Monday, August 26, 2013

10 Questions: with Jerry Milana

Jerry Milana


(Note: I apologize for the unusually long introduction, but it's not fluff, trust me)

If you have been among the lucky ones able to attend any of the annual Autodesk University conferences, over the past two decades, you're probably well aware of some names of people that speak on topics such as customizing AutoCAD, Civil 3D, Map 3D, or who push the envelope of products like 3DS Max or Mudbox.  You may have attended sessions on programming, or using advanced features, anything to help you get to a higher level of productivity at your job or hobby.

The presenters, like Autodesk's products, cover a wide range of industries.  From architectural and civil engineering (AEC), to scientific research, to car and motorcycle racing teams, to Hollywood studios, and everything in between.  Some of the names have been legendary, like Lynn Allen, Shaan Hurley, Dave Espinoza-Aguilar, Robert Green, Scott McFarlane, Owen Wengerd, Kean Walmsley, and many others.  In many sessions, you could find one legendary Autodesk employee, quietly sitting near the front, soaking up what the speaker was saying or demonstrating: Jerry Milana.  He would never consider himself legendary, however.

I thought it was kind of funny how later in the day, when he would be conducting his own session on Packaging and Deployment, or License Services and License Management, so many attendees would point and nod, making a comment about how they saw him sitting in the crowd at other sessions.

Between 1989 and 2004, I was often supporting anywhere from 500 to 2,000 computers which were primarily used for AutoCAD design work.  I really depended on either (A) what the vendor provided, or (B) custom scripting and packaging tools, in order to automate the chore of installing that many copies of a product, and the updates and patches, and the next version upgrades.

Of all those products, no vendor put as much work into making their products easy to prepare and deploy to large numbers of computers than Autodesk.  With each successive release, they have continued to improve the features and reliability of their deployment utilities, setting a standard for others to emulate.  Indeed, I have seen quite a few imitations from other vendors, inside and outside of the CAD-related world.  This is a good thing.  And we owe a lot of this to the vision, persistence and efforts of Jerry and his team.

If you think Jerry's insights are only "CAD-related", think again.  The issue of licensing, and license management, will impact nearly every software product in one way or another.

Jerry Milana - System Integration and Software Asset Management Consultant

The Questions

Dave:  Most people outside (and probably inside) of Autodesk know your name as it pertains to the world of deploying and administering Autodesk products on a network. Things like FLEXlm licensing, deployment packages, and so on. When did you first step foot into "that world" if you will and how did it come about?

Jerry:  I worked for a reseller. My specialty was mid-range and PC connectivity and cross platform networking. One day the owner handed me a box of AutoCAD 2.1 and asked me to take a look at it since I had a design background. I said it looked pretty good and soon found that I could use AutoCAD to get in the door of customers to then sell them integration services.

Dave:  What do you feel is the most misunderstood aspect, from the customer side of things, about "network licensing" of software products?

Jerry:  It’s so easy to get things just running customers often miss the finer and much more complex aspects of a licensing implementation. This results in underutilization of assets, exposure to compliance violation and reliability issues.

Dave:  Where do you see world of software licensing in five or ten years? Drastically different, or just incremental changes?

Jerry:  For cloud customers things are already drastically different and the software industry is driving more and more in that direction. As some offerings become exclusively cloud offerings we will see more changes. 

As much as the software industry would like it, I doubt everything will move to the cloud. Even here I think we will continue to see a move from perpetual to term based licensing which will drive changes in licensing. I think (and hope) that we will see hybrid solutions where applications and data are not in the cloud but licensing and associated software asset management is cloud based. 

Of course, there will be private cloud implementations which will drive changes in licensing business models and supporting technologies.

Dave:  I know that one of your passions is skiing and being in and around snow, particularly in beautiful places like Northern California and Colorado. Could you ever see a scenario where your two worlds could cross (software and skiing)?

Jerry:  Who knows, it wouldn't be the first time in my life that hobby and work merged. As it stands now I am a volunteer ski patroller doing both downhill (Alpine) and cross country (Nordic) patrol. It would not surprise me if I end up doing some consulting work for some of the larger resorts and their holding companies.

Dave:  According to your public profile, it would appear that you are either partially or fully retired from the world of software engineering and support services. Are you still involved with technology-related strategic initiatives at Autodesk or elsewhere?

Jerry:  Humm, I better work on my profile. I have been doing independent software asset management and assessment consulting since the beginning of the year. I do some work for Autodesk and for other customers. My business has grown by word of mouth. I am an ADN member and will be speaking at Autodesk University again this year.

Dave:  Do you still travel much? Are there places besides NorCal and Colorado you like to visit?

Jerry:  Yes I still travel a lot for business and pleasure. I enjoy returning to old favorites such as New York, Detroit, Rome, London, Perth, Auckland and Seoul where I have friends and always look forward to visiting new places. I really enjoyed skiing Whakapapa on the north island of New Zealand; it was all about being there on that volcanic hill.

Dave:  If a teenager approached you about choosing a future career path, either in the IT-related world, or something else entirely, what would you recommend to them?

Jerry:  I would tell them to pursue what they are good at and like to do. I have enjoyed my career in the software/IT industry but I see so many people forcing themselves to do this work and are bad at it. I feel we should all strive to be happy and add value to the world; our jobs and hobbies should support this goal.

Dave:  If you were somehow put in charge of Autodesk back in, say, 2005-2010 time frame, and given "absolute control" over all strategic decisions, would Autodesk look (a) about the same as it does today, (b) a little different, but not radically different, or (c) radically different than it looks today?

Jerry:  This one I respectfully decline to comment on.

Dave:  What would make your "perfect breakfast" selection as far as food and drink?

Jerry:  Fresh squeezed OJ and a few espressos.

Dave:  If you could recall anyone from history who has long-since passed on, and have five minutes of time to talk with them, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Jerry:  No brainer, it would be Professor Einstein. If we are talking 5 minutes relative to us at rest on a fixed point on the planet earth; I doubt we would be able to scratch the surface on the things I’d like to discuss. I would start with the validity of our understanding of the propagation of light.


Thank you for reading this interview! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I have.  For more information and resources related to Jerry, please explore the links below.  Thank you!

LinkedIn Profile - Jerry Milana
AU 2004 Photo Album

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