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[People of Bigstep] Marius Boeru: "If I can automate something, I probably will :)"
Systems automation, home servers, docker containers, quantum computing, IoT devices, Apple bugs… and snowboarding! As comprehensive and geeky this interview with Marius is, it will leave you curious to find out even more! How many IoT sensors and devices does he own? Which techy Youtube channels does he follow? How would he explain our product to a non-tech person? Find out all these and more from our community blog post, People of Bigstep with Marius.
Hi Marius, please tell us a few words about yourself.
Hello, I’m a geek inside, who started playing around with computers at a very early age and enjoyed discovering the world of technology and became passionate about it. I’ve since become a Systems Administrator, now tinkering with operating systems, all sorts of applications and all sorts of deployments. I’m not a big sports fan, like doing sports, however I’ve enjoyed skiing in the past, and recently switched over to snowboarding which I like a lot.
I adopted the company cat, Cerasela, and she’s been with me for about one and a half years :)
I’ve been working within the Bigstep Group since 2007, starting from a First line of support (Level 1), and growing from there.
What’s your position within the company now and how does your workday look like?
My current title is Systems Manager, and I oversee the Systems Team, but I also still do architecture design and implementation and help out wherever I can. Typical workday involves at least one call, for syncing with the team, but it can stretch to even 4-5 calls. Besides that I do a lot of multitasking and helping other departments with tasks. We, as a Systems group, oversee lots of technical areas, from being Level 3 escalation to our Level 1 and Level 2 teams, working with our RnD department for support and implementation on all our product environments.
Which area of system administration attracts you the most?
Hmm, that’s a tough question, as I would say that I am a generalist who does all sorts of systems stuff. But I guess that what I like the most is systems automation. I think this is also due to the fact that I’m lazy and if I can automate something, I probably will :)
Can you tell us what differentiates Bigstep Metal Cloud from similar products on the market?
Sure, so a typical cloud service is virtualized, basically part of a physical server, and offers great flexibility, automation and speed in deployment. Bigstep Metal cloud gives you the same things as a traditional cloud, but without the virtualization layer, you get a full physical server and all its resources.
What are some of the use cases where Metal Cloud is the best fit from your point of view?
I would say that one of the best use cases is definitely big data infrastructures, because they tend to scale on tens-hundreds of servers. On the Metal Cloud this means that you get all the server performance, as in general in virtualized environments there is some loss of resources and added latency due to the virtualization layer. But anyone who needs to scale beyond a single server would benefit from the Metal Cloud service, e-commerce, analytics, even those who want to bring their own virtualization layer on top.
In what ways would a fellow sysadmin benefit from using Metal Cloud?
As I was saying earlier about my passion for automation, Metal Cloud offers that through its api and metalcloud-cli app. By using those, they will be able to easily scale and perform operations on the used infrastructure.
How would you describe our product to a non-tech person?
Oh, another tough question :) I say that mainly because I believe that in general Cloud offerings are more technically oriented. Maybe all the power of physical servers, with all the benefits of a cloud offering.
What do you think the next big thing in the server industry is?
I think that right now server development is mainly driven by CPU manufacturers, and that there will be a time when that will change. One interesting project is created by HPE, and it’s called HPE The Machine. This project shifts the current server architecture to something else, and focuses more on memory.
Another interesting topic is the quantum computer and I believe a company is bringing a product to market this year. It’s been long time coming, as I think the work on a quantum computer started about 40 years ago.
We know you like everything techy. Can you tell us how many IoT devices you use?
Haha, I have more than a dozen, yes. I like the Xiaomi ecosystem and their products and have lots of sensors buttons and light bulbs from them. I also have some smart power sockets and have been tinkering with ESP8266 chips with micropython and movement sensors. I haven’t had time yet, but I have a new project I want to start, on top of a Pi Zero W with a small screen attached, to show some COVID-19 stats. As a voice assistant I stuck to Google Assistant, as this seems to be the most reliable and has the most integrations. Tried Alexa and Siri as well, but found them to be lacking in some areas.
Do you also run a home server? What kind of applications do you have on it?
I do, and I also have a dedicated storage. On the home server I have multiple apps hosted in docker containers like home-assistant and a couple of helper containers for that, mysql, a webserver container with letsencrypt support, portainer for management of the docker env, and a couple of others. If I want to test anything out, I put it on here. Most of the docker images I use are built by the guys over at linuxserver.io, but I have built some by myself.
Tech at work, and tech in your free time. How do you stay on top of new developments in tech? Can you recommend some particular websites that you follow?
I think I’ve recently, since the COVID-19 pandemic, started to use Youtube more as a source of news. Some of the interesting channels I follow are (in no particular order) MKBHD, Unbox Therapy/Lew Later, Linus Tech Tips, Coldfusion TV, PAINFULLY HONEST TECH. In terms of news sites I follow arstechnica.com, bleepingcomputer.com, Hacker News, Engadget, and others. I still use an RSS reader and have tons of feeds in there. Not sure if there are many others still using RSS feeds :)
Two years ago, you found a significant security bug in an Apple product and they recognized your contribution. Can you tell us more about that story?
Sure, so basically a colleague and I were using the Walkie-Talkie functionality from Apple Watch to communicate easily at work. While doing so, when I was trying to contact him on that app, we discovered a high-risk vulnerability, which we then reported to Apple. We made a demo video with all of the details and sent it to Apple, who swiftly got on top of it and was very responsive and eager to solve the problem. They ended up disabling that Walkie-Talkie feature on the Apple Watch until the issue was fixed and a new OTA Update released.
That's awesome! We know you are quite fond of snowboarding and skiing. Tell us a bit about how your hobby started and how it’s going.
I started when I was a lot younger with skiing, being thought the basics by my sister. Ended up going every year and I enjoyed it a lot, but never took any actual lessons. At the beginning of last year I wanted to try something new, so I thought snowboarding would be a good idea. I have a lot of friends practicing the sport so I ended up at a Snowboard Camp for 5-6 days and learned how to do it, and have been planning to go snowboarding as much as possible ever since. With all the free time available working from home and not losing time commuting, this year I bought a ton of snowboarding gear to be fully ready for the season :) As I’ve said in the beginning, I don’t quite enjoy sports, but snowboarding has become a passion for me, and I want to progress as much as possible, to learn everything about it and spend as much time on a snowboard as I can, this year and in the future.
What challenges have you encountered in your work as a manager and in your snowboarding hobby, and how do/did you overcome them?
For me, it’s pretty hard to delegate sometimes, and that can be a problem, as there are limited work hours available. I think this has been a big challenge for me, but slowly I was able to become more aware and capable to prioritize and delegate better, together with the team.
For snowboarding, I’m not in a very good shape to do it, and that was a pain, literally, in the beginning. But two things naturally happen, 1. you get better and you don’t fall anymore and 2. your body gets in better shape. So, I think patience was key here, and pulling through the hard times and the pain.
Which are the three things that you enjoy most about working at Bigstep?
One thing that has kept me in the Group since 2007 is the people and the community formed. I made a lot of lifelong friends over the years, and this is something that does not come easy in other companies. Because of this, the work environment is a relaxed one, even in the most complicated situations, and everyone is supportive. Also, the fact that we are always trying new things, working with modern technologies and testing what would work best for us, as it supports my passion for technology.
What is your biggest work and/or hobby achievement?
There are tons of things I am proud of, but I would say being able to work on something that I am passionate about is the biggest one. Regarding my hobby, I am proud that I could learn so quickly to snowboard, but I still have a lot to learn, and I am very eager to do it.