Invest in Yourself and Learn How to Run a More Modern, Forward-Thinking Shop
Despite how closely IT professionals work with technology, people can get stuck doing things a particular way, and it can be hard to change. Taking chances on emerging technology can seem like a gamble, but if your IT team stays stagnant for too long, your company will get stuck in the past.
I’ve taken it upon myself to expand my knowledge to make some of these technology-based risks a little less scary for my company. And I’m becoming a better IT professional in the process.
Getting My Shot at New Tech
Founded in 1984, the Florida Cancer Specialists and Research Institute (FCS) provides world-class cancer care in community-based settings. More than 250 physicians and 220 nurse practitioners and physician assistants give patients exceptional and compassionate care in nearly 100 locations throughout Florida.
I joined FCS three years ago after taking an old-school approach to my career. I started by providing basic help desk functions, and then worked my way up and into other areas. About 12 years ago, I got exposed to Citrix, and went deeper into the world of virtualization. I’m currently the Citrix Engineer at FCS, responsible for managing, optimizing, and supporting our Citrix environment.
Ten years ago, I was a Citrix administrator at a hospital, and some vendors told me about Nutanix. I researched the platform and liked what I saw, but my attempts to get that company—and subsequent employers—to adopt Nutanix were futile. One of the reasons I took the job at FCS was because they had implemented Nutanix only a few months before. They chose Nutanix because it was a cheaper alternative to VMware for their Citrix environment. This position was my chance to get some hands-on experience with a platform I’d desired for years.
Nutanix Makes Life Easier
What immediately differentiated Nutanix was its simplicity. That is not to say it lacks the performance or capabilities of its more established competitors, just that it’s very user-friendly. Because of that, Nutanix is easy to learn and doesn’t require a specialist to manage.
You can have Nutanix clusters in different clouds—one cluster in Azure and another cluster in AWS, for example—and your technicians and engineers don’t have to learn each cloud environment. They only have to be familiar with the Nutanix environment, and they can manage everything in Prism Central, a single, centralized management interface. With Nutanix, a company doesn’t have to hire separate AWS and Azure teams. Compared to VMware, which can get much more complex, you don’t have to think about Nutanix too much. It just works.
FCS’s Citrix environment grew from an initial Nutanix cluster of fewer than 10 nodes running only Citrix workloads and resources. Today, we have three clusters and 25 nodes: two clusters running Citrix workloads and a small third cluster of three nodes running specific lab-related software and test runs. Nearly the entire company uses the Citrix environment throughout the day, whether for VDI or published applications. That amounts to around 2,500–3,000 users daily.
From the beginning, I felt that Nutanix cared about making life easier for engineers and architects who manage complex environments. It comes back to simplicity. Previously, FCS needed a team of four or five people to manage VMware. Now, I run Nutanix on my own. And fewer people to manage an environment leads to cost savings.
Training Opened My Eyes to New Perspectives
Despite the ease and simplicity of Nutanix, I decided to pursue Nutanix certification. Many people get tunnel vision when it comes to the day-in, day-out aspects of a job, but the more you know, the more you can look at a problem from different angles. I also felt that certification would benefit my personal and professional growth. I now have three certifications under my belt.
Part of my certification experience involved participating in the Enterprise Cloud Solution Design boot camp, three intensive days of learning how to gather requirements, scope and build an enterprise cloud solution, and then present it using a Nutanix framework. Attending the boot camp is the first step to becoming a Nutanix Certified Expert (NCX), the highest level of certification Nutanix offers.
The boot camp was a unique experience because I was one of the few customers there. Everyone else was a Nutanix employee or a partner consultant. These people live and breathe Nutanix 24/7, so even just working alongside them and seeing their thought process made for a rich learning experience. There’s that saying about wanting to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, and I can honestly say that being around these people for three days made me push myself. At the same time, I brought a customer’s perspective to the table and challenged some of their approaches, too.
The boot camp was quite different from a traditional class, which is spent learning theory or reading examples and use cases from a book. There were no videos or PowerPoint presentations. We focused on deep thought processes. The teachers were awesome, and everyone was very forthcoming and friendly, which was important because there were a lot of open discussions. It was the most interactive and informative class I’d ever taken.
Applying My Learning to Our Environment
My certification training and boot camp made me realize how much more Nutanix brings to the table than anyone else. There’s a reason Nutanix works with governments and Fortune 500 companies worldwide: Nutanix is on par with, and even ahead of, VMware in certain areas.
Nutanix has helped simplify the management of FCS’ Citrix environment, with the reliability and performance required to best serve our patients. Right now, we’re in deep conversations around migrating more workloads from VMware to Nutanix, and my Nutanix education is helping make a case for further investment in the Nutanix ecosystem.
It’s not just that these workloads could work just as well on Nutanix (though there is that). Many VMware processes have huge runbooks, like those run to do a backup DR with SRM. Nutanix would simplify these processes. But where the boot camp really helped me is in understanding how Nutanix solutions could help us beyond the virtual server.
The more I learn, the more I can see how other Nutanix solutions can improve our environment. We’re currently exploring:
- Nutanix Frame’s desktop-as-a-service solution for public and private cloud applications
- Veeam data protection
- Xi Leap for cloud-based disaster recovery
- Nutanix Era for simplified database operations
- Flow for microsegmentation
- Nutanix Calm and Prism Pro X-Play for automation
Investing in the Nutanix ecosystem and simplifying our processes will make us a more efficient, productive, and agile department.
Nutanix Is Ahead of the Curve on Hybrid Cloud, Automation, and Security
Nutanix is ahead of the curve when it comes to the hybrid cloud approach, and I love what they’re doing as far as innovating new solutions to transform their customers into more modern, forward-thinking shops. I think everyone has realized that cloud technology is the future. The question now becomes, what’s the right balance between cloud and on-prem infrastructure? This balance is why Nutanix’s hybrid model works.
Automation, like cloud technology, is also shaping the way IT departments structure their workloads. Right now, we have a lot of manual processes that automation can help alleviate. And when someone makes a request from IT, we have to pass a ticket around to three or four people. With automation and self-service capabilities, we could empower the person submitting the request to get what they need from the start. That saves time for everyone.
Even more critical for FCS’ purposes, Nutanix puts a lot of value on security, including features to help with ransomware. Being in healthcare, we handle tons of medical data, and we have to keep that protected. It’s great to work with a company that values security as much as we do.
As I mentioned, there were many Nutanix employees in my boot camp, and one thing that stuck with me was that so many of them had a positive story about how Nutanix helped them personally. I respect a company that takes care of its people. It just confirmed to me that Nutanix cares about more than just technology.
Take the Time to Invest in Yourself
I am very big on traditional apprenticeships, mentorships, and vocational studies because they offer a more hands-on approach. Nutanix training is a lot closer to that than the more theoretical approach of other companies’ classes. Nutanix classes relate directly to your day-to-day role, which is important to me because I use Nutanix very specifically for Citrix.
Nutanix training is also a low-cost investment. One of the reasons I got so deep into my career without getting certifications was the high price that some companies charge for classes. By contrast, training through Nutanix University is free, and Nutanix is always running deals on their paid certifications and boot camps.
It’s never too late to learn something new or make a change. I’ve been in the industry for 25 years, and it’s only in the last three that I’ve started pushing myself to expand my knowledge. During that time, I’ve become a much more knowledgeable and marketable engineer. The low barrier to training and certifications means there’s no reason not to.
Spend an hour less on TikTok every day and put it toward something that will advance your career. At the end of the day, you must invest in yourself. That’s the least risky move of all.