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Geek Speak

2,652 posts

Still no sign of snow here in New England, but baby it's cold outside! Looks like snow will get here soon enough, just in time for ice dam season. Lucky me.


As always, here are some links from the Intertubz that I hope will hold your interest. Enjoy!


Top 10 IoT vulnerabilities

A good list that applies to IT security in general. Have a look and see how many of these you have overlooked.


The Feds Cracked El Chapo's Encrypted Comms Network by Flipping His System Admin

Nice reminder that the biggest threats are often from within.


Filled with malware, phishing and scams, does the web need a safety manual?



IBM’s new quantum computer is a symbol, not a breakthrough

20 qubits is not a lot, but it’s a start. We are still on track for quantum supremacy within 8-10 years.


GitHub is Now Free and That’s Great

Microsoft continues to embrace open source, especially if it is open source code hosted on servers they own.


AWS gives open source the middle finger

AWS gives open source the middle finger, whereas Microsoft has been making efforts to embrace open source. What Bizarro World is this?


Costco Now Sells A 27-Pound Tub Of Macaroni And Cheese That Lasts 20 Years

I’m not saying that I want this 27-lb bucket of mac ‘n cheese, but I’m not saying I would send it back if someone had it shipped to my house.


Sometimes we all need a little "retail therapy":



SWUG began in 2016 as a largely-volunteer effort, cobbled together using spare time and budget by a core set of dedicated SolarWinds staff and THWACK fanatics. The effort hit its stride in 2017, standardizing the format, honing the style, and gathering data from attendees.


And then in 2018, all hell broke loose. SWUG went to more cities than ever before, presenting on a wider range of topics and inviting speakers from every corner of the SolarWinds organization, and even inviting some of our MVPs to take the podium and share their valuable knowledge and experience with the audience.


And it was that last part—the variety of speakers—that caused a very small but beloved change for me. As Head Geek, I had the best seat and the best job in the house: emcee. I got to introduce each of our speakers, frame their topics, and then stand back and watch in awe as each and every one of them brought the house down with their skills and knowledge.


The introductions themselves became something of a labor of love for me. This group of superstars needed more than a simple recitation of their name and title. They needed to have their praises sung and their accomplishments shouted from the rooftops so the SWUG attendees understood just what an incredible individual they had in front of them, and how deep the SolarWinds bench truly was.


However, in retrospect, I may have gone a bit overboard. But I'll let you be the judge. Because as we move into 2019, SWUG is once again evolving, and it might be time to set aside these introductions in favor of some new form (note: I say "might").


Nevertheless, I submit for your reading pleasure "A Year of SWUG Introductions", i.e. all the ways I introduced speakers at the 2018 SWUG events.


Consistency Is the Key

In many cases, I was remarkably consistent when we had regular speakers such as Chris O'Brien, Steven Hunt, and Kevin Sparenberg:


Chris had two main variations:

  • A man whose name is literally part of the source code for NPM, who is known as the father of NetPath, PM Chris O'Brien.
  • A man whose name is literally part of the source code for NPM, who had an Easter egg built in his honor, PM Chris O'Brien.


Similarly, Steven (aka "Phteven"):

  • My kayfabe arch nemesis Steven Hunt, Windows fan boy, and Principal Product Strategist (Systems).
  • My kayfabe nemesis and, conversely, my little Linux protégé, PM Steven Hunt.


And Kevin only had this one intro...


  • The only person here who's landed gentry as well as a SolarWinds PM, a former customer, and a THWACK MVP, his Lairdship Kevin Sparenberg.


...until the very last one, because it was such a special moment for him:


  • This year he's acquired more titles than some people change shoes. He's also the only person here who is both a member of landed gentry as well as a former customer, SolarWinds employee, and a THWACK MVP. Please help me congratulate him on his 10-year THWACKniversary and welcome our DM of community (or THWACKbassador), his Lairdship Kevin Sparenberg.


Variety Is the Spice of Life

For the UX team, I just kept doing variations on a theme:

  • Combine the observational skills of Sherlock Holmes with the empathic skills of a Betazoid ship's counselor, you pretty much end up with our manager of UX, Tulsi Patel.
  • Cross rainbows and sunshine with a Betazoid ship's counselor asking, "How does this wireframe make you feel?" and you pretty much have Kellie Mecham, User Experience Researcher.
  • Combine the observational skills of Sherlock Holmes with a Betazoid starship counselor asking, "How does this wireframe make you feel?" and you pretty much have Katie Cole, User Experience Researcher


While at other times I was clearly at a loss

(admittedly, these all came from one of the first SWUGs where I barely did any introductions at all):

  • On Drums, SE extraordinaire Mario Gomez.
  • Director of Cinematography and Certification, Cal Smith.
  • Itinerant food critic and Fed SE, Andy Wong.
  • Chief roadie Kyle Lohren, video production manager.


For the guest MVP speakers, I tried to roll out the red carpet:

  • From Atmosera comes a person who's been an MVP as long as I have: Byron Anderson.
  • From Loop 1, we have a programming force of nature and an avid learner of all the things, THWACK MVP Steven Klassen.
  • When I was at Cardinal, Josh joined our team one month before I ended up getting the Head Geek job. He's had every right to punch me in the face, but I lucked out because he's not only Canadian, he's just an all-around amazing guy as well as a THWACK MVP, Josh Biggley.
  • He began his IT career with a walk-on role in Star Wars, but now he divides his time between monitoring and specializing as a Mini Cooper stunt driver. Please welcome THWACK MVP Richard Phillips.


The “Bodyguard to the Stars” shtick ended up being a go-to for newcomers

(Those I may not have known well enough to tease):

  • Bodyguard to the stars with top secret clearance, Federal and national Sales Engineer Sean Martinez.
  • Bodyguard to the stars and former stunt driver for Tom Cruise, Federal Sales Engineer Arthur Bradway.
  • Bodyguard to the stars, world-famous He-Man cosplayer, and Virtualization PM Chris Paap.


Saving the Best For Last

But for many folks, I let the originality flow:

  • A pretty pink unicorn with rainbow painted brass knuckles and top-secret clearance, Head Geek Destiny Bertucci.
  • Forget about knowing where the bodies are buried or who has the pictures. This person knows which NPM questions you got wrong – Nanette Neal, Program Manager for SCP.
  • Formerly a Calvin Klein model, before he gave up fitted pants for NetFlow packets - Product Manager Joe Reves.
  • Just like Locutus, it takes incredible willpower to escape the Borg collective known as the SolarWinds sales group, and yet Robert Blair did the impossible and is now our Customer Advocacy Manager.
  • Whenever you see Tom Cruise doing a mountain climbing scene, you're actually watching his stunt double, Product Manager Serena Chou (they're about the same height).
  • We sometimes find him sleeping in his car, not because he's fallen on hard times, but because he simply loves his Jeep that much. Please welcome Network Management Product Manager Jonathan Petkevich.
  • Clocking in at 6'5", he's officially the tallest person in our department and therefore the most important to us because he can reach the really good Scotch up on the tall shelves - Senior web properties manager Ben Garves.
  • Out at conventions he has fun playing the role of Patrick Hubbard's kayfabe arch-nemesis, but in the office, he's got veto power for every new feature or upgrade – Our VP of product strategy Mav Turner.
  • In D&D one of the most interesting PC's is the multi-classed character. At SolarWinds we value our multi-class staff. She started out as a UX illusionist and is now part of our rogue’s gallery of product marketing managers -Katie Cole.
  • What happens when someone with a degree in mechanical engineering takes a right turn at San Antonio and ends up at a software company? You get a product marketing manager who can tech you under the table. Lourdes Valdez.


Last But Not Least

And finally, as I have done at every SWUG this year, I'd like to introduce and Thank the people who make THWACK a reality every day:

  • And of course, Ms. THWACKniss Everdeen herself, the heavenly source of THWACK point blessings, Community Cat Wrangler Danielle Higgins.
  • And of course, the woman whose THWACK ID sends everyone into spontaneous giggles, who can repeat, from memory, every post ever banned from THWACK – Wascally Wendy Wabbot... I mean Abbot.


If you were able to join us for a SWUG this year, I hope this brought back some fond memories. And if you couldn't make it out to join us, I sincerely hope you'll have that chance in 2019. Read more from SWUG Head Master, Kevin Sparenberg, on what you can expect at these events this year.


Or just cut to the chase and join us for FREE at a SWUG in 2019:

Here’s an interesting blog about the Internet of Things and battlefield advances.


The internet of things (IoT) is advancing into the theater of war and becoming the Internet of Battlefield Things (IoBT).


Planning for the IoBT


The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is devising ways to turn inanimate and innocuous objects, including plants and stones, into connected information gathering points. This work complements initiatives undertaken by DARPA to provide war fighters and their commanders with critical information through the innovative use of smartphones, floating sensors, and more. It also recently began working with leading universities on these initiatives.


According to a report from the IEEE Computer Society, the IoBT will lead to “an unprecedented scale of information produced by the network sensors and computing units.” Already overtaxed and undermanned, here are some things IT teams should consider.


Monitoring the Monitors


Ensuring the security of IoBT networks will most likely be uncharted territory for network administrators. The military will not control nontraditional IoBT sensors or their pathways (it’s hard to control a rock, for example). Also, enemies could use similar tactics and their own unorthodox devices to breach U.S. defense networks.


Gaining greater visibility into the devices and connections using these networks will be more important than ever. Automated tools that scan and alert to suspicious devices will likely prove invaluable to ensuring that only devices deemed secure are gaining access to their IoBT networks. Watch lists should be established to account for rogue or unauthorized devices and sensors. The goal should be to create an intelligent and automated network of devices that can respond to potential threats or service interruptions with minimal input from an operator.


Ready for Change


The 2018 SolarWinds public sector IT Trends Report found that a large portion of survey respondents ranked inadequate organizational strategy and lack of user training as barriers to network optimization. What happens when something as complex as IoBT management is thrown into the mix? We should remain cognizant that the size and complexity of these networks changes quickly—and the devices on these networks are becoming more diverse.


Policies and procedures should be clearly articulated to define what constitutes a potential risk and how to report it. Military IT pros can be trained and reminded about vigilance, or as the old adage goes, “If you see something, say something.” Equally important, they should know exactly who to say it to.


IT teams should continuously evaluate and reevaluate their tools to ensure they are adequate to address their security concerns and network complexity. Like networks, threat vectors are also evolutionary, and can change quickly. Regular testing of network tools and adjusting security protocols are important to a healthy, proactive, and robust security posture.


Winning the Battle


The IoBT may seem like something straight out of “Starship Troopers,” but it is very real, and is evolving rapidly. The IoT will likely only become more pervasive. Soon, it will hit the battlefield, so administrators can benefit from getting ahead of the challenge now.


Find the full article on C4ISRNET.


The SolarWinds trademarks, service marks, and logos are the exclusive property of SolarWinds Worldwide, LLC or its affiliates.  All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

The conservation of quantum information is a theory that information can neither be created nor destroyed. Stephen Hawking used this theory to explain how a black hole does not consume photons like a giant cosmic eraser. It is clear to me that neither Stephen Hawking, nor any quantum physicist, has ever worked in IT.


Outside the realm of quantum mechanics, in the physical world of corporate offices, information is generated, curated, and consumed at an accelerated pace with each passing year. The similarity between the physical corporate world and the quantum mechanics realm is that this data is never destroyed.


We are now a nation, and a world, of data hoarders.


Thanks to popular processes such as DevOps, we are obsessed with telemetry and observability. System administrators are keen to collect as much diagnostic information as possible to help troubleshoot servers and applications when they fail. And the Internet of Things has a billion devices broadcasting data to be easily consumed into Azure and AWS.


All of this data hoarding is leading to an accelerated amount of ROT (Redundant, Outdated, Trivial information).


Stop the madness.


It’s time to shift our way of thinking about how we collect data. We need to become more data-centric and do less data-hoarding.


Becoming data-centric means that you define goals and problems to be solved BEFORE you collect or analyze data. Once these goals or problems are defined, you can begin the process of collecting the necessary data. You want to collect the right data to help you make informed decisions about what actions are necessary.


Here are three ways for you to get started on becoming more data-centric in your current role.


Start with the question you want answered. This doesn’t have to be a complicated question. Something as simple as, “How many times was this server rebooted?” is a fine question to ask. You could also ask, “How long does it take for a server to reboot?” These examples may seem like simple questions, but you may be surprised to find that your current data collections do not allow for an easy answer without a bit of data wrangling.


Have an end-goal statement in mind. Once you have your question(s) and you have settled on the correct data to be collected, you should think about the desired output. For example, perhaps you want to put the information into a simple slide deck. Or maybe build a real-time dashboard inside of Power BI. Knowing the end goal may influence how you collect your data.


Learn to ask good questions. Questions should help to uncover facts, not opinions. Don’t let your opinions affect how you collect or analyze your data. It is important to understand that every question is based upon assumptions. It’s up to you to decide if those assumptions are safe, and an assumption is considered safe if it is something that can be measured. For example, your gut may tell you that server reboots are a result of O/S patches being applied too frequently. Instead of asking, “How frequently are patches applied?” a better question would be, “How many patches require a reboot?” and compare that number to the overall number of server reboots.


When it comes to data, no one is perfect. These days, data is easy to come by, making it a cheap commodity. When data is cheap, attention becomes a commodity. By shifting to a data-centric nature, you can avoid data hoarding and the amount of ROT in your enterprise. With just a little bit of effort, you can make things better for yourself, your company, and help set the example for everyone else.

Welcome back to the blog series that never ends, but does take time off for the holidays. I hope everyone had a wonderful time with family and friends these past two weeks. We are about 2.5% done with 2019 at this point. Don’t wait to get started on whatever goals you have set for the year.


As always, here are some links from the Intertubz that I hope will hold your interest. Enjoy!


It's Time for a Data Bill of Rights

Yes! Data rights should protect my privacy by default, not force me into consenting to the opposite.


Marriott breach included 5 million unencrypted passport numbers

Passport numbers are considered PII, and should have been protected in some manner. This is a large oversight by Marriott, and makes me wonder what else they are missing.


Is blockchain living up to the hype?



'Tracking every place you go': Weather Channel app accused of selling user data

Well, now we know the real business model behind reporting the weather 24/7.


How Much of the Internet Is Fake? Turns Out, a Lot of It, Actually.

Wait, you mean that random dude online bragging about success as a ‘full stack blockchain developer’ making $500k a year may not be telling the truth? Shocking.


Can't unlock an Android phone? No problem, just take a Skype call: App allows passcode bypass

My first phone was a Droid, and I recall this functionality. But I thought it was a feature at the time. Now I see it’s a bug. Funny how perspectives can change over time.


100+ Lessons Learned for Project Managers

Wonderful article, filled with great advice such as ‘Reviews, meetings, and reality have little in common.’


With 20 guests for Christmas dinner, this 20lb roast beast was just enough:


Here’s an interesting blog that looks into the importance of two-factor authentication for the public sector as digital crime increases.


“It won’t happen to me” can be naïve, and perhaps even irresponsible, in an era that sees digital crime grow each day.


Awareness Through Education


Google has done much to elevate online security awareness. Most account users will be familiar with its 2-Step Verification process, designed to make it much harder for hackers to gain access to files and information. Known generally as Two-Factor Authentication (2FA), this additional layer of security requires not just a username and password, but also something that is completely unique to that user, whether it be a piece of information or a physical token. It’s based on the concept that only those users will achieve access based on something they know (knowledge) and something they have (possession).


Leading by Example


In a public sector context, data sits at the heart of organizations, in an environment shaped by stringent data regulations and growing security threats. As such, a renewed emphasis has been placed on expanding the use of strong multifactor authentication that’s resistant to attack, particularly for systems accessed by the public. Two years ago, the U.S. government launched a Cybersecurity National Action Plan (CNAP), which included mandatory two-factor authentication for federal government websites and government contractors.


The Local 2FA Landscape


From a U.K. perspective, a growing number of government agencies are deploying encryption to help secure critical information properties. For example, the Code of Connection (CoCo) and public services network (PSN) frameworks recommend that any remote or mobile device should authenticate to the PSN via two-factor authentication. The uptake in two-factor authentication processes in public sector organizations is rising, with some vendors delivering authentication-as-a-service that can be used to authenticate cloud applications, infrastructure, and information.


Better Security = Peace of Mind


Two-factor authentication provides reassurance for both users and system administrators. Biometric authentication, such as a fingerprint, is becoming more common and can be used in diverse systems such as websites, enterprise applications, and secure thumb drives.


The Practical Way Forward


Organizations will need to ensure that their back-end solutions are designed and in place to support the technology and work properly for system users. Thought also needs to be given to education and awareness when introducing new authentication systems. It could become overwhelming, particularly when considering that many public sector organizations may have only recently started to develop a digital transformation strategy. In the NHS space, for example, just 24% of trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have begun to develop strategies.


Processes such as cloud adoption and 2FA are all part of the same digital transformation journey, and having the appropriate government cybersecurity tools to manage each of these components can go a long way towards helping public sector organisations understand what is needed to best support them and their publics. Striving for more secure authentication systems that provide far more confidence in the identity of both end users and systems administrators is a great example of this, and is why it matters.


Find the full article on Open Access Government.


The SolarWinds trademarks, service marks, and logos are the exclusive property of SolarWinds Worldwide, LLC or its affiliates.  All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

As we stand here, in the dawning moments of a new year, let’s all take a moment to acknowledge the acts of generosity, enthusiasm, and bravery of our community in sharing their personal stories, observations, and lessons. Through them, the members of THWACK have transformed the last 31 days into an exercise in reflection, contemplation, and growth. I couldn’t be more proud to be part of this group, and part of a company that fosters these types of conversations.


While I have the individual post summaries and a selection of comments below, I wanted to share some statistics with you to emphasize just how engaged everyone was in this dialogue. From December 1-31, the Writing Challenge generated:

  • 1 lead post each day from 31 different authors, including 14 THWACK MVPs
  • ...from 1,931 people
  • ...spread across 19 countries


Some other informal statistics* worth noting:


  • 127 people mentioned “Back to the Future,” “Doctor Who,” and/or “The Butterfly Effect”
  • 4,846 expressed concerns about altering the past
  • And 1,332 also worried they wouldn’t be who they are today if they had encountered their younger selves


Based on the data, we can rest easy knowing that the THWACK community will not be the one to screw up the timeline, should technology advance sufficiently to permit traveling to the past.


However, as we travel into the future in the normal fashion, one second at a time, I’d like to wish you all, on behalf of the entire SolarWinds team, a very happy New Year, and hope you experience nothing but joy, prosperity, and peace in the coming year.


- Leon


*Remember kids, 52.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.



**** The Authors *****



Danielle Higgins, Manager of the Community Team


We can’t always know what experiences led someone to become the person they are. But when we are privileged to discover the details, it cannot help but bring us closer. That’s exactly what Danielle did in her post, giving a frank and pointed description of her youth, and the messages she would tell that young woman. It’s emblematic of Danielle’s personality that those messages center around hope, reassurance, trust, believing, and focus.


Allison Rael, Marketing Communications Manager, Content Marketing


Alli outs herself as a card-carrying member of the international order of worriers and offers some background on it. But she immediately pivots to a breathtaking observation that I think we all (and especially those of us who are also members of the worrier’s club) can take to heart:


“I’ve gradually come to realize that when you worry less and live more, amazing things start to happen.”


She lists out some of those amazing things—both from her past and her present—and then comes up with this gem:


“In most cases, my worries are just head trash holding me back.”


“Head trash.” I’m definitely going to use that one in the future to frame my less helpful thought patterns.


Jenne Barbour, Senior Director, Corporate Marketing


Finishing up both the week and the challenge itself, Jenne begins by sharing her family’s Yuletide tradition (re-watching the Harry Potter series) and how the theme of the challenge this year naturally blends with the idea of Time-Turners in the Harry Potter mythology.


As so many have done, Jenne understands that, while our own past is something which cannot and should not be changed, offering reassurance to our younger selves so that we can face our challenges with a measure of comfort would be a blessing.


Her final words are the perfect way to wrap up the series, as well as my summaries:


“And as we have traveled through time to meet ourselves today, I like to think our past selves would be pretty impressed by how we’ve all turned out. By how we’ve met obstacles both big and small, celebrated wins, learned from losses, and how we cherish our families, friends, and the good things in life, however we see them. And as we head into a new year—into the very future itself—I hope we all choose to encourage ourselves to be strong, to believe in ourselves, and to remember that we are enough.”



*** The Comments ***


Day 29

Laura Desrosiers Dec 29, 2018 5:30 AM

I grew up being told I would be a failure, which I believed for a very long time, but when I went back to school 10 years after high school and found out I was able to achieve, I started to push myself for more. Everything you have stated in the list in the article is so true and I just have to begin following your advice. I will print that off and hang it in my office as a reminder to myself no one is perfect, you don’t know it all, and you can thrive at what you do.


Jan Pawlowski Dec 29, 2018 1:44 PM

I’d add to 8 by saying own your failures as well. Celebrate the wins, but own your failures. This will teach you humility, and people will respect you much more for it.


Olusegun Odejide Dec 29, 2018 8:09 PM

Very good article. I love the list, especially No 1. You don’t need to fix everything, you need to let go sometimes, sit back and enjoy the ride.


Day 30

Phillip Collins Dec 30, 2018 8:28 AM

Your letter speaks to me. I can see myself in it. How right your Grandpa was. All my life I have allowed my worries to dictate my actions, except one brief period. The last 3 years of college I was able to let worry go and enjoy my life. Many good this came of that time. I pledged a great fraternity, made several wonderful friends, met and married my beautiful wife. None of this would have happened if I didn’t let worry go and just live my life. For whatever reason, I was not able to continue this after graduating. I often look back on those 3 years and try to understand what I was able to do then I can’t seem to do now. I wish they would come up with a pill to help you keep things in perspective. Why worry about what you cannot control. Do your best, learn and grow, enjoy the life you have been gifted.


Holger Mundt Dec 30, 2018 5:16 PM

Thanks for your encouraging words to worry less. As a native southern German worrying is deeply rooted in my genes.

Always a good reminder to let aside those worrying thoughts.


Laura Desrosiers Dec 31, 2018 4:51 AM

I worry way so much about things. I will stay up all night wearing holes out in the carpeting pacing the floors. This is going to be my New Year’s resolution. Don’t worry so much and live more.


Day 31

Mark Roberts  Dec 31, 2018 7:17 AM

A great post, which for those that have read more than a dozen of the articles this month (go back and read them all if you haven’t btw), it has been interesting to see that common thread of not taking this opportunity to tell their younger self to do much or anything differently. Everyone can recount times of pain, loss and missed opportunities, but that those life experiences and challenges have brought them to the place, physically and emotionally they are happy and proud to be.


Jeremy Mayfield  Dec 31, 2018 7:56 AM

It is interesting to think about what could have been, but the truth is we will and can never know. We are who we are, where we are, and the how’s and why’s matter little. All we can do is strive to be better moving forward. The future is not written, but the past, as you referenced, is set in stone.


Jan Pawlowski Dec 31, 2018 8:22 AM

I think too often we concentrate on “What might’ve been,” rather than what is. We can all relate where we wish a certain situation had gone differently, or an outcome had been different. It’s all too easy to blame things on past discrepancies that have brought you to where you are today. In truth without those happenings, you wouldn’t be where you are, nor the person you are today. Every day is a school day, it’s your choice if you learn or not.

Here’s a recent article from Signal magazine discussing innovation in the federal marketplace that I think you’ll find interesting.


The need for next-generation networking solutions is intensifying, and for good reason. Modern software-defined networking (SDN) solutions offer better automation and remediation, and stronger response mechanisms than others in the event of a breach.


But federal administrators should balance their desire for SDN solutions with the realities of government. While there are calls for ingenuity, agility, flexibility, simplicity, and better security, implementation of these new technologies must take place within constraints posed by methodical procurement practices, meticulous security documentation, sometimes archaic network policies, and more.


How do modern networking technologies fit into current federal IT regulations and processes? Let’s take a look at two popular technologies—SDN and so-called white box networking solutions—to find some answers.


SDN: Same Stuff, Different Process


Strip away the spin around SDN, and IT administrators are left with the same basic network management processes under a different architectural framework. However, that architecture allows administrators to manage their networks in very different and far more efficient ways. This greater agility and responsiveness should not grant administrators a carte blanche approach to network operations.


If a network is overloaded with traffic, then administrators could decide to spin up more virtual switches to address the issue, right? The federal government requires strict documentation and record-keeping every time a new technology is implemented or an existing one is changed. From managing IP addresses to the dynamic scaling of resources, administrators should carefully consider and account for changes to ensure what they are doing does not pose a security risk.


Beware White Boxes


White box networking solutions are designed to run on any network, including those that are software-defined, ostensibly at a lower cost. Fortunately, agencies may not need to switch because original equipment manufacturers will continue to step up their game to stay competitive.


Even if agencies decide to go the white box route, there are other potential issues that need to be considered, particularly in relation to federal regulations. Agencies need to know who manufactures the technology they use, where it comes from, and other critical considerations that the government requires.


Balance Considerations and Benefits


There is a lot more to consider before moving into network modernization. Solutions must be compatible across agencies, which can be challenging if every vendor offers a different flavor of SDN. Agencies need to make sure they have the right people in place for the job and are embracing a pattern of continuous employee education.


Despite these considerations, modern network solutions can provide great benefits to federal IT teams. Teams can save significant money in the long run because they will not have to invest in patching or maintaining outdated systems.


Most importantly, federal administrators can use modern solutions to help build a network foundation that is ready for future innovations. Those innovations may need to occur within the mold of existing government processes, but the groundwork will have been laid for more scalable and more secure networks.


Find the full article on Signal.


The SolarWinds trademarks, service marks, and logos are the exclusive property of SolarWinds Worldwide, LLC or its affiliates. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

In general, our products are vendor-agnostic, and this is important to us.
Using Network Performance Monitor (NPM) as an example: If a vendor is following the SNMP RFC, we can retrieve data, correlate KPIs, and forecast situations.
However, sometimes, this is not enough, just like eating half a portion of pasta carbonara.

As Cisco® is the most popular network vendor in our customer base, we focus on providing a little more information out-of-the-box and make (work) life more comfortable, such as via support for non-RFC OIDs. 
Also, we added support for CLI/API access to collect statistics that are not available at all via SNMP.

Let’s jump into our DeLorean and travel back in NPM’s history to…five years or so!

10.4        Hardware Health

10.7        Support for EIGRP and VRF

11.5        Wireless Heatmaps
12.0        Cisco SwitchStack®

12.1        Meraki
12.2        Network Insight for Cisco ASA

12.3        Network Insight for Cisco Nexus®

12.4        Support for ACI


Some of these features have been around for ages. I arrived just before the NPM 11.0 release, so for me, things like hardware health have been there “forever.”
The SwitchStack support was the first highlight for me, followed by the ASA integration in both NPM and Network Configuration Manager (NCM).

By the way, do you know that most of the features in the list are based on community requests?

On top of that, other Orion® Platform modules support VOIP, DNS, and DHCP solutions from Cisco, and you can attach those with a few clicks.
Finally, there is NetFlow. Over the years we have added support for NBAR2 and WLC flows into our NetFlow Traffic Analyzer (NTA).

There are various statistics out there discussing Cisco’s market share and how it changed over time, and I don’t want to get in an “I don’t like them at all” discussion. Trust me, I’ve had enough of those already. I prefer JunOS when it comes down to the CLI.
But also, I love both pasta carbonara and all`Amatriciana, and there is nothing wrong with it.

Still, Cisco is basically everywhere. You guys keep on using it, so we keep on adding new features into our network products to help you support your infrastructure.

So, the good news is that we’re attending Cisco Live! EMEA in Barcelona. You will find us in booth S20A starting on Monday, January 28, and the code word to remember is “T-shirt.”


Over the course of December, the THWACK community had the privilege to peek inside the personal thoughts and formative moments of many of our members. The ideas, stories, and emotions they shared with us were sometimes raw with honest sincerity, often amusing, and always relevant and engaging.


As monitoring aficionados, we are sensitive to patterns, seeking to discover the signal that may lie, undetected, beneath the "noise" of unrelated data. And sure enough, as the days progressed, certain themes surfaced again and again in both the lead articles and the comments. While I identified a few of them in yesterday's post, I'd like to focus on a particular one here.


Catherine O'Driscoll may have phrased it best on day 10:

"I found it quite difficult to pass on just one piece of advice when there is so much I wanted to tell my younger self; to prepare her for and to protect her from. But then I realized that if she doesn’t go through it, then we wouldn’t become the person we are today."


The idea that we cannot go back, cannot undo what we have already done, because it will fundamentally change who we are, came up time and time again. And here, on the first day of 2019, I'm going to challenge that idea, in the hope that it allows us to set a goal for ourselves in the coming year that could have far-reaching consequences.


Recently, I read an essay where the author laid out the following logic:


First, for any action, there are many downstream consequences—some expected, others not. Some of the results of an action are intentional, while others are not. And some of the outcomes of that action can be understood as empirically "good," and others not.


So how are we—the individual who performed that initial action—judged? Are the expected, intentional, and "good" outcomes ascribed to us, or the ones on the other side of the equation? Or are we credited with all outcomes and results? Or a mixture of both?


The answer, this author states, lies in our reason for taking the action in the first place.


If our reasons were to harm or hurt or otherwise "do bad," then those are the results that we, in a sense, get "credit" for. The fact that our action might ALSO have had helpful or positive results is less a credit to us, and more a credit to fate, Karma, nature, luck, Divine providence, etc. And, obviously, the reverse is also true.


But let's say that, at some point in the past, we acted wrongly with the intention to harm, and that action had a mixture of reactions both bad and (unintentionally) good. Sometime later (moments, days, or even years), we look back at that moment and feel true, sincere, honest regret. We reflect on that moment and learn something about ourselves that we understand much change.


And we change it.


We work on ourselves. Grow. Improve. Mature. That moment in the past becomes an object lesson for us, and impels us to become better than the person we once were.


NOW, standing in the present moment, how is that action judged? As it turns out, all the positive results—unintended though they may have been—can be ascribed to us and the negative ones (while not disappearing entirely) fade into the background. This is the critical idea behind reformative, versus punitive, consequences. Behind repentance. Behind forgiveness.


Looking back at that theme that came up again and again—that we cannot offer advice to our younger self because it would fundamentally change who we are today—I say that if we use those past moments as motivation to change who we are today, then we HAVE changed our past selves. We have reached back through the years and changed the past. Not by changing WHAT we did, but changing the MEANING of what we did.


And in the words of the author,

"Time then becomes an arena of change in which the future redeems the past and a new concept is born – the idea we call hope."


My hope is that over the course of December, you found more than just some interesting stories, or chuckle-worthy reading. I hope in either reading or writing the words that were shared, you found a catalyst for positive change that can lead you toward hope and happiness in your life in the coming year and beyond.


From everyone at SolarWinds and the THWACK community,

we wish you a very Happy New Year and the best to come in 2019.


P.S.: Use this link to catch up on any part of the 2018 December Writing Challenge you may have missed.

This is our last full week of the challenge (as well as the last full week of 2018) and I'm committed to making the most of every moment, every insight, and every comment—all of which have been both a joy and a privilege to read. Here is my summary of both the lead authors and a selection of comments. Thank you to everyone who took the time during a busy holiday week to check in and participate.


- Leon



**** The Authors *****



Sydney Moorhead, Copy Editor/Content Specialist, Corporate Marketing


Sydney is one of the younger authors to contribute this month, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have a wealth of wisdom she's already acquired to share with her younger self. I thought her observation that, "There will always be things that are hard, but your ability to deal with them will get better," was especially poignant. As was the wise-beyond-her-years awareness that, "Things happen for a reason." But what really got me was this piece of advice:


"Follow the writing, wherever it takes you."


Steve Carleson, MVP


Steve's post is a reminder of how deeply a careless comment can affect others, how we need to be kind with our words, and how we need to work—and support each other—as we overcome some of the setbacks of our childhood. It's also important to remember that we all may work in the same industry, but we come to it from different directions, which is why Steve's advice to himself is so interesting and touching:


"It is OK to push yourself; it is OK to want to learn more! Never let anyone else tell you to stop trying to improve yourself."


Sascha Giese, Head Geek


Sascha began with comforting words that I think we all would have appreciated when we were young: "So, young Sascha, you survived it. Why have you been so scared in the first place?"


But then I feel he offered advice which is clearly specific to his experience as a young adult, but again, is valuable for many (perhaps all) of us:


"So, young Sascha, learn to cook earlier," and even more tellingly: "So, young Sascha, don’t waste your life living in a snail shell. Get out there, see things, experience things, and explore the world."


At the end of his letter, Sascha comes back to that message of comfort and re-assurance,

"Oh, and finally, young Sascha, everything else you do is right. Some decisions won't be so smart, but they will always feel right by the time you make them, and it always comes out for the better."


Adam Timberley, MVP


Like many who have considered what they would tell their younger self, Adam was concerned about irrevocably altering the chain of events that led him to become who he was. But his response to this was both unique and (I think) brilliant:


"So rather than advise myself, I choose to simply reassure myself."


But the method that he would send this reassurance was pure, undiluted, awesome geekery:


"I would appear to myself as a ragged old man with a swirling cloak, a long staff, and a wispy grey beard. Someone familiar, wise, ancient, 8-bit."

<**insert picture**>


His reason for not changing this may be the best part of his thought process:


"I would keep it positive. I wouldn't want to be rich. I wouldn't want to be poor. I wouldn’t want to change things, no matter how bad or good they get. I don't believe in fate or destiny; I believe that we are all creatures of endless possibility."


Diego Fildes Torrijos, Product Marketing Specialist, Product Mktg



Like Zack Mutchler's Day 15 entry (https://thwack.solarwinds.com/community/solarwinds-community/contests-missions/december-writing-challenge-2018/blog/2018/12/14/day-15-proverbs-quotes-and-general-silliness), Diego chose to inspire his younger self with wisdom culled from the words of others.


Diego pre-pends his list of quotes, however, with some deeply insightful thoughts about the nature of life, passion, empathy, and goals. I found the most powerful one to be this:

"Do not regret listening to and empathizing with people that do not know how to do the same back. This is anyone’s greatest strength, because you learn from listening to others."


Tiffany Nels, Chief Communications Officer


Tiffany's mantra to her younger self, "Compare and despair," is only made more impactful by the incredibly personal examples she uses to illustrate her journey to this piece of wisdom.


I thought her admission that she is imperfect in following her own advice sometimes, but continues to try, was wonderful and refreshing. But her description of the impact on her life when she could achieve it was what made me go back and read the entire essay again.


"I stopped sweating every tiny difference, every little choice, and just settled into what was right for me."


Mark Roberts, MVP


Mark struggled a bit with the idea of offering advice to his past-self that might mess up all that was good in his future, but I loved his reasoning for this. He was less concerned about sci-fi concepts and more about the impact to his current self: "Preventing negative thoughts, which most often come from looking back at regrets from your past, can have dramatic impacts on people’s lives." However, he also reasons that "you learn more from your mistakes than from your successes." And with that in mind, he powers through his doubts to send that note to his 1985-self.


While his advice did include a few very specific items (Take the train to Manchester, and say "yes" to the dance invitation at the Rose Wilmot Disco), the real insight comes when he tells himself to embrace who he is. His introverted (shy) nature is not the weakness that he thought it was in his youth. Instead, "Many of the positive things you achieve in life and the influence you have on your family, friends, and relationships are based on your thoughtfulness and empathy."



*** The Comments ***


Day 22

George Sutherland Dec 22, 2018 8:51 PM

Hang on for a wild ride. The world lays before you at 25... Stay alert for the hidden opportunities that await you.... they can and will be the best.

As one English Major to another...Use your skills to help meaningfully communicate to others... 41 years after graduation it is an integral part of what I do each day.


Joshua Smith Dec 24, 2018 2:46 PM

Thanks for sharing. There's a lot of wisdom in your post. Don't let anyone discount your wisdom because of your age. Stay level headed!


Jan Pawlowski Dec 23, 2018 5:46 PM

Sometimes in life you get to where you are, then decide that it's not where you wish to be. I know I’ve been there. I changed path a little later than mid-twenties, but the sentiment is the same. Just be honest with yourself, as whilst at 25 or so, you think you know everything. Truth is, that you learn each and every day, until the day you die, or at least that's what I’ve learned so far. Who knows what tomorrow will teach me.


Day 23

Olusegun Odejide Dec 23, 2018 1:54 PM

Very insightful write-up. It is amazing how much influence people in one position of leadership or authority could have on us growing up. This is a wakeup call in using such position wisely and also to us to encourage ourselves and others not to settle for less. Excellent work is rewarding. It is surely OK to push yourself.


Richard Phillips  Dec 24, 2018 10:15 PM

"Never let others tell you to stop or quit trying to improve yourself." So true. We so often give others power over our lives. Most of the time we have the power to move forward or change things, but if we give others power over ourselves we will eventually lose power ourselves, or at least feel so strongly that we have lost our own power that it will take something big or major to get power back into our lives. The best way to prevent this is by being proactive along the way. "Never let others tell you to stop or quit trying to improve yourself."


George Sutherland Dec 23, 2018 1:01 PM

I had two teachers in high school that made all the difference. One taught math the other physics, both Jesuit priests. Both believed in me! Both unlocked my desire to do better. Both gently push me and that made me push myself even harder. The younger George only vaguely appreciated their efforts. The older George acknowledges their insight and vision of me in the future.


Day 24

James Kump Dec 24, 2018 10:47 AM

It takes courage to set aside the world's predisposition on yourself. It takes getting over fears. But, even in later life, you do want to strive to "Be Adventurous." Sometimes it takes life knocking you down to come to that realization.


Peter Monaghan, CBCP, SCP, ITIL ver.3  Dec 24, 2018 12:21 PM

"Happy Christmas!" A very European greeting. It reminds me of Christmas's long ago, making calls to my Scottish and Australian aunts and uncles around Christmas. I don't hear it enough anymore... Be adventurous indeed! Europe offers wonderful advantages by having so many different countries in close proximity. You can be exposed to so much and you don’t have to travel very far. Kudos to you.


Holger Mundt Dec 24, 2018 12:26 PM

Ich wollte mal Arzt werden...daher auch noch der „HerrDoktor“, eigentlich hätte ich das auch gerne probiert, aber Elektrotechnik/Informatik war so schön einfach in der nächstgelegenen Stadt zu studieren. Und ich dachte mir, mit dem Auslands-Schuljahr in den USA war ich doch schon abenteuerlustig genug. Ich gebe dir Recht, man kann nie genug Abenteuer haben, mein pickelgesichtiges jüngeres ich hätte ruhig auch abenteuerlustiger sein können! In diesem Sinne: frohes Fest! Auf den nächsten Glühwein im nächsten Jahr.


Day 25

Phillip Collins Dec 25, 2018 5:13 PM

It has always been my philosophy to accept responsibility for my actions and move on. It doesn’t help me to dwell on those actions, whether good or bad. Each day is a new day and new challenges will come with it. I can learn from the past, but I can’t change it. Understanding this and focusing on the future are important to me.


Peter Monaghan, CBCP, SCP, ITIL ver.3  Dec 25, 2018 11:03 PM

On a somewhat unrelated note, esteemed CNN journalist Jake Tapper started a tweet thread a couple of weeks ago by announcing that this is about the time many high school seniors find out that they have been rejected by their first choice in universities. But they should not to be disappointed because it can be a hidden blessing. Fellow journalists, other media types, politicians, entertainers, and athletes tweeted back 1,000's of times with stories of how first rejections turned out to be a great success. In the end, things work out. Twitter


Thomas Iannelli  Dec 26, 2018 1:05 PM

I believe that I am here to enjoy life and, in doing so, bring as much joy and comfort to those I interact with as possible. I am not responsible for their emotions, but I should try not to do harm. Like the little thing about making those shirts meech is reacting to in Radioteacher's picture above. I sought the input of fellow MVPs and felt I had the will to make it happen. It wasn't just her seeing us wear the shirts, it was the way we all felt wearing them for her and the whole UX team. Fantastic! That was enough.


Day 26

Thomas Iannelli  Dec 26, 2018 7:33 AM

Be reasonably confident, above all, to protect yourself from stupidly confident people.

OMG - This all the time! Then they see your doubt as weakness instead of your experiencing informing you that things never go exactly as planned. At the same time, I have been stupidly confident about something, but thank Galileo for #7 in your list jamesd85, I listened enough to learn I was wrong.


Steven Melnichuk Dec 27, 2018 12:43 PM

Number 1 is the hardest...how many people can truly say they love what they do...


Phillip Collins Dec 26, 2018 9:03 AM

You’ll never be happy until you find your passion. My father thought he wanted to go into business management. He obtained his degree and was given a great opportunity. In the end he was stressed, miserable, and unhappy. He left an opportunity to become JCPenney’s youngest store manager to pave roads where he grew up. He was never happier. Doesn’t matter what you end up doing. It just needs to be something that makes you happy. Each career decision I’ve made has reflected on this and each has been promising. No job is perfect, but there is one right for you.


Day 27

Jamison Jennings Dec 27, 2018 9:15 AM

We need to be comfortable in our own skin and accept the fact that we are each unique. It's healthy to take an honest assessment of where you are and where you want to be, but when your only goal is to be the carbon copy of someone else… then that's when it takes the unhealthy route.


Allison Rael  Dec 27, 2018 12:50 PM

Social media started really becoming a "thing" when I was in middle school and high school, and has become something of an addiction for me and for many in my generation. It's so easy to compare our lives to other peoples on social media, but it's important to remember that what you see on social media is NEVER the full story. Social media is merely a filter through which we present the parts of our lives that we want other people to see, "like," and comment on. I am happier when I am off social media (I have a horrible habit of coming back to it though), and that's probably because I am subconsciously comparing my full life to the selected parts of their life that people are sharing. Your advice, to take a step back before comparing, is going to be at the forefront of my mind the next time I pop on Facebook!


Zack Mutchler  Dec 27, 2018 9:37 AM

Very insightful, and kudos for finding your solace! I strongly believe that a significant level of discomfort in our lives comes from us looking over the fence at what we perceive to be greener pastures (and the ones we think are less green; judging others is exhausting). I've learned, mostly through failure, that appreciating my own blades of grass is much more satisfying than worrying about my neighbors'. I'll be here if they need help watering, but otherwise I wish them well and hope for the same.


Day 28

Richard Phillips  Dec 28, 2018 7:35 AM

It's nice that you would use the letter to encourage yourself. I too am an introvert and it often feels like that's the "wrong" way to be. But I've learned to accept (and love) the way that I am. Now I have the freedom to be who I am and not worry about it.


Nick Zourdos  Dec 28, 2018 9:40 AM

Introverts unite! Our shyness is our power. I am thankful every day that I married a fellow introvert. I can't imagine how stressful life would be otherwise.


Jake Muszynski  Dec 28, 2018 9:53 AM

"Say yes to that dance" is good advice for almost any young person.

By Omar Rafik, SolarWinds Senior Manager, Federal Sales Engineering


Here’s an interesting blog about log analytics, one of my favorite topics.


Log analytics are fast becoming a critical component of an agency’s monitoring and management infrastructure. The ability to unify log monitoring and log analytics, then aggregate, structure, and summarize log data is key. If the federal IT pro can visualize the data to understand baseline and historical activity, it becomes that much easier to answer questions, spot trends, and uncover security and performance anomalies.


IT operations teams depend on log analytics to help them be more proactive in application, performance, and security monitoring. Federal IT management can use log analytics for insight into how end users are interacting with new capabilities or technologies.


Log Analytics Basics


Historically, there is an incredible amount of information available, usually devoid of a streamlined structure, and lacking a way to analyze the data as a whole. Security threats are often lost in a sea of other less-critical alerts.


There are specific advantages to be gained from log analytics that can help your agency maximize application performance and cybersecurity protection benefits.


Proactive monitoring


Proactive IT monitoring solutions for government agencies let users view application performance, system behavior, and any kind of unusual activity across the entire application stack. The ability to simultaneously monitor application resources and metrics provides the opportunity to eliminate issues before they affect performance.


Another benefit of proactive monitoring is anomaly detection. The advantage here is being able to create alerts based on search patterns and thresholds for specific log metrics beyond those occurrences that traditionally trigger alerts.




Unifying, aggregating, structuring, and analyzing log data provides the opportunity for advanced troubleshooting. With log analytics, you have a baseline. With this level of insight, you can trace issues down to their root cause. You can see how your components interact, then identify correlations. Then, you can view the surrounding events that occurred just before or after a critical event, and more effectively pinpoint the problem.


Data analysis and reporting


Ideally, federal IT pros will have access to broad and unmatched visibility into traces, logs, metrics, and the digital experience—as well as a high-level dashboard that allows for easy information digestion and dissemination.


Dashboards that provide a unified view across all log data and other statistics is ideal. Customization is also key, so you can create individualized filters specific to your department or agency—even going so far as to use structured, unstructured, and semi-structured log data to create charts that are most relevant to your mission.


Finally, the ability to look at trending and analysis on growth rates is helpful. With or without predictive analysis tools, having a histogram to visualize a rate of growth can further enable your lifecycle management and capacity planning.




Log analytics can help you navigate the reams of log data successfully so you can focus on enhanced application performance, more effective tracking of anomalies to be sure they’re not cybersecurity-related, and create actionable reports that can serve to enhance your agency’s infrastructure.


Find the full article on our partner DLT’s blog Technically Speaking.


The SolarWinds trademarks, service marks, and logos are the exclusive property of SolarWinds Worldwide, LLC or its affiliates.  All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Here in the third week of the challenge, I continue to be awed, impressed, and humbled by the insight and honesty our community is sharing with each other, both in the “lead” articles each day, and in the comments below them. The outpouring of love, support, wonder, joy, and curiosity is a microcosm of the THWACK community as a whole.


You folks are truly the best group of folks on the planet, and everyone here at SolarWinds is honored that you choose to share your experiences with us.


Here is just a taste of each of the articles (and just a handful of comments) from the past week. If you missed a posting, or haven’t had a chance to keep up, I hope this summary will inspire you to take another look.


  • Leon



**** The Authors *****



Zack Mutchler, MVP


I like the way Zack started the week off, not with a specific piece of advice or set of instructions to his younger self, but by showcasing the wisdom in common (and some less-common) phrases and sayings which he wishes he'd paid more attention to in his younger years. My favorite?


“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” – Erin Majors


Paul Guido, MVP


Paul's single piece of advice to his younger self is something that resonates with me a lot: “Read and write for fun when you’re young and never stop!”


But, as with so many of these lead essays, it's the context Paul includes that adds richness and satisfaction to the advice itself.


Robert Mandeville, Senior Product Marketing Manager


Robert's advice to his younger self is one which many of us, regardless of age or stage of our career, would be well-served to take to heart: To understand the business in which we work - the goals, the numbers, the things which are important to those leading the company.


Patrick Hubbard, Head Geek


Patrick takes a step back through time to speak with his younger (and snarkier) self, to talk about the dreaded "friend zone." But instead of leaving it at a simple dating tip, he makes an amazing leap to take that sage advice into the realm that should sound familiar to many IT practitioners.


Kathleen Walker, Product Marketing, Principal


The thing that struck me most about Kathleen's advice was less what she said (although the message is powerful in its own right, and definitely praiseworthy) but to whom she is saying it. Of course, Kathleen is addressing her younger self. But the message is also meant for her younger daughter, who she wisely recognizes is "...the closest I’ll get to my younger self."


Shelly Crossland, Marketing Manager, Corporate Communications

Shelly's honesty, hopefulness, and sincerity—traits that we who get to work with her daily know and love—shines through in this post. Most tellingly, she observes: "I continue to make the same mistakes and learn the same lessons. I am no wiser than you, I’ve just lived longer and am finally starting to notice the patterns in my life."


Thomas LaRock, Head Geek


Finishing up this week, my fellow Head Geek opens with what is very likely the most uniquely delivered piece of insight I've seen this month:

"You’re a jerk. Now, it’s not your fault you’re a jerk. But it is your problem. And the sooner you recognize you have this problem, the better."


But "Tom the Elder" is gracious enough to provide a solution to this challenge: Empathy.


Like all of the other essays we've had a chance to enjoy this week, you'll have to read the rest to fully appreciate Tom's wisdom.



*** The Comments ***


That's it for the lead essays, but the comments this week were no less insightful, deep, heartfelt, or meaningful. Here are just a few that caught my eye.


Day 15

Holger Mundt Dec 16, 2018 11:58 AM

The kangaroo proverb: with an empty bag, you can make the biggest leaps

-> don't get too attached to material stuff or stuff that holds you back. Once you get rid of it, you can achieve great things.

Jan Pawlowski Dec 17, 2018 5:23 AM

There are many quotes around this similar one that I’ll post, but I think Epictetus said it best; “IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR A MAN TO LEARN WHAT HE THINKS HE ALREADY KNOWS.”


Phillip Collins Dec 17, 2018 7:16 AM

Great list. I know I learned a lot from my grandfather. Just knowledge pasted down from real world experience. That's where most of these quotes originate.

Day 16

Laura Desrosiers Dec 16, 2018 7:57 AM

Yes, times have changed. Modern technology has improved things but has also ruined things. Double-edged sword.


Catherine O Driscoll Dec 17, 2018 7:00 AM

I used to love reading when I was younger and would often be found on the sidelines of my siblings GAA matches with my nose in a book as opposed to watching the game. With the advancements of technology, I don't read as often and have turned to audio books or podcasts for the drive in and out of work. But I miss curling up with a good book so my Christmas wish list this year definitely has a few books on it.


Mark Roberts  Dec 17, 2018 8:29 AM

Up until the age of probably 14/15, I had read only 1 book from cover to cover for pleasure. Every other time it was because I had to. Something I am doing my best to instill in my two children is ready for fun, as it opens your mind to so much. It was such a delight the day we watched the first Harry Potter film together and my daughter spent the next 20 minutes explaining all the good bits they had left out, how much better the book was and how different she had visualized the story in her mind. We are now working our way through each of those films as and when they read the books. I cannot help feeling I missed out by not reading for fun from an earlier age. Having said that, some of the technical books I read now, cannot be described as fun reading, which can be described as eating overcooked dry turkey compared to a juicy medium fillet steak (I thought I would drop in a Christmas analogy).


Day 17

Phillip Collins Dec 17, 2018 7:19 AM

This is a key selector when I am hiring someone. Do they know how to determine business needs? Being able to do this is very important. I can teach someone how to configure a router or work with Office 365, but it can be hard to teach them to take a business need and apply technical knowledge to solve it.

Joshua Smith Dec 17, 2018 8:23 AM

I can check the box on all of those points, except my role. Over the past couple of years, it seems like my "role" has been more or less, a grey area that isn't explicitly defined in my job description. It can be frustrating when you're trying to establish clear direction. You have to know where you are before you can move to where you want to go. Nonetheless, I agree that we all need to know what our business is and own it passionately. Thanks for the article.


George Sutherland Dec 17, 2018 3:55 PM

"It's about the business stupid!" rule #1 for IT.


Day 18

Joshua Smith Dec 18, 2018 8:08 AM

  1. Bravo. I can remember being told each one of the 3 friend zone statements from bosses at some point in my career, in many different ways as well. We just have to keep trying to break the cycle and escape the "job" friend zone. One thing that I've found is, if you have sincere management, and you're able to take something off of their back, you can at least get one foot out of the door of the friend zone.

James Kump Dec 18, 2018 11:03 AM

Whoa! This article struck as serious cord. janobi comments are spot on as well. We all enjoy the challenge of making everything work and for me the synergy created from implementing technology and people to solve problems is my greatest joy. But, there needs to be a balance.......

Nick Zourdos  Dec 18, 2018 10:56 AM

For now, I'm comfortable with the relationship I have with my job. It's casual, not too serious, yet satisfying... a 'fling,' if you will. Moving into a serious relationship with my career would most certainly guarantee better compensation, but I'm careful not to let my work relationship get in the way of my personal relationships. My wife and I have made the decision to live on less so that we can spend time and grow together, and we couldn't be happier!


Day 19

Jan Pawlowski Dec 19, 2018 4:21 AM

Accepting praise and a compliment is something I especially find hard, and will always downplay it, or make the comparison of "I'm not as good as..." It's easier to deal with criticism, than praise. But I guess they're both learning opportunities.


Jeremy Mayfield  Dec 19, 2018 8:48 AM

Great advise. IT can be a thankless job. We know what we did saved time, money, efficiency, etc. Many do not see it or take for granted things which we might make look or seem easy. Sometimes the compliment seems fake or strange since we rarely get one. I strive to make sure my employees know they are appreciated, and it is nice to receive compliments. So, I know I always say thank you, if they are sarcastic or not.


Zack Mutchler  Dec 19, 2018 8:59 AM

Great advice, bookmarked to share with my daughter tonight.


Day 20

George Sutherland Dec 20, 2018 10:12 AM

The problem is not having fear... that is normal and wise.... The real problem is making sure it does not consume you, that is dangerous. The younger me had periods of fear that I ignored... sometimes to my own peril.... but it taught me to respect the fear and act accordingly. Thanks to my younger self... I am very adept at it!


Diana Simpson Dec 20, 2018 10:49 AM

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' " - Eleanor Roosevelt


Peter Monaghan, CBCP, SCP, ITIL ver.3  Dec 20, 2018 10:30 AM

It's perfectly normal to be afraid. But fear doesn't always have to stop you or hold you back. Some people like to "conquer" fear. I am not sure how that is possible. Others have, "No Fear!" Go so far as having bumper stickers saying as such. No fear is impossible. I think it is more realistic is to recognize and identify your fears and understand how they affect your behavior and thoughts. That way you can manage them while trying to overcome and reach new heights.


Day 21

Jan Pawlowski Dec 21, 2018 8:54 AM

Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another - think this quote says it all really. We could all be more empathetic to others. Every day is a school day.


Kevin Kremer Dec 21, 2018 9:09 AM

'There is no normal life that is free of pain. It’s the very wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus for our growth.' - Fred Rogers


Joshua Smith Dec 21, 2018 10:49 AM

Wonderful article and wonderful advice. Empathy isn't something that should be glossed over. Too often we find ourselves not looking at other perspectives....and perspective is "everything." I've gotten a lot better about this over the years. My younger self lacked humility and perspective. I would most certainly add this to the list of things I'd tell my younger self. Thanks for writing this article!

Having convinced myself in previous posts that my automation projects will never be finished and that I will forever be supporting 101 different device connection paradigms, I thought that in this post perhaps I should try to find some sliver of dry land in the fetid Swamp of Automation.


In The Swamp of Automation


Failing that, let’s look at why consistency is so important when deploying infrastructure.


Your Infrastructure Sucks


It does. Don’t deny it. Despite best efforts, it’s still riddled with inconsistencies, plagued with one-off solutions, and besmirched with workarounds for badly-behaving applications.


Don’t feel bad; you are part of an unspoken global society held together by the silent bonds of engineering prowess. Our motto is “When every infrastructure is ‘special,’ every infrastructure is normal.


Deploy Consistently


Uniqueness, arguably, is the enemy of automation.


Effective automation requires consistency so the same encoded business logic and automation processes can be used across all devices. Exceptions and design variances mean that the generalized automation code has to be customized to deal with each unique situation, requiring further coding and creating additional complexity. This in turn increases both the cost and the time taken to developing automation tools.


This is one of the reasons why brownfield (swamp) automation deployments can be so difficult; years of inherited workarounds and one-off solutions can make even simple automation tasks seem impossibly complex because of the myriad “What if?” scenarios that have to be accounted for.


Greenfield solutions in contrast can provide fertile grounds for automation, but only if the infrastructure is designed with automation in mind from the start. A badly-designed greenfield infrastructure can be just as unmanageable as a brownfield.


If Proof Is Needed...


Amazon Web Services (AWS) for example—but in fact, almost any cloud provider—demonstrates these principles very effectively. When an application needs a feature or mechanism that AWS doesn’t offer, the choices are:


  • Rewrite the application; or
  • Don’t use AWS.


Because the AWS infrastructure is managed entirely by automation, there is no opportunity for one-off, non-standard solutions because the automation tools don’t support anything except the standard solutions. AWS is the concept of “one size fits all” taken to an absurd extreme. In fact, it’s almost risible how quickly programmers who previously would have had fits arguing that the infrastructure should do some incredible feats of engineering to support or otherwise mitigate lazy coding on their part, have adapted to the new paradigm where they have to code to meet the capabilities of the infrastructure. What is this crazy magic?


There is a lesson here, however. If vendors provide “nerd knobs” to allow us to engineer crazy solutions, and if we thrive on finding ways to make the infrastructure meet the needs of our users, then our users will expect us to keep using the nerd knobs and keep on coming up with insane solutions. And let’s be honest, as engineers, we’re kind of proud when we find a really clever way to accomplish what’s needed and we solve a problem. It goes against every problem-solving bone in our bodies to say “no.”


The difference is that in the cloud, the conversation goes like this:


 Programmer: “I need you to do this crazy thing so my app works”
      Cloud: “No.”
Programmer: “But don’t you have a nerd knob you can turn?”
      Cloud: “No.”
Programmer: “But without this, the project will fail.”
      Cloud: “Shame, but no.”
Programmer: “Seriously, you’re killing me here.”
      Cloud: “Don’t tempt me.”

The Sliver of Land


Imagine that the Swamp of Automation represents a brownfield automation deployment. It’s not that it can’t be done, but the inconsistencies can turn out to be lurking alligators with bad breath and worse tempers. Move slowly and tread carefully.


The sliver of buildable land in the middle of this swamp, if there is one, is a greenfield deployment where there’s an opportunity to build a deep foundation of automation before the first resident moves in. However, get the foundation wrong, and it may all yet sink into the ground.


Your Homework for the Holidays


Thinking about your current, sucky infrastructure, if you had the opportunity to build it from the ground up, what would you do differently? How would you make it easier to operate? Or do you already have amazing systems in place? If you’ve been involved in a greenfield deployment, was there any resistance to doing things in a way that would pay off down the road?


I’d love to hear your tales of competency, incompetency, triumph, and alligator bites.

Welcome to the final edition of the Actuator for 2018! I’m going to take a break for the holidays and will resume this series in 2019. Wherever you are, I hope you and your family have a happy holiday season.


As always, here are some links from the Intertubz that I hope will hold your interest. Enjoy!


China’s Social Ranking System Will Now Target Rule-Breaking Scientists

Well, that escalated quickly.


Apple Will Build $1 Billion Campus in Austin, Adding 5,000 Jobs

Clearly Apple didn’t want Amazon to hog all the headlines regarding office expansion plans. And if you thought traffic in North Austin was bad now, just wait until 15,000 more people try to commute to and from The Domain twice a day.


All those free apps on your phone are tracking your location and selling your data

Nothing is free, and your private data has more value than you know.


Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, and They’re Not Keeping It Secret

As I was saying.


The Future of Config-file-based IT Infrastructure

As a database professional, I tend to think about data in sets. After reading this, I’m thinking of data as nothing more than configuration files. The concept of tuning a query by deploying a new server and replicating the data sounds wonderful.


Equifax Breach Was Just as Infuriating and Dumb as You Thought, New House Report Finds

The summary list in this post offers good starting points for discussions in your own company. If you don’t take action soon, you will find your company the next victim.


’donald’ debuts at No. 23 on worst passwords of 2018 list

What I can’t, even.


Here's the real reason why you aren't getting a new Actuator until January:

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