Mike is a VMware vExpert who writes, instructs and otherwise communicates about virtualization.
Get to know Mike:
1) How did you get started in IT?
- When I was 21 I became a teacher – just for a year. Teaching English in a UK school. I hated it. What's more the kids hated me. So I quit, and went back to live with my parents, whilst I figured out what to do with my pathetic excuse for an existence.
- The week after I got home, the local University sent me a magazine for Graduates. I opened the first page – and there was an ad looking for Graduates to teach computers to newbies. It was the early 90's and folks were getting Windows 3.x and people were learning "What is a Wordprocessor?" and "What is a spreadsheet?".
- I'd done a little bit of computer stuff at home. My first computer was a Sinclair ZX Spectrum in the 80s. But I hadn't really kept with it. I sold the computer for record player and guitar – and had discovered alcohol and girls (in that order… for some reason I've always had a better relationship with drink than women. Go figure…). At University the most I'd done was typed up essays using Word for DOS. During teacher training I'd been lumbered with the "IT and English" part of the curriculum mainly I was the only member of staff without grey hair. So really what I knew about computers could have easily fitted on postage stamp.
- So I blagged my way through the interview and the train-the-trainer programme. The rest, as they say is history. I progressed from applications onto networks (Novell Knitware 3.11 and Microsoft Windose NT 4.) Bit later on I got into Citrix MetaFrame. By 2001 then I'd been made redundant and started my own training and consultancy company. By 2003 I was bored with Citrix whose star was already declining….
2) How long have you been using VMware products and which VMware products do you have deployed?
- So Back in 2003 I was bored. For while I looked at learning Linux. But that seems more of the same stuff I'd been doing, just a different OS. This VMware thing caught my eye. I'd been using Workstation in my classes for a while, but hadn't considered it as enterprise product until I saw ESX 2.0 and VirtualCenter 1.0. VMotion blew my socks off and I spent most 2004 learning the product desperately trying to make it into the VMware Certified Instructor (VCI) programme which at the time was only open to big education businesses (HP Ed, IBM Ed) or folks in the channel (Margius, DNS Arrow etc). In the end I got lucky when a student introduced me to the EMEA Manager of Education at VMware. They were desperate for freelancers like me – as the channel couldn't keep up with demand.
- So I eventually got myself into the programme. By then I was very active on the community forums, and had been writing my own personal guides as memory aid. One day I decided to put them online for free, in the hope that other people would find them useful.
- By the end of the week my ISP had stopped my website because of excessive downloads. I should have really charged $10 a download!!!
3) What need were you looking to address with virtualization and why did you chose VMware?
- From a career perspective I was looking for the "next big thing". I've built a career like a lot of folks of knowing just when to leave an existing area of specialism, and take on a new one. For me, VMware has utterly transformed both my career and my day to day IT life. I'm one that still remembers installing Windows by hand, and having to use tools like Ghost to keep images of different lab setups and configurations – now all that lives in VMs which are just a bunch of files. With a click of a mouse I can copy, clone and migrate. The great thing about VMware technology is how second-nature all this becomes. But I try to remember the first time I saw vMotion in 2003/4. Literally my mouth fell open with amazement. Then a big stupid grin came across my face. This thing is going be massive, and I'm getting at the ground floor. Such opportunities I believe come around once or twice in a IT guys career.
4) What is the one VMware feature that you couldn't live without?
- That's really difficult to say because I've got enterprise licensing in my environment every feature seems important to me. But I think it would have to be VMware HA. It's saved my bacon a number of times especially since everything I do is virtual. I've been 100% virtualised since 2004 because necessity is the mother invention. That means all my infrastructure VMs – domain controllers, vCenter DB and SQL are virtual – even my remote access. So if something has gone horribly wrong usually HA has allowed me to recover access to my environment. Without I would have 30min journey there and back to my collocation facility, and I have better things to do with my time than be stuck in a traffic jam…
5) What's the coolest thing that you've done with your VMware environment?
- Nested ESX and Virtual Storage Appliance. I've run ESX inside a VM on an ESX host which in turns runs a VM. Since 2008, I've used virtual appliance that run on an ESX host, to present shared storage to it and all the other hosts. I know this sounds a little nuts but what I think is cool about this is – firstly, its rock solid and a testament to to stability and reliability of the vSphere platform. Secondly, it just shows how well separated the layers are in the platform that you can do this crazy stuff and it still works. Were not talking product here, of course – just me playing in sandbox to see what can be done. I have theory. What can be done today, will be probably a new product in 2 years time…
6) How has VMware helped you become an IT Rockstar in your organization?
- I guess my position in the community as an author, blogger, podcaster and public speaker at VMUGs – simply wouldn't exist without VMware success. The rapid growth in the company in recent years lit a rocket under my own personal star. I'm humble enough to think it isn't all down to my native genius!
7) What's one piece of advice that you would give someone starting down the virtualization road?
- Get a home lab. The vCommunity is vibrant bunch of people, and the entry is a low one because we are very welcoming bunch of folks. What will help some one new to virtualization is having a home lab (and it doesn't have to cost the earth). It empowers you to learn new stuff, and do things you would perhaps be more cautious about at work – such as crashing an ESX host in a HA Cluster to see what happens!
8) What is next for your VMware deployment?
- I'm not really sure, as my current situation is open to change right now. At the moment I'm working on finishing a book on View 5.1 and ThinApp 4.7. Like many of my books its not for profit, and all the royalties generated will be donated to UNICEF. After that I might start work on my project called "Hotel California" its book where each chapter is about a different Vmware Technology, and each other chapter concerns the fictional adventures of IT guy/Reluctant Dectective called "Luke Maverick". Do you see what I did there? The idea is get to grips with vast swath of different Vmware Technologies from vCloud Director to vCOPs and learn more about them – whilst hopefully entertaining my readers with a tale of murder in the datacenter…
9) How has VMware changed your typical IT day?
- Sorry I can't think of decent answer to this question.
10) What is your best IT Hero quote of the day?
- My favourite quote is from Alexander Pope's "Essay on Criticism". He was a poet in England in the 1700's. The line is this "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing".
- If not that, then I Homer Simpson mug that sits on my desk which states "Everytime I learn something new, it pushes old stuff out of my brain".
Click here to learn about Mike as a vExpert.