Interview with Dr. Thomas W Shinder–Former MVP, ISA/TMG Firewall Guru, DirectAccess Edge Man and Now Private Cloud Man and Wiki Devotee

Who are you, where are you, and what do you do? What are your specialty technologies?

I’m Tom Shinder. Some of you might know me from my days. Prior to changing my career to IT in the middle 1990s, I was a neurologist. I received my undergraduate degree in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley and graduated with Great Distinction. I then went to the University of Illinois Chicago College of Medicine, where I received my Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree. After that I did an internship in Internal Medicine at the University of Texas, Galveston. The next step was a three year stint doing a residency in Neurology at the Oregon Health Sciences University (or OHSU, which has since changed its name to the Oregon Health and Sciences University).

After that I practiced general neurology for several years. I left medicine because I saw the writing on the wall and a future of socialized medicine in the United States, where I would have to carry out the wishes of faceless bureaucrats when making treatment decisions. I didn’t think that would be good for me or my patients at the time, and so I left for IT – which seemed like a very green field at the time. Who would have known that it would turn out to be quite as green as is for me!

I live together with my wife, Deb Shinder, in the Dallas/Forth Worth area in Texas. While I’m a native Californian, I consider myself a naturalized Texas citizen.

When I joined Microsoft, I was initially with the UAG DirectAccess team. That was a great experience and I had a couple of great managers when working on that team and I owe them a debt of gratitude for training me in the Microsoft way of doing things – they were very patient with me. I was very happy with what we were able to accomplish and I had a great time being the “Edge Man” during those DirectAccess days.

About a year later, I was moved to a new team, called the Server and Cloud Division Information Experience Solutions Group. In that group I work on private cloud, with an initial focus on private cloud architecture and private cloud security. I again got luckier than a four leaf clover by landing another great manager and a great topic – the future of IT is in cloud, and specifically in cloud architecture and that’s what I do. You can see the results of our work in the collection of documents that you can access from the Private Cloud Solutions Hub.

I am also working working on content that is part of the cloud technologies Windows Server 8 scenario. You can find our stuff regarding Windows Server 8 cloud technologies over in the TechNet Library and the new Cloud Infrastructure Team blog. I also keep my own Private Cloud Man Blog where I’ll write about private cloud and Windows 8 Cloud Technologies.

My specialty technologies, or at least those that I think I know a lot about include:

  • ISA Server (ISA)
  • Threat Management Gateway (TMG)
  • Unified Access Gateway (UAG)
  • DirectAccess
  • Virtual Private Networking (VPN)
  • IPsec
  • DNS
  • DHCP
  • IPv4 networking

Moving forward, I am working on gaining experience in Windows Server 8 Hyper-V, Windows Server 8 cloud technologies, and System Center Virtual Machine Manager. I’ve been a big fan of virtualization ever since testing the very first beta version of VMware. So the move to virtualization is a natural for me.

How did you become an MVP? Do you have any suggestions for other community members who hope to eventually become MVPs?

I think I was awarded the MVP because of the work I did on and all the books I wrote on ISA Server. I think I have over 600 articles on ISA Server and TMG on the site and I wrote about 7 books on ISA Server and TMG. In the early days, I did post a lot to the ISA Server TechNet forums and had over 50,000 posts on the forums. I believe that I was an MVP for about 7 or 8 years before I joined Microsoft.

For anyone who is interested in being an MVP I recommend that you stay connected to the technology community. Participate in the forums on a daily basis. Write a blog and update it at least once a week. Use Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn to let people know about your work. Author a book on your product or technology, or partner with others to write a book. Present at Microsoft conferences, like TechEd. Connect to people who work for Microsoft in your chosen product or technology. We really want to work with you and develop a working relationship! That makes it easy for us to nominate you for MVP and say why we believe you would be a great MVP.

What is TechNet Wiki for? Who is it for?

The TechNet wiki is a collaborative writing environment where anyone who is registered with a Windows Live ID can create a new article, or edit and contribute to an existing article. There are few restrictions on what you can write, and as long as you write about some Microsoft product or technology with the aim at helping or educating people, you’re in the right place.

I at first had some concerns about the wiki and that a wiki would add little value, if any. I can honestly say that I’ve eaten crow on that one, because now I see the wiki as a tremendous platform that we can use to work together with the Microsoft partner and customer community to get information that you need out faster, and with higher quality and fidelity than we currently do using the traditional TechNet Library approach. In fact, my team uses the TechNet Wiki to publish all of its material in a continuous and iterative publishing process.

The TechNet Wiki is for anyone who’s interested in Microsoft products and technologies. Examples of people who will benefit from the wiki include:

  • Someone searching for information they can’t find in the TechNet library or blogs
  • Someone wanting to share information they’ve learned from experience which you can’t find in the TechNet library or blogs
  • Microsoft employees who want to collaborate with partners and customers on content
  • Microsoft partners and customers who want to collaborate with Microsoft employees on content
  • Microsoft product groups who want to share information on their products and technologies in a low overhead, low friction publishing environment
  • Anyone who is interested in working together with other product or technology devotees to share information with others

And many more! The wiki is such as flexible and easy to use platform, the use case scenarios are almost limitless!

What do you do with TechNet Wiki, and how does that fit into the rest of your job?

All of my team’s work is published to the TechNet wiki. In most cases, we start writing on the public wiki and inform people who are working with us on the content that the content is available for editing and updating. We track the updates so that we’re aware of who’s making the changes and what the nature of the changes are. After the content is deemed “version X” we’ll mark it at that version and include a link to the golden version. The content is also converted into Word .doc format after it’s versioned and posted to the TechNet gallery. Both the wiki and the gallery are ideal mechanisms for enabling collaborative content development and provide an insanely low overhead way of creating and distributing content. The time saved in the overhead has enabled us to create more and higher quality content than what we could have ever done otherwise.

If you would like to see our content portfolio on the TechNet wiki, then check out Reference Architecture for Private Cloud .

Do you have any comments for product groups about TechNet Wiki?

Yes! I encourage Microsoft Product Groups to seriously consider putting their documentation on the public wiki as soon as they can. I believe that user satisfaction with our product and technology guidance would be much higher if we could get customer input as soon as possible. This early input would make it possible to reassess our content plans early, and if we find that we’re not providing the information that customers actually want and need. This enables us to avoid wasting cycles on low return content and focusing on high value content from the very beginning. And the entire process will be transparent, so that our partners and customers are fully aware of the fact that working together with them to give them the information and tools they need to get the most out of our products and technologies.