Adin Ermie is a first-year (2015) Canadian MVP awardee in the System Center Cloud and Datacenter Management category. As you will see in the interview to follow, Adin is a very busy fellow but he took some time to answer a few questions for our MVP Interview series.
Adin, please tell us a little of your background: where you live, employment, training, your first PC, etc.
I currently live in Burlington Ontario, Canada and have lived in Southern Ontario all my life. I currently work for a company called CMS Consulting as a Senior Microsoft Infrastructure Consultant, specifically in the Systems Center Operations Manager & Data Center Technology division. Primarily this means I work on projects centering on Operations Manager, Service Manager, and Orchestrator, though I’ve worked on many different projects involving other System Center products including Configuration Manager, Data Protection Manager, and Virtual Machine Manager.
Over the span of my IT career, I have had training in many different technologies, not limited to: IIS, PowerShell, Virtualization, TFS, SharePoint, CRM, BizTalk, UAG/TMG, not to mention the countless number of independent coursework I’ve completed through the Microsoft Virtual Academy. Speaking of the MVA, in the not too distant past I actually ranked #2 in all of Canada! Unfortunately I haven’t been able to keep up with it, so I currently rank #38. Interestingly, back when MVA was newer, I actually contributed a lot of feedback to Microsoft on improvements to the system, which ended up helping in how the site looks/works today. For example, the fact that each video now shows how long its duration is before you start viewing it, and the fact that you can watch all the videos in a given course without being forced to finish the Assessment or other materials first, are due (in part at least) to my directly working with Microsoft on the MVA site.
My first PC? Well, since I am (I think) relatively younger than most, I don’t have any stories about super old systems or original Commodore 64’s, etc. Our first computer was an HP Compaq Presario.
How did you become an MVP, and what were your thoughts when you first heard of getting the award?
In 2013 I started a personal technical blog (http://AdinErmie.Wordpress.com, now http://micloud.azurewebsites.net/) about my experience with System Center. I didn’t do much with it at first though. Then, when I was trying to learn SCCM better, I came across the http://www.windows-noob.com/ website. Niall Brady has some excellent guides there. When looking around the site, I noticed that many people were asking for the same type/level of guides for SCOM. Someone had said they were working on some, but that was 6 months in the past. So, I thought, I can do that. This was especially so since my primary specialty is with SCOM. So, I started out by writing some installation and configuration guides for Windows-Noob. At this same time, I wrote/posted installation and configuration guides for all the other System Center products (as I worked for a consulting company called ProServeIT as their one and only System Center specialist), both on my own personal blog and on Windows-Noob. I contributed (and continue to contribute) to Windows-Noob so much, that the owner, Niall Brady, asked me if I would like to be the Moderator on the site for the Operations Manager forum. I readily accepted the offer/suggestion, as Niall is also an MVP in SCCM. So I’ve been assisting him in moderating his website for a while now.
After I had written all the installation and configuration guides for all the System Center products (except for SCCM, since Niall has done so much work on that area), I stated to write about different scenarios/issues I’d encounter. Either issues with configuration, error messages, etc. in addition to answering people’s questions posted on the Windows-Noob site. A little known fact about me is that I love to read, and do a lot of it. So I also started posting on my personal blog book reviews of the various System Center-based books I have read, along with my highlights/key points I found useful and helpful. I guess I was hoping that book companies would send me a free copy of their book, so that I would write a review in their behalf.
It was around this time that I had been contacted by the Packt Publishing Company, first asking if I would develop some screencast videos for them on Managing Virtual Environment with Hyper V Server! They even offered me a percentage of the royalties. Unfortunately, at the time I didn’t have all the hardware required in my home lab to properly document some of the items required (i.e. I only had one host, so I couldn’t demonstrate Live Migration or Storage Migration). I was contacted by the same company again a little while later, this time with an authoring opportunity to update their Hyper-V server Cookbook to Windows Server 2012 R2. Unfortunately, due to having a heavy load of complex projects at work, I didn’t think I could meet the required timeline for publishing, so I passed on that opportunity as well.
In relation to my personal blog, people email me for assistance on projects they are working on, asking for guidance on how to do something, or even to request that I write about a specific topic/scenario. I readily welcome those emails, as it shows me that my contributions to the community are well received, and that people like my writing style/method. So I will create a draft post with their suggestion/request, to remind me that I need to write about it and post it for them. This is exactly the scenario around one of my latest posts concerning Customizing SCOM Alert Notifications, where someone emailed me asking how to change the email notification from when a system goes offline, so that it will say “Server [ServerName] Is Offline/Down” when it is sent to his Manager. So, if anyone has any suggestions/asks for a specific topic or scenario they would like further elaborated on, by all means email me.
As for actually becoming an MVP, during the 2014 year I knew that Microsoft was evaluating what I had done (since I had to submit all the information to them). Even though I had submitted my information, and had some impressive stats around my blog (especially since it really only had been receiving attention for the latter half of the year), I was told that both my submission was held off, and that the product team were not looking to add any new MVPs any time in the near future. So this kind of made me feel down, and I didn’t focus as much on achieving the award. But by this time I had built up a good number of followers/subscribers, and established a pattern of posting a new article every Friday. So I just continued in this routine.
Late in 2014 (i.e. mid-December) I received an email from the person I had been corresponding with about my MVP nomination. The email simply asked “Can you please confirm your home address as the final step of the MVP Award nomination?” I thought that this was an odd piece of information to ask for, especially since I wasn’t expecting to receive the award at all.
Then on January 1st, 2015 at 10:38:27 AM I receive the email from Microsoft presenting me with the 2015 Microsoft MVP Award in System Center Cloud and Datacenter Management! To say I was shocked and excited is an understatement (just ask my wife how giddy I was). I had worked very hard the past year on my blog, in contributing to the Windows-Noob site, as well as increasing my presence on the TechNet forums. I knew that there were various perks that went along with achieving the MVP award, etc. but I was (and still am) so happy and honored to receive the award. It’s nice to know that people actually do value the time and effort someone puts in to helping others learn something that they are passionate about.
Tell us how the technology you work with/develop applies to/benefits the end user (consumer and/or enterprise)?
Basically all of my major IT work is for mid-to-large companies and enterprises not just to install any of the System Center products, but to really use/develop these tools into value-adding systems.
As an interesting example/story, I installed System Center Operations Manager for a hospital once as a consultant, so that they could receive better metrics on performance, up-time, etc. While on this project, their entire datacenter lost power, twice! The power failed (in the middle of the night), and everything flipped to the battery backups. But, the batteries were only able to sustain the entire infrastructure for ‘x’ number of hours, and then they too failed! Needless to say the next morning was a storm of activity in the IT department, especially for the IT Manager. When I logged into the SCOM console, there were endless streams of red! Everything was back up and running by that time, so we joked with the IT department that we should tell Senior Management that we caused the power outage/battery backup failure on purpose, just to test if SCOM was working properly. After the power outage incidents, I strongly recommended that they look into using Microsoft Azure for Active Directory and Exchange, to ensure these mission critical services are still available regardless of a power outage.
That same organization I implemented System Center Service Manager and Orchestrator for their help desk. Before using Service Manager as a tracking system, they were using individually maintained Excel spreadsheets! Now they are using Service Manager, and have implemented the Portal to automate New Users, Password Resets, Account Unlocks, etc. This has really helped their end-users, as they don’t have to wait for someone in IT to be available (they’re not a 24/7 shop).
Another interesting project was for some automated fix, but I couldn’t perform the automation using System Center Orchestrator like I originally wanted, as the client was only licensed for SCORCH to directly interact with servers and not client workstations. So in fact, I had to learn HP’s version of SCORCH (called HP Operations Orchestration) on the fly to complete the automation required. It took several weeks since I wasn’t familiar with HP OO, but I got it done. I then decided to go back and re-create the automation in SCORCH, just to see how long it would actually take me to do so (in a product that I knew). The result? One day!
I’ve implemented other projects for automation in building servers, where the client’s custom in-house scripted process took 3-5 hours; but now using SCCM it is less than an hour!
I guess my point is, I don’t just install software for companies, but rather, help them envision the endless possibilities available to them when they implement System Center.
Tell us about the companies you work for and your roles there:
I’ve already mentioned where I currently work (CMS Consulting Inc. as a Senior Microsoft Infrastructure Consultant).
I’ve worked for the Ministry of Transportation for the Province of Ontario as the single/lone SCOM Administrator over a public/private facing environment. That environment was one of the most complex environments to work in, as being the Government, there is a lot of security. There were double-redundant firewalls, zone segregation across 7 tiers, and many technologies to be monitored including: Windows Server, IIS, UAG/TMG, BizTalk, CRM, SCCM, SCOM, SCVMM, Hyper-V, SQL Server, NLB, Clustering, and integration with HP Tivoli to top it all off.
I’ve been the sole Microsoft Systems Center Engineer for a consultant services company called ProServeIT, being involved in a large-scale project using Configuration Manager to facilitate the Region of Peel’s migration to Windows 7.
I’ve worked for Toronto Hydro as a Windows System Administrator, where I architected, and implemented the Configuration Manager infrastructure, was responsible for the Windows 7 OS image creation, maintenance, and management. I also was involved with the Windows 7 migration project, managing the SCCM toolset for OSD, application deployment, and patch management.
Downtime: what activities do you like to do away from technology?
I am never “away” from technology. I always have my cell phone and tablet with me. As previously mentioned, I like to read a lot, so I carry a lot of eBooks on my tablet; whether they are technical books or personal reading. I am involved in regular volunteer work weekly, and my wife and I have been learning Mandarin Chinese for the past few years.
Bucketlist: (just one or two top ones)
Hmmm, I’d have to say one of my top goals is to visit China. This of course ties in with my learning Mandarin Chinese, so it will help me gauge how comfortable with the language I am.
Another would be to achieve the MVP Award (check that off the list)!
It’s hard to say, there are so many things that I would like to do/achieve, but in the long run, if I don’t end up doing them, I’m fine with that. As long as I have enough to provide for my family, and be content in life.