Microsoft Masterminds Episode 4: Thomas Maurer, MVP (Most Valuable Professional) for Virtual Machine from Switzerland

Welcome to the new episode of tech talks with outstanding Microsoft community members from all over the world. Most interviews are with Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs), and if you are not familiar with that program yet, I recommend you reading my recent introductory interview. In this episode I talk with Thomas Maurer, a Switzerland based MVP, expert for System Center and private Cloud. Enjoy reading!

Editorial processing done by Rafael Knuth



Readable Interview:

Flo: Thomas, you were just nominated as MVP for Virtual Machine. Congratulations! Tell us about you and your company and also how it feels to be a Microsoft MVP.

Thomas: My name is Thomas Maurer. I work as a Private Cloud Architect for ITNETX, a consulting and engineering company in Switzerland. We are focused on Microsoft technology, especially Windows Server Hyper-V and SystemCenter … systems management and Microsoft virtualization. My focus area is Hyper-V and VMM (Virtual Machine Manager). I’m working on a lot of projects for customers where we built the base for private cloud. Since this year I’m MVP for Virtual Machine and it’s a big honor for me.

Flo: How does your role as MVP relate to your work at ITNETX?

Thomas: I became a MVP because of my work at ITNETX. In Switzerland we don’t have so many Hyper-V deployments at the moment, and at INTETX I spend all my time working with Hyper-V and System Center, that’s a huge opportunity and that’s how I get a lot of experience in this area. Also, as a MVP I give presentations for Microsoft, partners and at events like E2EVC conference.

Flo: ITNETX is one of the key companies for private clouds and System Center in Switzerland and was awarded with the Microsoft Data Center Partner Award in 2012. Can you give us a brief overview over your projects? Which were the most challenging ones and what are your biggest accomplishments for customers so far?

Thomas: ITNETX just got awarded by Microsoft second time in a row by the way, for being the Microsoft Partner of the Year 2012 in Data Center and that’s a big honor. We try to achieve this next year as well.

The biggest challenge is: You have to understand customer needs and you have to be always working with newest technology. We are trying to get the best solutions for our customers – the greatest and latest technology from Microsoft. Hardware-wise we are vendor independent; we are looking at different hardware vendors. It’s sometimes a challenge to get new Microsoft technology working on old hardware or getting vendors to build hardware which supports new technologies … specially Hyper-V and many of its functionalities.

Flo: What are the major differences in cloud computing between Europe and the US?

Thomas: I cannot say much about the US market; I am not working for companies in the US. I do work for international companies based outside the US, and we are for example part of the System Center 2012 TAP program.

In Switzerland security and data privacy is a big issue. I think that other countries are doing the step to the cloud really fast and it’s going to happen sooner or later in every country. But it will take some time specially Switzerland, which is not that fast in going forward with new technologies.

Flo: Let’s talk a bit about Microsoft private cloud solutions. What’s your absolute killer feature in Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V?

Thomas: There are a lot of great features such as ESXi or Xen management. If I had to pick two features I would choose first Hyper-V Replica, which allows you to easily migrate or replicate virtual machines from one host or one cluster to another host or cluster. That was a big problem for disaster recovery in the past. There are lot of companies which didn’t have disaster recovery yet. Or if they had it, it was too complex to work with. If a disaster happened no one knew what to do. So they had to call the vendor, and he had to do the failover and it was not that easy. Hyper-V Replica is going to change that because everything is built into Hyper-V Manger and Microsoft Failover Cluster Manger (MSFCM). I think it will be in System Center 2012 as well and that’s one of the greatest features.

The other feature I’d like to mention: You don’t need to place Hyper-V virtual machines on block storage any more. You can use SMB 3.0 for storage instead. You are not limited to expensive block storage anymore. You now have more options and potential scenarios for Hyper-V usage in various hardware environments.

Flo: How do you see data centers change over the next few years?

Thomas:  Well, what I see at the moment in data centers is that there is lack of management capabilities. A lot of companies still do script based “slow management”. Many companies lack a management suite allowing them do everything from within it.

Interviewer: You mean there’s lack of automation in data centers?

Thomas: Absolutely, yes. There is no real orchestration in a lot of data centers I have seen in Switzerland. That has to change because a data center is a dynamic environment. You don’t put in a server and let it run for five, six or seven years. That’s changing and you have to deliver faster to your customers. If your customer requests servers or applications, you have to be able to deliver them quickly. That is changing more and more and it has to.

Flo: So in the future you will not care about the rack of servers but only about the mount of storage, CPUs, memory you need for virtual machine deployment for example – correct?

Thomas: Yeah, absolutely! That’s the kind of stuff we already do for customers. We try to go away from a “I need a server!” type of thinking. Instead we ask: “What do you need for your application or service to run?” We are putting a layer between the service, OS and the hardware. So you just have resources which so you can use for your applications and you don’t care as an application owner if this is block storage or file storage, you don’t care which CPU it is … it just has to perform. That’s what the fabric layer has to do and the fabric layer doesn’t really care which applications are running inside your virtual machines. Of course the fabric layer has to know what performance is needed and: “Is it disk related? Is it IO related? Or CPU related?” … but: At the end the fabric layer has to take care of that. System Center and Windows Server 2012 provides a perfect solution for that.

Flo: Should hardware be more intelligent or … more stupid?

Thomas: It sounds a little bit strange now but I think it has to be both. Hardware has to be stupid and intelligent at the same time in a way that I want the hardware to take care of itself without installing lots of sophisticated tools to manage it. I simply expect the hardware to run and if it doesn’t, I will replace it.

Flo: Thank you very much, Thomas. I am looking forward to interview you soon and to dive deeply into some of the topics we talked about today.

Thomas: Sure, Flo!

Twitter: @ThomasMaurer


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