We're very nearly at the end of our Word-a-Day challenge, and - while I'll have a more formal wrap up next week - I couldn't imagine a more successful run than the one we've seen this year. At the time of this writing, the challenge has garnered over 26,600 views and nearly 1,500 comments, so many of which were thoughtful, heartfelt, insightful, moving, and inspirational.


My goal was to give the THWACK community an opportunity to pause and engage in a bit of self-reflection, but put it into a context we find familiar and comforting - technology.


While there are still 2 days left, here are the comments from the past week that caught my eye:


Parity (Posted by Zack Mutchler Expert)

Steven Carlson Expert Dec 24, 2017 3:06 AM

My mind also went instantly to parity bits. I'm still amazed at how we can maintain data operations in a RAID array with a failed drive (or drives depending on RAID configuration). https://techgage.com/article/sysadmin_corner_demystifying_raid/2/


Peter Monaghan, CBCP, SCP, ITIL ver.3 Expert Dec 24, 2017 5:55 AM

Former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle said that he wanted every team to go 8-8 in a season and for the league to have parity. Instead, what he had was the dynasties of the 1960's Green Bay Packers, 1970's Pittsburgh Steelers, and so on. Pete felt parity was good for the league. Every team was competitive, had a shot for the playoffs, made all games meaningful. Parity would equate to enormous revenue growth. The reality is that the league experienced exponential growth and prosperity during Rozelle's reign without parity being achieved.


Richard Phillips Dec 26, 2017 12:15 PM

All too often the word equal or equality is thrown about without complete thought. Do we really want equality or parity? Take a look at this definition. "the property of an integer with respect to being odd or even. 3 and 7 have the same parity." A true balance is found when the value, purpose, use, etc. of any person or thing is truly understood. I like to use this example. Do you want a cake made with equality or with parity?



Peripheral (Posted by rainyscherm)

Steven Carlson Expert Dec 24, 2017 8:16 AM

I like your interpretation of events that keep getting put off as being in your peripheral vision. I'm guilty of myself a lot this year; catching up with people, watching that lab video, watching that Netflix series everyone keeps telling me about, installing X beta, starting that exercise routine, and so on. I think I will try your idea sometime, wait, what I meant was "I will start that Netflix series on Wednesday".


Thomas Iannelli Expert Dec 25, 2017 6:03 PM

Just like we experience with our vision things on the the peripheral are not in focus so to the people at the peripheral of your life don't get as much focus. The brain resources used to process the visual input of what is in focus is emblematic of the time spent with those we focus on. It doesn't make those on the edges less important in the world, just less so to you. Things at your peripheral vision are really grey scale, it is just the physics of our vision, and it is our brain that fills in the color. This can happen too with those we don't focus on. We make up the rest of their stories and motives in our minds so it makes sense to us. If we really want to see or know someone we must focus our time and attention on them.


Richard Phillips Dec 26, 2017 12:19 PM

Years ago I read a book called "The Tyranny of the Urgent." This makes me think of periphery - we so often get caught out taking care of the urgent things that the really important ones get neglected. Keeping focused on what is truly important is critical in all of life. It's said that the person that fails to plan, plans to fail and so it is with our day to day vision. Do we come in with a clear focus and plan or do we let our eyes wander and chase things that may or may not be important.



Platform (Posted by srcrossland)

Steven Carlson Expert Dec 25, 2017 9:51 PM

My mind went straight to platform shooters. One of the first computer games I played was Commander Keen and I was immediately hooked. Playing more and more games over the years and learning about computers and their different components, led me to an interest in networking. That then led to network monitoring and SolarWinds. All from that initial spark while playing platform games.


Richard Schroeder Expert Dec 28, 2017 11:01 AM

Back in 1963 my father built a wooden platform that measured four feet by six feet.  He placed it about four feet up in some trees for me, not too far from our new home.  Complete with ladder and railings, it was my tree house / fort / rocket ship / jet / imaginarium.  Some times it was the Flying Sub from Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, or even the Seaview itself.  Other times it was Fireball XL-5, or Stingray, or some command tower from which I could control my destiny and the world around me. Reviewing the earlier submissions, I easily see a parallel between that old wooden platform, upon which ideas and imagination were built and subsequently sprang forth, and the solid state virtual "platform" upon which applications are installed to perform their tasks. Where programmers and teams collaborate to build upon the ideas of a single person, so too did my tree house platform promote new ideas in my imagination.  It enabled me to create and share ideas with others in a tree-borne microcosm that was our local "social media" environment.  What started out as a place for sharing ideas with friends and receiving ideas of improvements or praise from them, has grown to be the Thwack environment and the world beyond, where we share ideas and receive input and ideas around the world for improvements. Those childhood habits of creating new ideas and elaborating upon them are how dreams and programs and businesses and organizations are born and grow.  The imagination of an entrepreneur, coupled with guidance and assistance from someone as simple a father willing to "bootstrap" the platform's ideas physically, financially, with thoughts and encouragement, are the ingredients that help make children greater than they were.  This support and these ideas are the building blocks of the Internet and business and society and countries.


Michael Perkins Dec 26, 2017 2:12 PM

Platform - what a word just within IT. We used to have Mac and Windows platforms, Linux and UNIX ones. Lots of OSes were termed platforms. More recently, I hear platform used to describe more categories in the field. There are hardware platforms upon which all sorts of software (say, hypervisors) can stand. VMWare and Azure are platforms upon which can stand plenty of different VMs hosting servers with an array of OSes, virtual routers, switches, and firewalls, and applications running on top of those VMs. We even have Platform as a Service (PaaS) now.



Utility (Posted by silverbacksays Expert)

Jeremy Mayfield Expert Dec 26, 2017 8:56 AM

Utility, the ability to do multiple things well.   Like a utility man in baseball.   Many team have these utility men, they are often not hall of fame quality but to the team they are all the difference.  when you can play multiple positions, and help your team win where ever you are, you are valuable.  being that utility player is something that is important in Tech as well.  We will often be asked to do things we may not be trained for.  We will need to be sure to understand that where ever we are needed we will be expected to perform.   Its our jobs to perform well.   Having good skills and or tools will assist us.   But we can be the utility person, using our best Utility SolarWinds.  We are utility, its a utility.  Honorable mention, Utility Belt from Batman...


Michael Perkins Dec 26, 2017 4:20 PM

The first thing that comes to my mind when seeing the work utility is, well, a utility: a water, power, or gas company. My mind moves on to things that have utility. They are functional: a good belt, a utility knife, a warm coat. Cargo pants might also fit here. A friend of mine would probably add a UtiliKilt. Then there are things that have several functions: a good laptop, smartphone, or PC does quite a bit: shopping, entertainment, home finance. Leatherman and Swiss Army tools. Being an amateur cook, I might add a good chef's knife. I use one for everything from peeling to slicing, chopping, even some fine work. The software world is loaded with utilities. Disk Utilities. Diagnostic software (Wireshark, anyone?) and some little suite called SolarWinds seem pretty useful too. I have to agree with silverbacksays about Custom Properties. They allow a creative admin to extend SolarWinds' abilities in more ways than I can detail here. I do have to say that the most utilitarian thing in learning how to better use SolarWinds is right here: Thwack! Thanks to all my fellow Thwacksters for your time and help.


Bill Eckler Expert Dec 28, 2017 1:09 PM

This reminded me of one of our old Apple][ utilities we used to use in the old 300 baud Hayes days... Dalton's Disk Disintegrator which would break up large apps/games into compressed packs to more easily send over the modem. The good ol' days.  My modem must have ran close to 20 hours a day in the old ASCII Express Pro BBS days.


Initial (Posted by mprobus Expert)

Peter Monaghan, CBCP, SCP, ITIL ver.3 Expert Dec 27, 2017 9:01 AM

This word could not be more timely for me. I am in the midst of chewing on a blog post that has taken me weeks to write as my initial attempt fell well short of the mark. So now I am scrapping huge chunks and doing re-writes. And that leaves me struggling with the reality that the effort won't be worth the final product. That is frustrating. What I have learned from my wife, the artist, is that there is value in a worthy initial attempt. You'll be farther along in the creative process even if you end up scrapping it and starting over. Or if you completely change it so that the final result looks nothing like the initial attempt. The initial attempt is such an important step in the journey...


C Potridge Dec 27, 2017 10:12 AM

I like the statement, "Don’t let your first attempt be your last."  An initial attempt can result in an initial failure, but that doesn't have to define a person, unless you quit trying.


Micah Musick Dec 27, 2017 12:01 PM

I don't know why but this prompt made me think of initiative in D&D. Sometimes when facing a tough tech challenge, I think about rolling initiative to get that initial start on the project. Depending on how much sleep I've had and what mood I'm in I fail that initiative roll something fierce, but I always fight my way back and get rolling one way or another.


Recovery (Posted by jennebarbour Employee)

Mercy K Dec 28, 2017 7:23 AM

To recover takes much effort especially when the norm is comfortable or one sees no hope of a better future ahead. It takes much faith and courage to recover from something one is used to. Before recovery, the lessons learned are tools to aid you in understanding why there was a reason for that experience in the first place.


Peter Monaghan, CBCP, SCP, ITIL ver.3 Expert Dec 28, 2017 10:25 AM

I am a Certified Business Continuity Professional, aka Disaster Recovery. My professional life is preparing for the worst and figuring out how my company would recover. As in life the easiest and quickest path to recovery is preparedness and minimizing the impact of the disaster. The business world has the advantage of usually not having emotions entangled in with it. So it is usually easier to follow the mantra of "...preparedness and minimizing..." So I shall end it with my favorite quote from the Business Continuity Planners world:

          "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."  - Mike Tyson


Byron Anderson Expert Dec 28, 2017 11:07 AM

I think we are always in some form of Recovery as it's part of growth.  To make something stronger you tear it apart and let it recover, when it does it recovers stronger than it was before.  This is a continuous process throughout our lives.


Daimon Oberholtzer Dec 28, 2017 2:35 PM

How many steps are there in this recovery program? Are there reboots involved and what downtime can we expect?


Segment (Posted by jennebarbour Employee)

Zack Mutchler Expert Dec 29, 2017 1:31 AM

One thing that kept occurring to me throughout: what about a fundamental shift in how companies see their employees? In the past 4ish years, i’ve had the opportunity to interact with about 500 unique clients/companies. there were 2 lasting impressions from these experiences.

1) the best hotel coffee is at residence inn

2) companies that treat their engineers as worker bees will receive neither

I think it is a standard that companies segment their workforce via org charts. but allowing silos to restrict engineering (and other) skill sets is one of the main complaints i heard over casual lunches with the engineering core. the companies who refused to mold to an evolving workforce were almost always the ones with the least happy employees, in my highly (un)scientific research. This speaks loudly to the shift from being specialists back towards being jack-of-all-trades engineers. we can’t keep putting ourselves into comfy little boxes. to thrive, we need to keep pushing. and our companies need to encourage that growth at a molecular level.


Richard Phillips Dec 29, 2017 7:39 AM

Interesting article. I particularly like:  “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” As IT professionals we are called upon to make technology transparent and easy to use. Sometimes we get caught out or upset that the end users don't see how difficult this is at times, but those that get it see that we are doing "magic."


Jason Higgins Dec 29, 2017 9:51 AM

People segment things to make it easier to comprehend, remember and categorize. This applies to everything from phone numbers, to data stores on hard drives, and even your closets. If you just mashed everything together without a segmented order to it, finding things and remember them would be next to impossible. Sit back once and take a look at everything you deal with on a daily basis and see how it is laid out and organized. I bet you will start to see a lot more segmentation to it then you realize was happening. Just looking at my desk here at work I can see layers of segmentation going on just with my little area here.



As I mentioned at the start of this post, there are still two days left to go. Check in over the weekend to see what ideas are conjured by the words "Density" and "PostScript", and look for my final wrap-up on the first day of 2018.


Thank you to everyone who has contributed!

I hope everyone had a happy Christmas this week. It snowed on Christmas day here, the first time in maybe 20 years or so where we had enough snowfall that we had to shovel. It's the third white Christmas my kids have seen, and only the second one they remember. It was interesting watching them in the morning, opening gifts as the snow fell. I hope whatever you have planned this week will create happy memories for yourself and others.


I'm on PTO this week and next, but I won't let that get in the way of the weekly Actuator.  As always, here are some links from the Intertubz that I hope will hold your interest. Enjoy!


The Weaponization of Education Data

Since January 2017, K-12 schools experienced almost 300 data breaches. Although schools collect the most personal of data they are the least prepared to protect it.


Data Is Not The New Oil, It's Nuclear Power

"Unless we're willing to bury [data] under metaphorical concrete, we're in for a bad future if we forget how to handle spent data." Brilliant.


Dozens of Companies Are Using Facebook to Exclude Older Workers From Job Ads

"Laws? Where we're going, we don't need to obey the law." - Facebook and Uber


Apple: Yes, we're slowing down older iPhones

As an owner of a few of these phones, I'm not surprised by this in any way. In fact, I thought we already knew this was how Apple did business, so I'm shocked that everyone seems shocked by Capitalism In Action.


Amazon wants a key to your house. I did it, and I regret it

A decent product review for one of the new services Amazon launched this past year. I'm not likely to try Amazon Key anytime soon, but I recognize that it's all part of a larger business strategy. And I also know that Amazon wants to build services that are secure. So, whatever issues they have with v1 of this service will be fixed, I have no doubt.


Crooks Switch From Ransomware to Cryptocurrency Mining

Honestly, I am just disappointed I didn't think of this sooner.


Power Prices Go Negative in Germany, a Positive for Energy Users

And if you need power for mining Bitcoin, Germany has some extra to spare.


The view from my deck this past Christmas morning. An almost perfect snow.

By Joe Kim, SolarWinds EVP, Engineering and Global CTO


Trying to find the root cause of IT problems can sometimes feel like trying to find your way out of a maze. Optimistically turning each corner, hoping to locate the source of the problem, only to find you’ve hit another dead end.


This is particularly the case when managing hybrid IT environments, where the source of the network’s problem could exist in the center of several different mazes, meaning a great deal more searching for a weary government IT professional.


In a hybrid IT environment, network issues could be coming from on-premises, in complex application stacks, or they could be a part of the cloud. Without end-to-end visibility across deployments, IT professionals may think that a network problem is buried too deep in the maze to be found. What is needed is a tool that offers single-pane-of-glass visibility throughout the entire infrastructure, enabling a view straight to the center of the maze.


A bird’s eye view

Taking in everything from virtualization and storage, to cloud and internet providers and users, an IT professional’s view needs to be broad and expansive.


It’s not enough to merely see what’s going on, government IT professionals need to gain insight into data being collected by these resources and sharing it with colleagues. This requires a method that allows IT professionals to compare data types alongside one another to easily identify the root cause of potential issues.


Further light can be shed on slowdowns or outages by laying timelines on top of the information derived from these applications. So, if a non-responding application sends an alert at a certain time, a government IT professional can review the data and look for warning signs around the time that the issue occurred. By sharing these dashboards with their teams, they can then get everyone on the same page and help ensure a quick resolution.


In a cloud environment, dependencies are highly dynamic. Containers can pop up and disappear, and databases can move around, which makes identifying network issues a challenge. The ability to quickly and automatically identify dependencies and events impacting connected resources across on-premises and the cloud can reduce the time it takes to identify these issues.


Future gazing

Government IT professionals should look for solutions that will offer them a glimpse ahead, helping them prepare for future issues. They should also heed the old idiom that says, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail,” and use predictive analytics to avoid problems before they have a chance to occur.


By collecting and analyzing all of the network and systems data, government IT professionals can better predict when failures may occur and take steps to address problems before they take place. By setting up alerts based on trends, anomalous patterns, and other algorithms, IT professionals can gain insight into an event’s potential impact and be well-informed on how best to react.


Smooth operator

Ensuring a seamless user experience is a top priority for government IT professionals, and as such, keeping the network running smoothly is imperative. By discovering new ways of gaining comprehensive network and system visibility, government IT professionals can easily navigate the maze of increasingly complex hybrid IT environments.


Find the full article on Open Access Government.

There's just a week left and each day is more impressive than the last in terms of the quality of writing, the level of openness, and the creativity of ideas being shared. For those who like metrics (hey, we're all monitoring professionals, who among us DOESN'T like metrics?!?) we're currently going strong with 19,500+ views, over 123 likes/bookmarks, and 1,151 comments.


So just like I did last week as well as the week before, I wanted to share just a few of the hundreds of amazing comments from each days entry. Of course, you can find all the entries here: Word-A-Day  Challenge 2017 .


Backbone (Posted by jennebarbour Employee)

Jeremy Mayfield Expert Dec 16, 2017 2:21 PM

Backbone is something i think of when i look at life and think of where i get strength to keep going, i think of the strength a good spine can give someone to stand.  when damaged well we can see the results easily.  When intact it is the central support to our selves which allows us to move freely, stand strong and climb over our obstacles.   As proven from your story you dont need the backbone to accomplish anything you wish you need the heart to want to do something and the desire to follow through.   In Technology also you can accomplish many thinigs with skills and time, but a good backbone will allow you to more easily maneuver about the systems, monitor for weakness and report on issues with in.  A strong Backbone in the tech world is essential to be a successful business and to have success as a IT pro regardless if that backbone is made of Cisco, HP, or the people around you, or the peer groups you have joined.


L Desrosiers Dec 17, 2017 7:49 AM

IT is the backbone of the company, Unseen and unheard most of the time.


Simeon Castle Dec 18, 2017 6:19 AM

Maybe it's the phrase relating to growing a spine that's created this, but my first thought on the word backbone is to stand up for oneself. To borrow from the (second entry of the) dictionary, the backbone is "the chief support of a system or organization." In an odd way, the two are interlinked; in order to adequately support something (you, your department, your team) you have to sometimes have to take a stand, defend, and support them. I'm a long-time reader of Reddit's TalesFromTechSupport (I recommend it heartily) and sadly, an all-too common theme is one of a breakdown in the relationship between management and employee; where there's a lack of mutual support, and so there's a need for a tale to be told.


Character (Posted by tomiannelli Expert)

Ethan Beach Dec 17, 2017 12:48 PM

Do you need to be a character to succeed? What kind of character? I am in the position of a possible promotion to management and there are two of us going for the same position. I have worked hard and proven myself but I have not been very noticed. I just go to work get my stuff done UN-noticed. It is not in my character to be outgoing and in the spot light. On the other hand the other guy has been very outgoing but has not brought as much to the game as I have. I have the feeling that he has the upper hand on me and is it because of his character?  Do I need to put myself more out there and get noticed more often or will my work do that for me. When I do try I feel uncomfortable and our of character.


Peter Monaghan, CBCP, SCP, ITIL ver.3 Expert Dec 17, 2017 7:45 PM

When discussing character one would be remiss not to remember MLK's poignant quote:

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

As a civilized society this is what we strive toward, and how we define equality. In the business world character is valued but abilities/skills are valued more (If you don't believe me consider how we interview candidates). However, equality in the workplace has become a priority over all. So in the real world we can judge a person on their character, but in the business world we often overlook it. Cue the confusion. There are many of us who refuse to comprise their principles just because they are in the business world and instead maintain a strong character throughout.  Those are the ones who can look themselves in the mirror. That is who I want to be.


Olusegun Odejide Dec 18, 2017 7:20 AM

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power............ Abraham Lincoln


Fragment (Posted by allieeby)

Phillip Collins Dec 18, 2017 8:31 AM

If you think about it, nothing is ever really complete.  Everything we do is just fragments of larger projects.  When planning I always break down my goals into smaller fragments to make them easier to track and obtain.  Our days are full of fragments that make our days complete.  It's how we work with these fragments and not let them fall to the side that makes us who we are.


Simeon Castle Dec 18, 2017 10:20 AM

When I think of the word fragment, the first thing that comes to mind is when I was but a pup and enjoyed running Defragmenter and watching the blocks moving. I know, okay, I don't need you to tell me how bad that is! That was back on Windows 95 or something, it's been a while. The hardware was abysmal (a beige Compaq box my dad bought for £30 from a guy who was clearing out an office) but the experience was magical, and started me down the treacherous path of breaking making computers. It is a fragment of my life, and in and of itself is an experience. As part of the whole of my life, it's now merely represented in my desk coaster, because I've not seen another 1Gb hard drive - or any hard drive with handwriting inside the case - since. At least it's remembered fondly, and I'd hope to be remembered as fondly (if not by using part of my corpse for beverage-holding)


Kevin Small Expert Dec 18, 2017 4:20 PM

What causes a fragment? Dropping a glass? Moving data around on a hard disk? Breaking a promise? There are lots of fragments in our lives...some of our own making.  Think about what is important.

Handle fragile things with care.

Write programs to efficiently use storage.

Honor relationships.


Gateway (Posted by rschroeder Expert)

George S Dec 19, 2017 8:32 AM

A gateway is a portal into something new or different, whether in IT or life. It can act as a transition point to allow or deny access, particularly in IT. Ether way it is a sign that a change is about to happen.


C Potridge Dec 19, 2017 9:55 AM

I love the Marvel reference!  No matter how good your gatekeeper is, vigilance is required to monitor any anomalies on the network that indicate unwanted traffic has slipped past the gatekeeper.


Simeon Castle Dec 19, 2017 11:29 AM

I read this in the morning and came back to it, and I'm not sure what there is to add. Everyone loves a Marvel reference, right? A gateway is in that double-edged role, enabling access for those inside the circle and preventing access from outsiders, with a little help from some other friends... I'm technically in a position to administrate it, but it still limits me, and me peers try and prevent me from accessing it - for good reason, I'm a bit of a 'break-it-and-see' person... But I do have the capacity and, at a push, the responsibility to change it. So simultaneously, I limit it while it limits me.

Yesterday we saw the note on character aspects, and I rather soberly acknowledged that the questions that stood out were the flaws that I disliked the most. I wonder if in a way, we create a gateway of ourselves with our characters to both limit and protect ourselves.



Inheritance (Posted by jennebarbour Employee)

Zack Mutchler Expert Dec 20, 2017 8:42 AM

from a SolarWinds perspective, I would say inheritance is HUGE in our industry. from my time as a consultant/trainer, I would roughly estimate well over 80% of the recipients of professional services and training are admins who inherited their SolarWinds implementation from another admin who left the company and/or neglected their duties as the SolarWinds "guru". It's interesting to see, from the outside, how neglect can ruin an inheritance. I'm sure this echoes in life as well.


Terri Phelps Dec 20, 2017 9:26 AM

I also come from a large family.  Dad is a sarcastic joker (which we have all inherited) and the biggest "fun" between us kids is replacing the current picture in the "Daddy's favorite" picture frame with a picture of our self.  Dad has told me that he loves me best and my inheritance will be his treasured boxes of old Field and Stream magazines.  I'm sure (wink, wink), that he has NOT said this to any of my siblings....


Byron Anderson Expert Dec 20, 2017 10:29 AM

Inheritance can be a double edged sword, you can certainly inherit things you want be it tangible things, valuable things, or knowledge but you can also inherit things you don't want such as debt or bad knowledge that can lead you down the wrong path.  I think it's important that we be mindful of what we are passing down to our children and the next generation.  We want to put them in an even better position than we were in and set them up for success so they can do the same for the next.  Ultimately each generation should be setup to build on the success of the previous creating a continuous improvement process.


Noise (Posted by ams.norman)

Steven Carlson Expert Dec 21, 2017 7:21 AM

I grew up living near a highway but you tune it out so you don't even notice it anymore. When I moved closer to the city for university and work, I lived near a train station. That eventually was also tuned out that you don't notice. On flights, I take a pair of noise cancelling headphones. You don't realise how loud it actually gets until you have a pair. Also helps (slightly) to lessen the jarring of a baby crying or children screaming. I've recently moved away from the city and it is much quieter out here. Not as much traffic, no cars around at night unlike the city, etc.

And obviously in IT, I come across so many customers who have turned on lots of alerts and have a filter moving them all to a "SolarWinds" folder in their email client with the thousands of unread emails. At that point, you've lost the battle. What's the point of having an alert if you're going to ignore the emails?


Mercy K Dec 21, 2017 7:34 AM

This season is almost always synonymous with noise but then, towards the end of the year, you find many people turning down the noise slightly for introspection and afterwards, making plans to be a better version of themselves next year. And on and on the cycle goes.


Olusegun Odejide Dec 22, 2017 8:34 AM

This remind me of signal processing, a major focus is modelling different types of noise and traffic. Rayleigh, Rician, Nakagami, etc. Noise as mentioned by steshi noise can be a good thing sometime.


Object (Posted by Mark Roberts Expert)

Peter Wilson Dec 22, 2017 7:26 AM

Got to love the English language.  I've spent 50+ years learning it and still get caught out.  However, it does make it a lot easier to learn other languages (spoken and programming). Don't read on if you don't like swearing. Reminds me of a great Joey Dunlop statement (the greatest road racing motorcyclist ever).  He had broken down in a race at the Isle of Man TT and was asked what was wrong.  He replied (you will have to work it out because it is all expletives and I have hopefully and appropriately left out some of the letters)  F*** me, the F***ing F***er's F***ing F***ed.  Explained the problem perfectly.  I have it on a T-shirt.


Olusegun Odejide Dec 22, 2017 8:41 AM

The moment a person forms a theory,

his imagination sees in every object
only the traits which favor that theory.
- Thomas Jefferson



Michael Probus Expert Dec 22, 2017 9:46 AM

When I saw the title of today's post, my first thought was which spelling / definition will be used.  I was leaning toward the noun being that the words are IT based, therefore I was thinking programming. We as a society are often judged by the number and value or our objects.  Some seek to obtain such items in order to raise their social status.  Others seek to provide objects to others.  If I am being honest, I would say that I'm in the middle.  I like nice stuff, but I also like giving stuff.  Christmas is one of my favorite times of year as I enjoy the giving more than receiving.

If anyone states otherwise, then I object.  :-D



Of course, that is just the tiniest smattering of comments that caught my eye. Check out the Word-A-Day  Challenge 2017 forum to catch up on the rest. As we head into the final week, be prepared to share your thoughts on Parity, Peripheral, Platform, Utility, Initial, Recovery, Segment, Density, and Postscript!

Over the past few years, we have seen an ever-changing landscape when it comes to technology. When I first started in IT, my company decided on IBM for everything. Servers, storage, and even the backup tools were delivered by them. But today’s solutions are being built to suit the customer’s specific needs and no vendor can really supply a one-stop shop. That’s why we need collaboration and partnerships between vendors!


The one-stop shop solutions are really a thing of the past. Working with different customers over the past year, it has become apparent that everyone is looking to achieve an outcome or business need. One thing they don’t really focus on is the technology, so long as the solution delivers. Now, I say this with a smile because for every conversation I have like this, there is always an IT manager in the background thinking, "How am I going to manage this? How am I going to deliver a solution that meets the skills I have in my team?" I know that when I was an IT manager, this would be on my mind.


For all levels within businesses, I believe there are three main questions you should always answer:


Why is it important to collaborate?


Every vendor today is trying to work with another vendor to create partnerships that enhance their products and solution offerings. This is important and I believe it is the right direction for vendors to go. This approach means solutions are designed and put forward to meet the customer’s end goal rather than always trying to meet the budget.


How does collaborating provide value to my business?


Partnerships and collaboration within the IT industry are important to helping your business grow and develop to compete within their market sectors. In my years of working with vendors, I have found that the relationships are starting to change. You look on them more as strategic partners who help ensure the solutions you deploy are of the best tools and applications to meet your service requirements.


What are the challenges I could face with collaboration?


In my view, the benefits really do outweigh the challenges. With the deployment of a multi-vendor environment, managing these solutions becomes more complex. From hybrid cloud monitoring to integrated backup tools, it would all be easier if you had one tool to monitor them. Another challenge you may run into is training. Bringing in new technologies might mean multiple management consoles and skill up. Again, this starts to move towards the requirement for a centralised monitoring tool.

I don’t know how many times in the past 15 years I have heard people say, “My computers running slow! I need an upgrade.” Everyone, even your colleagues in the IT department, is quick to blame something (or someone) other than themselves rather than try to understand the issue.


Let's start by looking at how responsiveness and efficiency are portrayed within a business. In most businesses, including the ones I have worked at, end-users often think IT is magic. They just expect it to work. No one thinks about the data they store and how much they have! Very rarely do they consider the complexity of what's happening “behind the scenes” and how much actually goes in to keeping things ticking.


Now, performance issues can show up in many different scenarios. They could be network latency issues, they could be storage performance issues, but to the end-user, it’s just “running slow.” They can’t tell you what’s wrong, and in some cases, neither can the IT team. In many circumstances, I have stood in the middle of the room with the storage team blaming the network team and vice versa, when in fact, the issue was with the end-user’s device. Wouldn’t it be great if you could quickly diagnose issues without having to point fingers? If you could have a centralised team with a monitoring tool that could monitor the network, storage, virtualisation, and end-user devices? I may be speaking out of line for some businesses, but I believe that this is common sense and should be the focus and drive for all companies.


That covers responsiveness, but how do you keep track of your data storage and sprawl? A lot of businesses think of efficiency as saving space, but it’s so much more! With the technology landscape constantly changing and deployments now being built across disparate platforms, from private to public cloud, it’s hard to keep control of your data. I discuss data usage with a lot of customers, but I never really ask the question, “How much do you have?” Data has become an asset within a business. The questions you should be asking are: “What type of data do you have? How do you use your data? How do you access your data?”


As you can see, these are all questions that will drive an open conversation and potentially help businesses understand the possibilities. These questions also start to highlight what businesses need to think about when it comes efficiency. “Is my data available? Is my data on the right platform to meet my needs? How much is my data costing me?" And, of course, "How much space am I saving?” If you can answer these questions, they will deliver real value into the business, and begin to help a company realise the benefits of a clear management strategy.


I mentioned earlier that responsiveness and efficiency can be portrayed in different ways depending on each company's (or team’s) objectives. Managing these environments helps provide a clear picture to the whole business. In my experience, executives don’t always want to see speeds and feeds—they want to clearly understand the costs and the value the IT infrastructure is delivering. Meanwhile, IT administrators want to be able to identify issues quickly and maintain an efficiently running system. This is why I believe delivering a management solution that can meet both goals is key to a successful IT strategy.

Back in October, I wrote about Shadow IT and how some users are turning to popular file sharing applications like Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive to get their work done without the friction. One point I made in that post was that “if an organization has reviewed the product, agrees to the EULA and it is approved internally,” then users should use it to their heart's content.  But that doesn't always happen and users tend to seek out their own solutions when IT doesn't provide one for them. There were a lot of good comments on that post and some felt that the biggest problem was the users.


Then in early November, I wrote about data exfiltration and how Shadow IT is lending it’s hand here. I talked a bit about when I was an instructor and I created my own email domain to circumvent our organizational rules. Nothing bad happened at the time but things could have gone very bad in that case. Still, I tried to emphasize that when IT doesn’t provide a solution that eliminates the friction, users will look elsewhere.


After that, I highlighted the fact that when users download their own solutions, you never know where the package is coming from and not only can data be lost through the solution they choose, but malware can be introduced.


Finally, I got into how non-IT file sharing applications can break HIPPA compliance and can cost an organization money in fines.


In this article, I want to focus on an offering that SolarWinds has, called Serv-U MFT Server. I think this is an interesting product because it’s not quite the solution that one would expect with something like Dropbox or OneDrive, but I think the features and security it adds may be exactly what an organization needs to circumvent an end-user from seeking their own solution for sharing information. How so?


Serv-U Features That Answer the Call


First off, I think it’s important to understand that Serv-U is a software package that you would download and install. This may deviate from the cloud offerings that everyone is looking at these days, but if you install it on an AWS instance or something to that effect, you may just have what you’re looking for: a cloud solution that you control.


Second, I think the fact that it provides secure file sharing to end-users as sort of an “ad-hoc” solution is the right way to go. I can't think of how many times I’ve had a file I needed to share, didn't care how it happened, but I didn't want to jump through hoops to share it. With Serv-U, it's as easy as sending an email. In fact, this marketing video shows just how easy it is to send or even request files in a secure manner:


Secure File Sharing with SolarWinds Serv-U MFT Server - YouTube


But let’s get beyond the SolarWinds plug here. Why is an application like this so important? Here are four reasons that I see gleaming out there in the clear day light.


  1. You own it and you configure and control the policy.  This includes file retention policies.
  2. It integrates with AD so you don’t have to create user accounts.
  3. It tracks transactions.
  4. It’s easy to use from an end-user perspective.


With that said, there are other solutions available, of course. But have you looked at them, or have you followed along with this series and thought, "not a big deal for my org"? I really think you have to at least have a plan. What are the drawbacks to not having a plan to handle secure file transfer? Well, it’s pretty apparent in my eyes. If you don’t have a plan to provide secure file transfer in a controlled manner, you run the risk of users providing their own, sharing data they shouldn’t be sharing, introducing malware into the network, breaking compliance and incurring fines, and so on.


So, what have you done to provide an IT based file sharing solution? Do you use Serv-U and if not, what other solution are you implementing and why?

We are in the home stretch now, folks, with less than a week to go before The Big Day. I hope you and yours have a wonderful and peaceful holiday season.


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


The FCC has repealed net neutrality

The biggest headline of the week was that the FCC did what we all knew they were going to do. The discussions that followed have shown me that no one has any idea what should, would, or could happen. Technology moves too fast for legislation, IMO. But when your house needs a new coat of paint, you don’t burn it to the ground. Idiots.


PuTTY Begone! Microsoft will ship an OpenSSH client

For those of you who hate seeing Microsoft embrace open source, look away. And while I’m happy to see this, I do hope that any implementation of a SSH client is done so with security in mind.


Kleptocrat: How To Hide Your Dirty Money

Ever wonder if you have what it takes to be a politician? This game will help determine if you have the skills or not. Let the record show that I am horrible at hiding dirty money, apparently.


Falsehoods programmers believe about programming

A brilliant list that can be modified and applied to any role inside of IT.


Uber accused of espionage, hacking and bribery in bombshell letter

Here’s your weekly reminder that Uber is a company you should avoid. This post makes Uber look like it is a shadow company for MI6. So, if you want to avoid being caught in a spy-ring-bag-drop-gone-sideways-shootout, use Lyft instead.


Power restored at Atlanta airport after outage grounded hundreds of flights

For those scoring at home, that's two electrical fires in the past 16 months at the Atlanta airport. Each one showing how important it is to plan for the worst and hope for the best. Right about now, I’m not sure Georgia Power has updated their infrastructure to ensure proper business continuity planning. Then again, there could have been dozens of times where everything worked well, too. Still, once is an accident, twice is a trend.


A Water Slide Ferris Wheel Might Be the Most Stomach-Turning Ride Ever Invented

If and when this ride becomes operational, I intend to travel there and ride it all day.


Merry Christmas! Here's how I lke to celebrate, with maple bacon bourbon popcorn balls:

By Joe Kim, SolarWinds EVP, Engineering and Global CTO


Bring your own application (BYOA), virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and software-defined networking (SDN) may promise great things, but they also expose network vulnerabilities.


For military IT professionals, the network is the first line of defense against these threats, but how do you ensure that it sufficiently addresses both current and future security issues?


The answer is surprisingly old-fashioned: go back to the basics. A combination of best practices—including automation, network monitoring and more—as well as network simplicity, is key to ensuring a happy, healthy government IT environment.


Let’s take a look at these best practices to see just how your IT environment can navigate the minefield of acronyms and escape with your security and wits intact.


Network monitoring

By offering a single-pane-of-glass view of users, devices, network devices, and traffic, and using log data to provide real-time event correlation, continuous network monitoring can help government IT professionals improve security and offer peace of mind.


Network monitoring can help achieve network stabilization as the environment grows in complexity. Take the growing number of defense agencies that are making the move to a hybrid IT model, for example. While the benefits of hybrid IT are often discussed, it does represent increased complexity.


Monitoring tools can help address this complexity, providing vital information about which parts of an environment would benefit from moving off-premises, from both a cost and workflow standpoint. Once these applications are migrated, network monitoring can also monitor and verify their performance, and thus can both simplify the move to hybrid IT and help IT professionals make the most of its benefits.


Configuration management

A configuration management solution can be instrumental in the battle against increased complexity. By backing up configurations, IT professionals can roll back changes for fast recovery, monitor configurations, and automatically remediate noncompliance issues.



Automating compliance with patching and configuration tools means IT professionals can locate and help protect against vulnerabilities as efficiently as possible.


Do you BYO?

Defense agencies have struggled with adopting Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) for some time now, and are all too aware of the security risks these approaches represent. However, it is tricky: off-duty defense professionals need to be able to use internet-enabled devices with fewer restrictions, even if bandwidth isn’t cheap and availability is, at best, patchy.


As a result, military organizations need to have a real, considered discussion on how BYO plans can be adopted, bringing in guidelines and tools to help with adoption and enforce restrictions. User device tracking can help to locate and eliminate rogue devices on the network, and guidelines enforced by IT will help users see that a line in the sand has been drawn regarding usage.


Forward thinking

There is still work to do to make sure defense agencies aren’t severely impacted by these emerging tech trends. The key to realizing this is preparation.


By remaining educated and understanding upcoming trends, tools, and strategies, government IT professionals can ensure they are well-equipped to adapt and thrive in an environment where the next complication is always just around the corner.


Find the full article on Defence Contracts Online.


(This is the second part of a series. You can find Part One here.)


It behooves me to remind you that there are many spoilers beyond this point. If you haven't seen the movie yet, and don't want to know what's coming, bookmark this page to enjoy later.


Get out among the "regular" people, the users. It will feed and inform your work. REALLY meet them, though. Don't just sit on the sidelines, aloof and observant.


At the start of the movie, we see Logan driving a limo for a ride-sharing service. He's out and among the people, which would make many folks feel more connected to the world around them. Hearing stories, experiencing a moment in time that becomes a slice of his own life. He ferries a business executive, a bunch of frat boys shouting "U-S-A" as they cross the border into Mexico, a bachelorette party, and a family on their way to a funeral. As stark as the differences are between passengers, they are not nearly as stark as Logan's emotional disassociation with them.


Contrast this with a scene later in the movie, when Logan, Charles, and Laura sit down to dinner with the farming family they assisted (as mentioned in my previous example). While dancing around the nature of the school, Charles and Logan (acting the part of father and son) express touching affection for their past life and each other. Doing so allows the family who has invited them into their home to join the conversation.


Later, when they are alone, Charles tries to impress this difference on Logan:

Charles: “You know, Logan? This is what a life will explain. A home, people who love each other. A safe place. You should take a moment and feel it.”

Logan: “Yeah. It's great.”

Charles: “Logan. Logan! You still have time.”


The lesson in all of this is that, as an IT professional, you need to get out with the real people in your environment. You have to become involved, to see what they care about and what problems they are trying to solve. You can't, as Logan did when he was driving the limousine, dispassionately observe them from afar and remain aloof. You need to connect, to communicate, and to share.


It's not all on you. The next generation of IT pros is strong, even if they don't have your experience. Know that they will rise to the occasion if you give them the chance.


Near the end of the movie, Logan is so incapacitated that he passes out on the side of the road, and wakes up in a doctor's office. How did he get there? Laura, the 11-year-old who has not spoken a single word so far, whose native language is Spanish, and whose understanding of the events around her are never 100% certain, manages to steal a truck, load Logan into it, and drive him back to town and into a kindly doctor's office.


Just a few scenes later, she once again takes the wheel and completes the drive to the lookout station from which she and her fellow child-mutants plan to make the journey to "Eden.”


Finally, Laura and those same children get Logan up the side of a mountain and nurse him back to health.


The point is, Laura and the rest of the kids are capable. They have skills and abilities that extend beyond their mutant superpowers. Also, they care. They care what happens to this stranger not just because they find him bleeding on the side of the road, but because they see a chance to connect with another person like them, and they take the risk. They even have the audacity to shave Logan's beard into the shape it appears in the X-Men® comic, not to mock him, but to create friendship through a shared joke.


Later, these same kids who giggled unabashedly at the sight of Logan in his iconic muttonchops are able to hold their own against an army of mercenaries. In the end, it is Laura who kills X24, not using her strength, speed, or claws, but by thinking through the problem and literally finding the silver bullet to end the situation.


As IT professionals, we need to remember that the next generation might lack our experience, but that doesn't mean they lack skills, intelligence, commitment, or even common sense. It doesn't mean they can't hold their own. It doesn't mean they won't rise to a challenge. Of course, new team members shouldn't be forced into "sink or swim" scenarios. But it means that, when our own tank is empty, we can look to them for backup while we recharge.


Better still, it means that if we allow them to be a full part of the team, the entire team will be stronger for it.


Powerful tools used indiscriminately can hurt everyone.


One of the key plot points in the movie is Charles' degenerative symptoms. In the movie, he is 90 years old, and although he's relatively lucid, he has moments where he loses touch. The problem is that he is a mutant with one of the most powerful psychic minds on earth, able (if you accept the X-Men Apocalypse story as canon) to speak directly into the minds of every human on the planet while simultaneously having a separate conversation with the X-Men who are trying to save him (and the world). So, when Charles loses touch, let's his control slip even a little, the minds around him are at risk.


This sits at the heart of the "Westchester Incident" that is hinted at throughout the film. Charles loses control and people (possibly his students, with the exception of Logan) die. He loses control again in a hotel in Las Vegas, and everyone in the area is held in a kind of violent stasis, unable to move or even think until Charles is sedated. Everyone affected is left weakened and sick for several minutes afterward.


The takeaway for us is that Charles has (or perhaps it's better to say he IS) a powerful tool. When used with control and finesse, our most powerful tools can perform amazing feats and literally save the world. But when used in an uncontrolled fashion, the results can be devastating.


By way of example, think about DNS. On October 16, 2016, a DDoS attack on one DNS company destabilized it to a point where the internet was practically shut down (at least in parts of the world) for hours. But a few months later, a single 22-year-old registered a domain name and effectively brought the damage from the #WannaCry malware to a complete halt.


But that isn't all I learned! Stay tuned for future installments of this series. And until then, Excelsior!


1 “Logan” (2017), Marvel Entertainment, distributed by 20th Century Fox

Observability is key to successful hybrid IT deployments because it goes hand-and-hand with controllability. If you can observe a system’s internals well, then you can control equally well that system’s output. But what is observability?


Observability is a measure of how well internal states of a system can be inferred from knowledge of its external outputs. It is a concept that originates from control systems theory. Thinking about the current landscape of observability, there are different opinions on what is sufficient for observability. Traditional IT professionals believe that metrics and logging are sufficient. IT professionals, who focus on logging, however, believe that metrics are too noisy and makes one susceptible to paralysis by overanalysis. Meanwhile, site reliability engineers, those who embrace the DevOps culture, associate observability to tracing microservices and code stack. 

Who’s right? Who’s wrong? There are so many shades of observability grey that finding common ground can be a challenge in of itself. Application stacks are evolving with so much velocity, variety, and volume of change such that a combination of all three (metrics, logs, and traces) are needed to build a viable observability protocol. Thus, a proper toolset needs to encompass all three aspects while allowing subject matter experts to impart their rigor and discipline.

Have your organization incorporated observability concepts into your day to day? Please share your observability stories in the comment section below.

Over the past 12 months, I've heard the word “compliance” thrown around quite a bit. Only now does compliance depend on what department or industry you are in. From ISO to General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), compliance is now at the forefront of the requirements. More importantly, compliance is now being recognized by the boards, highlighted in many cases by the consequences (being fined) for not maintaining compliance. 


One thing to remember is that it’s not always an IT problem. I don’t know how many times I have walked into a meeting and been asked by a customer what they need to buy. Take GDPR, for example. Out of 107 actions, only eight can be fixed by a purchasable IT solution. The rest is policy-driven, and this is where it gets complicated. To stay compliant, you need to make sure you have a management suite that can monitor the policies you have in place.


For this article, I am going to focus on one of the hot topics of conversation when it comes to compliance. The new European GDPR regulations. For many, this is a word that either causes confusion or panic. Please don’t panic! Don’t burrow your head in the sand. Talk to the experts! I may not be an expert when it comes to compliance, but over the last twelve months, I have learned a lot from listening and talking to partners and customers about their experiences. One of the big points I hear about over and over again concerns your foundations. Where does your business stand today in line with the new regulation? You must make sure you can clearly define or find the information you need to start. From hardware inventory, current security vulnerabilities, firewall policy and more important classification of your data. It is fine to have all these tools to monitor and protect against security threats and data breaches. However, if you don’t understand your data and how you use it you will struggle to understand and meet the GDPR requirements.


So, let’s take it back a step for anyone reading about GDPR for the first time.


The EU GDPR goes into effect May 25, 2018. It applies to all organizations processing the personal data of EU residents. The regulation will introduce a new way for organizations handle data protection and it will be enforced fairly. The penalties for non-compliance of GDPR can be up to 20 million euros or four percent of company’s annual turnover. In addition, data subjects get a right to claim for compensation against an organization under GDPR.


It is important to remember that a data breach isn’t necessarily black and white. You could have all the security and encryption layers you want, but you may still be breached from either an external intrusion or an internal intrusion. What has become clear to me is that you need to have a clear audit trail of data throughout the business, from tracking user activity to change control activities and everything in between. The reason this is important is that part of the GDPR regulation requires that you declare to the ICO or equivalent any data breaches within 72 hours. Having an audit trail that proves that you have adhered to all policies and procedures may help reduce any penalties imposed on your company.


Let’s stop and think about the IT elements for a moment. It’s all well and good that you can provide the audit trail once you have been breached, but what elements do you need to think about when you’re trying to prevent a breach? It’s not as simple as just encrypting everything. You should make sure you keep your internal system up to date with the latest patch, so make sure you have a good patch manager in place to monitor servers, end-user devices, etc. One of the other elements you need to keep an eye on is your firewall management. Make sure that this correctly patched, and, more importantly, that all policies are adhered to and implemented.


As I said at the beginning, I am not an expert on compliance, but these are thoughts and things I have picked up on over the past year. So, here's my call to action for anyone reading this: Make sure you understand your data, and remember that the hard part isn’t becoming compliant; it’s the challenge of staying there.

In my last couple of posts, I’ve tried to paint a picture of the past and present of database management and monitoring. We've seen that good database performance has everything to do with knowledge, which, as we all know, is power. In our case, it is important to continue adding knowledge by learning from the mistakes we make.


In my opinion, we’re at the start of yet another revolution and it's being brought about by blockchain. And while that revolution is going to change a lot of the things we’re taking for granted these days, the digital revolution is still going strong. IT keeps evolving, and with things like IoT, AI, and ML, the digital revolution has gained a new dimension. It will take databases even further, and make them increasingly complex. This is why it will be so important to know and learn from everything going on in our databases today.


IT has always been a quickly evolving project. Previously, the first major leaps in human history took centuries, while these days revolutions seem to follow each other in a matter of decades. We’ll never stop taking our inventions and pushing them a step further.


You get the point. It is critically important that we know what is going on with our databases, which steps we need to take to give our companies an edge on the competition. We need to be able to see this before it even happens, by correlating all data points we measure on our databases. We need to have a tool that lets us discover the root causes of the complex issues we sometimes face in the database world.  And we need it in real-time.


Thanks for reading! Here is my last cartoon for now.


Invention Fire Samsung Galaxy Note 7

We're two weeks into the 2017 Word-a-Day challenge and I cannot begin to describe the incredible depth and meaning of what people are sharing. And boy are you all sharing. So far you have responded with 11,390+ views, 93 likes/bookmarks, and over 800 comments all of which are thought-provoking, heartfelt, and personal. This is the most incredible community and I speak for the entire SolarWinds team when I say that we all feel privileged that you choose to share your time, thoughts, and feelings with us in this way.


As I did last week, I wanted to share just a few of the hundreds of amazing comments from each days entry. As a reminder, you can find all the entries here: Word-A-Day  Challenge 2017 .


Binary (Posted by KMSigma Expert)

Peter Wilson Dec 12, 2017 4:49 AM

I remember a guy doing his PhD when I was at Uni (mid 1980s).  He was building a trinary computer.  He was struggling until I suggested using light instead of electricity.  I have to admit the maths he was doing suddenly made binary seem easy.


Michael Perkins Dec 11, 2017 12:22 PM

It would be nice for us to learn we are not computers, that shades of grey still exist, that one can actually agree with someone on some topics but not others, that you can disagree with another yer still respect or, perish the thought, even like them. As much as binary logic has enabled today's technology and conveniences, humans are not binary.


Kevin Small Expert Dec 11, 2017 8:25 AM

If there is one thing Binary has taught us, it is this...

Just as a series of 1's and 0's... on's and off's...can make a machine result in a certain pattern or path until it is rewritten...reprogrammed...or rebooted...

So a series of right's and wrong's...opportunities taken or missed... can set a person on a pattern or path until a conscious effort is made to reset the trajectory.


Footprint (Posted by Jeremy Mayfield Expert)

Mercy K Dec 10, 2017 11:54 AM

Our footprints are our legacies, we leave our footprints behind by making a difference. We get to determine what our footprints look like when we set our minds on changing things for the better.


Ethan Beach Dec 10, 2017 12:17 PM

This is deep. Made me think back to when I was young and my grandpa was a scout leader. When we go camping we would always leave it better then we found it. Leave only footprints behind. As you say he left a great fossil of himself on this world and is remembered as a great man. Thanks for this post, made me really start thinking about who I am and more things I could do.


Steven Carlson Expert Dec 11, 2017 7:49 AM

it could be the image you posted but it reminds me of the practice of taking imprints of a child's footprint when they are young. It's a little something to remind you of how much they've grown. As an adult, the relationships you forge with other people and the imprint you leave on them will be how you are remembered.


Loop (Posted by Patrick Hubbard Administrator)

Simeon Castle Dec 11, 2017 4:50 AM

Very succinct. Sometimes it feels like every day is a loop where I come into work and try to add a metaphorical line for the next day, get to the weekend. A few of those and the script for the year gets worked on and everything progresses nicely... Until I get to the festive season and suddenly I look up and realise there were bits I meant to implement! Next year, fresh script right? I'll put them in the next version. In this fashion, I've so very easily spent a lot of time wishing for the next line, the next thing, the next major Event. Where what I needed to do was to write myself some new material for the next lines, actually change things up and write what I want to write. In a funny way, that's exactly how I came to be writing this post.


Nick Caldwell Dec 11, 2017 6:17 PM (in response to Phillip Collins)

Some of my coworkers love to "loop" through the same things. They are totally happy doing their normal task 1 in the morning, going to meeting 2 later, task 3 after that, lunch, and so on. I sometimes envy them, but I need much more random tasks. I almost like interruption and being brought off-task, because I find when I get back to it I am actually better focused and have new ideas. Others like to simply loop through the work they have and not be broken out of it. The big thing I have been thinking about lately is how management and organizational structure can protect both their style of working and mine while keeping everyone happy and mostly productive...


Thomas Iannelli Expert Dec 11, 2017 1:33 PM


Life loops, obsessive compulsive disorder, addictions, all come to mind when thinking of loops outside of programming. Some loops are inside functions that are reentrant. For the bad ones in life try to set the semaphores so those loops aren't allowed to execute even if they are called. Contact a friend, use a physical object to remind you don't go there, this loop leads to ill affects.


On the other had for some who have other disorders, loops and repetitive actions are the comfort that lets them get thru their day and life. They are a good thing.


Now if only there were a real traffic loop around Austin?


Obfuscate (Posted by mandevil Employee)

Richard Phillips Dec 12, 2017 8:03 AM

For many years I was in an environment that valued the appearance of character above actual character. What I mean by that was that in a group everyone looked good on the outside, but didn't talk about their struggles, fears, weaknesses. So their home lives, work lives etc. were often in shambles, but you'd never know it to look at them., This kind of thing is not unique to any specific environment it's everywhere. We put on an air - obfuscate - of who we want people to believe that we are (I'm not talking about confidence, but that mask that we wear to prevent people from knowing the real us). Here's the thing, in most cases the people for whom you are putting on the mask are often also wearing a mask. We try to obfuscate as a way of protection, but it usually is just a signal that there is something else going on. I dare you to take off the mask, be open and honest and I bet you'll find that others begin to take off their masks - relationships will grow and everyone will feel better about themselves. (Keep in mind that it will be uncomfortable at first and of course there will be those that try to take advantage of your vulnerability - be wise)


George S Dec 12, 2017 8:22 AM

Obfuscatation is at the heart of some of our pitfalls in technology. It is a vendor that "looks" like the fix a problem, yet when pressed further do not.  It is that google post that does the same. It's source is varied and widespread. It is what keeps us up at night, and drives us nuts every day. It is why when we encounter clarity of any kind in technology we are appreciative.


Jeremy Mayfield Expert Dec 12, 2017 9:14 AM

I would say software licensing and cloud computing can be Obfuscate.   I find that the more i read about volume licensing and cloud computing etc. the less clear things get.   I know i need it, i know i use it, I am just not sure why its better, because it sure doesn't seem to save me any money and or ever seem to end.  I am always needing to get more, and i still haven't figured out why.


Bootstrap (Posted by karlap)

Olusegun Odejide Dec 13, 2017 8:09 AM

None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody - a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns - bent down and helped us pick up our boots. ............Thurgood Marshall


America always pivots between collective responsibility and the idea that the individual can pull himself up by his bootstraps. ..........Randi Weingarten


Richard Phillips Dec 13, 2017 9:05 AM

I never thought of this word in that way.


Overcoming challenges is often what defines a person. It's not how many times you get knocked down, it's how many times you get up. In IT our jobs demand that we find solutions to matters, sometimes simple sometimes overwhelmingly complex. But IT is binary and even though complex there is a specific answer, if not multiple answers.


In life things are different - the feelings, impressions, emotions, circumstances and a multitude of other things challenge us to not only find a solution, but find one that doesn't harm or ignore others. The idea of bootstrapping your life to overcome and succeed combined with the many challenges often defines not just our personal success, but the success and happiness of those around us.


Jennifer Hicks Dec 13, 2017 9:51 AM

There are few things better than “punching above your weight” at work, or solving a problem on your own.  I’ve always equated bootstrapping as a solitary activity and not a team sport, but I guess you can say a team can pull its self up by the boot straps.  The essay that started this discussion was not a solitary effort, rather it was two people working together and I think the lesson here is that sometimes it’s better to ask for help than to go it on your own.


Cookie (Posted by aguidry Employee)

Michael Probus Expert Dec 14, 2017 9:24 AM

I'm an Oreo person myself.  Sit me down with some Oreos and milk, and I'm good to go until the package is empty.  I did hear on the radio this morning suggesting dunking in peanut butter or cool whip.  Maybe I'll try one of those next. With relation to the theories, I thought Hansel and Gretel left breadcrumbs, not cookies. One must look at cookies (not the yummy kind) from their own point of view.  As a "normal" internet user, cookies are scary and dangerous.  From the perspective of the organization issuing the cookie, they are useful in tracking internet usage and trends.  When used for the right reason, cookies are useful (and delicious).


Jeremy Mayfield Expert Dec 14, 2017 9:44 AM

I like Chocolate chip, oatmeal and no bake cookies.   Internet cookies i do not like.   I usually set all browsers to remove cookies on exit.   I never save them.   This causes issues with certain sites but over all I'd rather not have the trail leading anyone back to where I have been.  And as bad as that sounds, its not in a bad way, more so for security and company privacy.  I log all traffic, mine included in the web filter and it is audited regularly.


George S Dec 14, 2017 5:35 PM (in response to Leon Adato)

My eldest daughter and her husband are seriously into barbeque competitions.... Their sons (my grandson's 8 and 9) have learned to by watch mom and dad. So much so that they now have their own smoker and they made meatloaf for a first dish; in addition they participate in the kids portion of the competitions that their parents attend. When the come to my house they ask my wife to teach them how to bake ("mom's not really good at that" - their quote not mine!) It's important for kids to feel comfortable and try things like cooking, it teaches the importance of math, reading and following directions and improvising when things don't go well. ps. am waiting for this next generation to come up with their own bacon recipies... ( will share them sqlrockstar and rschroeder )


Argument (Posted by designerfx Expert)

Vinay BY Expert Dec 15, 2017 7:02 AM

Arguments are as well healthy sometimes, I totally agree with you -> on what you have mentioned above, but then it can as well turn out to be positive. For example, a healthy argument leads to a conclusion or provides justification to what you have to prove in a right way (you are standing by what you believe in or what could be achieved).

I am assuming like minded people wouldn't mind having a healthy argument, this indeed would help both of them in understanding the subject (IT) in a better way.


Brian Turcotte Dec 15, 2017 9:58 AM

I never really understood why they call additions to a command line executable arguments.  I'm just trying to get along with my programs.  Sure I may talk loud to them when I leave Caps Lock on, but I'm not arguing.


Richard Schroeder Expert Dec 15, 2017 11:25 AM

I'm amazed so many technical people focused on the inter-personal-relationship-conversation path and avoided the technical script argument.  Perhaps scripting is more absolute, while people attempting to persuade is more personal. I just saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi for free last night (the Force was with me!), and I won't give away any spoilers.  But the arguments presented in the many wonderful sections of the movie were thought-provoking, wry, humorous, or tear-producing. I draw the line between "argument" and "discussion" or even "debate".  An argument between people, to me, indicates a large possibility of hurt feelings and frustrations.  A discussion, in my mind, does not.  Even a debate is something done with considerations and professionalism and kind empathy--again, in my world. An argument indicates a major disagreement, without true dual-winning sides.  Compromise may be a path to success and less hurt, or it can mean backed-up anger that may spill over with too much strength in the future when an unintended straw breaks a camel's back.


Compared to this, computer scripts with arguments in them are simple & boring, no matter the power they own.



Again, that's just a sample. Check out the Word-A-Day  Challenge 2017 forum to get the full story. Coming up in week 3 of the challenge, we'll hear what our community thinks about the words Backbone, Character, Fragment, Gateway, Inheritance, Noise, & Object!

Christmas is two weeks away. Consider this your warning to get all of your holiday shopping done in time, unlike last year. I know I’ll be browsing Amazon a lot this week.


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


Bitcoin Is Not a Currency, It’s an (Unsafe) Investment

Quick summary for those of you that weren’t aware: Bitcoin is a scam. Avoid.


Don’t blame the election on fake news. Blame it on the media.

I avoid posting anything political here, but this article was worth pushing forward. I don’t believe that the media is any worse now than they were 100 years ago when Hearst would print gossip in order to create a story and headline. I just want people to understand that the media is in a constant race to the bottom and we are all suffering as a result.


How to Write Email with Military Precision

Because every day I read emails from people that need help in writing emails.


What to Do If Your Boss Gets Distracted by Every New Thing

The article focuses on your boss, but they could have written this about developers, too. I’ve seen a lot of extra work done by developers who want to rewrite everything they touch into the latest hipster language.


Microsoft releases quantum computing development kit preview

And they named it Q#, of course. Still, this quantum computing is a thing worth tracking now. IBM already has an offering, Microsoft is on the verge of one. Of course, no one will notice until AWS has a competing service, at which point AWS will claim to have been feeding Schrödinger’s cat for decades.


Four hours after being taught the rules of chess, AlphaZero became the strongest player the world has ever seen

Reason number 27 why I believe that computers will provide autonomous self-tuning databases in the very near future.


Amazon Alexa can now wake you up to music

I want Alexa to wake me with bacon in the oven. How soon before we have that skill available?


Took the family to New York City for some holiday fun this past weekend. We made it to Rockefeller Center to see the tree!

By Joe Kim, SolarWinds EVP, Engineering and Global CTO


Government IT professionals have a lot on their plates. Thanks to the increasingly sophisticated threat of cyberattacks, their jobs are not getting any easier. Trends, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and software-defined networking (SDN), are also making IT pros’ work more complicated.


Hybrid IT promises rich benefits, from cost savings to scalability, so it's no surprise that this trend is being embraced by the public sector. According to the findings from the latest SolarWinds annual IT Trends report, 95 percent of government IT professionals surveyed said their organization has migrated critical applications and IT infrastructure to the cloud over the past year.


Yet, for all its potential, hybrid IT presents a challenge for government IT professionals already straining under the weight of their existing responsibilities. What can government organizations and their IT teams expect when adopting a hybrid IT model, and is it worth the trouble?


Bridge the gap

Government organizations are used to traditional, on-premises infrastructure, and, as a result, they are used to IT professionals knowing the organization’s network environment well.


Government IT professionals are now expected to manage everything both on and off premises. This isn't an easy task, especially given the fact that those applications within the cloud no longer fall under the IT professionals' control. Instead, they are managed by a cloud service provider.


To manage applications across on-premises and the cloud, new skills are required. However, government IT professionals have fewer resources and training available due to budget cuts.


By outsourcing some of the maintenance work to cloud service providers, government IT professionals can place more of a focus on the topic most government IT professionals fear most: security.


Keep it secure

Cybersecurity has received significant attention from government this past year. In the UK, the new National Cyber Security Strategy, which included a £1.9 billion investment to address the growing threat of data breaches, highlighted the desperate need to invest against a threat that is growing, both in terms of financial backing and sophistication.


Migrating infrastructure to the cloud represents a real security risk to many government agencies, which have highly sensitive data. SolarWinds research found that security is one of the key reasons for organizations—including government—to move from the cloud back to on-premises.


Increased complexity for an IT professional is also playing a part in security concerns, with the 2016 SolarWinds Government Cybersecurity Survey finding that 48 percent of respondents said that difficulty supporting their IT environments had resulted in increased security challenges.


IT professionals can do more to simplify their hybrid IT environment. The IT Trends report found that 71 percent of responding government organizations currently use up to three cloud provider environments. By distributing infrastructure across so many environments, complexity becomes inevitable.


Despite the misgivings of some IT professionals, the hybrid IT era is one that is worth embracing, with 49 percent of respondents identifying cost efficiency as one of their top three reasons for selecting particular areas to migrate to the cloud.


As purse strings tighten across government departments, a flexible infrastructure that offers cost savings and scalability should be a no-brainer. Hybrid IT offers this, and by bridging the skills gap and managing security concerns, government IT professionals can reap significant benefits.


Find the full article on PublicTechnology.net.

The 2017 Word-a-Day challenge is off to an amazing start, and I wanted to share just a few of the incredible insights and amazing stories being shared in that space. If you hadn't heard about it until now, you can find all the entries here: Word-A-Day  Challenge 2017 .


Meanwhile, a quick reminder about the challenge rules: Each word will appear around midnight US Central time, and you have until midnight the following day to post a *meaningful* comment (you know, something more than "yeah!" or "great job!") for 150 THWACK points. You have until midnight Monday night to make comments on the words that post on Saturday and Sunday, since we here at THWACK would never want to pull you away from your valuable downtime.


So what were people talking about this week?


Identity (Posted by Leon Adato Expert)

Michael Probus Expert Nov 30, 2017 9:27 AM

I find the Where You Are an interesting addition to authentication.  Back in my day when I was teaching class, it was always the first three.  I'm wondering how many organizations are taking into account location when authenticating.  We have monitoring applications that log IP address, so it can easily be obtained, but I don't know that they are being factored in when the user is logging in (except for those that are blocked by ACL).


Simeon Castle Dec 1, 2017 6:11 AM

A personality, in a loose sense, is the sum of all experiences to date; everything from all our senses builds how we think and act and live. From this also comes the desires and ways we would act, talk and think. I've very recently taken the step to leave a decade career and lifelong ambition to join you in getting Thwack points IT administration. When I took that step, I changed my identity - who I am and who I will become. Sometimes it takes the Earth to make a small change, and sometimes it takes a word to change a life.


Mark Roberts Expert Dec 1, 2017 9:27 AM

An immediate thought that came out of reading the first days challenge, is related to me finding out I had a half brother I did not know existed (as did my Father) 3 years ago. We, along with my brother, Father and Mother became close very quickly after our first meeting, with the relationship very much based on our shared identity. The premise that we are who we are based on our life and the experiences within has also very strongly been proven to be based on nature as well. The similarities in our looks is one thing, but the shared mannerisms, way of speaking and many other traits along has brought much debate and sometimes with our wives consternation as now our sense of humours are spread across three of us.



Access (Posted by Eric CourtesyIT Expert)

Mercy K Dec 3, 2017 7:38 AM

Access is a big deal, it shows you where one belongs in a particular place; it is the evidence of belonging.


James Percy Dec 4, 2017 9:56 AM

Access is ones ability to gain entry into a place. For some that place was Studio 54, where it was difficult to gain access. For others access is gain entrance to a place that gives us an ability to do something, like gaining entrance to a group that allows me to change permissions in a virtual world.


Damon Goff Dec 4, 2017 12:56 PM

At my previous job access seemed to be a daily fight. I can't remember a single day where there wasn't a user testing to see if they could weasel their way into having access to something that they shouldn't have, and didn't need (they all thought they did). The biggest fight was always over WiFi access for personal devices. Our setup was simple, one SSID for company owned devices that only two people knew they password to and a second for guests/personal devices. Enough of the managers complained to the big boss over this that he came to me and told me to change the way we do things. Give all users the password. I argued with him over it and we came to an agreement that we would do an isolated test before allowing everyone access. I would broadcast a new SSID that was a clone of the existing and only hand out the password to a small group. Not even a day had gone by before I start noticing strange activity and unknown devices connecting to this new SSID at all hours. And wouldn't you know it, a select few almost immediately gave the password to just about everyone they knew! I really enjoyed the I told you so after I showed the big boss.


Insecure (Posted by Peter Monaghan, CBCP, SCP, ITIL ver.3 Expert)

Thomas Iannelli Expert Dec 3, 2017 11:23 AM

I recall a conversation when I was in the Air Force about how fighter jets are very dependent up their thrust to stay in the air, unlike the good old C-130s. It was the fighters' very instability that made them such a dynamic force in air combat. It makes me look at the instability of what I know in IT and feel comfortable with that. While it may make me insecure, if I apply the correct amount of thrust to stay in it, I can keep flying in the very dynamic career of IT professional.


Ani Love Dec 3, 2017 11:47 AM

Confidence is silent, insecurities are LOUD


Steven Carlson Expert Dec 4, 2017 12:07 AM

Admittedly, my initial introduction to a lot of SolarWinds MVPs made me feel pretty insecure - "They know so much more than me! Why am I here?".  Over time however I have realised that this has pushed me to increase my depth of knowledge and that there are times where I have been able to provide assistance to them. We're better as a whole than the individual parts.


Imposter (Posted by Joshua Biggley Expert)

Michael Probus Expert Dec 4, 2017 7:32 AM

Good write up.  Not what I envisioned when I saw the title, but I assume that is what you were going for.  Thinking outside the box. Too many times, people just try to fit in.  They are afraid to be themselves as they don't know how they will be perceived by others. Then there are the times when someone pretends to know something they don't for fear to being looked upon negatively. As you said it.  Be yourself.  If you don't know something, just ask.  Everyone had to learn at some point.  If someone doesn't like you for how you are, then they don't deserve to know you.


Kamil Nepsinsky Dec 4, 2017 9:03 AM


James Percy Dec 4, 2017 10:08 AM

At first I wanted to ask if I am Batman, or an imposter. But then I think when the band Kiss replaced their drummer Peter Chris, and Eric Singer then puts on the make up and persona of the original character, is Eric now an imposter? Or is he just playing a roll that was passed on.



Code (Posted by Craig Norborg Expert)

Ethan Beach Dec 7, 2017 4:16 PM

My kid at only 8 years old already took a Minecraft coding class. Man how young they are learning.


James Percy Dec 5, 2017 12:45 PM

When I think back on childhood, a code was more like a cipher, something you needed to de-code to understand. Something you needed the secrete decoder ring or tool for. In later life as I became a magician the code was more about ethics, where we agreed to not frivolously or intentionally give away certain secrets that may be revealed in how something may work. At work we have a code of conduct or a list of rules we must abide by. And in IT I feel here code bandied about as a term referring to programming.


Just looking over all the contexts and definitions and meanings of the work code, leads me to ponder other languages. It is interesting how in English we can have one word that can mean multiple things depending on context, however in other languages, even ancient ones, like Greek,  there are multiple words used that making those languages more complex but also more descriptive and precise.


Graeme Brown Dec 5, 2017 10:14 AM

I remember seeing the word code in many places but what first struck me was how the word applies to genetics AND information technology. When you consider the history of the word, it's a simple word with a very generic meaning, now it's use seems restricted to mystical deep uses. that will change however as people learn to question the norm and seek out true meaning....in all things.



FUD (Posted by thegreateebzies Administrator)

Michael Perkins Dec 7, 2017 10:38 AM

I first heard about FUD from geeky pursuits. For along time, though, I actually used it far more to describe things political, especially in political campaigns (e.g., negative campaign ads).


The way, in short, that I like to deal with FUD hits each aspect:
Fear - Apprehension is generally OK. It is alright to be concerned, but not to be paralyzed or ruled by fear.Uncertainty - The more I know, the dumber I think I am, since I realize even more of what I don't know. Not being G-D, I cannot know everything, so some uncertainty is understandable.

Doubt - F and U definitely imply D. That doubt, however, can lead you to ask questions to perhaps catch something not foreseen, which is good.

Use FUD to guide you to where your concerns are and put efforts there to research and prove or alleviate them. Turn FUD into a productive force. Just don't let it paralyze you.


Alex Sheppard Dec 7, 2017 8:42 AM

"I must not fear!  Fear is the mind killer!  Fear is the littledeath that brings total obliteration!  I will face my fears.  I will allow them to pass over me, and over me."

   - Paul Atreides, "Dune"


Also, for those who don't already know, F.E.A.R is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real!


Steven Carlson Expert Dec 7, 2017 8:09 AM

While not work-related, I've gone through a bout of FUD lately with my first home purchase. We went in with a bit of risk knowing there was some existing damage that needed repairing (uncertainty) but the damage looks to be more than anticipated. I have had doubts about whether I've made the right choice, and fearful of what else would come up. However, I've since overcome most of that (except for a little bit of the fear) and we're pushing ahead with what we have and fixing it up properly for our peace of mind.



Pattern (Posted by kneps)

C Potridge Dec 7, 2017 2:38 PM

Better safe than sorry, run from all tigers, real or imagined.


Richard Schroeder Expert Dec 7, 2017 2:56 PM

I loved the "Faces In Places" search--thank you for sharing that.


Yes, sometimes the pattern only appears from far away--not being able to see the forest for the trees is a hurdle we don't sometimes don't even know we've encountered.


Other times we are in our own pattern (a.k.a.: "rut") from having recently diagnosed and troubleshot an issue with a particular technology. Our solution, and that recent troubleshooting pattern, can lead a person to easily waste time by digging into that specific issue, when in fact the problem is unrelated.


There's a character in Ursula K. LeGuin's EarthSea saga called "The Master Patterner" who is enigmatic and subtle.  http://www.bookrags.com/questions/english-and-literature/The_Other_Wind/who-is-master-patterner-from-the-other-wind-and-…   Enjoy her works as I do, and another pattern is made.


Thomas Iannelli Expert Dec 7, 2017 3:18 PM

I recently listened to an episode of the "You Are Not So Smart" podcast that had interesting comments to make on how artificial intelligence is using patterns it finds in historical input data which create biases that we may not want as a society as we go forward. The ability to recognize patterns and go "Oh, that one is bad, we should change that," is going to an important part of how we code AI.


Virtual Posted by Richard Letts Expert()

Richard Schroeder Expert Dec 8, 2017 9:34 AM

A definition for virtual I learned long ago, is "In essence, but not in fact."  An important distinction! And I learned "virtual" has nothing to do with the goodness of "virtue"; the two words are not related except by spelling and sound for my purposes. Knowing this, you can better understand product claims and news reports with a more critical eye when you hear "virtual" or "virtually".


Virtually the only differences between a "real" router or server and equivalent "virtual" models are form factor and management/setup process.  We may be accustomed to a hardware box dedicated to routing, or to a pizza box server taking requests for applications or files.  We reduce costs and extend flexibility and increase uptime by moving to virtual hardware that performs the same services when our environment and budget scale to the need.  But the function of the original hardware server or router is duplicated exactly by the virtual appliance, and more flexibility and options are gained through the virtues virtual routers and servers.


William Gonzalez Dec 8, 2017 9:56 AM

The challenge is trying to get management to virtualize very server. They keep insisting that we need physical boxes and it drives me crazy.


Matt R Expert Dec 8, 2017 10:43 AM (in response to Christopher Good)

I will always be forever reminded that virtualization (nee virtual) is good, as long as it is *understood*. It's critical that people know what it means to virtualize and what it doesn't mean. Do you have flexibility? Yes. HA? Ideally yes. Do you have redundancy? Hopefully yes. Do you still have physical hosting that virtualization? Yes.  Do you have enough hardware and properly allocated hardware so that people can do what they need? Again, hopefully yes. So it's helpful to remember that not everything can or will ever be virtual because we still live in a physical world. That being said, the benefits are immense, but the planning needs to be there from the start. Otherwise it's trying to ask normal people to figure out rocket science and realize they missed something (core) to keep a virtual environment up. Or pushing to go virtual when you don't even have enough resources to do it.



Again, that's just a sample. Check out the Word-a-Day 2017 forum to get the full story. Meanwhile, stay tuned this coming week as we ponder Binary, Footprint, Loop, Obfuscate, Bootstrap, Cookie, and Argument!


DevOps Wrap-Up

Posted by samplefive Dec 7, 2017

Welcome to the final post in my series on DevOps. If you've been following along and reading comments for the previous posts, you know the content generated several questions. In this post, I will consolidate those questions into one place so that I can expand the answers from the original posts. Also, I'll wrap up the series with suggestions for finding DevOps resources, because we've really just scratched the surface with this series. Let's get started by following up on some of the questions.


Isn't This Just Good Development Practices?

Definitely, the most common question about DevOps is, "How is it any different than the good development practices in existence?" Several developers commented that communicating with the operations staff was already part of their everyday operations, and viewed DevOps as just a re-branding of an old concept. I do agree that, like a lot of concepts in IT, DevOps recycles many ideas from the past. Without good development practices as part of your process, a DevOps initiative will end up in the trash very quickly. But DevOps is more than just good development practices.


When most organizations talk about implementing DevOps in their organization they are usually talking about applying those good development practices in new ways. Examples involve automating server maintenance where there previously was no development work, or creating custom applications to interface with your SDN control plane to add functionality that wasn't previously there. For a lot of organizations, DevOps simply applies good development practices to the parts of your business that previously had no development at all.


The Operator Coder

My Now We do DevOps. Do I Need to Learn Coding? post prompted people on the operations side to share various opinions about picking up development skills as an operator. They pointed out a couple of things that I feel were either missed or not thoroughly covered.


But I Don't Want to Code!

If you've already picked up development skills and enjoyed the process, it may be difficult to realize that there are some people who just don't enjoy crunching away on code. Admittedly, when writing that post, I may have glossed over the fact that if you are considering whether or not to learn to code you should first think about whether you want to do it and if it is enjoyable. Learning a new skill can be difficult, but learning a new skill you really don't care about is even more challenging.


Many Hats

When you work in a smaller organization, you likely are responsible for performing a variety of jobs each day. When management decides that they want to do DevOps in a small organization, it may fall on you to pick up development skills, simply because there are no developers on staff. In this case, it's not really a matter of whether or not you want to learn development skills. Like many other things that land on your plate, you learn whatever is required to get the job done.


Yes, you could argue that because there isn't a separate development staff, this isn't technically DevOps. However, every organization determines their own definition of DevOps--usually management personnel--regardless of whether that's right or wrong. Sometimes you just have to roll with it.


Developers and Operators are Never Going to Communicate

I found the stark differences among comments to be really fascinating. Several developers commented that communicating with operators was good development practice and that every developer worth his or her salt should be doing this already. Others commented that this just wasn't possible. Why? Because, based on experience, their developers and operations teams would never reach the point where they could effectively communicate with each other. Since we already talked about the first bit at this at the top of the post, let’s address the comment that developers and operations would never have enough communications to implement DevOps.


If you've got a group of developers or operators who just aren't willing to communicate, what do you do? The easy answer would be to just say, "You all suck," and let everyone go and start from scratch. But if your organization isn't quite ready to initiate a scorched-earth policy, read on. While it's definitely possible, the lack of communication may not be rooted directly in your individual contributors. As we discussed in DevOps Pitfalls, culture gets defined by behavior, which in turn gets defined by process. Does your organization have issues that make communicating between teams particularly difficult? Maybe you have a deeply rooted culture that supports a rivalry between operations and developers. Maybe operations and development have always treated each other with disdain, unfortunately. I'm sure you've seen organizations where the developers think the users are idiots that don't know what they want. This organizational attitude could be at the core of why you don't have communications between teams. It's important to look at both individual contributors and management. Are they helping to shape unhelpful team attitudes? Maybe this is why the teams can't seem to communicate effectively.


I'm Going Somewhere Else

Now that you've read through this blog series, you may be wondering where else to look for information to help move your DevOps initiatives forward. I asked people to share some of their recommendations for implementing DevOps in their organizations and received several suggestions. Some focused specifically on DevOps, while others looked at management practices. I'll list several of them below, but if you have anything else to recommend, please add it in comments!


The Phoenix Project

When you write a novel that attempts to educate readers about a certain thing, there is the potential for that novel to be pretty hokey. When someone recommended The Phoenix Project , that person assured me that this was not the case. With a four-and-a-half star rating on Amazon from nearly 2,000 reviews, this is one that I'm going to have to check out myself.


Time Management for System Administrators

On the topic of making your DevOps work a little faster, sometimes you need to better manage your time. This book may be able to help you get there.



Here, you'll find lots of articles have been written about DevOps and how it is implemented in different organizations. I found the site to be very helpful when I was writing several of the posts for this series.


IT Revolution.com

Another site that has a fair amount of DevOps content, including, "How to Get Started in DevOps" and "DevOps Culture." This might be a good place to pick up more information.


The Toyota Way

Another book focused on the management side of things, including processes that Toyota used to improve communication in their factories.


Team Geek: A Software Developer's Guide to Working Well with Others

Since this series has been focused on the importance of communications in your DevOps efforts, we'll round out this list with a book about working with other people, teams, and users when developing software.


As always, I look forward to reading your comments!

When I first considered writing this post about possible HIPAA violations, I could clearly imagine how non-IT compliant file sharing could cause issues with HIPAA compliance. It wasn't until I really started digging into it that a whole world of real-life examples opened up to me. In fact, if you think that your current policy of allowing non-IT file sharing is okay, you might want to reconsider. How so?


First, let me relate the account of a hospital that was actually fined for violating HIPAA requirements. The hospital had no evidence of a breach. No patient data was compromised as far as anyone could tell. However, because their users were sharing patient data in a way that put them at risk, they were fined. The data didn't have to be exploited to be found in violation. It just had to be capable of being stolen. That hospital ended up being fined over $200,000. There is a definite downside to our users circumventing IT controls and making their own decisions.


I believe we should consider the following areas when it comes to secure file transfer and storage:




Data at rest and data in motion need to be part of the solution. Using Next Generation Encryptions, such as AES-256, Elliptical Curve Diffie Hellman, SHA-256, and so on are keys to enhancing the security level of your data. No matter where data exists in your environment, it should be protected at, a minimum, by some form of strong encryption.




The solution cannot leave data free in the open with no authentication controls. Strong user authentication also has to be in place. Password strength should be high, using the standard requirements of variations in upper and lower case, alphanumeric values, and special characters. A longer password length will provide additional security. Restricting access to data, even encrypted data, ensures that it doesn't end up somewhere it shouldn't be and become vulnerable to theft.


Malware filtering


We should also consider anti-malware filtering. We never want our organization to be a source of malware. Making sure that we aren’t inadvertently sharing malware is critical. The rise of malware as the preferred method of data theft and exfiltration means we need to be even more vigilant about keeping our organization free from attack.


Length of storage


For a while, I used a Keyboard Maestro snippet, a Hazel rule, three folders, and Dropbox to personally share files. I had three folders:


  • 1 Day
  • 5 Days
  • 30 Days


I could put a file in one of those three folders and then Hazel would look at them constantly. If a file in the 1 Day folder was older than 1 day, Hazel would delete it. The same was true with the other folders and their respective durations.


That was a good solution for a home user, but it’s not a good solution for an enterprise. However, several offerings today are able to place a lifetime of the data as well as a user’s access. These things need to be factored in as well. And remember that good data hygiene practices should be followed with a time-limited storage sharing system. Critical data can get exploited in a matter of minutes when it isn't protected.




Audit logging and user tracking is another important factor. If you don’t have this kind of visibility, how do you know if, for example, your data is being downloaded by a trusted user in Colorado and 15 minutes later by the same user--only this time from China. These types of things would certainly raise a red flag. If we’re flying blind, we’re putting ourselves in line for big fines or worse.


When it comes to file-sharing solutions, if a user is working with a laptop, we need to be concerned about that laptop being stolen and whether or not we have a remote wipe capability.

Where do we go from here?


I think the best solution is to educate ourselves about our options and then educate our users on how to get the most out of the solution. Of course, this may not be your approach. That’s okay. But anyone who’s responsible for the deployment of a solution should do their due diligence in selecting the best one for their organization.


What experiences have you had in working with a secure file sharing solution and navigating HIPAA compliance?

In this last post of my 5 More Ways I Can Steal Your Data series, I focus on my belief that all data security comes down to empathy. Yes, that one trait that we in technology stereotypically aren't known for displaying. But I know there are IT professionals out there who have and use it. These are the people I need on my teams to help guide them toward making the right decisions.


Empathy? That's Not a Technical Skill!

If we all recognize that the personal data we steward actually belongs to people who need to have their data treated securely, then we will make decisions that make that data more secure. But what about people who just don't have that feeling? We see attitudes like this:


"I know the data model calls for encryption, but we just don't have the time to implement it now. We'll do it later."


"Encryption means making the columns wider. That will negatively impact performance."


"We have a firewall to protect the data."


"Encryption increases CPU pressure. That will negatively impact performance."


"Security and privacy aren't my jobs. Someone needs to do those parts after the software is done."


"We don't have to meet European laws unless our company is in Europe." [I'm not a lawyer, but I know this isn't true.]


What's lacking in all those statements is a lack of empathy for the people whose data we are storing. The people who will be forced to deal with the consequences of bad data practices once all the other 10+ Ways I Can Steal Your Data I've been writing about in the eBook and this series. Consequences might just be having to reset their passwords. Bad data practices could lead to identity theft, financial losses, and personal safety issues.


Hiring for Empathy


I rarely see any interview techniques that focus on screening candidates for empathy skills or experiences. Maybe we should be adding such items to our hiring processes. I believe the best way to do this is to ask candidates to talk about:

  • Examples of times they had to choose the right type of security to implement for Personally Identifiable Information (PII)
  • A time they had to trade performance in favor of meeting a requirement
  • The roles they think are responsible for data protection
  • The methods they would use in projects focused on protecting data
  • The times they have personally experienced having their own data exposed


If I were asking these questions of a candidate, I'd be looking not so much for their answers, but the attitude they convey while answering. Did they factor in risks? Trade-offs? How a customer might be impacted?  This is what Jerry Weinberg writes about in Secrets of Consulting when he says, "Words are useful, but always listen to the music."


By the way, this concept applies to consultants as well. Sure, we tend to retain consultants who can just get things done, but they also need to have empathy to help clients make the right decisions. Consultants who lack empathy tend to not care much about your customers, just their own.


Wrapping it Up

I encourage you to read the eBook, go back through the series, then take steps to help ensure data security and empathy. Empathy is about feeling their pain and taking a stand to mitigate that pain as much as you can.


Oh, and as I said in a previous post, keeping your boss out of jail.  Do that.


UPDATE: My eBook, 10 Ways We Can Steal Your Data is now available.  Go download it.

10 Ways We Can Steal Your Data eBook cover: spaceship, robot, data center

The title of this post is a quote that might be (or not be) from Albert Einstein. I first thought the title of the post would be something like:” why root cause analysis is your saviour”, but I think knowledge/experience title has more potential, so I’ll stay with Albert…


I’ve seen my fair share of companies collecting loads of data on incidents happening in their database environments, but using this “knowledge” and use it to come out better experienced seems to be a hard thing to establish.


What Albert means is that we need to make sure that the only way to make things better is by learning from our mistakes. Mistakes will happen and so will incidents, there is nothing we can do to prevent that from happening. And to be honest Albert (and me ;)) wouldn’t want you to stop making mistakes because without mistakes innovation would come to an end. And that would mean that this is it, nothing will ever be better than what we have now. No. We need innovation. We need to push further and harder. In the database world, I mean.

einstein quote


To do so, we’ll have incidents. But if we perform root cause analysis and learn from the incidents happening and try to figure out what we can do to prevent the same problem from ruining our day ever again.


The right tool to perform root cause analysis will provide you all the information needed. We all want to end up like the kid in the picture below, right? Although…. Albert and me might say the only way to innovate is by making mistakes, AND learn from them.


In two weeks I’ll write another post in which I’ll look back at the post from the last couple of weeks and what tools I think are essential for a good performing database environment, now and in the future. In the meantime, I love the comments you all provide.  I’ll try to answer as many as possible in due time.

Had a wonderful time at AWS re:Invent last week. It was great to be at an event where I was just an attendee. It's been 15 years or so since that has happened. In case you missed it, Amazon had a long list of announcements last week. I included a link in the Actuator this week that gives a summary of all the announcements. I'll try to put together a dedicated post on all of the data-focused announcements at some point.


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


AWS re:Invent Product Announcements

A complete list of everything that was announced last week. Be prepared to spend some time here, there was a lot of new products and services announced last week.


Amazon Plays Catch Up in a Corner of the Cloud Where It Lagged

There were a handful of announcements last week at re:Invent around AI and Machine Learning. I loved hearing them and examining the tech. What I didn’t like was Amazon presenting their new products and services as if they were the only ones in existence. Saying “the world’s first” when you aren’t just makes me cringe. Amazon has wonderful products and services, built by good people. There’s no need to lie in marketing; it doesn’t make you look better.


Brilliant Jerks in Engineering

A tad long, but worth your time. Don’t be a jerk, even a brilliant jerk. This article reinforces what I have advocated for a long time now: Hard skills have a cap; soft skills do not.


Privacy not included: A Guide to Make Shopping for Connected Gifts Safer, Easier, and Way More Fun

Can it spy on me? Yeah, almost always the answer is yes.


The Fuss About VMware and Azure

Nice summary regarding the Microsoft announcement regarding VMware. My biggest takeaway from all this is that when a company tells you something is “unsupported," what they really mean is, “You will need to pay more for support."


Apple Releases Fix to Security Flaw in Mac Operating System

Apple employs 125,000 people, is worth $887 billion dollars, and makes $229 billion in profit in a year. Oh, and they can ship an operating system update to 400 million users with a blank admin password. Can’t wait to see what they do next.


The One Piece of Career Advice I Wish I’d Gotten

Great advice coming on the heels of re:invent, an event that ties directly to the advice given here.


Here's a nice graphic showing some of the lesser-known AWS announcements last week:


By Joe Kim, SolarWinds EVP, Engineering and Global CTO


With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) and connected devices, the amount of data agencies collect continues to grow, as do the challenges associated with managing that data. Handling these big data challenges will require federal IT pros to use new data mining methodologies that are ideal for hybrid cloud environments. These methodologies can improve network efficiency through automated and intelligent decision-making that’s driven by predictive analytics.


Today’s environments require a break from the data analysis methods of the past, which were time-consuming and required an enormous amount of manual labor. Things were difficult before the IoT, connected devices, and hybrid cloud environments became commonplace; today, it’s nearly impossible.


Data lives across numerous departmental silos, making it hard for IT departments to keep track of it all. It’s difficult to achieve clear insights into these types of environments using traditional data mining approaches, and even more difficult to take those insights and use them to ensure consistent and flawless network performance.


Agencies need tools that have a cross-stack view of their IT data so they can compare disparate metrics and events across hybrid cloud infrastructure, identify patterns and the root cause of problems, and analyze historical data to help pinpoint the cause of system behavior.


Predicting the Future


Automated data mining paired with predictive analytics addresses both the need to identify useful data patterns and use that analysis to predict—and prevent—possible network issues. By using predictive analytics, administrators can automatically analyze and act on historical trends in order to predict future states of systems. Past performance issues can be evaluated in conjunction with current environments, enabling networks to “learn” from previous incidents and avert future issues.


With predictive analysis, administrators can be quickly alerted about potential problems so they can address issues before they occur. The system derives this intelligence based on past experiences and known performance issues, and can apply that knowledge to the present situation so that network slowdowns or downtime can be proactively prevented.


Learning from the Past


Administrators can take things a step further and incorporate prescriptive analytics and machine learning into their data analysis mix. Prescriptive analytics and machine learning actually provide recommendations to prevent problems, like potential viruses or malware. This can help agencies overcome threats and react to suspicious behavior by establishing what “normal” network activity looks like.


Using new, modern approaches to data analysis can help agencies make sense of their data and keep their networks running at the utmost efficiency. Predictive and prescriptive analysis, along with machine learning, can help keep networks running smoothly and prevent potential issues before they occur. Each of these approaches will prove invaluable as agencies’ data needs continue to grow.


Find the full article on Government Computer News.

So you've taken the leap, battled through the migration, and your mail is in the Microsoft cloud. You turned off your locally hosted and managed Exchange cluster and reclaimed those hours of sleep lost to responding to alerts about how so-and-so can't send an email at 2:00 am on a Saturday morning.


You probably are also missing the ease of monitoring that your on-prem solution provided. Now, with the details at arm's length, your usual monitoring methods don't work anymore. Don't worry, Microsoft has you covered, if and only if you've been keeping your PowerShell skills sharp.


Introducing: Remote PowerShell Sessions for Microsoft Office 365


Here's how it works:

Connect to Office 365

Create a new PowerShell session, and import it into your current session. You’ll be prompted for credentials when this portion of code runs.


Important: Your Office 365 credentials are in the UPN format username@domain, not domain\username. Chasing authentication issues only to realize I was not using the correct format definitely caused me some grief.


$office365 = New-PSSession -ConfigurationName "Microsoft.Exchange" -ConnectionUri https://ps.outlook.com/powershell/ -Credential (Get-Credential) -Authentication Basic -AllowRedirection

Import-PSSession $office365 | Out-Null

Query for the Information

At this point, you have access to the same commands that you would have had were you using the Exchange PowerShell module locally. Here you will find numerous sources of valuable monitoring data.  For example, to get the details on all of the inactive mailboxes:


$inactiveMailboxes = Get-Mailbox -InactiveMailboxOnly

View Your Results

At this point, you have an array of your inactive mailboxes, but what information do you have at your fingertips? An easy to way to find out is by making use of PowerShell’s Out-GridView cmdlet to give you an easy-to-use (and filter!) interface to pore over the data:


$inactiveMailboxes | Out-GridView

Do Something with Them

Now that you have your inactive mailboxes, what should you do with them? You have a couple of options, which are described in the following article:


Delete or restore user mailboxes in Exchange Online


Definitely read through the information in this article to help ensure that you don’t do something you’ll regret later, such as permanently delete a mailbox you want back. Assuming you’re ready to part with your inactive mailboxes, it’s as easy as this:


$inactiveMailboxes | Remove-Mailbox -Confirm: $false


By leveraging the clout of the PowerShell pipe, you can send your mailbox objects directly from your $inactiveMailboxes array right into the Remove-Mailbox cmdlet.


Next Up: Working with Azure Active Directory via PowerShell

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