Rick Mack and Michel Roth join Provision Networks / Quest

In January, Provision Networks (now part of Quest Software) scored big time when Jeff Pitsch and Patrick Rouse, two well-known Citrix CTPs (and past BriForum presenters) joined the company. Provision has just scored again, this time with another two guys who are well-known to the community: Michel Roth and Rick Mack.

In January, Provision Networks (now part of Quest Software) scored big time when Jeff Pitsch and Patrick Rouse, two well-known Citrix CTPs (and past BriForum presenters) joined the company. Provision has just scored again, this time with another two guys who are well-known to the community: Michel Roth and Rick Mack.

As I've written in the past, Provision Networks has a long way to go if they want to catch up to Citrix. But they also have some really cool features that Citrix doesn't have (like offering VDI and Terminal Services-based SBC in the same product), and certainly being part of Quest will help. Worst case, a little competition helps keep everyone on their feet.

Let's take a closer look at Provision's two newest employees:

Michel Roth, most previously with Login Consultants, has presented at BriForum in the past and blogs at ThinComputing.NET. He's a Microsoft MVP and has contributed a bit to our site, including:

[UPDATE: Michel has posted to his blog about why he joined Provision.]

Rick Mack was a Citrix CTP, althought most people know him from his frequent postings to the THIN email list and to our forum. He's presented at four of the five BriForums, and as I've written before, Rick's BriForum presentations have received feedback along the lines of "The best session I've ever seen at any conference in my entire life." (This was an actual comment!)

Rick is a very modest guy. But I'm not. :) So I'm happy to tell everyone that he's one of the most brilliant people I've met. While some people are talking about Acrobat being slow in Terminal Server, Rick's posting to email lists about how you can use a resource hacker to remove features from the EXE to speed it up. :)

News of Rick joining Provision was made public today in a post he sent to the THIN email list. Rick answered someone's question, and Joe Shonk (another BriForum presenter) noticed, "Hey, his email signature says 'Provision Networks.'" Joe responded to the group email asking Rick what the deal was and joked that it must have been for a lot of money. This was Rick's response:

From: Rick Mack
Reply-To: < thin@freelists.org>
Date: Wed, 5 Mar 2008 19:58:44 -0600
To: < thin@freelists.org>
Subject: [THIN] Re: PSE450R01W2K3005.msp

Hi People,

I got offered a job by Provision and after a lot of soul searching, I took it. And believe it or not it wasn't about money.

But it was one of the harder decisions I've had to make.

Resigning as a CTP was nearly impossible. I really really admire the other CTPs and feel they're about the best bunch of people around. And of course there's always the ego bit.

Then there was Citrix.

I've been supporting Citrix products since 1993 (Winview) and having the opportunity to actually try and make a difference as a CTP was just incredible. And the Citrix people who encouraged and supported the CTP program have just been terrific, especially Brad Nunn.

I hope I was able to help in some of the changes we've seen in Citrix in terms of it's connection with the Citrix user and reseller community, but there was also a lot of frustration.

My gut feeling is that Citrix are awfully close to losing the plot from a TS/SBC perspective. There are so many things in the present TS product that could be fixed with just a bit of extra effort that aren't going to be because so much of Citrix' energy is being absorbed into their new acquisitions. Some of the new stuff (Xen, provisioning server etc) is more than cool, once it's properly integrated and ready for serious use.

As negative examples, until fairly recently, the whole of Citrix' printer subsystem development was being done solely by Gary Barton. There are the 2 management consoles, the incomplete mfcom apis, non-existent Palm/Blackberry synchronization, USB redirection etc. Of course it'll all going be fixed in the Server 2008 product, maybe, but a lot of the additional functionality will be provided by Microsoft rather than Citrix.

Citrix are desperately trying to re-invent themselves, and I still remember Novell doing the same thing 12 years ago. How can you justify losing focus on a product core that's generating more that 3/4s of your income?

Of course there's always Platinum edition, but what about the advanced and enterprise customers, what are they getting?

Sorry. it's probably not appropriate to be voicing my frustrations like this, but I felt you deserved a decent explanation.

I guess I came to realise that my allegience wasn't so much to Citrix but rather you guys (and girls) and the SBC community and technologies. And Citrix has had such a central role.

So why did I go to Provision?

The "fatal" hook was being offered the opportunity  to get involved in really helping to set the direction of the product.

Imagine being able to ask for an enhancement and watching it happen.
Imagine having a customer or reseller come to you with a requirement for something special and being able to develop and deliver what they need.
Imagine putting together an SBC product that will have ALL the bells and whistles. No third party add-ons needed to fix stuff that has been "broken" forever.  

Provision are far from perfect, their support forums suck, they've been so focussed on R&D and pushing out a good product that a lot of other little things have suffered.

But now that Quest is in the mix, we've got the resources to fix things up and maybe make something really special. Some of the stuff coming out in the next few months should really make people sit up and take notice.

Anyway, I'm not leaving, just wearing a different logo on my shirt. My heart is still in the same place and I hope I can still contribute something useful.

Oh, and I'll try to avoid mentioning that "we can do that" too often ;-)

regards,

Rick

Quest Software
Provision networks Division

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Hi Rick and Michel,


I can imagine that this new step isn't that easy to make. Best wishes. have a great time!


Ruben

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I hope you keep spending time on your site Michel! Good luck!

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Brian,

 Help us understand this statement. That Provision allows you to run SBC and VDI in same product. My understanding is the Xendesktop allows you to have a single interface to SBC, VDI and PC Blades.

Thanks, 

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I don't think Michel Roth was a CTP, he's a Microsoft MVP, but not a CTP.

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Better yet!  The CTP only finally came as a response to Provision's VIP. 
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hummm... that's not true. Citrix has plans that data back to 2004 to start a CVP (Citrix Valuable Professional) program, that ultimately became Citrix Technology Professional in early 2006, after the community "pressured" Citrix to start one.
 

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And the new Citrix site color scheme too!
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"Pressured" by Provision's VIP program.  Until then, Citrix never gave a d---. 
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Who is Provision Networks?  :)
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i guess the point here is that Michel Roth is/was not a CTP

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Yes, with Citrix XenDesktop and Citrix Presentation Server, you can have the same client "interface" (via WI) to both, but it's still two separate products on the back end. Still two separate databases. Separate security. etc. They both use similar technologies, but they are not hooked together in any way.

Provision, on the other hand, basically views VDI instances as single-user Terminal Servers. So you can use one single product, with a single database (and single admin console :) for everything.. blades, VDI, published desktops from TS, published apps from TS, and even published apps from VDI!

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Anybody have a guess as to what will happen to thincomputing.net?


Michel, if you are out there, let us know your plans!

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Two of the greatest guys I know.  With respect to their continued community involvement, I can't see either of these guys changing their commitments to their community efforts, so don't sweat that.  Best wishes guys!
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Who is Citrix? :)
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I believe Michel was certainly on this year's list to become a CTP.  (Yawn...) 
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The company that Provision Networks tries to be.
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To be or to beAT?
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Jeff turned off this website. I hope Michel doesn't do the same thing, however I don't expect him to be covering citrix products and technologies anymore...
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I second Shawn's comments.  Michel and Rick are rockstars.  Michel has given a lot to the community.  Also, I didn't write the comment that Brian quoted about Rick, but I have written comments close to that on a BriForum feedback form.
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Seems like everybody is going to Provision... when you going Brian? Maybe this is why Citrix was dragging their feet on starting the CTP program. Seems to be a good place for their competition to look to hire employees. :)

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with cool technologies you have really cool people to back it up!
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I for one am happy for Rick and wish him well!  He definitely is genius extraordinaire number!  In some strange way,  this may be good for Citrix.  If they have a bonofide competitor, Citrix may be motivated to fix some of the issues Rick pointed and maybe, just maybe they will listen and add some of the simple feature enhancements that many of us have been ask for years.

As far as Michel goes,  I wish him the same success as Rick, Jeff and Patrick.   I haven't had a chance to meet him in person (hopefully at BriForum), but he has a stellar reputation in the community and has done an awesome job with the website.

Joe 

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I know that decision wasn't the easiest to make, but you never get anywhere in life without taking risks. In the immortal words of Andre Gide, "Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."


I wish you both, along with Jeff and Patrick, all the best.  See you in Chicago


Cheers
Michael

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What do you got to loose, if you are able to swim?
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Good to hear Quest is putting their money down to bring in talent to improve and develop the Provision solution. With the silent and uneventful acquisition I was starting to worry that the flame for Provision Networks was going to be left to die out.


Nice things to see in Provision
1) Multimedia and user experience performance enhancements. Perhaps a Net2Display compatible solution. http://www.ncl.cs.columbia.edu/publications/adeac2006_fordist.pdf


2) Better logging and reporting. Who logged on when, what errors have occurred in the environment, etc.


3) Terminal Server session migration, like VMotion for user sessions. Would make server maintenance so much easier, no more draining servers before you can work on them.


4) Support for Linux desktop remoting. By supporting Linux compatible protocols (VNC, Xwindows, etc) or adding RDP to Linux. I know of a company that offers a solution for this. Would be nice to extend the Provision Connection Broker functionality to Linux desktop/server environments.


5) Please add support for TS Tokens in the RDP proxy to allow reconnects to disconnected sessions when you have more than one terminal server. The feature is there and used by load balancers to reconnect users back to a disconnected sessions.


6) Improve the reliability of the Print-IT solution or take it out back and bury it. I am constantly switching from the EMF format to the PDF format on the universal printers to correct formatting issues. I have seen pages print out mirrored, upside down, characters replaced with funky characters, and some elements of the printout are missing entirely. Switch to PDF and those problems all go away. Other times the Print-IT components on the server enter into fits of high CPU utilization that last for 30 minutes or so, and this happens during periods of very light print traffic.


7)


  A) Add more management to the profile management solution. Would be nice to be able to view the contents of a users saved profile settings and edit them or clear them from within the Provision Console.


  B) Also, being able to prepopulate the profile file on the profile server would be seriously helpful. Imagine being able to deploy Outlook profile settings to a group of users with a few clicks of a button and not having to go to the Office toolkit.


  C) Make the profile management solution more like SepagoProfiles, in that SepagoProfile supports multiple windows environments for the same user and settings. They can go from a Windows 2003 terminal server to a Windows XP desktop and the same profile settings are carried across. Not sure that the Provision profile management is robust enough to support this type of scenario.


  D) Support saving settings of virtualized applications. If a small executable could be inserted into the virtual package that ran at startup and shutdown, and at these times it would import and/or export settings from the virtualized applications file system or registry.


  E) More granular and optimized handling of profile settings by only copying changes. This would allow you to save the entire registry and/or profile between sessions without having to transfer the entire things back and forth for each logon/logoff.


8) Extend what Provision does on the terminal server to desktop environments. Today you can lockdown the terminal server desktop, publish icons, hide things, prevent access to things, manage profile settings, etc. But that is not true of the XP desktop. Not much in the form of management and control is added to hosted XP desktops by the provision framework.


9) When/if more is added to desktop management, let it work in disbursed and semi-connected environments by opening it up to the web. Allowing the components to communicate over web services or https would let me extend my management to home workers, remote branches, and mobile users more easily. Being able to manage a remote workers desktop, whether physical or virtual, over the web would be a nice feature. These should all be easily added to the Provision client.


10) Add support for TWAIN scanners.

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11) Better and more managable file sharing between local and remote machines. Policies to allow or prevent this, and settings in the Provision client to connect a folder(s) to drive letters in the remote (terminal server or desktop) session.

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12) Documenting the errors that can be reported to the event log by Provision components. Would help administrators build management packs for Microsoft Operations Manager or other systems monitoring solutions and allow proactive responses to error conditions.
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We're sure Provision Networks has major plans to do all of the above and a lot more.  As a high-profile customer under NDA, we've had exposure to their roadmap.  I can tell you that it looks scarily impressive.  They've also quadrupled their development team in the last 2 months and thus are firing on all cylinders. 


Those are all great suggestions, but as of today, no other company comes close to offering the breadth of features they do.


BTW, their Print-IT EMF driver yields perfect results compared to all other EMF-based solutions.  Make sure to upgrade to one of their latest versions in which they've made some important enhancements. 

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I'd be happy to discuss any of your concerns, Feel free to contact me offline.
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Citrix employee and #1 blogger Jeff Muir wrote about Rick joining Provision . His perspective is pretty good too.
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Hi Everyone,


I written a small article about my decision to join Provision Networks. I've posted it to my own website because of space restrictions of these comment fields.

Read it here: http://www.thincomputing.net/articles/about-my-decision-to-join-provision-networks.html


Michel Roth
Thincomputing.net

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What is that old saying?  "ROME WASN'T BUILT IN A DAY!?"
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Good one and Citrix has been at for how many years? 20? and they're not that much better!  If all we could come up with is 12 suggestions, I'm sure we could come up with 12 pages to improve PS4.5 or XenApp4.5 or whatever it's called now.
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13) Full support for 64bit Windows Server. I think 64bit has been out long enough for the entire provision suite to support it. I have 64bit servers throughout my datacenter and the ability to pile in 16gb or more of memory, but still waiting :) Come on guys, you can do it!!!
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I agree. I have been using Provision since the fall of 2005. Big believer and truly want to see RDP best ICA. Those suggestions were motivated by some of the pains and difficulties I have encountered while using it in a hosting provider environment. Others are meant to improve Provision's VDI solution and keep ahead of the pack. The multimedia and user experience issues are going to be critical to VDIs acceptance/success. And when that all takes off, us administrators will need all the help we can get to manage the thousands of hosted desktops.
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The reality is that we plan our roadmap around what the majority of clients, or potential clients are asking for.  I can count the number of people that I have talked to that needed 64 bit support for TS on one finger.  The majority of features we are working on are related to improving RDP user experience and extending our lead in the VDI space.  Sure 64 bit support would be nice, but I don't see use changing our road map to include support for 64 bit TS when less than 5% of people use X64.  One way to scale TS higher than what can be done with 2003 Standard would be to virtualize multiple 2003 Standard Terminal Servers.  Support for X64 it is on our roadmap, but it is not at the top of the list.
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But 64-bit support would be so green-wise. Has to take less energy to run 1 big box than it would take to run 3-4 smaller boxes, saving money on power, cooling, space, and hardware.


I am guessing that Print-IT took little effort to port to 64-bit and everything else represents a sizable challenge to port and support on 64-bit. The official reponse I heard 2 1/2 years ago was that Provision wanted to support 64-bit, but they wanted to do it right. 5% of the terminal server market has to be larger than 5% of the current VDI market. And you know who the 5% on 64-bit are using, Citrix.


When will Quest/Provision update/release their public roadmap? Provision has done a couple roadmap announcements over the last couple years highlighting the improvements they expected to release. These are very helpful in keeping the userbase faithful.

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64 bit support was actually sidelined by development of VDI technology in 2006.  One can virtualize 4-8 32 bit Terminal Servers on one dual-quad core server (with use of Virtualization Infrastructure & SAN and 16-32GB RAM), without having any compatibility issues that arise with X64.  All I am saying is that we have a lot of customers asking for VDI Features, and very few asking anything about X64.  We did discuss X64 at our kickoff meeting last month.  As far as I know all partners have access to our roadmap.  I'd be happy to discuss the roadmap with anyone who is interested.
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Citrix would
like to publicly thank Rick Mack , Patrick Rouse, and Jeff Pitsch ( plus Michel
Roth who was in que for CTP ) for their contributions to Citrix, the CTP (
Citrix Technology Professional ) Program and the Citrix community at large. You
have each made significant contributions to the industry which was why you were
selected to join the CTP program in the first place. As part of the CTP process
we listen and value the insightful ( and blunt ) feedback and ideas that we get
to help shape our roadmap and priorities.



Perhaps it’s
not too surprising that others in the industry are looking at Citrix and our
community to find great talent and follow a success in the marketplace. As many
of you have noted, Citrix has been at the center of multiple industry leading
changes from Multi user Windows, to Thin Clients, to Server Based Computing, to
Application Virtualization and Application Delivery. And we are not done, our
new efforts around Web App delivery plus Desktop and Server Virtualization will
continue to shape the IT industry going forward.





So let’s keep
shaping the industry by proving, implementing, and evangelizing to the “rest”
of the IT industry that there is a better way to deliver applications and
manage IT than the traditional methods of installing, securing, and maintaining,
applications and desktops.

Chris Fleck     



 



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Go do some useful work instead of dishing out an empty speech you under-achiever!  Evangelizing to the "rest" of the community? Didn't you and the miopic idiots, just over a year ago, think VDI was a fad when in fact your main competitor was already out with a product?  You have nothing to evangelize.  You simply steal ideas and claim them your own.


You're the black sheep of this community! 

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For the record, Chris Fleck was one of the very first evangelists of "virtual desktops" inside of Citrix--going back to 2004 if not earlier.

-Bill Carovano 

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Yeah right!!! Keep living in denial.
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You win.  Trolls always do.


 -Bill Carovano

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That's why your a winner, Bill.  Should you refer you back to a fairly recent post in which you professed that Presentation Server is VDI?  You thought leader you!!!

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Fantastic, you read my work...I love having a fan club!!


Here's yet another data point for you.  Two weeks ago at VMworld Europe, I had a great conversation with a large European bank that was an existing XenApp (CPS) customer.  They had typical needs to deliver a "virtual desktop" (their words) including a bunch of line of business apps to users all over the world.  They wanted to talk about VDI and XenDesktop.


After about 15 minutes of me listening to their needs and challenges, I asked them if they had considered the "published desktop" feature of XenApp.  It turns out they had only been publishing apps, and weren't that familiar with the published dsktop nor had they considered it.  I guess I'm a bad sales person, because instead of selling them something new (i.e. XenDesktop) I told them they may have already purchased what they needed.  About 45 minutes later they left the meeting with a plan to use this existing investment to deliver their "virtual desktop" needs.  I also mentioned to them where a virtual desktop via hosted XP/Vista might make sense too, but they seemed to like the simplicity of using what they already had (who wouldn't?).


I've had this same type of conversation literally hundreds of times in the past 12-18 months.


Is XenApp/CPS VDI?  In this customer's eyes, it was!  Personally, I don't care to debate that nor does it really matter; in the end no matter what you call it, it solves customers' problems.


-Bill Carovano

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Oh yes, I'm a fan of your stupidity and shortsightedness. I even have an autographed photo of you posing next to your favorite NutriSystem meal: pot roast.  


If VDI for you is simply a matter of publishing a TS desktop, then I must say your competition is in great shape (i.e., they won't need NutriSystem).

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Like I said, you win.


-Bill Carovano

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Yes, I'll "second, second" Shawn's well wishes. Congratulations Rick, Michel, Jeff, and Patrick!
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yes trolls often win!! Certainly Endeavors / Stream Theory did when they slapped you with a lawsuit for patent infringement - and they won - or did you settle???  Serves you right for stealing Softricity's ideas you awesome innovators you.
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I come to this site for a technical and independetn view on whats happening in the Virtualisation world and then  I get a tit-for-tat flame war.
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Brain, We try to us Provision Networks VDI solution to provide a desktop to our mobile werkers, unfortunately we came a few seroius security issues that unable us to continue withe the product, the main issue is:  In 5.10 the PIT file got encrypted. It is however still possible to save the PIT file to any location copy it,  and use it time and time again. Using this PIT brings up a RDP connection to the machine. The broker is totally out of the picture when this happens. After 30 seconds the password in the PIT file expires but the PIT file can still be used after that to get a direct connection to that machine. do you have an idee how to solve or work around this problem? or what means the integration with Juniper ssl vpn solution? 

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I believe this issue is solved in version 6.0, as we no longer put connection information into the PIT file (similar to RDP or ICA file), except how to connect to the broker or secure gateway.  I'll write a blog post about this in a few weeks when 6.0 ships.


It should be noted that even the current encrypted PIT file is more secure than RDP files, as they are encrypted using a proprietary cipher and timeout after 30 seconds.  Like I said, in vWorkspace 6.0 this is completely resolved.


Patrick Rouse


Microsoft MVP - Terminal Server


Systems Consultant


Quest Software, Provision Networks Division


(619) 994-5507


blogs.inside.quest.com/provision


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