perspective having been one back in the day to now.  This is nothing more than my take on the topic.

The VMware Administrator – Then

Back when I was a boy, and an upcoming server administrator I started to learn about this thing called ESX.  I was at that time mostly nothing more than a Windows Administrator.  However, as I started to learn this ESX product I needed to shift and learn more about Linux which was completely new to me.  I also needed to learn some networking concepts as they related to VLAN’s and basic routing.  Lastly I also needed to understand the storage that we were using and how to create LUN’s present them, and finally learn ESX itself.  So at this stage in the evolution we needed to know:

  • Linux
  • SAN Storage
  • Basic Networking
  • Virtualization 101

We did not need to know much more than this because we didn’t know if this new thing was going to really catch on.  I think as it did we quickly shifted our knowledge based to try and learn more from the network administrators.  I was lucky, I WAS the storage administrator, and the firewall administrator.  So as things evolved it was easy for me to adapt to the new functions in the products.

The VMware Administrator – Now

If we fast forward nearly 9 years we have added more and more to the learning curve for sure.  In the recent few years I believe the VMware Administrators of old that only knew the above 4 things now also need to know things like:

  • Systems Integration
  • Automation
  • Firewall Concepts
  • Resource Management
  • Capacity Planning

As I mentioned, for me this was easy based on my previous roles.  These new items were also at one time foreign to many VMware Administrators, but were something we all needed to understand.  Will they have a deep understanding of them?  Maybe, maybe not but that is no different from them not being a storage administrator.  We are not asking you to be Network Administrators now with network virtualization, but you must start to understand the concepts of it the same as we had to understand Storage Networks, and more recently firewalls.  It’s an ever-changing environment and managing a Cloud is not the same as managing ESXi servers.  I’d say if you want to be a cloud administrator you’ve definitely got to really understand some of these new concepts.

Even for me it’s been a struggle to wrap my head around designing virtualized networks, but it’s the new game in town.  Things like VXLAN are now part of vCloud Director, and the open source clouds are using Nicira NVP, so it’s happening folks.  I guess I look at it like anything else that’s changing the face of the technology, you can either say you don’t know about it or you can go out and learn it.  Maybe today you don’t know about this Network Virtualization thing and you may not need to be a network administrator, but you’ve got to understand the concepts for sure.

The Winds Of Change

Someone at the event said they feel that as time has gone on VMware has made their job harder.  I would argue that VMware’s new products and changes have given you more of a challenge to strive for.  Just because something seems harder does not mean it’s a bad thing, it all depends on how you look at it.  Your job may need more skills now, but those skills will follow you everywhere.  Yes you need to know a few more concepts, but you don’t need to be an expert.  So has your job gotten harder, or more interesting and it’s the new and interesting that is scary?  Ever read Who Moved my Cheese?  If not it might be something you want to go grab now so you can be ready for the changes that are coming your way.  Change is inevitable, the idea is to embrace it, not fight it.

About Chris Colotti

Chris is active on the VMUG and event speaking circuit and is available for many events if you want to reach out and ask. Previously to this he spent close to a decade working for VMware as a Principal Architect. Previous to his nine plus years at VMware, Chris was a System Administrator that evolved his career into a data center architect. Chris spends a lot of time mentoring co-workers and friends on the benefits of personal growth and professional development. Chris is also amongst the first VMware Certified Design Experts (VCDX#37), and author of multiple white papers. In his spare time he helps his wife Julie run her promotional products as the accountant, book keeper, and IT Support. Chris also believes in both a healthy body and healthy mind, and has become heavily involved with fitness as a Diamond Team Beachbody Coach using P90X and other Beachbody Programs. Although Technology is his day job, Chris is passionate about fitness after losing 60 pounds himself in the last few years.


  1. Nice blog. Easy, friendly, and smooth read.

  2. Everything I think about our job is written in the above lines, and challenges are what make us move forward. Good article!

  3. Nice article, I found myself and what I have expirienced in the last years.
    Let’s hope new things will evolve, as the one thing that bores me, is doing the same things every day. VMware gives us challenges, that turn every day admin work into a continuous process of learning, which is a lot of fun and the motivation for the job.

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