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 PKGuild.com, 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.