Category: Software:

#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.

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.

So I’ve been hearing nothing but good things about Windows 7. Apparently, its the first Microsoft client OS release since XP (2002) that will actually improve with a new release. It also happens to be first “pre-release” Microsoft OS I’ve tried since 2001, which was when the release candidates of XP started to pop up on the Internet.

I was shocked to hear that Microsoft released a freely downloadable beta, so I decided to give it a shot. I googled “Windows 7 release candidate,” and the first result was this link . As soon as I get to the page, a pop-up comes up asking to install “Silverlight,” which is Microsoft’s lame attempt at creating a flash clone. Typical for MS, they clone something that is cross platform (.NET=Java, Silverlight=Flash), and make sure it only works well on Microsoft operating systems. Needless to say, I didn’t bother installing “Silverlight.”

So the next step was for me to click the download link. I assumed that would take me to a page where I pick my appropriate download, and away we go.. Nope, I was then prompted for a Microsoft “Windows Live” id. The windows live id is a relic of Microsoft’s failed “Passport” initiative to monopolize federated web authentication. It took me 10 tries, but I finally found an old account that worked.

So now can I download Windows 7? Nope, Microsoft wants me to fill out a survey. The best part of the survey is when they ask what my primary client operating system is, the only products they list are Windows! Naturally I picked “other,” but its just another shining example of Microsoft’s hubris.


So I avoided Silverlight, dug up an old passport account, and filled out a survey, can I download Windows 7 now? Nope, Microsoft wants to verify my e-mail account. Sadly, I never received a verification e-mail, so I guess I wont bother trying Windows 7 today.

e-mail verify

Is pretty sad, that Microsoft can’t even get a simple beta download right. Its probably easier for someone to download a pirated copy of any Microsoft product, than it is to participate in a legitimate beta test.

The Novell “partnership” with Microsoft has been a hot topic in Linux circles since it was announced a few years ago. Recently, Novell and Microsoft introduced a joint-marketing site to promote their collaboration.

A few years ago, I had really high hope’s for Novell’s forays in to Linux. However; bad move after bad move has left me with no confidence in Novell or their Linux products. I can’t say I was shocked to find this work of misinformation touting the “benefits” of Novell over Redhat and “unpaid” Linux.

Novell has this lovely chart to highlight the benefits of SUSE over “unpaid” Linux. “Unpaid” is a complete spin word, sounding like something Karl Rove cooked up in a focus group.

Novell FUD Chart:

fud chart

With the exception of phone and on-Site support, community based Linux does everything listed in this table. As someone who was worked with Novell and Redhat in multiple enterprise environments, their phone support offerings are not very good. On-site support? For Linux? Why would anyone need a Novell presence on-site? Unless you’re doing a training or consulting engagement (ie not support,) their is no need for Novell to come on site.

Online support with community distributions such as Ubuntu and Debian is generally far superior to Novell’s online support. Novell’s Suse forums are a ghost town compared to the Ubuntu community.

Security and system updates via community Linux outclass Novell. Novell’s update system via yast is woefully inadequate. Debian and Ubuntu provide a much better mechanism for updates. Novell provides a crappy method for patching SLES systems, because they want their big customers to buy Zenworks to handle their Linux infrastructure.

In a nutshell, nearly every point in the Novell vs. “Unpaid” section is wrong with the exception of phone and on-site support. Having dealt with Novell and other commercial distributions in the past, phone support is completely overrated. Typically, community based distributions offer higher quality support for no cost.

So why buy Novell and Redhat? If you are using Linux as the platform for Oracle or some other proprietary product, typically commercial distros are the only route. Is there any other valid reason? Its certainly not for the quality of support.

I guess it boils down to the fact that most IT shops want someone to blame/call when something goes terribly wrong.

So it looks like Sun is restricting what features go in to the open source version of MySQL. The Slashdot thread is full of anti-sun FUD, but the blog post linked in the Slashdot thread is true. Sun is providing features to the “enterprise” customers that are unavailable in the GPL version.

I like to refer to such restrictions as semi-open source. The problem with such arrangements is that its just as restrictive as proprietary software. Oh you want online backups for your database? You need the proprietary “enterprise” version.

With such arrangements, the openness of the software is essentially a farce. I’ve seen this the past with “open source” groupware. Zimbra may utilize open source components, buts its no better than Exchange when it comes to being open. Oh you want connect Outlook with Zimbra? You need the “enterprise” edition with its per user per year licensing.

Semi-open source may have packaging that looks open, but when you open the box, its really just proprietary software disguised as open source. In the case of MySQL, organizations are better off using Postgres anyway. Why use an inferior product that isn’t really open?