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About Massimo Re Ferrč (last update: August 2015)
My name is Massimo Re Ferrč, I am 43 years old (as of 2015 - do the math in case you are reading this in 2023) and I live in Milan - Italy. I am currently employed with VMware as a Staff Solution Architect. I have a services and products background around open platforms; my area of expertise comprises: x86 platforms, virtualization, cloud services and, to a lesser extent, programming languages. I evangelize on new technologies. I love to see customers moving from one technology stage to the next one and get value out of it. I am always looking for the next big thing. That's why my blog is www.it20.info (to be read IT 2.0 - that is the next generation of IT).
You can find below an (expanded) summary of my IT experiences. Notice that it unfolds top to bottom (old experiences first, new experiences last). If you are curious about what I am doing "right now", skip everything and jump to the last item.
LA Servizi Informatici (1991-1994)
This is where it all started for me. From September 1990 through August 1994 I worked at "La Servizi Informatici", a local company in the Milan area. I was working initially as a developer on an innovative visual programming language called Li (pronounced 'elleconi' - don't ask). That was my first programming experience (very rewarding though - I enjoyed it!). It turned out that I also had to do as much work on the infrastructure side. One of the challenges we had was to make our software package more appealing price-wise (the solution required Sun Workstations on every users' desk). One of the ideas we came out with was to use PC's to access a "centralized Sun box" via the X11 protocol. This was my very first exposure to what it turned out to be, if I think in retrospect, a form of Server Based Computing. Maybe 1994 was the year of VDI?
15th July 1994 marked the beginning of my IBM experience. While there I covered a number of different roles. See below.
IBM OS/2 Support Center (1994-1996)
Yes I was an OS/2 guy. I was hired (initially part-time) to work at the OS/2 defect support center. I worked there from July 1994 through February 1996. That was the time when IBM started to ship PowerPC based desktops with Windows pre-loaded and I volunteered to switch my focus from OS/2 to Windows. My very first exposure to Microsoft Windows was in a class in Zurich where we were presented with the beauty of Windows NT 3.51 for PowerPC. During that time I started to broaden my horizons and I decided to look into different technologies including Novell Netware (around the 3.x version), DB2 and networking in general.
In the October 2005 timeframe I spent 6 weeks in the Boca Raton Labs ("The house of OS/2 and the PC") where I worked on a Redbook whose title is "Lotus Approach to DB2" which focused on how to use Lotus Approach as a front-end to the IBM DB2 database. That was my very first truly international experience and I still remember it as a great personal and professional experience (not to mention the week-end @ Key West - awesome!).
IBM ITS (Information Technology Services) Level 2 Technical Support (1996-1998)
From March 1996 to June 1998 I joined for the L2 Technical Support Center in Milano. The specialization I gained in the previous years allowed me to join the group supporting field people implementing complex projects based on strategic technologies. I started to become "the expert" (well I should say one of the experts) within IBM of some of these technologies, primarily surrounding (but not limited to) the so called Wintel platform.
Of particular interest, during that period of time, was a customer-facing experience that lasted for about a year until June 1998: IBM rewrote what nowadays we would call a CRM system for a big Italian bank. It was a client/server MS Windows application that required pieces to be installed on both the servers and the desktops in each branch. In that context I was appointed as the lead engineer to develop the automated/scripted procedures to install the package in the branches. It took a long time to develop and test these scripts in the lab but once we were done and we handed over the kit to the team physically visiting the branches all went (very) well. This was my first deep-dive into a customer's own infrastructure and it gave me an opportunity to "live" at the customer's premise for about a year. I learned a lot while working very hard. I like to think at this as my first DevOps experience (yes you can LOL now).
IBM STG (Systems & Technology Group) System x and BladeCenter Technical Sales (1998-2008)
This is the bulk of my career at IBM. I spent exactly 10 years (from June 1998 through June 2008) helping the sales organization to sell IBM x86 solutions. This was a natural path for me since my technical background was very much Windows-oriented which was by far the most common operating environment deployed on these hardware platforms those days. I had been through all the hardware brand from PC-Servers to System x through Netfinity, xSeries, BladeCenter and iDataPlex and I remember that at the beginning the most critical elements of my job were to explain what the various level of Raid were and how the Microsoft Cluster Server in Windows NT 4.0 Enterprise Edition worked. Was that even a job? Well at that time it was! In retrospect I think that the complexity of this platform has been growing, and still continues to grow, more than exponentially (and so is the potential). I have seen the light and sunset of Itanium through the raise of 64-bit computing in the x86 space (thanks to the AMD Opteron processor). I have seen the raise of x86 virtualization as I experimented with VMware ESX 1.0 back around the years 2001/2002 and I implemented my very first VMware project at a big Italian bank betting on a beta version of ESX 1.1. From that point on I have devoted almost my entire career to keep up with the innovations in that space. There were so much I was seeing and doing in that arena that I opened my own blog in early 2007 to share those things and to evangelize on the benefits of virtualization. That gave me a good deal of visibility in the industry (I ended up to be granted the vExpert title by VMware, a honor they gave to only about 300 people world-wide). During this period of time my role was officially "local" but I started, as I was gaining more and more confidence with the products and with the market, to broaden my scope more regularly and participate as a speaker in IBM international events in Europe and later on in international events with IBM Business Partners, Technology Partners and customers across the globe. This allowed me to grow my communication skills and, talking to so many customers and partners, I started to develop an ability to analyze the market trends and draw projections about how it would evolve based on customers requirements (see below for some of the examples).
To give you a sense of what my job was in this 10 years timeframe I have selected a few key experiences:
In May 1999 I spent 5 days in Israel (@ Haifa) to help a big customer leverage our latest Netfinity Systems Management technologies to improve their big server farms. This was my very first face-to-face customer experience outside of the country.
During these 10 years I worked on 4 more IBM Redbooks:
§ "Migrating IBM Netfinity Servers to Microsoft Windows 2000" that can be downloaded here
§ "IBM eServer xSeries Server Consolidation: an Introduction" that can be downloaded here
§ "VMware ESX Server: Scale Up or Scale Out?" that can be downloaded here
§ "Virtualization on the IBM System x3950 Server" that can be downloaded here
In January 2001 I presented, in front of a good one hundred people, a session about x86 consolidation and virtualization. This was part of an internal education program called "eServer University" and I did it in two locations in Europe (Rome and Amsterdam). This was my very first experience as a speaker in an international event
2002 is when I (seriously) started what I would refer to as my very first Enterprise VMware experience outside of the lab. The customer is Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS for short) and this was one of the most interesting projects I have ever worked on. About 600 hundred VMs and a couple of dozens of High-End IBM servers is a good quick summary of the key numbers. I kept going there for a number of years and I always enjoyed the experience both from a professional as well as a personal standpoint (yes the steaks in Florence are good too but that was not the reason!).
In 2004 I was directly involved in another similar project to the one we carried out at MPS. This was another big Italian bank where we leveraged the previous experiences. Just on a slightly larger scope: around 1200 VMs and about 80+ Mid-Range IBM Intel-based servers
In the same year (2004) I participated as a speaker at one of the most valuable IBM internal events for the technical communities (PLTE - Professional Leadership Technical Exchange). I decided to bring my MPS experience at that event in a speech whose title was: "Intel Server Virtualization: Myth or Reality" and I was astonished to see that my session scored #1 in all three ranked categories (Best Speaker, Best Content, Best Applicability). Admittedly I thought it was a mistake in the feedback report they sent to the speakers. Well I asked and it turned out it was not a mistake. What a score! I am not sure I deserved so much as I attended other very interesting sessions during the same event.
Another good presentation that did put me under the spotlight was in Nice (France) in 2004. Other than coming out again as the best speaker (with another colleague which I respect enormously) my session (32-64 bit Platforms Positioning) was a bit controversial. We were in the middle of the transition from 32 bit Xeon to 64 bit Itanium and/or 64 bit Opteron and the Intel representative in the room might have not appreciated my argument that Itanium had no future in the Windows/Linux segment. He escalated this to the management in the stratosphere level in Armonk but the only result was that the year after IBM cancelled our own Itanium-based server programs. The presentation is available on my blog here if you want to have a look. I think this presentation marked for me an important milestone in gaining confidence in my own thoughts and visions of IT.
In January 2005 I decided to share the virtualization experience I had built in the last few years with our local BPs in Italy. Three people (myself, my manager and the xSeries marketing manager) organized a very "Spartan" event for our Business Partners. Despite a snow storm the night before we had an excess of about 150 people in the auditorium in Milano providing great feedbacks for the event itself and the content. Clearly Virtualization started to be on the radar of many individuals in the IT industry.
In August 2006 I started working with a customer on a solution called VHCI (Virtualized Hosted Client Infrastructure) which would have been soon known by the masses under the term VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure). I started to explore desktop virtualization late in 2005 and this project was the culmination of those studies. After a few years this customer was happy to share with us that his infrastructure was growing in features and lowering in complexity. VDI was clearly not for everyone, but it might have its applicability!
I have participated as a SME in many other international events. I remember particularly with great proud the presentation at VMworld US 2007 in San Francisco. I presented a deck (around new application deployment scenarios and cloud computing) whose title was "Virtual Appliances and the New Datacenter". The presentation is still here on my blog as of this writing. The enjoyable part was the feedback I found in my e-mail in-box when I came back home. It is with no hesitation that I say this is the most rewarding e-mail I have ever received so far:
In October 2007 I was tasked to do a tour of Europe for evangelizing IBMers and IBM Business Partners on the latest virtualization trends: the sessions focused on the desktop virtualization solutions. The tour touched Spain, Turkey, Portugal, Israel and Belgium.
In April 2008 I presented my vision for Virtual Appliances at an IBM internal event organized in Boston by the IBM Academy of Technology.
IBM STG World-Wide System x / BladeCenter Virtualization Strategy and Offering Manager (2008)
In terms of visibility this was the culmination of my career I would say. Building on the background I accumulated in the previous position as a sales engineer I was offered the opportunity to lead the effort of shaping the IBM virtualization strategy within the System x and BladeCenter brand. This was a virtual as well as temporary assignment and it was logistically a challenge (my manager was on a 9 hour time difference being on the US West Coast and the closest team member I had was 6 hours "far away"). This was only a 6 months experience that started 1st July 2008 and ended early in 2009. Nevertheless it was a fantastic experience (if nothing else it certainly improved my English comprehension!). I can't get too much into the details of the experience because it would require me to talk about sensitive stuff but I can certainly say it was an interesting job as it allowed me to discover a non-purely technical approach to the matter, which was something very enlightening for me.
I am summarizing in the following bullets a few activities I worked on during the assignment:
The bulk of my job was shaping the virtualization strategy for the brand. Don't think this was a one-man-show though: I was really part of a team discussing this matter (but yet it was a great thing to be part of it even though I was not the commander in chief in all honesty!).
During the July/August 2008 timeframe I was particularly busy to develop the deliverables and the relevant content to support the Microsoft Hyper-V launch event which occurred a few months later. IBM was a sponsor for the event and we had to support it in the best way. Not only, part of the job was to make sure our IBM sales force around the world was ready to use this new technology as a valuable add-on feature of our servers.
In the September 2008 timeframe I did a speech in the UK to update the European System x / BladeCenter sales force about our virtualization strategy.
IBM STG Systems Architect Technical Sales (2009)
From January 2009 my role at IBM shifted a little bit. While I was still somewhat (deeply) involved in the x86 hardware and software technologies I broadened my scope to include all IBM Systems technologies which include (obviously) System x and BladeCenter x86 servers as well as IBM Unix servers, storage and networking. This was a good move for me as I think the way IT is evolving requires more and more integrations between the various hardware layers that include not only the "compute servers" (which have been my focus so far) but also "storage servers" as well as "networking" technologies to tie everything together. In this role I built the "bigger" picture that I was (partially) missing. So far so good, it was an exciting role to be in. Among local customer calls (my standard duty), I still did lots of customer facing activities across Europe in this role including big events, such as VMworld Europe 2009 where I participated as a speaker, as well as more laser focused events with selected customers such as an interesting event organized by CBR-Computer Business Review magazine: I was invited as a panelist to discuss virtualization technologies and trends. The event was held in Edinburgh @ "The Scotch Malt Whisky Society Rooms" and the funny part of it was the whisky tasting session: don't ask me what I told the audience afterwards about virtualization, I just don't remember anything!
As of 3rd February 2010 I started my "VMware journey".
VMware Cloud Architect - EMEA (2010-2011)
In this capacity I was responsible for
working with selected Service Providers and Outsourcers in Europe to facilitate
their transition from virtual infrastructures based offering to cloud computing
based on VMware technologies.
During this time I have seen vCloud Director taking shape from alpha stage.
As part of my job I have been working with Orange Business Services, T-Systems, SIS, Telecom Italia, Aruba (and others) to help them understand, evaluate, test and eventually implement the technologies in our portfolio to build a public cloud as part of the VMware hybrid cloud strategy.
In this role I had a great opportunity
to deal with a broad range of roles within our SP partners from CTOs to Business
leaders, from Cloud Architects to infrastructure operators.
I also had the opportunity to share
this knowledge and experience at VMworld events. I also published a fair
amount of articles on both my own blog as well as on the VMware corporate vCloud
The team I was part of was also responsible to feedback VMware Product Managers and VMware R&D about our technology and products strategy..
VMware Cloud Architect - Center of Excellence (2012)
In this role (that I started in November
2011) I was part of a distributed
global organization (CoE). The charter of this team was to make the products and
technologies I was focusing on (namely the vCloud Suite) interoperate more
efficiently and stretch them to deliver solutions and use cases that were border
line for the current status of the technology.
Example of projects I have been researching on or I contributed to includes the "vCloud Director multi-site deployments", "DR of vCloud Director based clouds" and "Backup and Recovery of end-user workloads in vCloud Director based clouds".
All these researches and Intellectual Property development require a great deal of interaction with the field organization (to gather requirements), Product Managers (to feedback about products strategy) and the R&D organization (to understand how much the current technology could have been stretched beyond what's documented).
My focus in this capacity was on both private and public clouds.
VMware Cloud Architect - vCloud Hybrid Service (2013)
From January 2013, in this role, I was working with the VMware
Cloud Services business unit on the new vCloud Hybrid Service that has been revealed on March 2013.
In this capacity I was looking more at how the public cloud is being consumed rather than how a cloud should be built. This is somewhat different (and complementary) compared to what I have done in the past.
I was working with both the business unit and the engineering team to contribute on all aspects of the service (from API consumption to evangelism, from DR-to-the cloud all the way to market positioning).
In addition I was still working with VMware Cloud Service Providers partners as part of our overall hybrid cloud strategy.
VMware Cloud Architect - vCloud Air (2014-2015)
In 2014 I transitioned into the (vCloud Air) Technical Marketing team focusing primarily and almost exclusively on API and automation. This allowed me to be able to have a bird-view of the entire platform and service while mastering a passion that was starting to build inside me lately: coding. This is to me like going back to my roots where everything has started (as a developer).
In this capacity I have been working on a lot of projects ranging from code samples to evangelize the consumption via APIs of vCloud Air resources all the way to producing internal and external documentation that describe the principles (and technical characteristic) of consuming vCloud Air programmatically.
Many of these samples are available on my personal Github account. Check it out: https://github.com/mreferre
I have also been deeply involved with some of the engineering work we have done with independent third party partners to help them integrate their solutions with vCloud Air. I have particularly enjoyed lately working with Ansible to create the vCloud air (aka vca_) related modules here: https://github.com/ansible/ansible-modules-extras/tree/devel/cloud/vmware
During my tenure at VMware I participated as a cloud SME speaker and/or a panelist at many VMworld events including 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
As of August 2015, this is my current position.
My Blog and Web Presence
This deserves a session of its own. Early in 2007 I felt the need to share with the industry the stuff I was working on and I decided to open my own web site / blog. I remember the very first thing I started with was a VDI connection broker comparison page and I was astonished by the amount of people that were using it and sending me comments about the content. That eventually evolved into a series of blog articles that have been very well received by the community to the point that virtualization.info appointed me as one of the top 5 bloggers for 2008.
If I have to name only a few posts (among many) I would mention "A brief architecture overview of VMware ESX, XEN and MS Viridian" which I did in June 2007 and scored more than 35.000 page views (it would have taken me 200 years on the road to meet all those customers face-to-face to share the content - I guess this is indeed the power of web 2.0).
The other post I would mention is "Plagiarism: did Paul Maritz steal my pitch for the VMworld 2008 Keynote?". This was an interesting one where I basically pointed out that many of the items I discussed during my break-out session at VMworld 2007 in San Francisco were very much in line with the VMware strategy the new CEO outlined in the keynote session at VMworld 2008 in Las Vegas. I don't think I inspired them but I always like to point out the coincidence.
As of late, my "Cloud Native Applications (for Dummies)" is something that have experienced good success in the community (in terms of hits, retweets and interactions). Very proud of that one too.
All in all I would probably say that my blog has been the most exciting thing that happened to me since 2007 - professionally speaking.
Other than this I have spent a great deal of time on professional social networks on the web specifically forums of technology partners that allowed me to get an extraordinary "virtual eye contact" with so many customers and industry leaders. I have been advocating lately that I am (virtually) meeting many more customers in a single month now through social networking than I have ever done in 15 years at IBM. And the funny thing is that you can do this from home if you want to!
I have been fairly active on twitter since 2010 and I think I have by now a decent following. If you want to follow me there this is my twitter handle: @mreferre.
This is the list of both IBM and industry recognized certifications I hold:
§ IBM Certified IT/Architect
§ MCSE Windows NT
§ MCSE Windows 2000 (early achiever)
§ Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS): Windows Server Virtualization, Configuration
§ Citrix Certified Administrator (Metaframe 1.8)
§ VMware Certified Professional (VCP 101, VCP 310, VCP 410)
§ VMware vExpert 2009 / 2010 / 2011 / 2012 / 2013 / 2014
I haven't pursued any new certification since many years because I realized that you are certified by the community you serve. In other words the web is your CV.
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