Check out the Q&A to not only get to know Scott a little better, but also hear his thoughts on everything from SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM) to the impact of major trends such as IT convergence and SDN.
SW: So Scott, tell us about yourself.
SM: Well, I’m a network engineer in the public sector. I manage the networks for a small data center and 50 sites. We have public Wi-Fi at all of our locations and that has been a focus of my organization’s services for the last few years. It’s been a good excuse to dive into Wi-Fi more deeply, which I think is my favorite technology to study and work with right now. That said, I started my career as a system administrator and did that for a long time; sometimes I’m also still called on to wear my SysAdmin hat.
SW: How’d you get involved with IT in the first place?
SM: My mother has been training people to use computers for most of her career, so we always had computers in the house. The first computer we had was a TRS-80 Model 1 with a tape drive. It even had the 16KB RAM upgrade! My father is also very technical and has worked with RF and two-way radio communications systems for most of his career. I like that with my Wi-Fi work, I’m sort of combining knowledge I picked up from both parents. All my friends through school were geeks, so obviously we were always playing with computers. In college, it was natural to get a job in the computer lab. I guess it was really just a natural progression for me to end up in IT.
SW: So as a seasoned IT pro with a passion for tech literally flowing through your veins, what are some of the tools you can’t live without?
SM: I have three favorites that pop into mind right away. First is my MacBook, because I really think having a Mac as my primary platform makes me more efficient for the kind of work I’m doing. My favorite hardware is the Fluke OneTouch AT because it can do in-line packet capture with PoE. I’ve found that to be really useful for troubleshooting. It also has some nice features for testing Wi-Fi and wired connections. My current favorite bit of software is Ekahau Site Survey. I’ve been doing a lot of predictive site surveys and it’s really a pleasure to use.
Speaking of things that are a pleasure to use, I like the ease of use of SolarWinds NPM and we use it as our primary monitoring tool. We’ve tried a number of other specialized products for monitoring various components of our IT infrastructure, but we almost always end up adding another SolarWinds product to the underlying backbone platform. SolarWinds just does what we really need without the management overhead.
SW: That fantastic! We’re thrilled to have you as a fan. Diverging from IT for moment, what about when you’re not in front of a computer…what are some of your other interests?
SM: My wife and I are big fans of NASCAR, so following the races is one our favorite things. We also enjoy geocaching, which often results in camping and/or hiking. The kids are sometimes less into the hiking bit, but we’ve found going for a geocache turns it into an adventure. It’s a good excuse to get outside and away from the computers!
SW: I guess that brings us to Mostly Networks. How did it come about?
SM: I had thought about blogging for a while, but didn’t think I had anything to add. I finally started Mostly Networks after becoming involved in the network engineering community on Twitter. Many of the others there were blogging and encouraging others to do so as well. It seemed like a good way to give back to the community that I had found helpful. With that in mind, I most enjoy writing about the things I’ve been working on at the office, and the most rewarding posts are those where I solved a problem for myself and it ended up being useful to others.
SW: Outside of Mostly Networks, what other blogs or sites do you keep up with?
SM: Since I’ve been doing a lot of wireless work, WirelessLAN Professionals and No Strings Attached Show are a couple I follow closely. Packet Pushers is a site every network engineer should be following. I also enjoy Tom Hollingsworth’s posts at Networking Nerd.
SW: OK, time to put on your philosopher’s hat for our last question. What are the most significant trends you’re seeing right now and what are the implications for IT as a whole?
SM: The breaking down of silos due to the convergence of, well, everything is huge. The system, network and storage teams really need to start communicating. If yours haven’t already, your organization is behind. IT workers who are in their own silos need to start branching out to have at least some familiarity with the other infrastructure components. The days of being a pure specialist are going away and we will all be expected to be generalists with specialties.
Specifically in the networking space, SDN is picking up steam and looks to be the driver that will get networking to the same level of automation that the system teams already have. Networking has always been slow to automate, for a variety of both good and bad reasons, but automation is coming and we will all be better off for it!