How I got into IT

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Hi everyone,

This post will be all about me and how I got into the world of IT. (not covering anything else like school, etc because then it would be even longer, for that, I forward to this older post)

When I was born, and currently still do, I live with two “families” under one roof. A few years ago, the house was split in two with a wall, but before that I could just walk from one living room to another. I live there with my parents, and on the other side there is my great-uncle with my great-aunt.

Back then, my dad and great-uncle had a computer repair shop together. They would fix computers, install them, help out at people’s homes, etc.
When I was around six years old, I took an interest at it.
At this point my dad switched jobs and it was just my great-uncle doing this. He noticed that it interested me to be around him when he was fixing people’s PCs.
I would always watch and ask why he does what he is doing to learn how he does things. After a few months, he would slowly let me do small things to help him out, like turn off a computer. You know, the basics.
As I got older he would let me do more things, he would show me how to install Windows, how to clean up a computer properly, how to install certain programs, the basics of networking. (what a switch is, what a router does, etc)

I believe when I was around six or seven years old, I got my first laptop. It ran Windows XP, Windows 7 just released and this laptop was quite old, like really old. Old enough that it came with Windows XP when it was released.

Fast forward some more years, I believe I was ten or twelve, and I had my first computer, my dad’s old PC. I started to look at website builders that were free, just to play around with. I would build out websites for fun, that would represent something, I’m no longer sure what.

In 2013, I got started with a game, GTA: San Andreas. I found a multiplayer mod for this, MTA: San Andreas. (MTA standing for Multi Theft Auto instead of Grand Theft Auto). I was playing on a roleplay server at the time, I used my English as best as I could for my age to play on the biggest roleplay server at the time. (Roleplaying in this case, was just real life, but then in a game. So you’d have to make money, you can buy houses, drive vehicles after passing an actual theoretical test, and a practical one where you had to drive to way-points without getting your vehicle damaged or getting pulled over, such things.)
I wanted to start my own, because I found it a lot of fun. MTA: SA uses the LUA language for the “resources” you can put in its server. Using a leaked script as a base (I know, I know.. I was young okay?), I started to explore this and learn LUA, this were my first bits of programming experience next to HTML. I then started to add my own stuff and the gameserver grew, this is also my first experience as a bit of a system administrator, having to maintain my own Windows Server 2008 R2 virtual server I rented and getting DDoS attacks often from jealous people.

A different server became popular in mid-2014, which is when I closed mine down. It was a lot of fun and I learned some Windows System Administration basics, which was very nice. At that point, I realized that IT is definitely the way I want to go to. I really enjoyed maintaining it all and I somehow wanted to continue with this.
I kept the virtual server but used it as a webserver instead, I created my very first website from a template and edited it and ran it from there. Then I discovered ShareX, which can upload screenshots directly to a FTP server, which I had pointed at my virtual server. (Today it points at a S3 bucket that has a CloudFront CDN attached to it.)
Later I also wanted to learn Linux, so I obtained myself VMware Workstation and got my feet wet into the world of VMware and virtualization. Using Workstation to create Linux VMs, starting with CentOS and Ubuntu Server 14.04 (I believe) and later expanding to ESXi and vCenter.

In mid-2017, I bought my very first real server (and it was an old one… and LOUD!). I got myself a HP ProLiant DL140G3. Armed with two 4 core processors (no HT) and 32GB of memory, it was a loud jet engine at 1U. The server was made in 2008, so it’s also not very power efficient, but it was the only thing I could afford at that time. In the beginning of 2018 I got a second one. (I still have both of them, but I no longer use them.)
Both of these ran ESXi and through the internet, I got some licenses that I could use to deploy vCenter. This is when I got really excited and curious for the power of VMware products. I ran some basic workloads on it (ADDS, DNS, File server) on the two servers and that was all for a while.

Meanwhile on my main laptop I was able to run small VMware labs such as with NSX-V, though it’s really slow and small because of the lack of CPU and memory.

At the beginning of 2019, I got some extra money monthly from my parents, and I wanted to rent a more powerful server, because with what I got, saving up for a 1000 euro server would take years. So I went with Hetzner, and got myself one of their servers from the server auction. (I actually still rent this one to this day). Having my own dedicated server (rented), I got more experience with things like networking and remote networks. I deployed a pfSense VM on it with its own dedicated IP, and through an IPsec tunnel, I connected my home LAN with that server’s LAN and also added the ESXi host to my home vCenter.

I then in mid-2019 had saved up enough money through various means (Patreon for example and birthday money) to get my first real server with actual power. a DL380G6. Installed ESXi 6.7 on that (The DL140s only supported ESXi 6.0) and it’s still going strong today as my main host. It did go through an upgrade though at around April 2020, going from 144GB memory to 288GB memory. It has two 2.8 GHz Intel Xeon X5660s. 6 cores/12 threads per CPU.

During this time, I’ve had labs with a lot of products and situations. Such as VMware NSX-V, NSX-T, Cloud Director, HCX, Horizon and vSAN. (That’s what I can think of as of writing this post.) and non-VMware stuff like Palo Alto Network virtual firewalls, GNS3 with Cisco/Nokia gear and more.

This has greatly improved my knowledge on a lot of fields. Virtualization, system management, network management.

A few months before I got the memory upgrade, I rented a second server with Hetzner. A bit more powerful, and I run some more infrastructure VMs on it. Exchange Server 2019, cPanel and an extra web+database server. I also run vRealize Network Insight on that host.

As my income grew and I wanted to earn a little extra, I invested in my own Autonomous System number. In my case AS208751. I rent a /44 IPv6 subnet with it that I announce with a virtual server in Amsterdam, and from there I tunnel it over to my remote and home servers. I started to sell management for virtual servers and eventually also web hosting as well as virtual servers. This allows me to also scale up, I rented a /24 IPv4 subnet which I use partially for the renting stuff, but also for myself, assigning a /28 block to each of my servers. This came with a lot more learning. I suddenly had to learn about BGP and how to do this securely, making sure to have route filters in place and possible add RPKI.

This is all going well, and as of 08/07/2020 (DD/MM/YYYY) I bought a second DL380G6. It has two six core CPUs (Xeon X5660) with 144GB of memory. This extra server will be dedicated to larger labs, like Cloud Foundation and vSphere with Kubernetes.

I’d also like to mention that during my elementary school period, since I was about the age of 10, I was already helping out the fellow classmates with issues on the computers at school and even help out carry basic tasks for the system administrator. When I got in High School (that I did finish, but just barely) on my student account in their Active Directory I had some extra permissions so that I could help out the System Administrators there. I actually also found a type of leak, well, it was a share in Sharepoint that was a bit too wide open. They were happy I catched it before anyone else did and possibly abused it.

On July 17th, I got the amazing news that I’m part of the vExpert program now! Here is the link to me in the vExpert directoy. This is incredible and lots of it is thanks to, and they deserve a special shout-out; Lindy Collier and Heath Johnson.

There are still some solutions that I want to try out further, beyond the Hands on Labs. However, due to limitations like money I cannot do this. Solutions I would be very much interested in getting hands-on experience with, are VMware Cloud on AWS and GCP’s VMware Engine. For the VMware Engine, I did try to request a quota increase, but I got as a reply that “the quota could not be assigned at this time”, which made me a bit sad as I was excited for it that I could use some of my credits on that.

I hope that this long blog post gives you an insight of my past in IT and how I got into it. Feel free to email or tweet me any questions, thank you so much for reading and I hope to see you in a further post.