Category: Tech

#1: Ops is becoming more tactical

Ten years ago the goal for systems management was to use one set of tooling to manage a diverse set of platforms for the entire lifecycle of a server. There are still some organizations who have such a model, but most have dropped the ambition to use one tool to rule them all. Many shops are moving towards tactical tooling that is “best of breed” and keeping a siloed approach to automation use cases.

#2: Infrastructure is less important

Infrastructure is becoming less important from an investment perspective and is being viewed as a commodity. This trend started with virtualization and is accelerating with cloud. Ironically configuration management problems only get worse with the ability to easily provision more resources but organizations are tackling those problems in silos.

#3: DEV is driving DEVops

In most organizations operations is still being viewed as an obstacle to business progress. That has been the driver towards external and internal cloud. The whole devops trend is being driven by DEV and not ops so the typical value achieved by say server automation is nice, but time to market of releases is what’s driving IT spend.

#4: IT is already lean

One of drivers for server automation 10 years ago was increasing operational efficiency. Are OPS teams running at high efficiency? No, but from a staffing perspective they are running so lean that there is no headcount to reduce. In an environment where server count is growing it’s still very easy to justify a big automation project, but if server count is going down and headcount stays flat it’s hard to justify a large automation spend.

#5: Outsourcing

Depending on how the outsourcing arrangement is setup, it can either be a driver or a roadblock for automation. In a lot of deals the outsourcer needs to invest in automation to meet their SLA’s but many times it can also be the opposite. I’ve seen many cases where the outsourcer resists automation because they are financially rewarded for operating in an inefficient manner.

When I started to hear rumors about the iPhone5 earlier this year I was worried. I heard that Apple was definitely increasing the size of the screen. I always thought the iPhone had a great form factor for what people do with a smartphone. Here are my top 10 activities:

  1. Check Email
  2. Twitter
  3. Facebook
  4. iMessage
  5. Phone Calls
  6. Spotify
  7. Camera
  8. Foursquare
  9. Chrome
  10. Weather

Notice something missing from that list? Phone manufactures often tout the user experience of watching movies on some huge screen, but I never watch extended video clips on a phone. Sure, on occasion I will bring up a clip at restaurant, like showing my relatives a black bear eating from my father’s birdfeeder, but I don’t watch movies or TV from my phone. Laptops and tablets provide a superior video watching experience.

I see a lot of handset manufactures coming out with these huge bricklike phones that do nothing to help my top 10 use cases. Sure a bigger screen is nice, but its not nice when the phone can’t fit in your pocket and weighs ton.
With the iPhone5, my biggest fear did not come true. The footprint of the actual device is less than the iPhone4, even with the extended screen. Its noticeably thinner and lighter, which I really like. I also don’t have to bother with a bumper case since the antenna issue that plagued the iPhone4 is resolved.

While I’m not a fan of all the needless lawsuits going on in the smartphone industry, the prototype device pictures reminded me of the phone I used prior to the original iPhone.
Treo 650

I really loved my Treo 650, it was the first phone I owned that did e-mail well. You could even install “apps” and browse the web in a very limited fashion. It could definitely fit in your pocket, but it was a tight fit to say the least. It interesting to see the “bigger is better” smartphone trend. It reminds me of the SUV trend of the 90’s. At some point there will be a backlash.

Of all the phones I’ve owned over the years, probably the ultimate form factor for it’s time was the Nokia 8260.
Nokia 8260
The 8260 was an awesome phone considering it came out 12 years ago. It was absolutely tiny for the time, had great battery life, and an easy to use interface. Instead of looking to tablets for design inspiration, smartphone makers should spend some time with the Nokia 8260.

Today, as I prepare to buy the Ipad 2, I want to revisit my orginal Ipad rant titled “Why the Ipad will be synonymous for failure.” A year later, the Ipad is obviously not a failure. So lets look at some of the points from my previous post.

The Kindle is a Superior E-reader

This is still true to this day. The Ipad is not a good book reader. Most people I know with Ipads also own a Kindle. At the time of that post, there was no Kindle application, and no indication from Apple that competing e-reader applications would be allowed.

Why buy an Ipad when your smartphone already has the same functionality?

I made a really stupid assumption. The assumption was that human beings are logical when it comes to making purchasing decisions. The fact is, people buy things based on appeal and desire, not left brain analysis. The world economy is driven by illogical purchasing, and I’m just as guilty as anyone else.

Lack of multitasking and user profiles makes it a bad product

Apple fixed the multitasking issue for the most part, but the user profile concern is still valid. However; most people don’t care about such a feature and Apple sure as hell doesn’t want to promote people sharing Ipads. Steve wants to sell more Ipads.

There is no camera, there is no video out, there is no usb port

The camera issue is fixed with the Ipad2, and there is a video out adaptor. I prefer the built-in hdmi adaptor on the Xoom, but I’m not sure I have a use case for video out on my tablet. A USB port would be nice, but Apple doesn’t want to sell the Ipad as a computer and they don’t want expandability. I expect that to change as the competition from Android matures over the next two years.

It all started with a few e-mails. A bunch of receipts for $50 iTunes purchases. When I first saw them, I assumed they were phishing attempts. A lot of phishers will use fake receipts that contain links to lure people to fake websites for acquiring passwords. I looked at the source of the e-mail and it looked legit, so I went on iTunes and discovered that my account was hacked.

There were several $50 purchases that use a feature called “Itunes allowances” which allow people to give others iTunes credit. The allowances were sent to a bunch of Yahoo! china e-mail addresses. Needless to say, I was pretty shocked. My password security is pretty good, and I’m very careful about what I do on the Internet.

So after finding out I was hacked, the first thing I wanted to do was call Apple. Want to actually call Apple about something? You’re shit out of luck. The only way to contact Apple about iTunes fraud is to send them an e-mail, and don’t expect a timely response. It took 12 hours to get a reply. Apple doesn’t really handle fraud at all. They tell you to contest the charge with your credit card issuer or Paypal. I was shocked at how poorly Apple handled the situation, which I guess is why scammers are using iTunes as a platform for exploitation.

My Apple account was tied to my Paypal account. Apple forces iPhone owners to have some form of billing setup, even if you don’t actually buy anything from Apple. I had my Apple account linked to my Paypal account. The eight $50 charges went to Paypal, so I contacted Paypal too.

I have to give Paypal some credit, someone called my cell within 10 minutes of me filing the fraud compliant. Paypal will be sending me a refund. However, the refund process takes 10-15 days! Paypal instantly withdrew $400 from my bank account, but it takes them over 10 days to issue me a refund. Oh, and here is the best part. The refund is sent to my Paypal balance! Then I need another 3-5 days to transfer the money back to my bank account.

How did my itunes account get hacked? I’m not sure. My computers are all secure, but I did reuse the Itunes password on several different other websites. It was a password that I used on quite a few Internet forums. My best guess is some forum site got hacked, and thats how my e-mail/password was grabbed. Thats my best guess. My security questions are too tough for anyone to guess, and while Apple is completely inept when it comes to security, I can’t imagine anyone brute forcing my iTunes password.

supermicro 5036
Since I started working for a software vendor, my personal use of virtualization has grown exponentially. Everything I demo is contained within a VMware virtual machine. When I need to test new products or complex multi-product configurations, virtualization is the obvious choice, especially considering that my office is my home. I’ve been doing most of my work on a laptop, but I’m constantly running in to resource limits. Not enough disk space, not enough RAM, and lacking the CPU/Storage speed necessary for simulating enterprise software.

To solve my resource limitations, I decided to build a workstation that would function as a VMWare ESXI server. ESXi was the obvious choice since its the most widely used, and its completely compatible with the virtual machines I run on my Ubuntu laptop using VMware workstation. I wanted to get a pre-built whitebox that was supported by VMware. I selected the Supermicro 5036, which basically has server class hardware in a mid-tower form factor. I picked up a 3 ghz quad core i7 CPU and 12GB of ram. For storage I chose 4 1TB drives that I was planning on using in a RAID5 array.

When my hardware arrived, I burnt the latest ESXi iso (4.1) to a CD and began the install. I quickly discovered that ESXi does not support the on-board RAID capability of the motherboard. I naively assumed that when VMware said a device was supported, that all the functions of that device were supported. I really wanted to utilize RAID in my configuration, so I found a ESXi 4 supported 3ware RAID card on Ebay for a reasonable price. When the RAID card arrived, I installed the card and quickly discovered that VMware dropped support of the 3ware 9550sxu-4lp RAID card with version 4.1, so I would need to utilize 4.0 update 1 if I wanted to use RAID with my current card. The bottom line is VMware ESXi hardware support is very limited and subject to rapid changes.

So I downloaded and installed ESXi version 4.0 update 1 and the driver for 3ware RAID cards. I had 4 1TB drives setup in a RAID5 array, which seemed like a very basic configuration. However, when I logged in via the client I found out that ESXi cannot handle disk arrays over 2TB. My compromise configuration was to set up 2 drives as RAID 0 and 2 drives as RAID 1. One datastore for speed, and one datastore for data integrity.

With the installation complete, I was able to quickly move my existing VM’s to my new server using VMware converter. Besides the hardware compatibility issues, I’m really happy with the performance of the ESXi server. My only big gripe is that the Vsphere client used for accessing the ESXi server is Windows only, which is absolutely inexcusable.

After four months of using a corporate laptop running Windows XP 64 bit edition, I finally made the jump to desktop Linux on my corporate laptop (Ubuntu 10.4 aka Lucid Lynx). In the past, working in various IT roles, it was easy for me to run whatever OS I wanted, and take the time to configure it to my liking. However; in a software pre-sales role you cannot afford to have any downtime, especially when you role is 100% dependent on having a functioning laptop. Something that was once a nuisance, such as external display issues with a projector, is now a mission critical bug.

Device Compatibility

Ubuntu Verizon Card

Using Linux on the desktop in some form for over a decade, I’m simply shocked at the major strides Ubuntu has made on device compatibility. After the OS installation, every device on my Dell e6500 worked out of the box. The wireless networking and bluetooth worked right out of the box. The screen was at the optimal resolution. The power functionality of sleeping and hibernate worked with no issues going in and out of the dock. Some of these items may appear to be trivial, but 5 years ago Linux laptop users generally had to use custom kernel modules and various hacks to get things working right. Even on the Windows side, you generally have to spend a lot of time hunting down correct device drivers. With Lucid, I was 100% functional after the base OS install.

From a third party device perspective I was also blown away by Lucid. I have a wireless aircard from Verizon. Getting it to work on Windows and OSX requires me install third party software from Verizon. With Ubuntu, I simply plugged the device in, and a wizard came up asking me my country, and my wireless carrier. That’s it, it simply worked like any other integrated networking device. Printer configuration was a similar experience, I simply picked the device from a menu and it just worked. No bloated drivers from HP.


Ubuntu VMware

Because I’m running enterprise software demos inside VMware VM’s, naturally I have VM workstation installed. I also used the VMware converter to convert my previous laptop Windows installation to a VM so I can run my old corporate desktop image as needed. Having used VMware for quite some time, the biggest advantage for desktop use in the last few years has been “unity mode.” Unity mode displays virtualized applications as native applications, so in Ubuntu I run Outlook and Visio without having to move back and forth from the virtualized operating system.

Areas for Improvement

There are still some areas where corporate Ubuntu users still face major challenges. Exchange compatibility is still my number one issue. Evolution works great if you have direct MAPI access, but for road warriors we usually only have access to Exchange’s web interface. Outlook can connect to Exchange directly through OWA (Outlook Web Access), and Evolution supports OWA integration too, but only with Exchange 2003. Most corporations are running Exchange 2007. Corporate VPN connectivity still requires some manual configuration and hacking to get it working. Web presentation tools such as Webex have very limited support for Linux. If your forced to use Microsoft’s Netmeeting, then you must use Windows.