Jennifer Parsons is the owner of VirtualEarthrunner.
Jenni has been working as an IT professional since the early 90’s where she switched from Electronic Engineering to Computing whilst working at the University of Surrey. Career prospects were pretty slow and despite advancing to the point where she was providing all support tiers to the ‘School’ administration staff whilst also involved with hands-on UNIX support, she decided to further his career (and salary!) elsewhere. A short stint at Virgin Net in London before finding her feet at a DotCom organisation called Townpages, based in Alton, Hampshire (UK). This was a positive move for both technical development, salary and social where she met a nice bunch of guys to work with. Unfortunately, the business was not progressing well and before things deteriorated, Jenni moved on when an opportunity became available at Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, a job she’d previously applied for.
Accepting the role and its Team Leader enhancement, Jenni began a long career at SSTL as the Networks & Server Team Lead. Based on the University campus, it was an organisation Jenni had hoped to work for for a few years and now she had her chance. The role allowed significant hands-on opportunities across UNIX/Linux, Windows, storage and networking and Jenni was quick to start building the infrastructure, migrating from Windows NT to Server 2000 and Active Directory. Over the next four years the infrastructure had grown to include SSTL’s first SAN (an HP HSG80), a perimeter firewall (FortGate 3000), several new Server 2000 servers and some standardisation in how the infrastructure was managed. In 2004 Jenni had an opportunity to advance into the lead role for the entire IT deparment which she took without question. A team that had reduced to five in the process slowly grew and two years later, a major project required the relocation of all IT from the University Campus to a new building on the University’s Research Park, a couple of miles away. Now developing IT strategy, Jenni had big plans to start some key components of the infrastructure from scratch and move from the University’s massive public network addressing to a private address mechanism. This was in preparation for future events, such as a possible sale of SSTL by the University and hence no qualifying criteria to use University services.
In 2008 Jenni’s strategy included virtualisation, to improve ageing service issues, reduce hardware footprints and also reduce costs long-term. She was key to the design and build of the first virtualisation infrastructure at SSTL by bringing in 3x DL380G5 servers with VMware ESX3.5. Having already implemented an HP EVA6100 as the evolutionary step up from the HSG80, the virtual solution used shared storage fro mthe EVA and a few servers were converted to kick things off. This was now the start of server sprawl hell as the department quickly realised the ease of deployment and increased scalability of building resilient services, so another host was introduced. In 2009 Jenni successfully achieved his VCP at the first attempt and was rapidly becoming a VMware fan/junkie! Expansion of Vmware at SSTL hadn’t stopped either and further hosts were brought in along with an early PoC with VMware View Desktop (version 3 if remembered correctly!). Again, Jenni was instrumental to the VDI solution and could see the benefits of this technology long-term for further cost reductions within the business as well as the flexibility improvements offered. She was already thinking about how to virtualise serious applications such as CAD! A few years later and View 5 was released, which meant a complete segregation of the two virtual environments (due to licensing restrictions) so extra hosts were brought in. This was also to cope with an increase in server virtualisation.
Come 2014 a total of 15 hosts are live, the EVA has gone as the production storage, in favour of EMC VNX, a completely new VDI environment exists, comprising 6x DL380pG8’s backed by another EMC VNX, and there is also a DR service. License upgrades have gone from vSphere Enterprise to the Enterprise vCloud Suite whilst VDI has migrated to what is now Horizon Enterprise with the addition of AirWatch’s Secure Content Locker. Jenni has been key to driving this virtualisation strategy forward with plans to introduce automation for supporting the many engineering test/dev environments and finally working on her dream of virtualisation CAD. To do this, a technical strategy around HP SL blades and NVidia GRID K2 cards was put together, supported by Horizon View and VSAN.
Jenni is not just a virtualisation junkie though, she is hands-on across all of IT with a strong breadth of skills. She is an avid fan of IT security and was again key to developing plans to enhance security at SSTL. The inclusion of perimeter filtering and IDS (from the FG310B) was partnered by devices such as a proxy service to filter web activity. The FortiMail aided with email filtering to reduce SPAM and potentially dangerous malware, whilst endpoints were proteceted with commercial AV tools. As the security threat landscape has changed, so has the approach and need for a secure network so an enhanced strategy was developed to segregate networks and control the flow of data throughout the business.
Jenni continues her desire for further development of her skills and hands-on, with a need for VMware exposure but is now looking for a challenge in a different organisation. Her strategy is too forward thinking for SSTL, despite the company’s new owners (Airbus) adopting an identical strategy, primarily with regards to VDI, and openly expressing positive acknowledgement of what Jenni has achieved at SSTL. Having been committed to a single organisation for the last 14 years, Jenni was keen to move into the world of contracting where she believed the ability to develop skills and maintain a high level of hands-on whilst also experiencing different environments would be greater. 24 months on and Jenni has spent time with HP in their Hampshire offices and Ingeus UK Ltd. At Ingeus Jenni was involved in the design and implementation of a greenfield Infrastructure to support upwards of 1200 users, as part of a small team, but was solely involved in the initial VMware configuration designs. Based across two datacentres using fibre channel storage arrays, Veeam for backup and replication, utilising HA/DRS clustering, automated ESXi deployment with the unattended scripts and PowerShell/CLI, Windows 2012R2 domain & services, the Infrastructure transitioned to live and into the hands of a permanent team based in the Midlands during 2016 but Jenni moved on after the majority of the VMware work was completed. The next role for Jenni’s portfolio is with Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe, based in their London office. In this role Jenni is consulting on their VMware and NetBackup environments, through a long-term engagement. This includes a Horizon View environment in need of a refresh and potential expansion, much to Jenni’s delight. The chance to get involved in another Enterprise Horizon View environment has long been a desire for Jenni.