Piotr Lewandowski has been working in IT for well over 20 years – and not really conscious decision to go this way – just blind luck. He started in the era without Internet…yes, not so long ago it was possible to live without Internet J…and IBM PC/XT computers. Thanks to self-learning he managed to work as DTP operator on Apple computers (the first in Poland at the time). However, he also had to manage all the other aspects of “network” so he turned into IT guy. Then he worked as CIO for quite a long time but when company started to grow, he figured out the corporate environment is not for him and switched to consulting on his own terms.
About 5 years ago, F5 gear popped up and he had to learn how to use it. It was challenging as he never was network pro – but turned out that it’s interesting and challenging so he’s still there and is DevCentral’s Featured Member for August!
DevCentral: Tell us a little about the areas of BIG-IP expertise you have.
Piotr: It’s a shame but I am still best in Load Balancing related part. I am struggling to improving in more trendy areas – security and AAA but it takes time. Especially security in the WAF area. It is so broad and fast moving that I have problem staying current. I am able to configure most all pieces of BIG-IP LTM and GTM features, but for ASM, APM and AFM it is still a bit of a challenge.
I am not a programmer but during some projects I learned both iRules and iControl so I am comfortable with those. Lately I started to research iRulesLX – which seems very promising – but not a lot info about real life project can be found.
I’ve also dabbled a bit with BIG-IP/OpenStack topic and have a good idea how it works but still need to deploy in a production environment.
Recently I decided to improve my skills in dynamic routing protocols (BGP, OSPF etc.) to be able to address DDoS related topics (RTBH, RHI, Anycast). Somewhat challenging but my lab is growing and I am starting to see some light in the tunnel - Polish proverb – don’t know if valid in English.
DC: You are a Technical Consultant at SoftwareDefined. Can you describe your typical workday?
Piotr: I am working for few businesses, right now my most active relations are with SoftwareDefined. To be honest, right now there is plenty of projects including some areas I am not so fluent, so most of my time is devoted to learning and testing.
Most of my day is filled in with lab work – testing how BIG-IP works behind scenes (which is the only way I can be 100% sure that given implementation will work as expected); recreating different bizarre customer configs to find out how to implement/improve them; and “reverse engineering” BIG-IP features to figure out if impossible is possible. 😉
I also stay current with DevCentral stuff.
There are of course days when it’s necessary to work directly with customer – explain how BIG-IP can be used, why it’s so great and how their life will be easier after buying few, especially VIPRIONs!
Part of my tasks is a technical support for customers we are working with. Bright side is that we are working with ones that are pretty skillful in the BIG-IP area – so cases are interesting and challenging and always learning something new and useful
DC: You were a CIO right when the internet started to blossom in the mid-1990s thru the 2000s. What are some of the advancements that truly surprised you?
Piotr: Good catch! To be honest I barely remember how it was… but for sure not worse than it is now.
I guess there are two main topics that I am amazed most. One you can surely call advancement, second is really mystery for me – you can call it advancement but…
Advancement is vast ocean of information out there. Right now – if you know what you are looking for and how to triage search results – one can find info he needs in few minutes. Even if I have no idea at all about given topic it’s always possible to find some starting point and proceed from there. That was not possible without Internet – sure you could call friend and try to find books but it would take ages – and there is no time for that nowadays.
I do want to express that I love DevCentral (and I am honest here, not just trying to flatter). I know communities of few other big vendors and there is no comparison for my needs. I can’t recall situation when I was not able at least find clue that allowed me to resolve issue. There is so much valuable info and great people on DevCentral that it creates great value by itself!
“Advancement.” I can’t understand is how easily people are sharing very private info on the Internet and at the same time how fiercely they are finding for their privacy – that is paradox I can’t figure out.
I am dinosaur here, still prefer few good friends in real life that thousands of virtual friends out there. To be honest, for me social part of the Internet could not exist at all.
Most amazing progress (somehow for sure related to Internet) for me is Big Data, machine learning and AI. What is even more amazing is that those are seldom seen in networking/ADC area. All the networking protocols, security, LB and so on was designed with main goal – computer should be able to understand and use them – not humans. And computers are good at it – opposite to most humans. Share amount of data, speed of changes it is all making reaction by humans almost impossible.
So why still humans are doing all this mundane task of configuring, tuning and adjusting? For me, right direction is handing this all out to computers. Something like IoT. All should be based on intelligent entities that are aware about surrounding environment, can self-tune/reconfigure, self-protect, actively fight for resources and finally self-destroy.
Even if that is scary and still far away there are areas that should be changed/improved. Simple example the BIG-IP courtyard – TCP optimization. This is very complicated and mundane task to adjust all those settings live. But device processing traffic has all data necessary to do that and understands this data better than most BIG-IP users ever can.
Another, maybe not so obvious area is why network is not aware about business data. Not all traffic is of the same value for business so network/ADC should actively readjust configuration based on business data. It’s is totally possible when whole IT infrastructure works as one conscious, intelligent organism but impossible to be done in real time by humans.
DC: Describe one of your biggest BIG-IP challenges and how DevCentral helped in that situation.
Piotr: Each new implementation is challenge, but I guess I can recall two that almost make me fall to my knees:
OpenStack and BIG-IP integration – plenty of new technologies I never touched before. Steep learning curve and relatively small amount of good quality info (it was a year ago, I am pretty sure now it’s much better).
“Reverse engineering” of BIG-IP APM/SWG to figure out if proxy chaining is possible (especially for HTTPS) or not. Here I had to really harness my iRules skills. Thanks to that, I was able to figure out how things work behind scenes and unfortunately find out that task is impossible to implement in manageable way – to be honest even with v13.0.0 seems to be impossible.
DC: Lastly, if you weren’t an IT admin – what would be your dream job? Or better, when you were a kid – what did you want to be when you grew up?
Piotr: Nothing related to IT. I am not saying it’s not fun but… I guess I would try to be archeologist, revealing secrets of the past always thrilled my mind. Probably not in the human past area, rather few dozen million years back when dinosaurs ruled Earth. I was always curious what would happen if big impact would not happen. And finally this job seems to allow to visit really distant and mysterious parts of the world.