Microsoft Masterminds Episode 4: Thomas Maurer, MVP (Most Valuable Professional) for Virtual Machine from Switzerland

Welcome to the new episode of tech talks with outstanding Microsoft community members from all over the world. Most interviews are with Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs), and if you are not familiar with that program yet, I recommend you reading my recent introductory interview. In this episode I talk with Thomas Maurer, a Switzerland based MVP, expert for System Center and private Cloud. Enjoy reading!

Editorial processing done by Rafael Knuth



Readable Interview:

Flo: Thomas, you were just nominated as MVP for Virtual Machine. Congratulations! Tell us about you and your company and also how it feels to be a Microsoft MVP.

Thomas: My name is Thomas Maurer. I work as a Private Cloud Architect for ITNETX, a consulting and engineering company in Switzerland. We are focused on Microsoft technology, especially Windows Server Hyper-V and SystemCenter … systems management and Microsoft virtualization. My focus area is Hyper-V and VMM (Virtual Machine Manager). I’m working on a lot of projects for customers where we built the base for private cloud. Since this year I’m MVP for Virtual Machine and it’s a big honor for me.

Flo: How does your role as MVP relate to your work at ITNETX?

Thomas: I became a MVP because of my work at ITNETX. In Switzerland we don’t have so many Hyper-V deployments at the moment, and at INTETX I spend all my time working with Hyper-V and System Center, that’s a huge opportunity and that’s how I get a lot of experience in this area. Also, as a MVP I give presentations for Microsoft, partners and at events like E2EVC conference.

Flo: ITNETX is one of the key companies for private clouds and System Center in Switzerland and was awarded with the Microsoft Data Center Partner Award in 2012. Can you give us a brief overview over your projects? Which were the most challenging ones and what are your biggest accomplishments for customers so far?

Thomas: ITNETX just got awarded by Microsoft second time in a row by the way, for being the Microsoft Partner of the Year 2012 in Data Center and that’s a big honor. We try to achieve this next year as well.

The biggest challenge is: You have to understand customer needs and you have to be always working with newest technology. We are trying to get the best solutions for our customers – the greatest and latest technology from Microsoft. Hardware-wise we are vendor independent; we are looking at different hardware vendors. It’s sometimes a challenge to get new Microsoft technology working on old hardware or getting vendors to build hardware which supports new technologies … specially Hyper-V and many of its functionalities.

Flo: What are the major differences in cloud computing between Europe and the US?

Thomas: I cannot say much about the US market; I am not working for companies in the US. I do work for international companies based outside the US, and we are for example part of the System Center 2012 TAP program.

In Switzerland security and data privacy is a big issue. I think that other countries are doing the step to the cloud really fast and it’s going to happen sooner or later in every country. But it will take some time specially Switzerland, which is not that fast in going forward with new technologies.

Flo: Let’s talk a bit about Microsoft private cloud solutions. What’s your absolute killer feature in Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V?

Thomas: There are a lot of great features such as ESXi or Xen management. If I had to pick two features I would choose first Hyper-V Replica, which allows you to easily migrate or replicate virtual machines from one host or one cluster to another host or cluster. That was a big problem for disaster recovery in the past. There are lot of companies which didn’t have disaster recovery yet. Or if they had it, it was too complex to work with. If a disaster happened no one knew what to do. So they had to call the vendor, and he had to do the failover and it was not that easy. Hyper-V Replica is going to change that because everything is built into Hyper-V Manger and Microsoft Failover Cluster Manger (MSFCM). I think it will be in System Center 2012 as well and that’s one of the greatest features.

The other feature I’d like to mention: You don’t need to place Hyper-V virtual machines on block storage any more. You can use SMB 3.0 for storage instead. You are not limited to expensive block storage anymore. You now have more options and potential scenarios for Hyper-V usage in various hardware environments.

Flo: How do you see data centers change over the next few years?

Thomas:  Well, what I see at the moment in data centers is that there is lack of management capabilities. A lot of companies still do script based “slow management”. Many companies lack a management suite allowing them do everything from within it.

Interviewer: You mean there’s lack of automation in data centers?

Thomas: Absolutely, yes. There is no real orchestration in a lot of data centers I have seen in Switzerland. That has to change because a data center is a dynamic environment. You don’t put in a server and let it run for five, six or seven years. That’s changing and you have to deliver faster to your customers. If your customer requests servers or applications, you have to be able to deliver them quickly. That is changing more and more and it has to.

Flo: So in the future you will not care about the rack of servers but only about the mount of storage, CPUs, memory you need for virtual machine deployment for example – correct?

Thomas: Yeah, absolutely! That’s the kind of stuff we already do for customers. We try to go away from a “I need a server!” type of thinking. Instead we ask: “What do you need for your application or service to run?” We are putting a layer between the service, OS and the hardware. So you just have resources which so you can use for your applications and you don’t care as an application owner if this is block storage or file storage, you don’t care which CPU it is … it just has to perform. That’s what the fabric layer has to do and the fabric layer doesn’t really care which applications are running inside your virtual machines. Of course the fabric layer has to know what performance is needed and: “Is it disk related? Is it IO related? Or CPU related?” … but: At the end the fabric layer has to take care of that. System Center and Windows Server 2012 provides a perfect solution for that.

Flo: Should hardware be more intelligent or … more stupid?

Thomas: It sounds a little bit strange now but I think it has to be both. Hardware has to be stupid and intelligent at the same time in a way that I want the hardware to take care of itself without installing lots of sophisticated tools to manage it. I simply expect the hardware to run and if it doesn’t, I will replace it.

Flo: Thank you very much, Thomas. I am looking forward to interview you soon and to dive deeply into some of the topics we talked about today.

Thomas: Sure, Flo!

Twitter: @ThomasMaurer


My take aways from E2EVC

One week is over since the E2EVC ended for this year.

In my opinion it was a awesom event. Great presentations and speakers.

I had also the chance to speak with spend a lot of time with a few of my IT idols.

Didier van Hoye:

Didier shows me every day, how many things I don’t know, specially about storage and networking. 

Carsten Rachfahl:

He is also my mentor and the person, who pushes me along the Windows Server way. 

Thomas Maurer:

Thomas is one of the youngest MVP and also my personal competitor 😉 . He’s two years younger as my self and still on a professional level that I also want to reach in future. Well done Thomas and go on! 

Jeff Wouters:

Jeff also known as PowerShell Magician, is no MVP yet, but definitively on the way to become one. He is one of the best and most experienced PowerShell Gurus in EMEA. 

Aidan Finn:

Yes, last but not least Mr. Aidan Finn. One of the Microsoft MVP Rockstars EMEA and Worldwide. I felt like a teenage girl who met Justin Bieber when I talked to him or spend time with him and the other Experts. 

Aidan also signed my book. 😀 


I’m a little bit sad that Hans Vredevoort became sick, short before the event and can’t make it. 🙁

I captured some interviews at the E2EVC weekend and I will publish them step by step, as soon as possible.

All in all it was an amazing weekend I will visit E2EVC again, if I get the chance.


Next time E2EVC will take place in Copenhagen Denmark from May 31 to June 2, 2013.






E2EVC in Hamburg from 02.11.2012 to 04.11.2012 // The chance for me to meet great experts in person

Hi community,

E2EVC is a small but one of the most important virtualization events in Germany, if not even in Europe. Many well known experts will attend that event, amongst them a handful of Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVP).

I will attend E2EVC, which will take place 02. – 04. November 2012 in Hamburg (Germany) and I will meet some of the MVPs in person and interview them. You will find these interviews in this sequential order at the DELL TechCenter after the event.

In case you are not familiar with E2EVC Virtualisation Conference, the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional program or both, please find some key facts below.


So first, what is E2EVC?

E2EVC Virtualisation Conference is a non-commercial,virtualization community Event.
Our main goal is to bring the best virtualization experts together to exchange knowledge and to establish new connections. E2EVC is a weekend crammed with presentations, Master Classes and discussions delivered by both virtualization vendors product teams and independent experts.
Started in 2003 with just 4 people and after 16 successful events grown to a well-recognized event with over 120 attendees. Our conference has taken place in cities such as Munich, London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Berlin, Frankfurt, Dublin, Paris, Munich, Nice, Lisbon and Vienna. The next conference will take place in Hamburg, Germany.



Which MVPs will I meet in Hamburg?

Carsten Rachfahl, Didier van Hoye, Thomas Maurer, Aidan Finn and Hans Vredevoort confirmed they will give me an opportunity to interview them during the event. All of them are well known Microsoft MVPs and great guys.


Who is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP)?

According to MicrosoftMicrosoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award is given to “exceptional, independent community leaders who share their passion, technical expertise, and real-world knowledge of Microsoft products with others.” The awarded are people who “actively share their … technical expertise with the different technology communities related directly or indirectly to Microsoft”. An MVP is awarded for contributions over the previous year.

The MVP program grew out of the software developer community, as the initial MVPs were some of the most active on the online peer support communities such as Usenet and CompuServe. It has since grown to include other types of products, and other avenues of contribution. Steve Ballmer spoke to a group of Microsoft MVP’s about XP and Vista.



So, whom am I going to interview? 

Let me introduce them one by one:

Carsten Rachfahl

Consultant and Architect, Rachfahl IT-Solutions
Carsten Rachfahl started his IT career in 1988, working as a developer on porting X-Windows to an OS called OS/9. In 1991, he founded his own company in Germany and is self-employed since these ancient days. Starting 2001 with Citrix/Terminalserver, his focus is on the virtualization space till nowadays. When Microsoft finally created a “real” Hypervisor and brought that to the market, he was all in. His Blog is highly recognized and appreciated within the virtualization community. The Blog features tutorials, articles, screencasts, video interviews and podcasts focusing on the Microsoft Private Cloud. Being MCT, he teaches various Microsoft virtualization-, and his own “Hyper-V Powerkurs” course. As co-founder of the German Hyper-V Community he regularly organizes events and he has received the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award for Virtual Machine in the year 2011 and 2012.

Company: Rachfahl IT Solutions


Didier van Hoye

Didier Van Hoye has been earning a living in IT since 1996. Currently he’s the Microsoft Infrastructure Architect at the Flemish Geographical Information Agency. In his day job he’s involved with Windows Infrastructures amongst which Exchange Servers, SQL Servers & the System Center Suite. Didier uses Hyper-V, failover clustering, NLB, and Storage Area Networks in creative attempts to give his demanding user base both good & cost effective solutions to sometimes very challenging needs.

Company: Flemish Geographical Information Agency


Thomas Maurer

Microsoft MVP for Virtual Machine. Work as a Private Cloud Architect for itnetx gmbh, a consulting and engineering company located in Bern/Switzerland. We are focussed on Microsoft Technologies, especially Microsoft Private Cloud Solutions, Microsoft System Center and Microsoft Virtualization.

Company: itnetx gmbh

Aidan Finn

Aidan Finn is the Infrastructure Team Lead with System Dynamics, a consulting services company located in Dublin that provides IT infrastructure and business intelligence expertise. He has been working in IT since 1996 and has specialised in working with Microsoft infrastructure solutions including Server, desktop, System Center and virtualisation. Aidan is an MCSE and a Microsoft MVP in Virtualization. Aidan co-wrote Mastering Windows Server 2008 R2 (Sybex), is the lead author of Mastering Hyper-V Deployment (Sybex), and is contributing to Mastering Windows 7 Deployment (Sybex).

Company: Micro Warehouse

Hans Vredevoort

Hans Vredevoort is Consultant, Inovativ in the Netherlands, Microsoft MVP (Hyper-V), Microsoft vTSP Datacenter Solutions. He has a been an MVP (Cluster, Hyper-V) since 2009 and has a strong focus on Private Clouds built on top of Hyper-V and Microsoft System Center. He helped to kick-start the Hyper-V community and blogs/presents for as well as on numerous other occasions. Hans wrote the fabric chapters of Microsoft Private Cloud Computing, was the technical editor for Aidan Finn’s book Mastering Hyper-V Deployment and is now editing a new book project centering on Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012. After a long career with a system integrator in the Netherlands, he joined the System Center focused company Inovativ last year, where he is one of eight MVP’s that are working for this company. Vredevoort has assisted countless companies with architecting and building high available ‘cloud’ infrastructures using Windows virtualization, blade servers and shared storage.

Company: inovativ

Alex Juschin

Microsoft Most Valued Professional for Virtualization for six years 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012. Also, as recognition by Citrix Inc. He received the Citrix Technology Professional in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012. There are only abour 40 people holding any of it in the World. It is an big pleasure and responsibility for me to be listed as MVP and CTP, among the best people in the Industry.
He have organized and led all the PubForum/E2EVC events since the very first one in Amsterdam in August 2003. His current strong points are Microsoft Server Products including Windows Server 2008 (R2), 2003, MOM, Active Directory, Server Virtualization via VmWare,Hyper-V, XenServer, Server Management, Infrastructure planning and optimisation, implementation of Microsoft Best Practicies, Remote Desktop Services and of course Citrix. He started to work with Citrix Products in 1998, before he was very much into the Novell, Windows NT and Security world.

LinkedIn: Alex Juschin
Company: E2EVC

Sources: MVPs’ websites


Make sure you don’t miss the interviews

I will start posting my interviews with the Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVP) right after the conference. If you don’t want to miss any of them, pull the RSS Feed for posts.

If you have any questions either to me or to one of the MVPs I am going to interview, feel free to shoot me a line. Looking forward to hear from you!