This morning, I received two excellent e-mail messages; notification that I have been selected as both a Microsoft MVP and VMware vExpert. These awards share many similarities, both recognizing contribution to the community and support of technological literacy. But both also require support from the community, so I would like to take a moment to thank everyone reading this for helping me win these awards. I simply could not have done it without you!
Microsoft began recognizing “the best and brightest from technology communities around the world” with their Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award way back in the days of CompuServe. This program serves two purposes: It recognizes those who have contributed to the Microsoft community over the previous year, and bring them in contact with the company in the coming year.
Many outside the program believe that Microsoft MVPs get special access, privileges, and information about upcoming products, but this is not true. At least in my area of File System Storage, very little is shared about upcoming products or technology that is still in the lab.
Instead, the MVP allows Microsoft product managers to directly interact with a group of people who are very interested in their particular area of the company. Probably the highest profile interaction occurs during the annual MVP Summit in Redmond, WA, where MVPs prowl the campus and attend meeting after meeting discussing various products and technologies with Microsoft employees.
I first received the Microsoft MVP award in 2008, after a series of articles I wrote focusing on various aspects of Microsoft’s storage technology development. In the years previous, as a writer for Storage Magazine, a speaker at Storage Decisions, and other venues, I had extolled the virtues of the Microsoft iSCSI initiator, the VSS system, the MPIO driver, and the volume manager for Windows. I also suggested a number of improvements to the systems, and the Microsoft product group reached out with the MVP award to continue this dialogue.
In the years since, I have had many wonderful interactions with Microsoft product managers. But I have remained critical of the company in many areas, especially when they fall short of the goal. I am disappointed to see little development of Fibre Channel and FCoE support in Microsoft Windows, and the cancellation of Windows home server with its clever post-RAID storage layer. I would like to see Microsoft match VMware’s incredible pace of development, and feel that Hyper-V is at risk of losing the hypervisor war. And I am skeptical about many of Microsoft’s other facets, from Windows Phone to Bing.
Happily, none of this criticism has caused strife in my relationship with Redmond. To their credit, Microsoft employees seem genuinely interested in improving their products and doing the right thing in terms of product and technology decisions. They didn’t even mind (too much) when I showed up on campus with my iPhone and MacBook Pro!
The VMware vExpert award is obviously patterned on the Microsoft MVP program, but VMware deserves credit for going in their own direction. vExperts are not expected to be supreme vessels of product and technical knowledge, but are instead recognized for contributing to the greater good of the virtualization community.
VMware vExperts are occasionally briefed on forthcoming product announcements or given access to beta software for review and feedback. VMware encourages active dialogue between vExperts, the virtualization community, and VMware employees. The atmosphere is one of open communication and assistance, and there is no clubby “we’re better than them” feeling. This is a good thing, since many non-vExperts communicate and contribute at a high-level!
It seems that VMware is still figuring out how to deal with, and benefit from, the vExpert community. The program is developing nicely, and I expect it to continue to improve in the coming year. Although it has been around much longer, the Microsoft MVP program is similarly in a constant state of flux, with malcontents and fan boys both inside and outside the company and program. I guess this is just how programs like this operate!
I began my career as a systems administrator, before switching to consulting and now mainly writing and speaking on technical topics for living. Although both the VMware and Microsoft award recognize my contribution to the community, the truth is that I could not make any contribution without the community supporting me in return. In fact, none of my vaunted contributions come from me alone.
One reason that I’m willing to speak at events like Storage Decisions and my Storage for Virtual Environments seminar series is the incredible amount of information that comes back to me from the audience. I like to joke that I will repackage any feedback as my own thoughts in the future, but this isn’t all that far from the truth. Every time an active discussion starts at these events, I am learning just as much as the audience members. And I do, in fact, incorporate this sort of feedback into future events and publications.
If I have a talent worth recognizing, it is my compulsion to collect and share information about technical topics. When I discover a new area of technology, I love to go out and collect information and try to translate that into educational materials for others. This constantly happens when I am preparing seminar presentations, technical articles, and even blog posts. And I suppose this is the real reason that Microsoft and VMware are recognizing me.
I sincerely appreciate receiving these awards, and thank Microsoft and VMware for their faith in me. I also sincerely appreciate the contribution and feedback I get from the technical community around me, and thank you just as much for these awards. I would not have received them without the readers of my blog, the attendees at my seminars, and the vast community that I interact with on a daily basis. Thank you!