Wim Matthyssen from Belgium is an Azure Technical Advisor at Proximus. He is a well-deserved Microsoft Azure MVP and a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT). He currently focuses on the Microsoft Hybrid Cloud and especially on Microsoft Azure and Azure hybrid services.
He is the founding board member @mc2mcbe, a Microsoft Cloud and Client Management Community which promotes sharing knowledge via virtual and in person events on MSFT technologies, including Azure.
Wim is a well-known member within the Tech Community, and a passionate community member who writes blogs, creates video content and shares his experience about Azure and other Microsoft technologies. He is a public speaker and continues to share his experiences with Azure and other Microsoft technologies with people from around the world.
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Wim Matthyssen Interview
Tell us about yourself?
My name is Wim Matthyssen, currently living in Belgium. I have been working in IT for over 15 years. I am currently an Azure Technical Advisor at Proximus, where I assist my colleagues and help companies during the transformation of their business to Azure by implementing the latest Microsoft Cloud features, services and solutions. As a passionate community member, I also regularly speak and write blogs about my daily experiences with Azure and the Microsoft’s hybrid cloud eco-system.
What is your greatest achievement whilst working in the world of Tech?
I would say delivering my first talk before a public. When I started blogging, I never imagined myself standing before people and delivering a technical talk. I was also quite nervous about it, and I was constantly thinking what am I doing now. But I persisted and I liked it quite a bit too.
And then that first talk opened the doors to many more talks, blog posts and even video recordings and podcasts. Which all led to becoming a Microsoft Azure MVP in July last year. Something I’m most grateful and honoured for and this definitely would not be possible without the support and feedback from the community and all the people that helped me on the way.
But also, not without that first talk.
How did you get into IT?
It all started with playing video games as a kid. From that first Nintendo Donkey Kong Game & Watch to a Sega Master System and my first PlayStation, I always loved spending time just playing. Looking back, I think I’ve spent quite a bit of time on them, but who didn’t.
And for me from there the step to PCs and IT was rather a normal evolution, it all felt quite natural and logic. Building my own PCs from scratch, switching hardware and testing out new configurations. I always loved doing those things.
But it all started with that small orange double screen handheld.
What would you recommend for someone wanting to start a career in IT?
The advice I would like to give to anyone who starts in IT or even to people already working in IT for some years, is that you should always be eager to learn and to grow your skillset. Also try to find your interest or passion, because enjoying what you are doing is a first step to keeping you focussed and motivated and this will help you grow during your whole career whatever you are doing.
How did you get into the world of Microsoft Azure?
During my professional career I’ve always worked with Microsoft Technologies. And in one of my first jobs as an IT-Consultant I came into contact with Virtual server, which soon evolved into the first version of Hyper-V. And before I knew it, I was managing more than 50 VMs on a Windows Server Hyper-V 2012 R2 cluster with System Center Virtual Machine Manager. And from working with a Microsoft private cloud, the step to running IaaS on Windows Azure, as how it was called in its early days, was also a normal next step for me. And that’s how my journey with Azure and all of its technologies and services started.
What are your areas of expertise? Are you still working with other Microsoft products apart from Microsoft Azure?
At the moment, my primary focus is on Azure IaaS and PaaS and almost everything related to both. But as governance and security are getting more and more important for customers these days, I’m also focussing on working and developing my expertise around Azure Governance, Azure Security Center and hybrid Cloud services like Azure Arc.
Could you explain a little about IaaS (Infrastructure As A Service) for those wanting to know what this is?
Well Azure IaaS, which stands for Infrastructure as a Service, is a form of cloud computing and one of the Cloud services models currently available in Azure, next to PaaS, SaaS, and more recent CaaS (containers) and FaaS (serverless). For most companies it will be the starting point when moving any of their on-premises workloads to Azure. It will deliver them on demand compute, network, and storage resources on a pay-as-you-go basis.
While for most companies their first resources running in Azure will be Azure IaaS VMs, migrated through a lift and shift migration or just through a clean greenfield deployment, it shouldn’t be the end state of most of those workloads.
To give an example, when companies are running an IaaS File server, at a certain point they can look into migrating their files to Azure Files or when a company is running an IaaS VM as a DNS server (mostly this role would by running on an Azure IaaS Domain Controller), they can look into replacing it by using Azure DNS or Azure DNS Private Zones.
Another important thing to keep in mind, and something a lot of people or companies starting with cloud seem to forget, is that depending in which cloud service model you run your workloads, is it IaaS, PaaS, Serverless or even SaaS, there will always be a shared responsibility. Where Microsoft will manage everything till a certain point, in the case of Azure IaaS until the Hypervisor (the Hyper-V layer), and you as an Azure IaaS consumer also have some responsibilities. Like foreseeing your IaaS VMs from Windows Updates, Antivirus, backup and managing your application(s) running on top of them.
Could you explain a little about Hybrid? Customers wanting to migrate to Azure but still require servers to remain on premises, can they do this?
In a way you can see hybrid cloud as the road to modern IT, by combining your on-premises infrastructure, or private cloud with any public cloud(s) such as Microsoft Azure.
A hybrid cloud allows customers to share their data, applications and services between those cloud(s). It will make their environment more agile and allows them to quickly adapt to any changes or new business requirements.
Most of the customers I come in contact with now are already using or will eventually use a hybrid cloud. Where they will mix on-premises workloads (which need to stay on-premises for compliancy, security or legacy reasons) with workloads running in Azure or any another public cloud. A hybrid cloud gives them the flexibility to migrate to a public cloud at their own pace or allows them to just deploy additional resources whenever they need them.
How can a customer who wants to migrate to Azure but not sure if their current servers are compatible with Azure? Is there a way for them to check?
It is not just about migrating your on-premises servers to Azure, it is more about migrating your workloads to Azure in the most optimal, cost efficient and future proof way.
Which can be lift-and-shift, but it can also be re-platforming your workload, were you migrate your workload to an Azure PaaS service. Or even rewrite the application to make it cloud-native, to even completely replacing it with a SaaS application.
It should all start with an assessment of your current workloads, after which you define the right migration approach for each workload.
Luckily, there are some resources you can use to assist you during your cloud migration journey.
First of all, you have the Microsoft Cloud Adoption Framework (CAF), a collection of documentation that provides you with implementation best practices and tools. Next to CAF you also have the Azure Architecture Center where you can find all kind of implementation examples, Azure architectures and cloud best practices.
Then you also have Azure Migrate, an Azure service which can help you in discovering, assessing and migrating your on-premises workloads to Azure.
And if you’re still not sure how to get started with your cloud migration, you can always check out the Azure Migration Program to find the right help for your cloud migration.
Can customers work out how much it will cost for them to migrate to Azure before they migrate? How can they do this?
It is always important in any Azure greenfield or brownfield deployment, that you know what those costs are, because at the end of the month someone needs to pay the Azure bill.
The free to use Azure Pricing calculator, can help you on your way to make a detailed cost estimate for any new Azure deployment or migration.
You can use this calculator, in combination with other resources such as the Azure Total Cost of Ownership Calculator (TCO). The TCO calculator is a tool to estimate cost saving you can realize by migrating your on-premises workloads to Azure. When you have defined your workloads and filled in all assumptions, you can view a report which gives you the savings when moving your workloads to Azure over a specific time frame, like for example 5 years starting from now.
And when you make your design, you should keep in mind that some design decisions impact costs, like storage, region or even subscription types you choose.
What challenges have you found that most customers face when migrating to Azure? Could you let us know of your experience? What kind of issues have you come across when discussing migrating to Azure with customers?
One of the most common mistakes I see being made by organizations when they migrate to Azure, is that they only look or think about a lift and shift migration.
And next to that, when they assess their on-premises virtual machine(s) (VMs) they simply do this via a one-to-one mapping of the VMs specifications. Where they just map the VMs current specs, like CPU and memory, to a specific VM size in Azure.
And that’s really not how it should be done, because most of those on-premises VMs are oversized and use too much capacity then required by the workloads running on them. And by doing a 1-to-1 mapping your Azure IaaS VMs will be oversized too, and at the end of the month you will pay more than you should.
And this is where Azure Migrate can help you mapping your VMs to a more realistic Azure IaaS VM size.
You should also keep in mind that a lift and shift migration is a good first migration choice, but it should not define the end state of your workloads. For example, you can first migrate your on-premises file server to an IaaS File server and later on switch it to Azure Files, OneDrive for Business or SharePoint Online depending on the type of data.
So, when you start thinking about migrating to Azure it’s a good idea to start thinking beyond IaaS VMs, and using a more cloud optimized migration approach. To give an example, you can look if it’s possible to migrate your workloads to other Azure compute options like, containers instances, AKS, app service, service fabric and Azure Functions. This instead of just deploying or lift and shift VMs.
What certifications have you achieved, or the certifications you are working towards?
I have a lot of the older Microsoft Certificates, like the MCSE: Security on Windows Server 2003, the MCSA’s on Windows Server 2008, 2012 and 2016 and the MCSE: Private Cloud
The more recent ones, are mostly Azure related like, the Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals, Azure Administrator Associate and Azure Solutions Architect Expert.
But I also have the Microsoft Certified Educator certificate.
At the moment, I am looking into the Microsoft security related exams, like the SC-900 and SC-300 but AZ-140 is also on my radar.
How do you keep up to date with the latest Microsoft Azure products?
Next to that I join a lot of Meetups and online events and read a lot of blogs or watch YouTube videos of other people in the community.
What would you recommend for someone who wants to become Azure certified?
First of all if you don’t have an Azure Subscription, get an Azure free account.
Then you can start experimenting and trying out how an Azure service or resource works until you completely understand it. You can also open the Azure QuickStart Center (open the Azure Portal and just type in QuickStart in the global search bar), which can help you learn some more about a specific Azure service or even help creating your first Azure project.
Take a look at the different role-based certification paths available on Microsoft Learn, and just start exploring and learning those. They can really help you on your way to get certified.
When you have the time, read peoples Azure blogs, Azure exam study guides, and watch videos on how they are doing things.
Always keep in mind, the more you practice, the better you get!
What’s your advice for someone who wants to become a public speaker but not confident, or not sure where to start?
Just go for it!
Know that every speaker, no matter how experienced, always has some healthy nerves for a public talk.
You should build your first session around a topic you’re really passionate about. It’s always easier to talk about something you love using or working with.
And try to team up and co-present with a more experienced speaker for your first talk(s). It will make you more comfortable and confident because you know that there is someone next to you that can help you when needed and you’re just not alone on stage.
How did you become a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT)?
I always loved explaining to people how something worked or how they needed to deploy or configure something. That’s also why I started blogging.
And then back in 2018, I had the opportunity to follow an official MCT Trainers course delivered by Peter De Tender and that’s how I became an MCT.
And I still love sharing knowledge, training and helping people.
What’s next in your Microsoft Azure journey?
Getting more hands-on with Azure Arc, because it’s winning on popularity and covers more and more use cases to manage all kind of resources in your hybrid (or multi-cloud) environment.
And because I’m more of an Azure Ops and PowerShell guy, I try to focus a bit more and getting more and more familiar with Infrastructure as Code (IaC) and all options available these days, like Azure Bicep.
Do you have any final words of wisdom?
For this, I would like to use one of the quotes of one of my favorite Star Wars characters, Yoda. “Always pass on what you have learned”.
The most important question of all 😊
From a scale from 1 – 10 how crazy are you about Microsoft Azure? (10 being the highest)
Eat, sleep, Azure, repeat. So definitely a 10 😉
End of Interview