August 16, 2017

Hackathon, Amazon Echo and VMware - My VMworld 2017


  • William Lam and I are doing a Hackathon Training class on Integrating VMware API’s and Amazon Echo - Session ID is VMTN6721U. It runs Monday Night 6:30pm-8pm.
  • A preview of the content is below; along with the FIRST screenshot of the content.
  • The class will be interactive, fun, with minimal slideware focusing on Hands on work instead
  • Primarily taught in Python, we will leverage Flask, Flask-Ask, and VMware’s REST API’s to build some cool voice integrations with the platform
  • We will also touch on leveraging ClarityUI and containers
  • Afterwards, I’m leading a hackathon team named The Humble Brackets where we will target expanding the integration in some really crazy ways. Stay tuned!
  • I have a second session on Thursday at 12pm-1pm titled Furthering Amazon Echo and VMware Integration with Session ID VMTN6653U where I’ll cover some advanced integrations and automation concepts with Amazon Echo.

The Backstory

Last year, I put in a request for procurement with my CFO for an Amazon Echo for Christmas. I was targeting the sole purpose of digging into Python with it and playing with VMware integrations. My dreams were fulfilled; and my hardware was acquired…then I went off and got a new job and lost all lab time in the scramble.

A couple months ago I loaded it up, started digging into the Python integration, and dropped this little blurb of love onto the interwebs with a nifty video demo (below)

The code was a bit early, but I wanted to give people a look at how easily they could get started to. It was a TON of fun; I wanted the community to get into it and enjoy it too. I shared it on Twitter, as well as our internal collaboration network at VMware; SocialCast. I was amazed at the positive responses I got!

William Lam at VirtuallyGhetto (as if you didn’t know who he was…) and I started talking about some of the fun stuff we could do; and the project grew. William was able to pull in the vSAN management API’s as well as the VAMI management toolsets.

He added additional functionality that called PowerCLI. Then he went through and cleaned up the shoddy ugliness of my Pep8 code. That feeling when one of the people you look up to most in the community cleans up your garbage is a lot like the feeling you get when a friend stops by unexpectedly and you haven’t thrown away the bags from your diaper genie. Parents will get the reference. Either way; it’s been a blast.

As VMworld started to approach, William pinged me and mentioned he was coordinating some major changes for this years hackathon, partnering with the VMware{Code} Community and they had a desire to do some Hackathon Training sessions. Anyone who knows me, knows that something I’m INCREDIBLY passionate about is teaching others. I was immediately hooked on the idea, and jumped at the opportunity to collaborate.

Enter our Hackathon Training - VMTN6721U - Hackathon Training: Integrating VMware API’s and Amazon Echo (Alexa)

<img src="/images/2017-09-16-my-vmworld-2017-sessions/session-1.PNG#center" alt=“Training Session Image” style=“width: 700px”;>

What you see below is a small preview hackathon training content we’ll be covering at VMworld. There’s sample code, rough overviews of what’s being accomplished, and enough content to get someone started building not just Flask from scratch, but Alexa Skills, and integrating ClarityUI as well.

It’s a pretty lofty goal; but I’m up for the challenge. The intent of the GitHub repository is for people who

  • Want to skip ahead and dive in (already have knowledge of Flask, Echo, etc…)
  • Couldn’t attend VMworld
  • Are going to VMworld Europe and want to experience the content

For the training environment, we’ll actually walk through all of this content live during the class. It’ll be fun; because ultimately we will fail at some point. We’ll forget code, we’ll need to Google. We’ll need to troubleshoot. We’ll get crazy and want to try something new. Someone will shout out a suggestion in the crowd and we’ll decide to try and tackle it.

Fun side note; I recently discovered (see below)

Echosim is going to hopefully give us a pretty slick way to test our skills in a browser while we’re developing. That said; it’s going to be noisy in there. Time will tell how well this plays out :).

What’s the ultimate goal of this training? To teach our users how easy it is to interact with VMware’s API’s in creative ways. with Amazon Echo’s and Google Home’s growing in popularity, we’re all barely scratching the surface of what’s possible and what can be done. Some things make sense for voice, others don’t. My Hackathon team (“The Humble Brackets”; a Play on mine and Steven Carnes blog names) will tackle some of this. That’s a blog for another time though :) Can’t spoil all the surprises. What I will talk about more though is extending the Echo integrations…in my Session on Thursday!

VMTN6653U - Furthering Amazon Echo and VMware Integration

<img src="/images/2017-09-16-my-vmworld-2017-sessions/session-2.PNG#center" alt=“session 2” style=“width: 700px”;>

I’m going to keep this one a bit close to my chest; because the content is strongly influenced by what my Hackathon team will be attacking during the competition, and no one likes the main event spoiled!

In this session, I’m going to dig into how we can interface with platforms like NSX and vRealize Automation to actually leverage voice commands in a relevant and helpful way. We’ll also dive into some more advanced concepts for Natural Language Processing.

  • How can we perform actions interacting with systems where we can’t say their name easily?
  • How can we handle 2-way dialogue?
  • How can we start building some level of intelligence and decision making with Alexa?

These are the kind of questions we’ll tackle in some interesting ways. It’s going to be a blast! Stay tuned!

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