Geek Speak

11 Posts authored by: aaronrsearle


A quick Google image search of Christopher Kusek will show you the most important thing you need to know about him: He’s yet to find a set of fake ears he doesn’t look great in! Of course, you might also be able to discern a few other arguably less impressive things about him: CISSP, vExpert, VCP, BDA, EMCTA, EMCCA, CCNP, CCNA, MCSE, MCTS, MCITP, NCIE, NCSA, NACE, SCP.


He’s also the proud owner of, which is why he’s the focus of this month’s IT blogger spotlight. And in case you’re one of the two people left on the Internet not yet following him on Twitter, where he goes by @cxi, you should be!


Read on to learn a little more about Christopher, including his affinity for unique headwear, what it’s like to be an IT pro in the middle of Afghanistan and his thoughts on the most significant trends in IT right now, including SDS, SDN and more.


Also, if you have your own questions for Christopher, feel free to leave a comment.


SW: OK, so I’ve got to ask, what’s up with the fake ears?


CK: There’s a whole other backstory to that, but this section would end up being far too long if I were to tell it, so I’ll stick to the one that most closely relates to the images you see in the aforementioned Google image search. It all began in May 2011 when I was hosting a party in Las Vegas for EMC World. The invitation page for the event had a section requesting a “Logo Image.” I sat there thinking to myself, “Doh, what would be a good image?” So, I scoured through my hard drive and found some pictures I thought were just ridiculous enough. They happened to be of me wearing cat ears. You see, when I was writing my first VMware book back in 2011, I would go to a Starbucks on North Avenue in downtown Chicago and just sit there pegging away at the pages and chapters. I thought, what better way to both get my work done and bring joy to people who would pass through over the course of the hours I’d sit working there than by wearing some cat ears. I mean, everyone loves cats, right?! Eventually the whole idea evolved into brainwave controlled cat ears.


SW: Brainwave controlled cat ears, huh? I don’t think there’s enough space here to cover such an in-depth and socially important topic. So, let’s talk about PKGuild. What are you writing about over there?


CK: For the most part I tend to write about things that I’m either really passionate about—something that solves a problem, is just absolutely awesome or will benefit other people. It turns out that a lot of the time that tends to fall into the realms of virtualization, storage, security, cloud, certification, education and things that broach realms of Innovation. I’m not limited exclusively to writing about those subjects, but a majority of the stuff I write about tends to cross those spectrums.


SW: OK, shifting gears again—outside of the blog, how do you pay the bills?


CK: I just recently returned from a two year stint in Afghanistan and am now in a new role as CTO at Xiologix, an IT solutions provider headquartered in Portland. I’m responsible for the technical direction and engineering of the business and for helping customers solve complex technology and IT problems.


SW: What was the two year stint in Afghanistan all about?


CK: I was the senior technical director for datacenter, storage and virtualization for Combined Joint Operations-Afghanistan. Honestly—and this is something covered at length in various blog posts I’ve written—it was a unique opportunity to do something I enjoy and that I do very well as a way of serving my country. While I may not be able to pick up a gun or run down a group of insurgents, I was able to build some of the most comprehensive, resilient and versatile networks in the world, and help lead others to achieve those same results.


SW: So, what was it like being an IT pro in the middle of a warzone?


CK: The first thought that comes to mind is, “It sucked!” Because, quite frankly, it did. I mean the living accommodations and food were horrible, there was risk at every avenue and the chances for you to be hurt, maimed or worse were all very real. But let’s consider the facts, I didn’t go there because I was expecting there to be good food, living quarters or for it to be relatively safe. Once you get past all that and realize you have a job to do, it was pretty much just that. Go in and try to make everything and anything you do better than you found it, and better for the person who comes after you. I found lots of decisions were made on 6, 9 or 12 month “plans,” as in someone rotated in and would be there for a certain duration and would “do stuff,” whether right or wrong, and then rotate out. This was true whether it came to licensing software, attempting to procure something to solve a problem or maintaining operational environments for an enduring environment that had been there for 10 years prior to them and would continue to be there long after they were gone. This differs greatly from how corporations or nearly any other mission critical environment is run.


SW: Based on your impressive collection of certifications, which includes SolarWinds Certified Professional, I‘m guessing this whole IT gig isn’t new to you.


CK: Not exactly, no. I’ve been working in IT for over 20 years. Back in the early 1990s, I was a security researcher. During that time, I would also build and simulate large corporate networks—yes, for fun…and to assist friends who worked at consulting companies. After I returned from a memory buying trip to Japan in 1996 to support my home labs, I decided to get a job at a consultancy in the Chicagoland area, where I went on to work for 13 years before moving onto the vendor life at NetApp and EMC.


SW: OK, so when you’re not working or blogging—or keeping our armed forces digital backbone up and running—what are some of your hobbies?


CK: When I’m not working or blogging, I’m usually working or blogging! But seriously, I enjoy reading. I even write a book on occasion. I spend a lot of time with my family, and as a vegan foodie I also enjoy discovering new food options. I also enjoy the occasional trip to Las Vegas because I love applying the principle of chaos theory to games of chance. Being that I now live in the Pacific Northwest, I also look forward to the opportunity to get out and explore nature. Finally, I really enjoy getting out there in the community, working with others and helping them grow themselves and their careers, whether that be through mentorship, presenting at conferences and user groups or other kinds of involvement and engagement.


SW: OK, for my last question, I want you to really put your thinking cap on—what are the most significant trends you’re seeing in the IT industry?


CK: With the maturity and wide scale adoption of virtualization, there are related changes happening in the IT landscape that we’re only beginning to realize the benefits of. This includes software defined storage and software defined networking. SDS and SDN provide such potential benefits that the market hasn’t been ready for them up until this point, but eventually we’ll get there. Cloud is another, though the term is so often repeated, it really isn’t worth talking about outside of the further extension of internal datacenters into public-side datacenters with hybrid cloud services. Lastly, the further commoditization of flash Storage, which is driving prices down significantly, is increasingly making “speeds and feeds” a problem of the past; in turn making the value of data far exceed the speed of data access on disk.

24ff678.jpgThis month’s installment of our IT blogger spotlight series shines on Scott McDermott, who runs Mostly Networks. Scott can also be followed on Twitter, where he goes by @scottm32768.


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!



Last month, we shined our IT blogger spotlight on Michael Stump, who was one of the delegates at the recent Tech Field Day Extra at VMworld. This month, I figured why not keep it up? So, I tracked down the renowned Mr. Ethan Banks (@ecbanks), who also participated in the event. Without further ado, here’s what he had to say.


SW: First of all, it seems like I see your name just about everywhere. When it comes to blogging, where do you call home, so to speak?


EB: I blog in several places these days. My personal hub site is Ethan Banks on Networking, which is devoted to networking and closely related topics. I also write many of the blog posts that accompany the podcast I co-host over at Packet Pushers, a media company that discusses the networking industry with engineers and architects from around the globe. On top of that, I blog roughly once a month or so for Network Computing. Somewhat less frequently, an article of mine will be published by Network World or one of the TechTarget sites. If you poke around, you can find a few other places my writing has appeared as well, including here on thwack.


SW: Wow! It sounds like you’re staying busy. And someplace in there I’m sure you find time for a day job, and not to mention a hobby or two, I hope.


EB: I have two day jobs, actually. I’m lucky enough that the one is my blogging. I’m known to many in the networking industry as a writer, podcaster, and co-founder of Packet Pushers. In addition, I’m also the senior network architect for Carenection. Carenection is a technology company that connects medical facilities to medical services such as real-time, video-over-IP language translation via our ever-expanding network covering the US.


As far as hobbies go, I enjoy backpacking in the wilderness very much. I do my best to get out on the trails three or four times a month and stomp out some scenic miles in the mountains. I’m lucky enough to live in New Hampshire where there is a great outdoor culture and rich heritage of trails—over 1,400 miles of them in the White Mountain National Forest. My goal is to hike all of those miles. I’ve bagged over 22 percent so far!

SW: It’s fantastic that you’re able to count your writing and podcast efforts as a day job. How did that all get started?


EB: I started blogging in January 2007 when I committed to Cisco’s notoriously difficult CCIE program. Blogging was part of my study process. I’d read or lab, then blog about the important information I was learning. Blogging forced me to take the information in, understand it and then write it down in a way that someone else could understand it.


SW: And I guess it just grew from there. What are some of your most popular topics?


EB: The most popular post I’ve written this year was about my home virtualization lab. The post described in detail my choice of server and network gear, and offered pictures and links so that folks could jump off of my experience to explore their own server builds. Reddit found the article early on and has continued to drive an incredible amount of interest months later.


Other popular articles are related to career. People like to know what the future might hold for them in the networking space, which has been changing rapidly in recently years.


Yet other popular articles are “how to” explanations of common technical tasks. For example, I've spent some time with Juniper network devices running Junos, which are very different to configure than Cisco devices running IOS or NX-OS. These articles do well simply because of SEO—people with the same pain point I had find my article via Google, and can use it to help them with their configuration tasks.


SW: In between it all, are there any other bloggers you find the time to follow?


EB: There are far too many to name, to be fair. I subscribe to several dozen blogs, and usually spend the first 60-90 minutes of my day reading new content. A few that are worth Googling are Etherealmind (broad, insightful networking perspectives by my friend and podcast co-host Greg Ferro), the CloudFlare blog (these guys are doing some amazing things and describe how they push the envelope), Keeping It Classless (my friend Matt Oswalt is on the cutting edge of networking and writes outstanding content), Network Heresy (a blog by some folks working in the networking industry and thinking outside the box), and The Borg Queen (networking perspectives from Lisa Caywood, of one of the most interesting people in IT I know).


SW: So, we talked about how you got started with blogging, but how did a life in IT begin for you?


EB: In a sense, I got into IT out of desperation. I have a CS degree that was focused on programming, but my early jobs out of college were not doing development work. Instead, I spent a year as a school teacher and a year in banking. After a cross-country move to be closer to family, I couldn't find a job in banking in the area I'd moved to. At that time, the banking industry was consolidating, and getting work was very hard. So, I took out a loan and enrolled in a school that taught official Novell Netware training. I quickly became a Certified Netware 3 Administrator, landed a contract supporting a company in my area, and never looked back.


SW: Being an IT management company, I of course always like to ask guys like you who’ve been in IT for a good while about what tools they can’t live without. What are some of yours?


EB: Any tool that can track historical routing table topology information is a favorite of mine. I’m sometimes called on to find out what changed in the middle of the night that caused that 10 second blip. That’s impossible to do without the right tool. Packet Design’s Route Explorer, a product I admittedly haven’t used in a few years as I’ve changed jobs, is such a tool that knows exactly the state of the network, and could rewind to any historical point in time. Fabulous tool.


Over the years, I’ve also used SolarWinds NPM, NTA, NCM, VNQM, Kiwi CatTools, and the Engineer’s Toolset. I’ve also spent time with SAM and UDT. My favorites have to be the tools that let me get at any sort of SNMP OID I want. So, NPM is the SolarWinds tool I’ve spent the most time with and gotten the most from, including NPM’s Universal Device Poller feature and Network Atlas. Along the same lines, the Engineer’s Toolkit is a great resource. I’ve saved myself lots of time with the Switchport Mapper and also caught bandwidth events in action using the real-time gauges. These are simple tools, but reliably useful and practical.


SW: To finish us off, tell me a few of the things you’re seeing happen in the industry that will impact the future of IT.


EB: There are three trends that I think are key for IT professionals to watch over the next several years.


First, hyperconvergence. Entrants like VMware’s EVO:RAIL are joining the fray with the likes of upstarts Nutanix and Simplivity, and with good reason. The promise of an easy-to-deploy, fully integrated IT platform is resonating well with enterprises. Hyperconvergence makes a lot of sense, obscuring many of the details of complex IT infrastructure, making it easier to deliver applications to an organization.


Second, automation. Configuring IT systems by hand has been on the way out for a long time now, with networking finally heading into the automated realm. Automation is pushing IT pros to learn scripting, scheduling, APIs, and orchestration. The trick here is that automation is bringing together IT silos so that all engineers from all IT disciplines work together to build unified systems. This is not the way most IT has been building systems, but it appears to be the standard way all IT systems will be built in the coming years.


Finally, the move from public to private cloud. There’s been lots of noise about organizations moving their internal IT resources out to the public cloud, right? But another trend that's starting to show some legs is the move back. Issues of cost and security in the public cloud are causing organizations to take a second look at building their own private clouds instead of outsourcing entire IT applications. This bodes well for IT folks employed by enterprises, but also means that they need to skill up. Building a private cloud is a different sort of infrastructure than the traditional rack and stack enterprise.


Michael Stump of #eager0 was recently one of the distinguished Tech Field Day Extra at VMworld delegates we had the pleasure of presenting to. Following the event, I got to thinking we should get to know him a little bit better. And what better way to do that than through our IT Blogger Spotlight series.


SW: What got you started in the blogosphere?


MS: I started my blog in January 2013 because I had some downtime between projects, and I wanted to share some things with the Internet. I’d had the name of the blog in my mind for a few months, so one day I just registered the name and ran with it. I wish it was a more exciting story, but it isn't.


SW: Speaking of the name…


MS: So, the virt and storage geeks will recognize the name as a reference to thick provisioning strategies within vSphere. But it’s also a nod to my storied career as an ambitious underachiever.


SW: Oh, come on! From what I've seen, you’re anything but an “ambitious underachiever.” Tell us more about the blog.


MS: Well, as for what I enjoy writing about: anything. I've learned that I’m much more interested in writing than in writing about any particular topic. I initially tagged my blog as “Data Center Virtualization with VMware.” But that was back when I was hell-bent on breaking into the VMware community online. Over time, I realized that I had inadvertently limited the types of posts I could write. So, I dropped the tagline. That’s why you’ll see me post all kinds of stuff now: vSphere vSS options, Volvo s40 repair, various Minecraft-related posts and yes, technology in general.


Far and away, my most popular post is a summary of a VMware event in DC last year. Scott Lowe was talking about NSX. But I really think that a web crawler just gamed the page views on that post. Second on the list is a how-to I wrote last year about installing VMTools on a Fedora 17 VM (not as easy as it sounds!). And third is a post I wrote about moving Exchange 2010 transaction logs, but please don’t tell anyone I’m an Exchange engineer; I’d like to never deal with that application again. Ever.


SW: Got it! From now on, in my book you shall be known as Michael Stump: the anti-Exchange engineer. So, that’s #eager0 in a nutshell. Where else can people follow your musings?


MS: I’m a regular on Thwack, where you can find me as Michael Stump. I’m also on Twitter as @_stump.


SW: Are there any other blogs you follow?


MS: Like most virt people, I read Duncan Epping’s blog and Frank Denneman’s blog frequently. Not just because they’re well respected, but because the writing and overall presentation of information is so clean. Chris Wahl’s blog is great, too, because he’s got a style that is immediately identifiable. I’m a fan of good writing, and of bloggers who convey technical information in a concise, original manner. Finally, my good friend Oliver Gray’s blog has nothing to do with technology, but it’s so satisfying to read, and the photography is so good, that it’s worth the mental break. He’s another writer whose style I admire as much as his content.


SW: What keeps you busy during the work week?

I own an IT consulting business, and I’m currently working at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland.


SW: OK. So, how’d you get your start in IT?


MS: Same old story: I had a Radio Shack Tandy as a kid, then an Apple Performa 6300 and then connected to the Internet to join The Well with the rest of the dorks in the early 1990s. I don’t want to know what kind of phone bill my high school had to pay as the result of me spending my lunch breaks on the modem in their library! But professionally, I got my first job in IT when I was a technical writer for a software company in Falls Church, Virginia. The network admin quit to spend more time surfing. So, I moved into his office, called myself the network admin and no one ever kicked me out. Fourteen years later, here I am.


SW: After 14 years in IT, what tools can’t you live without?


MS: I can’t function without Nmap. And give me an Ubuntu VM so I can use grep and vi and I can do pretty much anything. Admittedly, I've been a fan and user of SolarWinds tools my entire career, but it seems a bit silly to gush about that here. Suffice to say that I've left many SolarWinds deployments in the places I've worked. I might even get the chance to build another one at my current site. Stay tuned.


SW: Very nice! And what are the most significant trends you’re seeing in the IT industry?


MS: Hyper-convergence has been simmering for years, and VMware’s EVO:Rail announcement at VMworld this year validated what companies like Nutanix and SimpliVity have been doing for a while now: collapsing technology silos for the purposes of simplifying and improving IT. I even wrote a post for thwack earlier this year about the rise of the hybrid engineer, which complements this shift in infrastructure from discreet resources to hyper-converged systems.


SW: Interesting. So, last question for you: What do you do when you’re not working or blogging?


Lots of video games with my kids, lots of bad piano and guitar playing and lots of Netflix with my wife. Oh, and I often wander around the yard taking photos of bugs: Yeah, I’m that guy.


SW: Awesome! Well, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. It’s been fun.

09-03-49.pngThis month, we’ve shined our IT Blogger Spotlight on Larry Smith, who runs the Everything Should Be Virtual blog and tweets as @mrlesmithjr. As usual, we’ve asked some deeply philosophical questions about everything from the nature of truth to the meaning of life. OK, maybe not, but we still had fun chatting with Larry. Check it out below!


SW: Let’s mix things up a bit this month and first talk about you before we get to Everything Should Be Virtual. Who is Larry Smith?


LS: Well, I’m currently a senior virtualization engineer for a major antivirus company, but prior to that I worked for a major retail company that specialized in children’s clothing. Overall, I’ve been in IT 19 plus years, though. I’ve done everything from network administration to systems engineering. And when I’m not working or blogging—which is extremely rare, it seems—I most enjoy spending time with my family.


SW: Wow, 19 years in IT! That’s some staying power. How did it all begin?


LS: I started programming when I was about 12 years old on a TRS-80 back in the early 1980’s. I always knew I wanted to be in the computer field because it came very natural for me. However, I decided after attending college for a while that programming was not for me! So, I started getting more involved with networking, servers and storage. And then I got into x86 virtualization in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.


SW: With such an illustrious career, surely you’ve come to hold some tools of the trade in higher esteem than others. Any favorites?


LS: Really, my favorite tools are anything automation-related. I also enjoy writing scripts to automate tasks that are repeatable, so I am learning PowerCLI. Anything Linux-based as far as shell scripting. I also really enjoy finding new open source projects that I feel I can leverage in the virtualization arena.


SW: OK, switching gears now, tell me about Everything Should Be Virtual. Judging by the name, I’m guessing it kind of sometimes touches ever-so-lightly on virtualization.


LS: You guessed it. is, of course, focused on why everything should be virtual! This could be about an actual hypervisor, storage, networking or any type of application stack that can leverage a virtual infrastructure. I enjoy learning and then writing about new virtualization technologies, but also I really enjoy metrics. So, I spend a lot of time writing on performance data and logging data. And again, with the main focus in all this being around virtualization. I spend a great deal of time using Linux—Windows, too—but what I find is that it is extremely difficult to find a good Linux post that is complete from beginning to end. So, my goal when writing about Linux is to provide a good article from beginning to end, but also to create shell scripts that others can utilize to get a solution up and running with very minimal effort. I do this because I want something that is repeatable and consistent while also understanding that others may not necessarily want to go through some of the pain points on getting a Linux solution up and running.


SW: How long has it been around now?


LS: I started it in 2012, so a couple years. I got started with blogging as a way to keep notes and brain dump day to day activities that I encountered, especially if they revolved around something that was out of the norm. The more I blogged, the more I realized how beneficial some of the posts were to others as well. This, of course, inspired me to write even more. I’ve always had a passion for learning at least one new technology per week, and the blog allows me to share with others what I’m learning in hopes of helping someone else.


SW: Any specific posts stick out as ones that proved most helpful or popular?


LS: Yeah, some of my most popular posts are around metrics and logging—Cacti, Graylog2 and the ELK (Elasticsearch Logstash Kibana) stack. While these are typically the most popular, there are probably as many hypervisor-based articles that are really popular as well. I think this shows the value you can provide to the community as a blogger.


SW: As per the norm, let’s finish things off with your perspective on the most significant trend or trends in IT that have been on your mind lately.


LS: One of the major trends that’s still fairly new and will be a real game changer is software defined networking (SDN). I have the luxury right now of learning VMware NSX in a production environment from the ground up, so I am extremely excited about this development. This area is really going to set the stage for so much more to come in the future. Obviously, another area that I have enjoyed watching take shape is around storage. The idea of getting away from expensive shared SAN arrays makes a lot of sense in so many ways. Being able to scale compute and storage as your requirements change is huge. Instead of just rolling in an expensive SAN array and then having to pay very expensive scaling costs in the future, you can scale in smaller chunks at a more reasonable cost, which also provides more compute resources. Here’s a link to explain a bit more around using VSA's or VSAN I wrote up a few months back.

philip sellers-1.jpg

For this month’s IT Blogger Spotlight, we caught up with Philip Sellers of You can also find Philip on Twitter, where he goes by @pbsellers.


Here we go…


SWI: So Philip, how did this whole thing get started?


PS: I started blogging in 2008. I was inspired by other bloggers in the VMware community who were sharing a lot of great technical information—things that really helped me to learn and optimize my VMware environment. A co-worker pointed me to a couple blogs he’d been following and I started following them, too, and finding others for my RSS reader. I largely missed the mailing list and forum era of community collaboration, but these bloggers really were helping me in my daily job. I wanted to do the same for the community—sharing problems and solutions that I ran into on the job.


SWI: And from there was born? Tell me a little about it.


PS: My focus with Techazine is mostly enterprise IT and at that it’s mostly around VMware and Microsoft software solutions and HP hardware solutions. Those are the vendors I use daily and so I try to stick with what I know. I also write about management software around those ecosystems; things like PowerCLI and PowerShell, orchestration tools and monitoring tools. I enjoy writing about vSphere most of all as that’s where I have the deepest knowledge. I really believe in the vSphere platform and how it’s revolutionized our internal datacenter. I also enjoy writing about scripting and management solutions that make an admin’s life easier. And, although it’s not really enterprise, I do write a fair bit about Apple, including Macs and the iPhone and iPad.


SWI: So, vSphere is your favorite thing to write about. What tends to be your readers’ favorite posts?


PS: My most popular posts have been solutions to real-world issues. I tend to get the most comments and emails about those posts. They can range from optimization how-to’s to specific errors with fixes related to a product. I think these tend to be my most popular posts because they immediately help readers with something in their environment. I also seem to get a lot of traffic around my HP 3PAR storage posts. We’ve been early adopters of some of their technology and so I get to write about that.


It’s actually hard to predict what will be a popular post. Believe or or not, one of my all-time most popular posts is a review I did on the Redbox Instant streaming service when it launched. I think that one was lucky timing on my part; I just happened to post it when there was a lot of interest.


SWI: What takes up your time when you’re not blogging?


PS: I’m a full time systems administrator for a telephone cooperative in South Carolina. As a part of their internal IT team, our group is responsible for the infrastructure that the business operations run on—the servers, OS and middleware, networking and storage. I also get the chance to consult with our managed services team and help them design solutions for customers from time to time. I primarily focus on Windows servers and Microsoft applications and I'm the primary VMware administrator for the co-op.


My other full time gig is family. My wife and I have two young children, so most of our free time is spent chasing after them and going to their activities.


SWI: How did you get into IT in the first place?


PS: I guess my story started with a Tandy 1000. I started out at home with command line and DOS. As a student in high school, I really discovered my love for and aptitude with computers while helping teachers and fixing small problems on the school network—Netware, DOS and Windows 3.11.


At the same time, growing up on a farm, my dad taught me how to troubleshoot. Those troubleshooting skills I learned way back when are probably why I ended up as a systems administrator instead of a programmer or developer.


I then began working for a consulting company while taking classes in college and that was really my gateway into the industry. The consulting company gave me exposure to a lot of environments and software. I picked up a lot of skills during those first few years. It just seemed like a natural fit for me.


At the end of the day, I like solving problems and this field provides lots of opportunities to do that. Lots.


SWI: As an IT pro, what are your favorite tools of the trade?


PS: I really love PowerShell and PowerCLI. I’ve been busy over the last couple years rewriting a lot of our scripted processes in PowerShell and I’ve learned a lot. So, I’ve really gotten hooked on Quest's PowerGUI as my development environment for these scripts. I’m also a big fan of vCenter Orchestrator for setting up scheduled tasks to run in our vSphere environment.


There's a short list of apps that I can't live without. For example, NoteTab Light is my preferred text editor—excellent search and replace functionality—and Putty for SSH.


From Solarwinds, I don’t deal in CIDR often enough, so the Subnet Calculator is a go-to for me. I was also really impressed with Solarwinds Server and Application Monitor (SAM) when I saw it at a recent trade show.


SWI: OK, last question…what’s next for IT?


PS: Cloud is probably the biggest shift I see taking place in the IT industry right now and in the future. For many companies, cloud doesn’t fit yet. A lot of companies who’ve tested running in the cloud find that the lack of control and security are big sticking points. But it will mature and for companies that don’t have IT as a core competency, I think it’ll make more sense to move to Software as a Service for many of their functions. It won’t ever fully displace the datacenter—since legacy applications will have to run somewhere—but it will most likely shift a lot of IT employees around as the jobs move from private companies to cloud providers.


Cloud also has a lot of internal development shops thinking about architecture and how to get more resiliency and scale to applications. Scale-out used to just be for Facebook- and Google-sized companies, but now medium-sized companies and enterprises alike can benefit from investing in rewriting their applications with modern underpinnings.


Chris Wahl (@ChrisWahl) recently wrote a great product review of Virtualization Manager on his blog Wahl Network. It got me thinking that it would be nice to get to know him a little better. So, we tracked him down and got answers to a few questions for this month’s IT Blogger Spotlight. Enjoy!


SWI: So, tell us a little about Wahl Network.


CW: I use the tagline “Technical Solutions for Technical People” as a way to quickly sum up Wahl Network. As I stumble on things I think are interesting – such as new products, tips for a solution or ways to identify and overcome technical challenges – I write about them. Most of my experiences are drawn from maintaining and managing a home lab, working with clients as a technical architect and traveling the world to speak and engage with the IT community at events and conferences.


Posts that solve problems are my favorite to write. They feel like the purest form of giving back to the community, and I especially love it when someone comments to let me know that I either solved their problem or helped them figure it out.


I also run a rather popular segment on creating, buying and building home labs. A number of my resources address the food groups – servers, storage and networking – that can be used in a home lab environment. In my opinion, it’s gained so much traction because budgets are so tight and there are no right ways to build a home lab – as long as it works for you, it’s a great home lab! It’s also fun to have a totally safe segment of equipment to bang on that won’t result in taking down production, but also gives you the power to really understand how the various hardware and software bits fit together.


SWI: Nice. How did it all begin?


CW: I used to use a wiki-style site for recording my notes for various projects and workarounds at work. After several years of reading and finding very helpful tips and tricks on a number of blogs, I decided I’d do the same. I founded Wahl Network in 2010 with two goals: to record my thoughts around different challenges and solutions, and to make those same thoughts available on the Internet. I chose Wordpress because it was simple to use, popular on the Internet and eliminated my need to maintain the back-end such as backups, OS, etc.


SWI: OK. So, obviously your day job very much ties into the topics you blog about. What do you do for a living?


CW: After 13 years working on the customer side of operations – systems admin, IT manager and virtualization engineer – I finally went over to the consulting side of IT. My role as a senior solutions architect blends a variety of fun things into one job: I help clients elevate their operations and build efficient data centers, I get to educate IT folks on a variety of solutions that exist in the market and how they can take advantage of them and I get to create written and video content for our company blog.


I also own my own company, which is focused on creating content for the greater community. So, beyond my blog, I also create training courses and materials for Pluralsight, speak at various VMware User Groups, write for a number of technical publishers and co-host the Virtualization User Podcast as a Service (VUPaaS) with some great folks.


SWI: Very cool. How did you get into IT in the first place?


It’s more like IT got into me. I put my hands on an Apple computer at a very early age and never looked back. At first, I started playing games – like Choplifter, Burger Time and Lode Runner – and later I decided to learn how to write games in BASIC. As I grew older, I ended up co-hosting a BBS – we hosted VGA Planets – and doing some development work for my local grade school as a lab assistant. Once I finished my undergrad in network and communications management, the sky was the limit. I’ve always known that I wanted to work with technology and am extremely pleased at the amount of encouragement, support and guidance I received from my parents, spouse and mentors.


SWI: You mentioned your spouse, so that means you must have a life outside of IT and blogging, right? What are some of your non-IT hobbies?


CW: I prefer to completely unplug from the Internet for recreation. This typically means going skeet or trap shooting at one of the local clubs – I shoot a 12 gauge. I also enjoy working on various woodworking, plumbing or electrical projects around the house. There is something incredibly rewarding about seeing a room both as it is and as it can be, and then working with your hands to build something new and special.


SWI: Stepping back into the topic of IT for minute. What are the tools you find you use the most?


CW: Scripting is still my first love, so I tend to gravitate towards PowerShell by way of the ISE and an app called PowerGUI. I’m also a bit of a SQL gearhead, so I spend a fair amount of time in good ol’ SQL Management Studio. I’ve begun shifting my gaze towards open source projects. As of the past year or so I have been spending a much more time staring at GitHub – I run it on my PC – and IDLE for Python scripting. Other tools that I’ve really enjoyed working with include Onyx – VMware fling, Notepad++, SecureCRT for managing SSH sessions and keys and KeePass.


SWI: Given your expertise on both the admin and consulting sides combined with your industry blogger perspective, what do you think is next for IT?


CW: The need for IT specialists is beginning to erode, making room for a return to the IT generalist. Skillset requirements are evolving from hardware-centric to software-centric. With abstraction technologies taking care of a great deal of the complexity within a number of hardware products – especially storage – even large IT shops are no longer going to need to find a super deeply technical person to manage the gear on the floor. Instead, an IT generalist who knows a fair amount about storage, network and compute – servers – along with a healthy dash of scripting will be king.


As an example, I recently wrote about a company that sells hybrid flash storage arrays. There is no tuning, configuration or performance tweaks to apply. You buy, rack and setup the box. After that, it just works. This is a rather new trend in storage products, but it’s catching on even with the larger and more established vendors. The business wants to consume the resource immediately, not wait while IT fiddles around with making it work. This trend is driving the way vendors build products and businesses purchase and consume products. As such, the people that are needed in IT will have to be able to adapt. Change is hard, but overall I think this will result in a greater job satisfaction and less Sev1 calls in the middle of the night for IT!



Are you ready for another IT Blogger Spotlight? We sure are! This month, we managed to catch up with Brandon Carroll, who blogs over at Global Config and can be found on Twitter where he goes by @brandoncarroll. Here we go...


SWI: Brandon, Global Config is much more than a blog. How would you describe it in a nutshell?


BC: Global Config actually started out as just a blog when I was working on the CCIE Security lab exam. As time went by, though, and as I started doing training on my own I converted the blog into the frontend for my company, Global Config Technology Solutions, which is now a Cisco Learning Partner.


SWI: So then, what’s the Global Config blog all about these days?


BC: Well, I cover a number of different topics, primarily around network security and Cisco products. I also try to get some exposure to other vendors, too, though. For example, I do tutorial posts on how to do certain things with, for example, SolarWinds IP Address Manager and Engineer’s Toolset. Really, I only blog about products that I’m able to get my hands on and use personally. Still, since it’s my company, every now and then I sneak in a post about productivity and Mac, iPad and iPhone apps I think are particularly neat or handy.


SWI: So, you started blogging back when you were working the CCIE Security lab exam, but what are some of your favorite topics to blog about?


BC: Honestly, I just like to blog about whatever fascinates me. And I know that sounds weird, but sometimes I’m fascinated by a product and other times I’m fascinated by a concept or a topic that is covered in one of the courses I teach. Really, the most enjoyable things to write about are the topics that I come up with rather than the topics that somebody asks me to write about. That doesn’t mean that when my students ask me a question I don’t enjoy blogging the answer because I really do enjoy that as well. But there’s just something about taking a thought and putting it down in a blog post and then knowing that other people are reading it and finding value. That it might be helping them solve a problem.


SWI: Interesting. Do you find certain types of posts end up being more popular than others?


BC: Typically, my most popular posts are the tutorial posts. I also see quite a bit of interest in posts related to the Cisco ASA. Sometimes I’ll also do posts about great consumer products that end up being pretty popular. For example, last year I did a post about a D-Link product and using it for IPv6 connectivity. It ended up being one of my most popular posts.


SWI: So, how’d you get into IT in the first place?


BC: When I was 18 or 19, I was trying to become a firefighter. In fact, I joined the Air Force in hopes that I would become a firefighter. After I left the Air Force, however, I found it was very difficult to get a job in that line of work so I ended up working a number of odd jobs. During that time, I applied for a job at the phone company GTE and was hired as a field technician. As a field technician, not only did we install circuits for customers, but we also had laptops. When they would break, somebody had to fix them, and after some time that somebody ended up being me. I would spend part of my day fixing laptops for the other technicians that I worked with. From there, I transferred into a group called EPG, or the Enhanced Products Group, and it was there that I learned how frame-relay, frame relay switches and ATM switches worked, and I was also introduced to the world of Cisco routers and Cisco networking. That must've been right around 1998 or 1999.


SWI: Well, you’ve come a long way since then. As the experienced IT pro you are, what are some of your favorite tools?


BC: Oh, there are too many to list. It’s actually really hard to pick my favorites. One thing I tend to do is jump from tool to tool depending on what I’m trying to accomplish. I like SolarWinds Network Topology Mapper quite a bit because as a consultant I can quickly get a map of a customer’s network and compare it to what they tell me they have. I also like SecureCRT and ZOC6, which are terminal applications for the Mac. Of course, there’s NMap and Wireshark to name a few more.


SWI: OK, time for the tough question: What are the most significant trends you’re seeing in the IT industry right now and what’s to come?


Bc: Software Defined Networking. I think that a controller-based solution will ultimately be what everybody ends up using or at least how everybody implements their technology, and we’re going to see less and less of this hardcode configuration of data and control plans on individual devices. I think we’re also going to see a lot more virtualization. I don’t think we’re anywhere near being close to seeing the end of innovation there and I believe a lot of the newer products that we see in the virtual space are going to be security products. Overall, I think we are in a major transition right now, so being in IT or even starting out in IT at this point in time is going to be very interesting over the next couple years.


SWI: OK, last question: I’m sure running Global Config keeps you pretty busy, but what do like to do in your spare time?


BC: Well, I’m a family man and I like to do things with the kids, so when I’m not working or blogging we like to go camping and ride dirt bikes. We recently bought a truck and a fifth wheel trailer, so we’ve been visiting some local campgrounds. It’s an opportunity to disconnect the phones and teach my young ones what it’s like to play a board game for a couple hours. I don’t think people do that enough anymore.

John Herbert.jpg


We’re getting close to the end of the month, so that must mean it’s time for another installment of our ever-popular IT Blogger Spotlight series.


I recently caught up with John Herbert of LameJournal fame, who was kind enough to answer a few questions. In addition to following John’s exploits on LameJournal, you can keep up with him on Twitter, where he’s affectionately known as @mrtugs.


SWI: Tell me about LameJournal and how you got started with it.


JH: A while back I purchased with the intent of grabbing the freely available LiveJournal source code and running a spoof site, as if the site itself weren’t sufficiently self-derivative. I sat on the domain for at least five years and failed to do anything with it, mainly because it sounded like an awful lot of work just for a joke.


Then in April 2011, I went to a flash photography seminar and was so buzzed about the event I felt that I just had to share my enthusiasm, so I dusted off the domain, installed Wordpress and created my first post beyond the default “Hello World.”


That post was looking a bit lonely on its own, and somebody had been asking me to explain Cisco's Virtual Port Channel technology to them, so I put out a post on VPC the next day. Like somebody with a new toy, I then started taking things that were on my mind and turning them into posts, because hey, somebody might be interested, right? Cisco Live, Visio, TRILL, some training I went on, and so forth. While the blog subtitle is “Networking, Photography and Technology,” it became evident very quickly that the content was going to be primarily about networking, with an occasional glance at photography and other technology.


SWI: And as they say, the rest is history, right?


JH: Yep. Really, it’s ended up being an outlet for anything I think is interesting. One of the things I found hardest when I started blogging was to get over the feeling that the information I wanted to share might not be noteworthy, or is already covered elsewhere. My attitude now—and the one I share with others to encourage them to blog, too—is to say, “OK, was this new or interesting to me? Then blog about it.” After all, if it’s new to me, then it’ll be new to somebody else out there, too, which means I should write the post!


With that said, I still get the most pleasure from writing about something that will help other people in some way, especially if I can fill a gap in the information already out there and provide a unique resource. I don’t actively look for those topics, but they’re great when they crop up. Beyond that, I usually writing about real situations—either current or past—that were interesting or challenging so that (a) I have a record of it, and (b) it might save somebody else some trouble later.


SWI: I like the way you think! Do you find you get more interst in certain topics than others?


JH: Experience has shown there’s not really a good predictor as to whether a particular post will generate interest, but I find there are two general types of posts that have done better. The first are posts describing problems I’ve had and, if possible, how I fixed them. They’re successful because when somebody else experiences the same issue, they search the Web and my post shows up in the results. Even if there’s a frustrating lack of solution, I personally find great solace in knowing that I’m not the only idiot with a particular problem. For example, I’ve written posts about Cisco AnyConnect ActiveX, Office 2013 and iTunes Match that were very popular over time; they seem to have lasting appeal. The other category of posts that do better are those covering new technologies, where information out there is a bit patchy. Examples include TRILL and Cisco's VPC, and more recently discussions about software defined networking. Posts that are topical may be successful short term, but they tend to have less long term interest, which makes sense when you think about it.


SWI: Definitely. So, what do you do professionally?


JH: I’m a consultant for a professional services company. So, to put it simply, I move packets for other people. Consulting is interesting in part because I get to see so many different networks, teams and company structures, rules, procedures and architectures. I like the insight this gives me, and I find it fascinating to see what each client determines is most important for their network.


SWI: Very interesting. How did you get into IT in the first place?


JH: I kind of fell into it, really. I've always enjoyed working with computers and was programming SAS (database/statistics software) when a friend suggested I should join the company he worked for and do networking. I really didn't get what it was that he did, despite him trying to explain it, but the pay sounded good so I made the leap and haven't looked back.


SWI: What are some of your favorite tools as an IT pro?


JH: From the SolarWinds portfolio, Engineer's Toolset has been on my work laptop builds almost continually since the year 2000. Fun fact, I actually joined International Network Services in 1999, and that’s where Don Yonce (one of SolarWinds’ co-founders) was also working. So, I have always felt like I have a special relationship with the SolarWinds products. So, I also typically have SolarWinds free tools installed on my own machines (the Advanced Subnet Calculator is a very old friend of mine!). I’m currently using a MacBook right now, so I’m feeling a little lonely, but since my other favorite networking tool is Perl, I’m all set for that at least. The ability to program in one scripting language or another is a huge benefit to any network engineer in my opinion, and was so even before SDN reared its head.

SWI: And what are you up to these days when you’re not working or blogging?


JH: I have a wife and three school-aged children, a home network to perfect and meals to cook. So, beyond working and blogging I mainly eat and sleep. Occasionally, I play some piano, which I find very cathartic, and I’m also on the board of directors for my home owners’ association, which eats up some more time. As my blog title suggests I also enjoy photography, and I really should get out and do more of it.


SWI: Well, I hope you’re able to. Switching directions a bit, what are some of the most significant trends you’re seeing in the IT industry right now and what do you this is to come?


JH: In the networking world, the buzzword-du-jour is SDN. One way or another, there’s a huge paradigm shift occurring where pretty much every vendor is opening up access to their devices via some form of API, and there’s a growing new market for controllers and orchestrators that will utilize those APIs to automate tasks. Those tasks can be anything from configuring a switch port or VLAN as part of a service chain to instantiate a new service to programming microflows on a switch. I said “devices,” but lest it sound like this just means hardware—the network “underlay”—SDN also extends to the software side of things too, both in terms of encapsulations like VXLAN, an overlay, and features like network function virtualization, which also offers some exciting possibilities.


My one fear is that SDN encompasses so much, it’s in danger of becoming another meaningless marketing term like “cloud,” and I'm waiting to see the first “SDN Compliant” sticker on a box. That aside, the innovation in the SDN space, both proprietary and open source, is redefining the way networks can be built and operated, and it’s a very exciting time to be in this industry. The downside is that there’s so much going on, there aren’t enough hours in the day to keep up with all the blog posts that could be written!


SWI: Well, that’s all of my questions. Is there anything else you’d like to add?


JH: If I may, I’d like to give a shout out and a thank you to all the networking and technology bloggers out there. In many IT and networking teams, there’s that one person who hoards information and believes they’re creating job security by being the only one to understand something, and thus they resist sharing that knowledge with others. Blogging is the polar opposite of that; bloggers take the opportunity to share information that may improve somebody else’s ability to do their job, help them avoid a problem before it happens or just make you smile because somebody else is experiencing the same challenges as you. I stand in awe at the quantity and quality of posts that some people manage to create. I use an RSS reader so that I can follow a large number of those blogs in a manageable way, and I strongly recommend RSS.


I would also encourage anyone who reads this to consider whether or not they have something they could share with others via a blog. I look at it this way, if I learned something new today, maybe I could help somebody else learn that thing tomorrow. And to paraphrase "Wayne’s World," I only hope you don’t think it sucks!



Welcome to this month’s IT Blogger Spotlight. This time around we’re catching up with Wesley David, who blogs over at The Nubby Admin. Wesley is also an avid Twitterer, where he goes by @Nonapeptide.


Without further ado…


SWI: So Wesley, how long have you been blogging for and what got you started?


WD: A friend of mine had a Drupal blog for his own ramblings, and I saw it and was intrigued. I asked for an account on his CMS and voilà! That was in 2007. However my writing in general goes back much further. I’ve always liked to write, specifically humorous anecdotes. Writing is just a natural thing for me. No matter what I do, I’m going to end up writing about it somewhere.


As I sunk deeper and deeper into IT as a profession, my writing tendency came to the forefront. I was often the only one in the department interested in and capable of writing thorough documentation. Later I realized that the best way for me to remember solutions to problems I had solved was to write it down. I turned to blogging as less of a platform for personal ranting and more of a scrapbook where I can keep answers to problems that I’ve stumbled over. Often I’ll search Google for an answer and find it in an old post that I forgot about on my own blog!


SWI: I have to ask, what’s the story behind “The Nubby Admin”?


WD: Well, The Nubby Admin is, to the best of my recollection, my third IT blog. The first being an account on my friend’s Drupal site. The second was a Blogspot blog that picked up momentum over about a year. After several years of blogging on platforms that I didn't host or wield deep control over, I decided to register a domain for my own little slice of the internet. I named it “The Nubby Admin” to avoid taking myself too seriously. I’m not even a noob. I’m a nublet. I’m a fraction of a noob.


SWI: Well, you may consider yourself a nublet, but your blogging says otherwise. What’s your favorite topic to blog about?


WD: I most enjoy writing about solutions to my daily problems. I’m not big on editorials, exposés or opinion pieces. I find that there’s usually too many facets to any given story for me to feel comfortable with holding a strong opinion.


Virtually every time I bump into a problem, I open up Textedit, Notepad, vi or something similar and type the following:


Solving XYZ Problem

My Symptoms:

My Solution:

The Long Story:


I’ll first carefully write down the symptoms. Often that will make me consider assumptions about the problem. For example, I might think, “Sure the SSL connection is being rejected, but is every available version of SSL being rejected? Hmm…let’s go try to connect to the service using all possible ciphers. Wait, how can I easily cipher scan a SSL/TLS connection? Let’s go find a tool…” Then I’ll open up a second document and title it, “How to easily scan what SSL/TLS versions are available on a remote connection,” and solve that problem and write about it in detail as I go, too!


I find that it’s confidence-building to write those words “My solution:” even though I don’t have one yet. I then move on to “The Long Story” and carefully write everything I do in the process of troubleshooting. That way I have a detailed history of what I’ve seen and done. By the end of the journey, I usually have a solution and several documents that detail how I solved various problems all on the same trajectory to solve the original problem. With minimal editorial effort, I then clean the documents up and turn them into blog posts.


Finally, I do enjoy writing the occasional humor piece. A meme, a quizzical photo, a humorous anecdote. It’s nice to break up the stone cold troubleshooting with a few chuckles.


SWI: OK, so which type of posts do you find end up being the most popular?


WD: My most popular short-term posts are humor. For example, “Don’t Eat Too Much Three Bean Salad. The Server Will Crash.” A very recent example was taking my frustration with cloud vendors and memeifying it Pulp Fiction style. That one blew up pretty big across social media. Everyone loves to laugh, and a humorous piece is often more accessible to people even if they don’t understand the specific subject matter.


However, my most popular long-term posts are ones that solve very common problems. After approximately four years, I’m still getting dozens of people per day coming to my site for a solution to a common VPN connection problem that was introduced in Windows 7. I consistently out-rank vendor sites for some error message keywords. I used to work with a guy who was really into SEO (white hat, legit stuff), and I also find Google’s Matt Cutts to be a fascinating teacher concerning how Google’s search engine works. As a result, I’ve learned a few practical tips on how to get blog posts to rank high for your chosen keywords. And why wouldn’t I want to rank high when I’ve found a true solution and documented it thoroughly? Most search results for error messages come back with sketchy forum posts that tell you eight different things, half of which don’t work and the other half are misguided or downright dangerous.


SWI: It’s great that you’re able to so fluidly combine your day-to-day work with your blogging. Speaking of, what’s your day job?


I’m currently the owner of my own consultancy. It’s a one-man LLC formed in the U.S., specifically the state of Arizona, but I do have subcontractors that can take care of specialist topics or cover spill-over work. I’m a true generalist, consistently working with Windows and Linux, wired and wireless networks, databases, a little bit of programming and a whole lot of documentation writing. My favorite types of work typically involve web-based workloads and systems that have automation-based problems to solve.


Nevertheless, after four years of being a combination IT pro, marketer, sales person, accountant and tax specialist, I’m packing it up and looking to re-join a team. I’m transitioning away from client work and interviewing for positions and companies that tend to focus on the webops, whatever-as-a-service style of infrastructure. So if anyone out there is hiring as of the posting of this interview…


SWI: On that note, let’s give those potential employers out there some more food for thought. Tell me, how did you get into IT?


I’ve been a “computer person” since the mid-80s. My family was never, to my knowledge, without a computer in the house. However I had different passions as a pre-teen and teenager, usually involving the military, law enforcement or emergency medicine. However I never landed on anything in particular, and my parents, after watching my indecision bleed into my very early 20s, handed me a book on desktop support for the relatively new Windows XP operating system. My continued rent-free status at the time was the leverage used in this discussion, and the rest is history!


I also discovered that I truly love the problem solving nature of system administration, especially by automating solutions so you never have to worry about them again. I like to make people happy, specifically by relieving annoying burdens that plague their workdays. That was approximately ten years ago and I hope there’s many more years of problem solving in my future.


SWI: What are some of your favorite tools?


My most favorite tools are built-in tools because you can rely on them in almost any situation. I hate being strongly reliant on non-standard, third-party tools because if you ever move to an environment that doesn’t use that one specific tool, then you’re lost and adrift. I like standards and repeatability. I like syslog, Windows Event Viewer, SNMP, the /proc/ virtual filesystem, grep, powershell…You get the idea.


Nevertheless, my favorite things to use outside of those vanilla, baked-in tools are currently Chef to automate the deployment of servers and Ruby for tool making and automation. Oh and a giant whiteboard to use for kanban!


SWI: I know your day job and blogging keep you busy, but when you do find spare time, what are some of your favorite hobbies?


I have clinical symptoms of both ADD and OCD (TIC) so my hobbies this year are not what they were last year, and my hobbies next year will not be what they are this year. I have a one to three year lifespan for the hobbies that actually take hold of me, in contrast to the week-long obsessions that quickly fade and get forgotten within days.


Having said that, my current major hobby is cycling. I’m working up to a two and a half minute mile on flat land with a loaded touring bike, but also want to ride a century sometime in the next year. I’m using an old Fuji while building a Surly Long Haul Trucker from the ground up, currently stalled at the head tube while I wait to purchase a reamer/facer and cup press.


I’ve had a lifelong hobby that has miraculously survived my gnat-like attention span: Origami! To my recollection, I’m currently in my 26th or 27th year of fiddling with origami. As a result I also collect fine papers, usually from Japan.


Past hobbies that I learned from and have fond memories of, even though I no longer spend time on them include: Chess, gardening, golf, attaining a private pilot’s license, astronomy and model rocketry.


Hobbies that my “OH SHINY!” brain is eyeballing for the future include: Frisbee golf, survivalist camping, handguns/rifles, hang gliding and minimalist traveling.


SWI: OK, last question: What are the most significant trends you’re seeing in the IT industry right now and what’s to come?


At the current moment the trendy-kewl 3hawt5me topic is the so-called “devops” movement. The term and the culture is in disarray, though, and many people are confused as to what the term and concepts mean. It’s not “devs doing ops” as that’s a complete disaster. It’s not “no ops” as that’s a misnomer in many ways. It’s not “automate all the things!” or “ops knowing code” as those two are just part of being a good system administrator, and always has been going back for many decades.


Learning from the people formative in the fledgling topic, devops is simply a matter of doing infrastructure and development in such a way that allows rapid iteration through testing, QA and production code. Fail fast and fix fast, if you will. That implies infrastructure regeneracy, idempotency, and fungibility, as well as a host of other silly buzzwords. It’s not a concept or model that fits everywhere, especially with simple nuts-and-bolts IT. Getting people to understand, “You don’t need a ‘devop’ to make your Exchange cluster resilient and quickly recoverable, you just need a good sysadmin,” is hard nowadays. I think the days of button-mashing, GUI-bound sysadmins has broken the long, rich history of sysadmins that knew their code and never once thought there were two separate topic domains. As a result, what was once simply considered being an excellent sysop is now considered being a “devop,” but unfortunately that now includes all the silly misunderstandings of the new buzzword.


What’s to come, I believe, is operations teams reclaiming the former notion of system administration. That includes lots more scripting and coding to create automation that was once the near-universal norm. Also, as systems and applications can now spread out more easily across multiple nodes, the need for automation, monitoring and remediation tools is growing in size and complexity, but many of them require basic proficiency with code, which is great. MOAR CODE!



Welcome to the latest installment of our IT Blogger Spotlight series here on Geek Speak. It’s been a while, but we’re back at it and have a good one to get us going again: Dwayne Lessner, who runs IT Blood Pressure. Check the blog out! You won’t be disappointed. You can also find Dwayne on Twitter, where he goes by @dlink7.


SWI: So Dwayne, how did you get started blogging?


DL: Well, that’s probably a two-part answer, and I admit the first part is probably a little selfish. The reality is blogging is a great way to keep track of things I’m working on or thinking through. Do a little write-up, and it gives you a point of reference you can always go back to. The second part of the answer is really about giving back, actually. I find a lot of answers to my technical and not so technical questions on other blogs and online communities, and I figure maybe something I write up will do the same for someone else. I also love learning, and the research that goes into blogging is a great way to learn new things. It definitely wasn’t for money, I know that much for sure!


SWI: Tell me a little about IT Blood Pressure and what you most enjoy writing about.


DL: So, I actually have roots in the healthcare industry, so that’s where the name came from. Most of the content revolves around VDI in some way, but there’s the off server virtualization- and storage-related post thrown in there. A lot of the content also ties into my day job at Nutanix, too. 


SWI: What are your most popular posts and why?


DL: The answer to that questions is kind of funny actually, one of my post popular posts continues to be “Why Did My v-Session Disconnect.” There must be quite a few folks out there dealing with issues the PC over IP protocol. I’ve also found that write-ups I do on new products are always pretty popular, too.


SWI: When you’re not working or blogging, what are some of your hobbies?


DL: I really like playing Rugby. I’ve been playing since high school, though I realized pretty quickly in my first men’s game that what we really didn’t know what we were doing back then. I also have two little girls who keep me super busy.


SWI: What do you do for work?


DL: I’m currently a technical marketing engineer for Nutanix. I’ve been with the company for just over a year and love what I do.


SWI: How did you get into IT?


DL: To be honest, it really all started with my mom. She worked a back-breaking job night and day tossing 50 pound bags of flour. I knew that was not what I wanted to be doing when I turned 40 years old. And you know, I of course thought I knew a lot about IT when I first got into it back in college. I thought, “Oh, yeah, I know how to work the Internet, IT is for me.” Obviously, a rude awakening was in store.


SWI: What are some of your favorite tools?


DL: Anything that puts a focus on ease of use. You know, there are tools that might have every feature under the sun, but the chances of an IT pro having the time to twiddle around with all the features of a product is pretty unlikely. So, core features with great ease of use is what’s most important to me.


SWI: What trends are you seeing in the IT industry?


DL: The commoditization of everything, really. The whole idea of paying a premium price for servers, storage, network gear, you name it, really doesn’t exist like it used to. I also think the IT people that will be really successful are those with a service provider mentality. The next generation of IT, both as far as the IT pros themselves go as well as hardware and software vendors, really have to be about providing service and improving ease of use.

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