Last week I had the pleasure to interview Rod Trent (@rodtrent) of myITforum.com.


JK: How did myITforum get started?

RT: It’s an interesting story of course.  I’ve lived long enough to understand that the best things in life are those that are unintended.  Back in the 90s, Microsoft SMS (Systems Management Center) 1.x was released.  At that time it was like shareware (remember that?), the product was not that great.  Back at that time I worked at one of the big 5 accounting firms.  In the 90s the economy was similar as it is today, and the company I worked for was laying off people, especially IT support.  At that time, IT admins were considered glorified secretaries instead of a the professional position it is today and we were down to two people supporting nearly 500 folks.  So, we invested time to figure out how we were going to do more with less.  We figured out we could use this product (SMS) to solve a lot of problems-all with just two people.  At that point, I got systems mgmt.  A light bulb went off.  SMS was a crappy product back then and when I found a work around to do something, I would post my tips and tricks on the web.  That proved to be valuable, and I found that other people were in the same situation I was.  Remember, this was at a time when AOL was the internet so there were not a lot of resources out there.  The site became popular and grew.  At some point we decided to make it official and branded it myITforum in 2001.


Initially we just supported SMS, then Microsoft acquired a monitoring product from NetIQ and now there are a slew of other systems management products that are now offered as a suite in Systems Center.  Over the years, the product  has improved but it needs a lot of support because it is so feature rich.


Over the last 3 to 4 years Microsoft has seen significant growth in its Systems Center customer base.  As System Center has grown, myITforum has grown, as a supporting community.  In addition to supporting Systems Center, we see myITforum growing into a community that is focused on all things systems management (mobile devices, servers, workstations, etc.) – regardless of whether a company is using scripts, Microsoft tools or other tools like Altiris, now owned by Symantec.


JK:  At what point did you start managing myITforum full time? How do you stay in tune/keep your tech credibility?

RT: About 2001.  I am now focused on community organization and community management.  I don’t have as much hands- on with the product today.  However, I have a more unique vantage point. We see issues come in, and we have some deep ties with Microsoft so we really know what is going on in the market.  We can track issues from minor to major, even bugs – and this is fed to Microsoft to improve their product.


I have a “command & control center” with 4 monitors, and at any time I am writing, researching, monitoring myITforum and other communities.  It’s important to folks that visit the community that they have up to date news and can be notified of serious systems management situations.


We also provide information on trends, like the cloud.  Most sysadmins cringe when they hear that word.  However, there is now value associated with it, something they can use.  So, myITforum’s job is to identify the value pieces of the cloud, translating concepts to actual things to pay attention to.


JK: With regard to the cloud - what should sysadmins be paying attention to?

RT:  The IT community needs to be wary – with reports in December about Netflix and Amazon.com being down - any technology that can be destroyed due to weather conditions or user error – you need to be realistic about it.  A lot of folks are promoting the cloud, this is the future - and it’s really here, but it can go down at the worst time possible.  The cloud has not yet evolved to having the reliability of what we are used to with on-premise networks.  You really need to have things in both places.  Don’t just go with a public cloud – have something that provides redundancy.  Be realistic and investigate what makes sense for the business. The cloud can be used backups or email, or supporting people who are working remotely.  Microsoft created the concept of the hybrid cloud which is a combination of on premise stuff and apps or infrastructure hosted by the cloud provider.  This is a good concept because it allows choice for security, availability and redundancy.  It allows IT folks to offload work that makes sense for their business.

JK: What are some of the trends or issues that you have seen with System Center 2012?

RT:  With any product, especially one as large as SCCM, you need to be prepared and plan.  System Center is a suite now with some integration but not 100%.  Orchestrator is used to tie these products together.  These products are extremely useful and powerful.  Any product that touches endpoints and critical services can be dangerous if you don’t use the product properly – not just System Center, but any product.  One example: there was an Australian bank last year that created a task sequence incorrectly and it reformatted all the hard drives in the organization


There is a lot of learning that goes with any new product or any new version of a product.  SCCM 2012 is a completely new model of endpoint management.  So those familiar with SCCM 2007 need training, but also even those already familiar with SCCM 2012 have to learn about SP1 because there are so many additions in the service pack.  One way to get up to speed quickly is of course the Microsoft Management Summit which is  coming the first part of April.  This is one of the best run conferences because it is so community driven.  This conference was actually started by myITforum back in the day before Microsoft took it over.  Service Pack 1 is coming out soon, and one of the best ways to learn about it is to attend MMS 2013.  Training is a main focus of the conference this year.  You can spend thousands of dollars and weeks of classroom training for your organization or you can go to MMS for a single week for just $2-3,000.


Stop by myITforum’s booth at MMS, and get in on the twitter army and meet and geek fun.




Other recent blogger profiles:

Ryan Adzima, The Techvangelist

Bill Brenner, Salted Hash

Tom Hollingsworth , The Networking Nerd

Scott Lowe, blog.scottlowe.org

Ivan Pepelnjak, ipSpace

Matt Simmons, Standalone SysAdmin