About Mike

Mike Foley

Mike Foley

[Sept 2011]

I’m Mike Foley, and this is my blog.

Phew, that’s done.. Publish!

Oh, wait, you probably want more detail. Ok. Fair warning, this is a bit long. I’m not intending future blog posts to be this boring!

I started in High Tech over 30 years ago when I got a job at Digital Equipment Corp. I was out of high school and fresh out of Basic Training and Jet Mechanics tech school for the New Hampshire Air National Guard. I thought the job would get me over the hump until I figured out what I wanted to do with my life. 18yrs later…..

I’ve had an awesome career over the years. Started out driving a car, delivering stuff. Worked my way into processing Engineering Change Orders for VAX Engineering, specifically on the 11/730 and 11/725 (The Small VAX that’s all VAX!). I spent a lot of my spare time learning VAX/VMS and had a goal of becoming a system manager. So, I got a job as a night shift computer operator and just learned and learned as much as I could. After about 2yrs I became a system manager in the Networks and Communications division of DEC and after a couple of years there, in 1989, I moved on to the VMS Development Group.

I eventually became the lone systems administrator for a group of 400 engineers, many of them grads of places like MIT. It was a crazy place where we had the latest and greatest of everything and were doing stuff nobody would be doing for years and years, if ever. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my career.

At some point I started working on the V6.0 release of the now christened “OpenVMS”. My job was to build and manage the most diverse VAXcluster on the planet. I was charged with breaking things. I came up with lots of random failure scenarios that caused a lot of pain but fixed a LOT of bugs. I’m very proud to say that I contributed, in a small way, to one of the best releases of VMS ever. For a .0 release, it was in great shape.

At some point around that time, Windows NT was released and I became one of the few local “experts” in it. I was fascinated by it. A real OS on a PC. After diving in, I became aware that it paralleled VMS a little too closely. But that’s a discussion not for publishing. Eventually I went to work for a group that built an integrated solution of an DEC AlphaServer running Windows NT and Microsoft Exchange. We incorporated Mitel telephony boards and came out with something very close to Microsoft Unified Messaging Server. DEC couldn’t really figure a way to sell it. We were, after all, about 5-10 years ahead of anyone else in the market.

Around 1997 it was time to move on. I needed a new challenge. I had been in Engineering for most of my career at DEC. We relished in throwing pot shots at Marketing. Someone challenged me that maybe I should consider going over there and trying to make a change. I moved over to the PC Marketing group and boy, what a world of difference!

“You mean you WANT me to spend money?” That’s what I said after my manager said my expenses weren’t high enough. Oh boy! This was going to be fun! Despite a pitiful first public speaking opportunity to a group of engineers, I recovered and moved forward. I built a killer demo for PC Expo ‘98 using Windows NT Clusters (DEC built Clusters for NT before Microsoft!) I wanted to get people to understand clustering technology. So, I built a 2 node cluster, each with a video camera on them. I connected a client to the Cluster IP and got the camera output of Node 1 to show up on the client. I then disconnected Node 1 and the client tried the Cluster IP address and got the camera on Node 2. When a customer said to me “Can I do the same thing with getting at my files?”, I considered my job done.

Sadly, the writing was on the wall for old DEC. It was being groomed to be sold. Compaq bought it in 1998 and I left about 3 months after. I could have stayed, but it was time to jump out of the nest. Unfortunately, I didn’t fall far.

I went to a startup called Alpha Processor Inc. It was created by DEC/Compaq and Samsung Electronics. The goal was to introduce the Alpha processor into lower end/SMB opportunities. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work. People didn’t want to port their apps. We eventually moved towards the High Performance Technical Computing world and quite frankly, that’s not a great market to be in. Everyone wants the fastest cluster for the cheapest money. Despite being 2-4x faster in floating point operations, the prices were 4-8x more, negating the advantage.

While there, I came up with a concept of replacing the SRM console, used to boot an Alpha system, with the Linux kernel. On the board was a 2MB flash rom that held SRM. SRM had a limited set of drivers. Linux had a wealth of drivers. It stood to reason that if we replaced SRM with Linux, we’d get incredibly fast booting AND full driver support. Alas, it never made it out of the lab. I was too naive to push for patents on the concept. It worked tremendously well but by that time, Compaq had killed Alpha and we were all out looking for work. Dual Boot Linux, DBLX, the name of the project, died with API. That sucked because it was so damned cool. Note that I did not write the code for this. I only germinated the original idea. (Something I’m pretty good at. I sure wish I could write code though!!)

So, it’s two weeks before 9/11. I had decided that I was going to go back to school to continue working on my degree. I had a little saved, my wife and I didn’t have kids and I could get a job in Jan after a fun semester of learning. Or so I thought. Dot-Com bubble burst, 3000 people died by the hands of evil and the job market dried up faster than water on an Arizona parking lot on an August day. Oh, did I mention that in Oct of 2001 my wife got pregnant? Oh boy! Kid on the way, no job, how could it be better?

Fast forward a bit, it’s July 2002 and I’ve completed 2 semesters, my son Henry is born and there’s not a job in sight. At least not one that covers day care and lets me bring some $ home. So, I became a stay at home Dad, searching for work and taking odd contracts here in there. I loved my time with my son and don’t regret it. I learned a lot while contracting. How to do more with less and provide true value. I eventually got a full-time plus a part-time contract. I loved the jobs, they just didn’t pay that great. Still, I learned a bunch and worked for some awesome folks. It’s nice to say that you’ve worked for MIT and it was fun watching my bosses, both of them protein scientists, drop their jaw when I suggested that a drug like Prozac could influence a seratonin protein. My bosses boss said “THAT’s my *IT* guy! Wow!” Haha

In 2005 I got the job offer for a full-time gig at RSA Security. I was going to be their technical marketing guy, building out demos and supporting tradeshows. Four days after the job offer, my wife called and said #2 was on the way. <thud>

Skip forward again, it’s 2008 and I’m totally done (mentally) with the tradeshow gig. I became a VCP and a VMware vExpert. I was the local champion/cheerleader of VMware at RSA, but I was getting no traction. I had interviewed for a job in a group charted to work closely with VMware but it was 2009 and req’s were hard to open. While walking thru Boston Common one fine June day, I happened to run into our president, Art Coviello. We had an great talk and he was incredibly gracious. During our conversation, I mentioned to Art “I’m glad we’re finally doing things with VMware”. His response was “Yea? Why?”. I countered with my VCP and vExpert status. He asked me what department I worked in and I said “Marketing, but I’m interviewing for a job in….”. He said “Send me an email on that. I want to follow up on it. And I want you in my office next week to whiteboard this stuff”

I could not have been happier. I was getting to ramble on about stuff that I really enjoyed working on with a senior VP who really wanted to learn. Things moved along after that and soon I was working as RSA’s technical consultant on VMware stuff. I christened myself RSA’s “Virtualization Evangelist”. If you’re gonna be important you best act important.

And that’s what I do now. I’m writing this diatribe here in an airport in Bangalore, India, where I’ve just spent over a week being incredibly productive, helping out teams move our products to virtualization and started brainstorming sessions on leveraging virtualization to provide a better experience to the customer and reduce costs to RSA. I’m doing something I really enjoy. I like coming up with solutions and ideas. I like making stuff. I love the back and forth of a good brainstorming session as that really raises my game and challenges me to be better. I work best when the juices are flowing and the pressure is cooking!

My career has been and continues to be a bit of a wild ride. I go where my interests guide me. In this blog, I’ll write about stuff that interests me. It might be about virtualization and/or security or it could be about something completely different. The goal is not to write a blog to entertain or amuse. If that happens, great. My goal for this blog is to write it for my benefit. To leave for my kids something about what their Dad did or just as reference material for something cool I figured out and forgot.

I hope you get something out of it too.

[fast forward to 2015]

I cleaned up some grammar. Oh, and I left RSA in 2012 and went to VMware where I’m a Senior Technical Marketing Manager focusing on the security of our vSphere platform.


  1. Mike: Your dad was a great guy, along with Jimmy Kelly. I had a lot of laughs with John.

  2. Mike,

    I was hoping you’d let me repost some of your blog content at DZone.com.  Brian Gracely is in our Most Valuable Blogger program, and we’ve been happily reposting the Cloudcast for some time now.  Let me know if you want to get some of your content out to the dev. community – I’m sure they’d appreciate it.


    Eric Genesky
    egenesky@dzone:disqus .com
    Content Curator
    DZone, Inc.

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