How Did I get Here?
Many of you already know some about my journey. But for those who don't—or maybe my friends who don't remember :)—here's a little bit about how it's happened in my life. It's not a blueprint, for sure. It's a journey. Yours might be similar, or maybe not. Just remember that no matter where you are in your career, make the most of it.
My story is not a blueprint,
I remember sitting down with whom would become my new boss, and asking him about the role. He said, "I'm looking for someone who won't be scared to blow something up." Well, as it turns out, the year before, while performing an FCC compliance test for ESD (electro static discharge), I had done just that. Apparently, it's not a good idea to plug a 120V monitor into a 240V power source 😁.
The company provided me what would be a most fantastic opportunity—for which I am ever-thankful: the opportunity to take a risk. To do what I had never done before. To invest in me. And invest they did. Lots of training, lots of certifications. Getting equipment was challenging as it was for any company; everything was super-expensive back in 2001, at least relatively speaking.
So I researched. I designed. I built. I started on an IBM FastT600 SAN (ironically, the same Engenio back-end that would later be acquired by NetApp to become the NetApp E-Series).
And I was running ESX 1.0, which maxed out at 1 vCPU and 2GB of RAM per VM. Amazing. There wasn't even VirtualCenter back then. Today it seems like I could run that entire 2001 data center from my MacBook Pro, I think.
Did I have failures? Of course I did. I remember was 36-hour-plus troubleshooting session involve corrupt LUN signature recognition with VMware where I slept on the floor of the data closet using a 12-pack of diet coke as my pillow (resignaturing the disk would have resulted in data loss).
Now, since this is government work, the process is largely governed, as you would imagine, by RFP proposals. So, as I was immersed in each "technically acceptable lowest bid," I really got my first deep-dive in a enterprise-class design and deployment. I was privileged to be able to work with just about every major manufacturer in every way:
- Server platforms: Dell, HP, Cisco
- Storage platforms: EMC, NetApp, Dell, HP, LeftHand, Equallogic, Compellent
- Networking platforms: HP ProCurve, HP A-series, Cisco Catalyst/Nexus/MDS, even a Juniper
- And a whole lot of vSphere 4.1
When I looked at server technology, Cisco UCS had really changed everything. I working all the time with server platforms, and I had one large installation of two UCS pods. It was amazing. Rock-solid. So easy to use and scale. I knew I wanted to work with. (7 Reasons Cisco UCS Rocks)
Likewise, when I had the opportunities to work on layer-two networking tasks, I really found that Nexus was amazing. Not having a catalyst background worked in my favor; I found Nexus commands more intuitive and consistent. And it, too, was a rock-solid performer, and had a nearly unmatched feature set for the types of networking functions I required.
From a virtualization perspective, I only had experience with VMware, as Hyper-V wasn't really a big player at that time. VMware had really changed the data center landscape, so including it in my list of go-to products was a no-brainer.
Finally, storage. Ah storage. I have worked with just about everything except 3Par and Hitachi. And I know some people will swear by them. But in my experience, having worked extensively with EMC, Dell (including Compellent, Equallogic), HP (including LeftHand), and NetApp, I found that NetApp really had the best feature set. It was capable of all major data center storage protocols, so it was really flexible. And it was a powerhouse.
So as I looked for the next step in my career, I looked for Cisco, NetApp, and VMware. That was the product set with which I wanted to work. And as it turned out, I wasn't the only professional who realized that special combination. FlexPod was launched in 2010 precisely because it was a data center game-changer: best of breed storage, compute, and virtualization in a flexible, pre-validated architecture. Who knew that only a few years later I would be championing this very platform for my favorite storage company!
Where Do I go From Here?
In other ways, it will be very different: working for a manufacturer, traveling within a larger geography (Central states), and working from home when not on the road. And technology is, by most accounts, rapidly changing—what some have termed the "digital transformation." If my last 17 years have seen such change, I imagine that my next 17 years will see just as much—if not more!
Here's what I do know: it's going to be a great adventure! And I'm super-thankful to God and all the people throughout the years who have made this journey possible.