First trip to the US

I recently got the opportunity to visit the US for a week, because I had to do a small server room upgrade on our location in California. The trip was OK’ed 1½ week before we left, so I didn’t have the time to get super-too-much-excited, which could have happened because I wanted to see the US my entire life. We planned the trip to last a week, starting Friday, this way we could get the work pretty much done over the weekend. This way we didn’t disturb the users and we could get a little spare time later in the week to go around and play tourist for a couple of days.

Total travel time was:
1,5 hour from Billund (BLL) to Frankfurt (FRA)
10,5 hour from Frankfurt (FRA) to Los Angeles (LAX)

Really didn’t feel as long as I expected, there was lots of entertainment in the in-seat monitor, around 40 movies new and old. I also brought my laptop onboard and was happy to see that Lufthansa offers WiFi the entire flight at €17.

We landed in LA at 1.30pm and waited around half an hour for our US colleague that was coming to pick us up. A little tip, don’t send someone that doesn’t have international calling enabled to pick up international colleagues Smile We found each other through SMS to another US colleague, which who was in contact with the driver.

First days onsite was just a quick visit to pick up the company car we were borrowing. We went straight to the hotel to unpack and relax after a fairly long trip. After a little relax-time, we went to Hooters Restaurant, which was conveniently placed on the same address as our hotel.

We arrived on Halloween Friday, so all the waitresses were dressed up and we had to give our vote for the best, unfortunately Kitty didn’t win Smile There were also a few customers that came dressed up (Grim Reaper, Doctor/Apprentice and a runaway prison inmate) and Grim Reaper won – I wouldn’t have wanted to meet him outside.

Saturday and Sunday we were working at the factory. We had ordered all the new parts on Amazon and saved around 50% compared to list price. When I took apart the HP Gen8 servers, I noticed that we had been a little too cheap when we originally configured them and I was missing the cache module for the Smart Array Controller. Luckily we found it on Ebay and got it ordered with expedited transport and were promised a delivery on Tuesday. The best part was that we got a Synology DS415+ that we were going to use as a destination for Veeam, and because we got this filled up with 3TB drives, I could create a temporary iSCSI datastore for the new VMware hosts, so I could go on with P2Vs that I had planned. It was performing just fine during all the migrations, up until we got Veeam configured and ran the backup job…It completely killed the performance on the VMs.

Another detail that scared me at first when I started the first P2V was that the speed was extremely slow, the servers had been performing fine as far as I had seen, but this was 1MB/sec migration, which was not going to go well when I had several hundred GB to move, so I stopped the first P2V and added another LAN cable and connected it to our new network, this accelerated the performance to around 30-40MB/sec, which I could accept. I found out that the old network switch these servers had been connected to was to blame for this, as all the old servers had this issue.

When Sunday late afternoon arrived, we were done with P2V and migrated all files from old physical file-server to the new virtual, printers were moved and Domain controller switched from physical to virtual. All of this on the Synologys 3x3TB SATA drives. This was OK as a backup solution until the cache module would arrive, luckily the users weren’t heavy users and they weren’t that many.

Both Saturday and Sunday, we visited the Westfield shopping mall in Encinida, where I saw my first Apple Store. This was quite the experience. The shop was bigger than other shops, but there was just always filled with people and the experience buying items was just as WOW as you would expect. The only complaint was that the clerk was selling me a 85$ case for the iPad Air 2, and even though we tried it on and I took it home, I found out that it didn’t fit because Apple moved the volume buttons on the Air 2 compared to the original Air. This was something I didn’t notice when we tried the case on the new Air 2, but I would have thought that an Apple Sales guy should know this difference between generations. After our first trip to Westfield we stopped on the way home at an In-And-Out Burger, I have heard great things about these guys, mostly through following VMworld attendees on twitter Smile I wouldn’t say I was disappointed, as you can only expect a certain gastronomical experience for 5$ worth of burger and fries. All in all it’s just something I had to try and now I have. The second night we found “The Cheesecake factory” restaurant located in the mall and here we got quite another experience with great food and beer from the semi-local Karl Strauss Brewery. We opted for a table outside because we had arrived fairly early and didn’t yet know that the warm weather disappears just as fast as the sunlight, so around 5.30 the temperature goes down fast. This meant it was pretty chilly sitting outside for an hour in our shorts and t-shirts Disappointed smile

Monday we were at the factory, to be there if we somehow missed a setting or anything else – this was afterall a pretty different setup than the PCs had been using on Friday. We got almost no user issues on Monday so we agreed to take Tuesday morning off and just arrive after lunch, to wait for the cache module delivery.

We used Tuesday morning to visit the USS Midway museum in San Diego. This is just a lot bigger than one can imagine! A lot of airplanes was showed off on deck and inside. It was just a great experience and we managed to find our way through the ship.
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When we arrived at the factory the cache had arrived and here the power of VMware showed off, with me putting in the new hardware in one server at a time and being able to run 100% without users noticing. After the new hardware was added I was able to build the HP VSA setup and moving the VMs over to the new clustered VSA datastore. All this was done without a single user noticing that their entire infrastructure was “rebuilt” and “moved”.

As the only thing we had to do from then on was migrating from the temporary Synology datastore to the permanent VSA datastore, we didn’t need to be at the factory but could do this from the nearest Starbucks Smile So Wednesday and Thursday were going to be spent outside the office, sightseeing.

Wednesday was our trip to LA, which was the real sightseeing trip, seeing the Hollywood sign from the Griffith Observatory,
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going to Venice Beach and took a walk on the boardwalk.
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We found out why the local people always referred to things in San Diego in stead, when we asked for sights and places to go, we spent around 4-5 hours on the road because the traffic is dense in LA, very dense!
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Thursday was our trip to San Diego, starting in La Jolla with fantastic weather and a great coffee, it was going to be a great day. We went on a walk along and on the beach, where the sea lions acted up as if they’re used to be taken pictures of.
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From La Jolla we drove to Old Town and enjoyed a bit of old history and sights. From Old town we went to Mission Beach and took a walk here and looked at apartments just off the beach, which were around $100 pr. night, then we went to the nearest Starbucks to get ready for the drive home.

All in all a great experience on what to see in the neighborhood of LA. The weather was amazing and I could get used to that pretty fast!

Friday we went to the factory to turn in the car and get a ride to LAX to fly home. At LAX security they hired a security guy which must be a former Stand Up comedian, he was crazy funny and got people to hear the messages about how the scanners worked and what we should do before and when entering them. This made what is normally a pretty boring experience really fun and quick, big thumbs up to LAX.

The trip home was over Frankfurt and everything went smooth, so arrived on time in Billund and it was great to see the family again!