Kiwi IT consultant achieves rare certification

Business advantages, but at a cost, for virtualisation specialist

Last December Michael Webster, founder of IT Solutions 2000 in Auckland, officially became VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) number 66.

The certification involves multiple exams and a process that ultimately seems more akin to a PhD candidate's thesis defence than your usual certification.

But Webster has been working in virtualisation since he struck out on his own 12 years ago, and has been investing professional time, energy and resources in VMware since he was first certified with the vendor in 2005 and today, IT 2000 is very much a VMware shop.

Webster provides consulting services on behalf of VMware and works on projects alongside such companies as Gen-i, HP and CSC, architecting and implenting veritualised envrionments, and scaling up to as much as 25 casual workers on a project-by-project basis.

The focus on and dedication of resources to VMware has helped build the company into a multinational business, which Webster expects to grow with the VCDX designation.

“The certification process is an interesting mix of architecture preentation and very broad and deep knowledge, as well engineering,” says Webster. “It’s at the enterprise level, so it’s evidence that you know how to design large, complex and highly scalable solutions for global organistions, essentially.”

There were, as of December, 68 such experts in the world. Only those having achieved all levels of VMware certification exams — from certified professional to advanced professional administration — qualify. Candidates then submit a design to be peer-reviewed by “global experts”. If the design is deemed “good enough” you are invited to defend it in person before a panel of three judges, with six other network architects observing.

(Webster defended his design in August in Palo Alto, California.)

Candidates also must improvise and talk through a design solution to a problem given on the spot, followed by an “oddball problem” to troubleshoot.

“It’s intense,” Webster says. “It’s a massive personal investment with a lot of years and experience and significant financial investment, time invesment and sacrifice of the family.”

Yet, the designation has already won IT Solutions 2000 consulting work in APAC.

And while the work Webster does is on the enterprise level, he sees virtualisation accreditations as necessary to assure SMB customers in the ever growing virtualisation space.

“I definitely think there’s opportunities for smaller IT integrators and partners to provide differentiated services to SMBs,” he says. “But I think that one of the key things that’s going to really drive that market is getting rid of complexity. The problem with IT is it’s far too complicated, and for it to be consumable, it needs to be simple.”

Limited broadband is still a “hurdle” for New Zealand to clear in order to take full advantage of the cloud, Webster says, which the Ultrafast Broaband and Rural Broadband initiatives are beginning to address.

“At the moment in New Zealand you can’t just take your credit card and go to somebody and get capacity on demand. But thats’ sort of where it needs to get to.”

In the meantime, Webster sees virtualsation continuing, with hardware moving increasingl — but not completley — out of the office and into the datacentre.

“There have to be extra functions and features on top of the hardware to make the reseller attractive, he says. “That’s where the differentation is going to come in in my opinion.”

“It’s all well and good to have this fancy infrasturcture and everything,” he adds. “But the only reason it exists is to run the applications and the only reason the applications are there is for the end users and the end users want to know that they’re performing to expectations and if not how are you going to fix it. So it's important to have the visibility of the whole stack all the way through to manage all ghat. This is where the reseller comes in, to add value and take away complexity.”

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Tags: IT Solutions 2000, Certified Design Expert, VCDX, Michael Webster, VMware
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