[Interview] Question and Answer Session with Rod Trent (CEO, myITforum.com)
A while ago I started this Q&A series of posts interviewing Aaron Parker (App-V MVP and reviewer of both of my App-V books); and continuing with this series, this time is turn for Rod Trent (myITforum.com owner and CEO).
Rod has been contributing to the IT community in several ways: Evangelizing technical communities, books and articles written, and of course engaging with the large System Center community around the globe with myITforum.com.
You can find more about Rod following him on Twitter: @rodtrent.
Here’s the Q&A:
1. To start with the interview, can you give us a quick synopsis about yourself, your experience and myITforum.com?
I’m a father or four children, ranging from 3 years old to 21 years old and my wife and I, Megan, just recently celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary. I am a faithful, church-going Christian, an avid gadget fan, a die-hard old television show and cartoon buff, a health and exercise freak, a long-time evangelist of System Center products, and a part-time missionary to the Chinese people.
I have written many books, thousands of articles, and speak at various conferences and User Groups during the year, but my main, professional focus is evangelizing technical community on the web and in “real life”.
I have been in IT for over 25 years. I actually got my start as a computer salesman, moved on to managing a computer repair center, and then finally migrated IT in the early 1990’s, working for a large accounting firm. I have been blessed with a real aptitude to be able to just “fix things.” IT is the perfect industry for that. So, while I’ve kept the techie side, over the years, due to working with myITforum.com, I’ve also become a marketing person. myITforum.com flourishes through the way we highlight and interact with our sponsors. We don’t charge to be part of the community, instead our sponsors help offset our costs, allowing everything on myITforum.com to be free. We don’t believe that support, community, or content should ever have a price tag. So, while it was never an intention of mine to become a marketer, my experience over the last 10 years has been vast, and has served of sponsors well enough to continue building a strong and large community.
Way back in the SMS 1.x days, the product was barely supported by Microsoft itself. So a grass-root, community for SMS 1.x was started on an old, BackOffice support site called, Swynk.com. I ran the SMS section of the web site. I posted articles and tips for SMS since I worked with it daily in my job in a top Accounting Firm. SMS 1.x actually saved our lives at work, giving us the ability to manage desktops with only a handful of support people. So, I simply started sharing my knowledge online. After a few months of success, I was offered a section manager job that paid something like $15 per month and a free technology book.
Traffic and popularity continued to increase, and the community grew larger and larger. Then, at the SMS and Windows 2000 conference (what MMS was called prior to being the Microsoft Management Summit) I was told that Swynk.com was going to be sold to Internet.com. This created a huge issue, as the community cried out with the knowledge that it could, potentially, be broken up.
So, with a little ingenuity and a great set of industry contacts, myITforum.com was born. The community was offline for maybe, 2 months, and then we unveiled myITforum.com 1.0. myITforum.com has gone through numerous changes over the years, but the basic premise has remained. We just help people – and give folks a central location for support, education, training, networking, and giving honest, direct feedback on System Center products.
There’s much, much more to it than that, but that’s the basics. And, the basics work. myITforum.com now receives a little over 145,000 visitors a day, all looking for help and all looking to learn how to manage their environments.
As many probably know our success with myITforum.com and great partnership with Microsoft has led to additional opportunities to be able to reach out and provide community support services for various Microsoft conferences like TechEd and the Microsoft Management Summit. We always look forward to having the great opportunity to “communitize” boring, technical events, and give them that something special to make them memorable and extra valuable.
2. You’ve been really close to System Center evolution over the past years, what do you think about the 2012 editions of this suite? Having all products with the 2012 editions will make a difference in the market?
Pulling the products together is a smart idea, and should really prove gains for Microsoft. ConfigMgr has been the real winner for so long, with very little uptake for the other products. Hopefully, by bringing the products together, particularly from a licensing standpoint, will allow the other products to catch hold. It will be interesting to watch as customers try-out products they would not have before simply because the products are now part of the license agreement.
3. In the past there weren’t many companies that decided to implement the full System Center suite (SCCM, SCVMM, SCDPM, and SCOM) and chose other technologies or simply did not use any tool for specific tasks. Which are the challenges a company should take note in order to consider implementing this complete suite (including also Service Manager)?
Glad you mentioned Service Manager as part of the question. There are pieces of the System Center suite that still seem a bit convoluted and still beta-esque. Service Manager is one of those components. But, whether it’s Service Manager, or some other product, education is the key. Those that have been familiar with specific products, and the way they work, will need to get up to speed quickly, and understand how they can all work together. Orchestrator, in my opinion, is the glue between all of the products, and that may be the single most important piece to understand first.
4. Which are the products and features that you think CTOs and IT decision makers should pay attention the most in the System Center 2012 suite?
From a CTO and decision maker standpoint, I believe the provisioning of the private cloud will be one of the most important aspects. As shown at MMS 2012, you can provision a private cloud in less than 30 seconds. This enables IT organizations to save time, money, and provide SLA and support at unimaginable levels.
5. In the System Center 2012 suite, is there a feature or product that you think might be improved or a missing functionality that should be included in a R2?
I hate to keep harping on Service Manager, but additional functionality is needed to make it easier to work with. Also, in ConfigMgr, Microsoft has to somehow get past the Exchange connector function when supporting mobile devices.
6. Regarding companies’ investments in IT (hardware, services, products, human resources), how do you feel the next few years would be like? Is the cloud model taking over company’s strategies?
The Cloud is on the horizon, but from what I hear in real circles, Microsoft believes it’s closer than anyone else does. It makes sense that they believe this, though, since they are putting so much behind development and marketing of the Cloud from the Microsoft perspective. I believe Microsoft will be highly successful in the private cloud – as to when, that’s up to the customer to decide.
7. With thousands of companies using iPads, iPhones, Android phones and tablets and so on; to maintain compliance, availability and security onto these devices, which is the best approach for client device management?
In line with what I mentioned previously, ConfigMgr and even Windows Intune help to better manage devices like iOS and Android. In fact, Windows Intune may actually do it a bit better than ConfigMgr right now, but I fully expect those functions to show up in ConfigMgr over the life of the 2012 product. If a company wants to manage these devices right now from a full management perspective, they will still need to source a 3rd party; one that provides full integration with ConfigMgr. Odyssey Software (now part of Symantec) is still the best 3rd party solution available.
8. About virtualization and particularly VDI, do you think this trend regarding virtualizing desktops will increase significantly in the following years?
I definitely believe this will happen. In fact, I believe this will become so seamless and so common that it becomes part of normal operating procedure. Right now, VDI gives organizations the ability to not have to worry about compatibility issues with corporate software as they migrate to new technologies. In the very near future, possibly, this will lead to PC operating systems supplied solely from the cloud.
I hope you enjoyed this interview; I’ll get back soon enough with more Q&A sessions.