System Center Discussion with Nate Lasnoski [Podcast]

Author by Nathan Lasnoski

Nate Lasnoski is a Microsoft MVP for Virtualization Communities for three straight years. He works with customers in the design and development of Infrastructure technology solutions. Nate discusses his passion about working in Microsoft technologies, specifically the System Center, Office 365 and infrastructure in general.

It is my joy and blessing to be able to do what I love every day. I’m looking forward to continuing to be involved in the virtualization community and to help educate around these awesome technologies. -- Nate Lasnoski

[display_podcast] Transcript of this podcast:

Marek:  Welcome to another episode of Concurrency Experts Podcast. Today we welcome Nate Lasnoski. Hi Nate, how are you today?

Nate: I'm doing great.

Marek:  Would you please tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your current position with Concurrency and anything else you would like to let listeners know?

Nate: Sure. My name is Nate Lasnoski. I'm Concurrency's Infrastructure Practice Lead. I've been with Concurrency for about 12 years. I currently lead all infrastructure deliverable to Concurrency and I'm responsible for insuring that our customers receives technology solutions that fit their business needs. I work full in terms of meeting our functional area as well as working hands on with customers in the field to improve their technology solutions and work with them on a strategic road maps around technologies like System Center and Unified Communications and Server Infrastructure.

Marek:  Tell us a little bit about how you started with Concurrency and maybe just a little bit about your career path, and advancement, and maybe some of your official certifications you have attained and earned, Microsoft certifications.

Nate: I started with Concurrency like in about 12 years ago. I started right out of college actually and it's one of the things I have really appreciated about Concurrency is it's provided me with the opportunity to be able to do what I love most. I have a passion for working with customers on technology. I have a passion for engaging and challenging in interesting technology solutions and sharing that knowledge that I have with technology with others to help them discover where the technologies we work with can benefit their business. So for me it's really been a dream job it's an opportunity for me to do what I love most and do it in the field everyday working with different types of businesses that have different types of business needs. So when I started with Concurrency my career path has really matured as Concurrency has matured. I have started working very hands on as an engineer and continue to grow that, that architectural and engineering skill set as I've worked with different types of customers and really as the technology market all of the tools in technology we work with have matured. So I've found that it's been a very fulfilling place to find a career, it's also been a fulfilling place to work personally because it allows for me both to work with customers in a really interesting way as well as provides me with the opportunity to have a job that doesn't take away from my family life and that's important to me as well. So I've found that it as a career has been something fulfilling and something that's allowed me to be the kind of dad and husband and father that I want to be as well and that's something that I think has really made it truly a dream job for me to work at. One of the things I'm very proud about in working at Concurrency is we've assembled a group of people who love working with the technology and that's represented not only in our customer relationships, but it's also represented in a certification and in the relationships they have with Microsoft. I my self’s been proud to been a person who's had the opportunity to earn an MVP award with Microsoft community involvement. So also I had the opportunity to speak at Microsoft conferences and I had the opportunity to work on some really interesting System Center and Core Infrastructure engagements. In fact we've had the opportunity to work on the four large implementations of Service Manager in the world and for me that's been something that's been really exciting because I love working with companies that are trying to transform their IT department and use it to be able to benefit the business in a more powerful way. I think System Center for me has been a technology that's facilitated that technology transformation as well other Core Infrastructure technologies that exists from Microsoft that we can engage our customers around to be able to improve the way they do their business. So for me working as a consultant with companies of many different flavors has provided an opportunity for me to use the skills that, that I have and for my team to use the skills that we have to help those customers accomplish the objectives that their attempting to accomplish.

Marek:  Wow that sounds really exciting actually. It's neat how you have actually grown, professionally grown along with Concurrency throughout, throughout the last 12 years. Sounds good. Well you mentioned System Center, mentioned that you have worked on the largest implementation of the System Center. Could you tell us more about that one please?

Nate: Oh absolutely. Some of the things that have been really interesting has been not just working on large implementations, but working on implementations that have varying different types of scopes. Implementation that are attempting to you know, get on unique business challenges. Some of our customers are very Data Center centric. They operate thousands and thousands of servers in the Data Center and they're trying to operate their private Cloud Infrastructure in a more efficient way. Other customers that we work with are very client-centric. They have hundreds and thousands of work stations and they're trying to operate the Client Infrastructure in a more efficient way. So what we've been able to do with System Center is we've been able to serve both the process and the automation ends of that. I'll say that most of our engagements kind of fall into three main technology outcomes. The first technology outcome that with previous customers trying to achieve is visibility. They currently are operating IT to serve the business in a way which accomplishes a particular objective the same. IT is basically serving business by delivering them a technology solution. The business pays IT to deliver this to them that's why IT has a job. So what they're trying to achieve in IT is get visibility in the things they deliver to the business. So if their delivering an exchange solution they want to know what is hard rule that makes up that exchange solution? What is the worth processes that surround that exchange solution? How much does it cost on a daily basis for me to run it through the operational processes that care and feed for it? And how much, remediation work do I perform associated that I change solution? And they want to use that information to make business different. For example they might make that, use that information to make a business decision regarding whether or not they take that and move it in to Office 365 or if they keep it on premise with some of that information to provide them with transparency around what they deliver to the business and what it cost to operate. So one of the things we spend time working with these companies on is the outcome around that visibility. We say what is it that you want to present to your business about what you do? And one of the first ways we start that conversation is by saying lets articulate all the things we deliver as a business from IT that our business consumes. So what are the things that IT delivers to our customers in the business that they use and lets stack rank those in terms of what is the most important, but what is the least important thing to deliver so we can start to prioritize the services that we have and in this being visibility around that service. So that is a very, very important aspect of what we're delivering with these System Center stations. Another key thing we're delivering with System Center in IT service management in general is process transformation. A lot of companies they currently have ticket tracking system. They currently maybe even doing change management or problem management, but we find that, that most of them are looking to transform what their doing now and do it much better. So what we're working with them on is understanding that process they have currently, understanding best practices and where those best practices can apply to their business. So process transformation applies to visibility aspect as well as applies to how do we go about acting on these different processes today. So for example if a company needs to implement a change request to apply SharePoint Service Pack 1 to their SharePoint forum what is that change of class application on flash box look like? Some companies they implement the change management like a sledge hammer. It is in the way of innovation, it is not improving the way that they do business because they implement it as a blocker to prevent them from being able to make changes during a certain time period. In many cases it's been effective of preventing outages, but also been effective in preventing innovation. So what we work with them on is saying here's how we're going to take that model of change management and implement things like standard changes that allows for us to be able to allow for innovation, but also protects the operational environment from the IT implemented changes as well as other changes that are coming down the pike. So that kind of frame work allows for us to be able to implement process change in a way which is very pragmatic and it also in a way which has positive impacts on the overall process that they're trying to achieve. So we find that the service management projects are very centric to process change. The first thing that we see is very, very pragmatic. The third thing we see is automation. We see companies wanting to take these processes that they have and take those processes an automate certain aspects of them. I was recently working with a company that does a lot a server deployment, and those server deployments were very inefficient so we've found that if we automated those server deployments we would save over an FTE a year. A full time engineer a year in terms of the work that's being preformed presently. So in that automation we're able to engineer aspects of a road map to be able to accomplish the tasks for them in a much more rapid fashion you know sort of a much more repeatable fashion. So we find that automation is willing to create well hanging fruit and instead of always focusing on replacing incident management, problem management or change management in our first phase. Often times we focus on attacking these really attainable ROI centric to align with the things that they're really going to be able to show that the business that they've got. And later on accomplish things like incident, problem and change. So we've found that for very, very large companies it's either the Data Center space or the client space that's allowed us to be able to implement real tangible benefits to them in outcomes that they can articulate in their road map and then can be acted upon within short sprits. So we've found that to be a really wonderful way to be able to act in these particular projects. So in those three major objective areas we've engaged both those very, very large customers and even smaller customers to be able to articulate a road map around the core infrastructure particularly around System Center and then also implement those individual road map components as their going through different maturity levels. So as we've worked with companies that are doing Data Center work we're finding that we're able to significantly optimize the way that they're operating their private Cloud to be able to deliver solutions faster and what that really means is they're able to deliver for their customers faster. So if a customer needs to deploy new code rules to all their servers it gives them an application faster. You can automate Release Management, Human Service Manager, and Orchestrator. If the company's trying to serve thousands of IT people that are across the world we can use Service Manager's self service IT portal to be able to deliver a self service experience for those users for the global footprint. So we're able to do some really innovative things and save people tons of time and money and also allow for them to be able to replace manual task with automated activities. So one of the reasons I find that so useful is because I myself don't like doing manual activities so if someone asked me to create a new user account or someone asked me to deploy a new work station I don't want to go into all those individual steps one by one and furthermore if I'd organized a standard that I followed to do that and I have to follow it in the word documents I'm certainly not going to follow it correctly every time. So what we find in automation is not only am I replacing manual activities, but I'm giving people the opportunity to be able to leverage their skills in a more complete way. In a way which it uses the skills that they have and to the fullest as well as allowing those processes to be standardized. So every time I provision a new user it goes to every time I deploy a new work station it goes to the right collection, the right application. I recently did a project were a company was moving from XP to Windows 7 so we wrote a translation pattern for Windows XP to Windows 7 app so when they did Reimage it pulled the translated Window 7 and the Windows or the Windows XP app to the Windows 7 app to deploy that application that's appropriate for the Reimage system. And that was really innovative and also was able to fulfill a self service back up. So what I find is that we're truly able to positively impact businesses by providing them visibility into the process, transforming processes as well as automation for both Config Management, Asset Management, Word Process Management, and anything in between.

Marek:  Well that sounds like Microsoft provides some really on the edge, very advantageous systems now for IT Management and I know that you have presented several public events and were you demoed System Center. I believe there are some videos that you have recorded and posted on so all the listeners who are listening to us you can go to and look for System Center videos that Nate presented. He has some very interesting hands on examples of what can be done with System Center. Is there anything else you can add to that Nate?

Nate: Absolutely. It's been an absolute blessing working with these technologies because I feel like I really get to make a difference. I think that's something that I really like about consulting in general is I enjoy making a difference in the lives of the customers that I have and I enjoy creating a work place were the team members who work here really get to make a difference in the lives of the people they work with and in the customers where they work at. Actually in System Center it gives us the technology to do that. Allows us to automate, allows us to implement process improvement, allows us to positively and really a complete way, and a really pragmatic way implement change organizations that are looking for that change to happen. And I find that really interesting it's more than just you know, replacing technology X, technology Y I actually like to really get to implement process change and to allow people to use their skills in a much more complete manner. I find that a really fulfilling process and I think that the, the customers we're working with they end up learning a lot because one of the things we really enjoy doing is being like knowledge transfer. I think that doing knowledge transfer with companies as they're doing these projects allows for us to be able to insure that they have great skill sets as we're implementing these tools. One of the things that I would suggest to people who are looking into these technologies is think about attending MMF, think about attending Tech Ed. Those two upcoming conferences are great opportunities for you to learn more about System Center and understand how other companies are doing it and also to get experience yourself in working hands on with the technologies in these particular spaces.

Marek:  I also know that Microsoft has already for awhile used, have been using and introducing Office 365 to further revolutionize the business side of word processing, collaboration and basically office document management. Can you say something more about Office 365 from your perspective?

Nate: Absolutely. One of the things that we're finding in the Core Infrastructure space is that more and more companies are finding that they want to move parts of their infrastructure off premise because they're not in the business of running that commodity technology solution. So email, SharePoint, Link, a lot of these technology solutions have become what IT communities consider to be commodities. So instead of confiding themselves to be the best provider that protects a particular technology solution and really innovating in that space they're deciding to move that up to the Cloud to Microsoft Office 365 in receiving exchange services from Office 365, but still receiving a really, really high quality experience that fits the needs of their business. One of, kind of stressful moments that we found with Office 365 is when it supported single sign on. Office 365 integrates with active directory federation services to provide a capability for a user who's slides under the local domain to log on to Office 365's platform and be able to have a single sign on experience low link and for exchange in their SharePoint. So I'm finding that a lot of businesses are choosing to innovate in other areas other than moving to O-, than, other than putting exchange on premise. What we've both found is that whether it's on premise or in Office 365 we can leverage System Center to be able to automate tasks within those spaces. So if a person is doing in a new user request through HR through a self service portal in Service Manager they can provide them that self service experience and a new user request can provision the new user. It can provision the Office 365 exchange account and the Office 365 Link account tied to that on premise user. We're also seeing that companies are looking heavily at AJER so Microsoft's now delivering both platform and infrastructures with service offerings through AJER that pairs in closely with what System Center is delivering as part of System Center Service Pack 1. So we're finding that that's a big open space were people are saying what can I put in AJER that I can take out of my on premise environment? So for example Office 365 has a SharePoint environment, but it may not include all the features that they want to implement and then they choose them to look toward it on premise environment, but what they can do instead of that is they can provision a SharePoint environment in Microsoft Infrastructure as a service offering that runs SharePoint integrates with an off premise AD or even an AD that has a domain controller in AJER. One of the benefits of that, is it allows for, it allows for you to be able to not have the SharePoint environment on premise, it allows you to have great connectivity to internet as well as allows for it to be able to scale as the business scales it. Plus it's really like having your Data Center hosted by Microsoft in a secure location, but still integrated with your on premise infrastructure. So we're finding that in addition to Office 365 which is really a software as a service offering we find that Microsoft's platform and infrastructure as a service offering are also really, really important to our customers that are looking to innovate in where they're hosting their environment as well as how they're controlling their environment in System Center. So we find that that's a big area that people are investing in right now.

Marek:  Oh great. And so obviously that is a part of that big push to the Cloud and it definitely sounds like Microsoft technologies are very well positioned not just for application, but as you mentioned infrastructure and possibly some other aspects of IT as well right?

Nate: Absolutely. Microsoft's done a great job of building out platform software and infrastructure as service offerings that allowing them to be controlled through the on premise environment using System Center that can mange both the on premise infrastructures and service platform as well as the AJER infrastructure and service platform and platform is a serious platform so it allows for us to be able to really control it from one space, but have different parts of our infrastructure in different locations that suits our business needs.

Marek:  We can probably do a follow up podcasting in the future deeper on each of those areas, but I believe for today you gave us a lot to think about and research, and analyze. I want to thank you very much for, for your time and could you just tell us how the listeners can connect with you or Concurrency if they need more information about this.

Nate: You can follow me on Twitter @nlasnoski as well as I have a blog on the Concurrency blog and if you're interested in talking about technical types and System Center Solution either to road map or to talk about an individual project you can contact us through our website or directly through our blog or through email and we'd be happy to chat with you about it.

Marek:  Excellent. And the blog and the email and the website address again is and I'm sure there are links associated with this podcast.



Nathan Lasnoski

Chief Technology Officer