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Geek Speak

81 Posts authored by: kong.yang

In a previous Geek Speak blog post, I talked about the viability of practice leader being a career path for IT professionals. A large part of practice leadership is being fluent in vendor technologies, i.e. products. This opens up an interesting set of paths for IT professionals: product management and product marketing.

 

Are you passionate about discovering IT pain points and finding solutions for them? Product management focuses on customers and their problems. A product manager (PM) is the voice of the entire customer spectrum; the PM delivers market metrics that guide product decisions.

 

Do you like to tell stories? If you like sharing your problem-solving knowledge by using a product in a one-to-many fashion, you'd probably enjoy working as a product marketing manager (PMM). As Peter Drucker said, product marketing focuses on the product selling itself; creating a product that people want to buy; and creating an environment that encourages people to buy.

 

Ideally, PMs work to understand real customer problems and using that knowledge to turn solutions into products, while PMMs work to smooth the friction between products and consumers in the marketplace.

 

 

Would you consider transitioning into a new role as PM or PMM? Let me know in the section below.

 

P.S. We are hiring for both PM and PMM positions.

It’s that time of year again. SolarWinds 2018 IT Trends Report is out! See the SolarWinds IT Trends Index for the full story; I've covered the top takeaways below.

 

Cloud computing and hybrid IT remain IT professionals' top priority for the next five years because these elements meet today's business needs while serving as the foundation for constructs like machine learning and AI.

  • 94 percent of IT professionals surveyed indicate that cloud and/or hybrid IT is one of the top five most important technologies in their IT organization's technology strategy today, with 51 percent listing it as their number one most important technology.
  • IT professionals ranked cloud and hybrid IT as the most important technologies (by weighted rank) over the next three to five years in digital transformation and as technologies that have the greatest potential to provide productivity/efficiency benefits and ROI.

 

At the same time, IT professionals are prioritizing internal investments in containers as a proven solution to the challenges of cloud computing and hybrid IT, and a key enabler of innovation.

  • 44 percent of respondents ranked containers as the most important technology priority today, and 38 percent of respondents ranked containers as the most important technology priority three to five years from now.
  • Concurrently, AI and ML investments are expected to increase over the next three to five years.
  • 37 percent of respondents indicate AI is the biggest priority and 31 percent of respondents indicate ML is the biggest priority three to five years from now (compared to 29 percent and 21 percent today, respectively).

 

 

The results of the IT Trends Survey suggest a dissonance between the views of IT professionals and their senior managers on priorities for IT investment over the next three to five years.

  • On the weighted list of technologies IT professionals believe are needed for an IT organization's digital transformation over the next three to five years, AI did not make the top five.
    • This contrasts with a recent CEO survey, which found that 81 percent of CEOs consider AI and machine learning to be a priority for their business, up from just 54 percent in 2016 (Fortune).

 

 

While IT professionals continue prioritizing cloud computing and hybrid IT, adoption of these technologies has made it challenging to optimize performance of their systems and applications.

  • 58 percent of IT professionals surveyed indicated that by weighted rank, cloud/hybrid IT presents the greatest challenges when it comes to implementation, roll-out and day-to-day performance
  • Nearly half (47 percent) of all IT professionals surveyed think that their IT environments are not operating at optimal levels
    • Over half of all IT professionals surveyed spend less than 25 percent of their time proactively optimizing performance
    • Nearly half of IT professionals spend 50 percent or more of their time reactively maintaining and troubleshooting their IT environment

 

Many IT professionals cite a lack of organizational strategy and inadequate investment in areas such as user training as the most common barriers to system optimization.

  • Of IT professionals indicating their environments are not optimized, 43 percent ranked inadequate organizational strategy as one of the top three barriers to achieving optimization
    • To achieve true performance and work toward a successful digital transformation, IT professionals require deeper strategic collaboration with business leaders.

 

Do these takeaways mirror your organizational priorities and challenges? Let me know in the comment section below.

A practice leader denotes an IT professional who cannot only walk the walk and talk the talk; but also build and lead teams to do the same. Practice leaders have to be the calm within the ever-changing storm. Everyone is talking about technologies and forgetting that friction comes from two sources – people and process.

 

Tech is easy, but people are non-linear, differential equations that are hard to solve since they change over time. People influence processes. Think of processes as forces that can be directed positively or negatively by people. People pollute processes with political motives, selfish decisions, and personal biases. These inheritances introduce friction into processes and further affect future personal interactions.

 

Leadership sets the edge for an organization’s culture. It is the driving force for either good or bad. Where will you lead your organization? And will it retain and attract people that move the organization’s culture forward while continuing to win business? Leaders need to have answers to these questions.

 

Becoming a practice leader is one path that an IT professional can take in their career. It combines the technical expertise and experience to deliver services into practice with the ability to communicate and lead through complex scenarios. Is practice leadership a path that you are taking? What are some of the things that have worked for you and your teams? Conversely, what are some of the things that have not worked? Let me know in the comment section.

Success. It marks the subtle difference between being productive and being busy. WordStream and MobileMonkey founder, Larry Kim, eloquently wrote about the 11 differences between busy people and productive people in a recent Inc. article. It is a great read that offers an interesting take on productivity. For instance, one of the eleven differences that Larry calls out is that productive people have a mission for their lives, while busy people simply look like they have a mission. The key is to correctly identify your purpose and the corresponding work that will fulfill your life's mission. There is no template for your mission because only you can define those core policies. Otherwise, it's someone else's mission. In the latter instance, you have less understanding of what "good" should look like, therefore you will be less efficient and effective in your work. 

 

So how do the productive versus busy insights play out in IT environments? Let's take the example of automation, one of the DART-SOAR skills. Many pundits believe that automation's objective is to save time--to do more stuff. This is what it means to be busy. In actuality, automation's true aim is not to save time, but rather to improve consistency of delivery, reliability of delivered services, and a normalized experience at scale. This exemplifies what it means to translate automation into productivity and deliver meaningful value.

 

Translating your skills, experience, and expertise into business value is how you make your career as a professional. Without business value, you won't have value.

 

Let me know what you think below in the comment section.

Let's normalize what GOAT stands for. In this instance, it stands for the greatest of all time. The GOAT Doctrine states that IT professionals, regardless of experience and expertise, should always be moving forward. Such a concise, vague, and all-encompassing statement, yet so profound in its meaning for a true professional.

 

The only constant in IT and technology is change. That change sometimes seems circular as old technology morphs into new technology that transforms back into a reincarnation of old technology. Other times, this change is reflected as people flow in and out of our professional purview. This change flows in with more velocity, volume, and variety. What can you do to survive and thrive in your IT career?

 

Simple. Aim to be the GOAT you. GOATs continue to adapt, evolve, and most importantly, move forward. They move forward to gain new experience and expertise while leveraging the best of what they already have. To be a GOAT, you have to beat the GOAT. That GOAT is the past you. So take up that challenge in this New Year and become the better GOAT version of yourself.

 

In the comment section below, share your GOAT stories as you power leveled yourself and became a better GOAT you.

 

Welcome to 2018!

 

Just three days into the new year, Spectre and Meltdown made the news. These flaws affect both system security and performance since they degrade CPU performance significantly. Previously, we saw prominent companies use software to manipulate older generation devices. And everyone seemed to be launching ICOs and adding blockchain or bitcoins to their company portfolio to ride the cryptocurrency bubble expansion.

 

The year ahead promises to be an exciting (for lack of a better descriptor) one for IT pros, developers, DevOps practitioners, and every other role you choose to claim for yourself. Check out the teaser video below:

 

 

 

And, don't forget to check out the complete list of pro-dictions from adatole patrick.hubbard Dez sqlrockstar and myself, click the banner at the top of this post. We cover IoT, blockchain, data security, compliance, and more. Will our predictions turn out to be prophetic or will they fail to come true? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.

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.

The Just Us League

Posted by kong.yang Nov 3, 2017

The original Justice League consisted of seven superheroes: Superman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Batman, and Wonder Woman. In a parallel universe, there is the IT Justice League, a union of IT superheroes that aims to protect IT organizations and their users from the perils of application downtime, high latency, and IT disasters. As IT pros, we like to think we possess superpowers of our own. Sometimes those powers are used for good; sometimes for evil. Most of the time, we use them to keep our jobs.

 

To have a successful, long career in IT, you can’t operate in a silo. You simply can't accomplish organizational, global goals by walking alone. Plus, life's too short to walk the journey all alone. In other words, it's best to share your IT pains and gains. Moreover, most of us are neither blessed with innate talents like Superman and Wonder Woman nor are we blessed with endless resources and capital like Bruce Wayne/Batman or Aquaman. Heck, even with the greatest willpower, we can't create something out of anything like Green Lantern or morph objects based on our desires like Martian Manhunter. In spite of this, we still stand and deliver when called upon, such as when trouble befalls our applications. Teamwork, collaboration, and community make integrating and delivering application services a much easier and more gratifying experience.

 

This is where the challenge of the Just Us League appears. The Just Us League is one where everyone knows your name and you just fit in because it’s always been that way. But what if you’re not a part of the original Just Us League? How do you join? What are the rules for joining and participating in the Just Us League? What practical tips do you use to open the Just Us League to include new-to-you people? How do you incorporate the trust but verify modus operandi to make sure you sure you are nurturing vibrant and growing teams, collaboration, and community? Let me know in the comment section below.

My fellow Head Geek and Microsoft Data Platform MVP, Thomas LaRock, defines hard skills as a tech certification, a college degree, or any tech skill including any vendor- or industry-specific skills. These hard skills represent an achievement or acknowledgement of base expertise at a specific point in time. They are static by nature but represent job security.

 

Unfortunately, the only constant in IT is that things change over time. And this puts IT pros in a precarious position. Our industry is changing so fast that the skills refresh cycle of IT professionals is shortening to the point where certain certifications earned today may not get you and your career through tomorrow.

 

So when do you say goodbye to yesterday’s IT? Technology? Company? The answer tends to be, "it depends," which is unsatisfactory, but apropos given the many factors to consider, such as experience, expertise, investment, etc. That’s why it’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday. How do you mind the gap? Soft skills. Of note, the top three soft skills beyond the tech are communication skills, teamwork, and adaptability, as noted in this THWACKcamp 2017 session. As an IT pro, are you skilled in any of these? How have you gone about improving these soft skills? Let me know in the comment section below.

 

P.S. Who wore it better? Dez adatole sqlrockstar or me?

 

Change is coming fast and furious, and in the eye of the storm are applications. I’ve seen entire IT departments go into scramble drills to see if they possessed the necessary personnel and talent to bridge the gap as their organizations embraced digital transformation. And by digital transformation, I mean the ubiquitous app or service that can be consumed from anywhere on any device at any given time. For organizations, it’s all about making money all the time from every possible engagement. Remove the barrier to consume and make the organization more money is what digital transformation is all about.

 

There are new roles and responsibilities to match these new tech paradigms. Businesses have to balance their technical debt and deficit and retire any part of their organization that cannot close the gap. Ultimately, IT leaders have to decide on the architecture that they’ll go with, and identify whether to buy or build that corresponding talent. The buy and build talent question becomes THE obstacle to success.

 

There is a need for IT talent that can navigate the change that is coming. Because of the increased velocity, volume, and variety that apps bring, IT leaders are going into binge-buying mode. In the rush to accomplish their goals, they don't take the time to seek out latent talent that is likely already in their organizations. Have IT pros become merely disposable resources? Are they another form of tech debt?

 

Buy or build? This is the billion dollar question because personnel talent is the primary driver of innovation. That talent turns technology and applications into industry disruptors. Where does your organization stand on this issue? Are they building or buying talent? Let me know in the comments below.

IT operations are evolving to include business and services that move beyond the technology. With change being a constant, how does an IT professional remain relevant?

 

In the "Soft Skills Beyond the Tech," session, I will be joined by fellow Head Geek™ Thomas LaRock, the Exchange Goddess, Phoummala Schmitt, and Tech Field Day organizer-in-chief and owner of Foskett Services, Stephen Foskett, to discuss the top three soft skills that IT professionals need to have to not only survive but thrive in their careers.

 

THWACKcamp is the premier virtual IT learning event connecting skilled IT professionals with industry experts and SolarWinds technical staff. Every year, thousands of attendees interact with each other on topics like network and systems monitoring. This year, THWACKcamp further expands its reach to consider emerging IT challenges like automation, hybrid IT, cloud-native APM, DevOps, security, and more. For 2017, we’re also including MSP operators for the first time.

THWACKcamp is 100% free and travel-free, and we'll be online with tips and tricks on how to your use SolarWinds products better, as well as best practices and expert recommendations on how to make IT more effective regardless of whose products you use. THWACKcamp comes to you so it’s easy for everyone on your team to attend. With over 16 hours of training, educational content, and collaboration, you won’t want to miss this!

 

Check out our promo video and register now for THWACKcamp 2017! And don't forget to catch our session!

The SolarWinds crew including sqlrockstar, chrispaap, and I just returned stateside after a successful jaunt across the Atlantic at VMworld Europe in Barcelona, Spain. Thank you to all of the attendees who joined us at Tom’s speaking sessions and at our booth. Thank you to Barcelona for your hospitality!

 

Below are a few pictures of the SolarWinds team as we walked the walk and talked the talk of monitoring with discipline.

 

The SolarWinds Family at VMworld Europe 2017 in BarcelonaThe SolarWinds Family Team Dinner

 

 

Our journey doesn’t stop with the end of the VMworld two-continent tour. We are about to ignite a full course of monitoring with discipline in Orlando. At Microsoft Ignite, visit us in Booth #1913 for the most 1337 swag as well as fantastic demos on monitoring hybrid IT with discipline.

Let us know in the comments if you'll be joining us in Orlando for Microsoft Ignite.

IT organizations are embracing hybrid IT because these services and technologies are critical to enabling the full potential of an application’s disruptive innovation. Although change is coming fast, the CIO’s mission remains the same: keep the app healthy and running smoothly. It’s time for application performance management to extend its strategy and practice to handle the modern application’s needs.

 

In the "Extend Your Modern APM Strategy" session, I will be joined by a panel of SolarWinds product experts, including Jerry Schwartz, director of product marketing, Robert Mandeville, product marketing manager, product managers Steven Hunt, Chris Paap, and Chris O'Brien, and Dan Kuebrich, director of engineering. We will explore the five elements of a modern approach to APM, including product demonstrations. The session will cover concepts from WPM to response-time analysis. After attending this session, you will have a better understanding of what an APM approach entails and the technologies that are available to support each of the five fundamental aspects of APM.

 

After attending this session, you will have a better understanding of what a comprehensive APM strategy entails and what technologies are available to support each of the five elements.

 

THWACKcamp is the premier virtual IT learning event connecting skilled IT professionals with industry experts and SolarWinds technical staff. Every year, thousands of attendees interact with each other on topics like network and systems monitoring. This year, THWACKcamp further expands its reach to consider emerging IT challenges like automation, hybrid IT, cloud-native APM, DevOps, security, and more. For 2017, we’re also including MSP operators for the first time.

THWACKcamp is 100% free and travel-free, and we'll be online with tips and tricks on how to your use SolarWinds products better, as well as best practices and expert recommendations on how to make IT more effective regardless of whose products you use. THWACKcamp comes to you so it’s easy for everyone on your team to attend. With over 16 hours of training, educational content, and collaboration, you won’t want to miss this!

 

Check out our promo video and register now for THWACKcamp 2017! And don't forget to catch our session!

>register now

A big hearty THANK YOU to everyone who joined us at our SolarWinds booth, breakout and theater sessions, and Monitoring Morning! We were excited to converse with you in person about the challenges that practitioners face.

SolarWinds Views from VMworld
SolarWinds Family at VMworld 2017Monitoring Morning at VMworld
SolarWinds Booth at VMworld 2017Future:Net

 

There were plenty of announcements at VMworld. The two that stood out for me were:

  1. VMware Cloud on AWS was announced as a normalization of going from a VMware vSphere environment to an AWS Cloud environment. It runs as a single-tenant of bare-metal AWS infrastructure which allows you to bring your Windows Server licenses to VMware Cloud on AWS. Each software-defined data center can consist of 4 to 16 instances, each with 36 cores, 512GB of memory, and 15.2TB of NVMe storage. The initial availability is quite limiting in the restrictions because there is only one region, and clusters run in a single AWS Availability Zone. The use cases for this service is data center extension, test and development environments, and app migration. I’ll withhold final judgment on whether this VMware Cloud derivative will sink or swim.
  2. AppDefense was another announcement at VMworld 2017. It is billed as an application-level security solution that uses machine learning to build workload profiles. It gathers behavioral baselines for these workloads and allows the user to implement controls and procedures to restrict any anomalous or deviated behavior.

 

Finally, I was invited to Future:Net, a conference within a conference. It was really cool to talk shop about the latest academic research, as well as what problems the next generation of startups are trying to solve.

Future:Net Keynote

P.S. let me know if you will be at VMworld Europe 2017 in Barcelona. If so, definitely stop by to talk to me, chrispaap , and sqlrockstar .

The SolarWinds “Virtualization Monitoring with Discipline” VMworld tour is about to start and we are bringing solutions and swag.

 

VMworld US

At VMworld® US in Las Vegas, the SolarWinds family is bringing a new shirt, new stickers and buttons, new socks, and a new morning event. And that’s not all we’re bringing to VMworld.

 

  • Join us on Tuesday morning for the inaugural Monitoring Morning as KMSigma and I talk about monitoring at scale and troubleshooting, respectively.

  • Next, don’t forget to attend sqlrockstar's two speaking sessions. He'll speak about monster database VMs, and join a panel session on best practices when virtualizing data. Also, be sure to check out chrispaap's talk on mastering the virtual universe using foundational skills, such as monitoring with discipline.

 

    • Solutions Exchange
      Monday, August 28     2:50 – 3:10 p.m.
      Chris Paap

Monitoring With Discipline to Master your Virtualized Universe

  • Tuesday, August 29     11:30am – 12:30 p.m.
    Thomas LaRock

Performance Tuning and Monitoring for Virtualized Database Servers

  • Wednesday, August 30     4:00 – 5:00 p.m.
    Thomas LaRock

SQL Server ® on vSphere ®: A Panel with Some of the World’s Most Renowned Experts

  • Lastly, visit us at booth number 224 to talk to our SMEs, get your questions answered, and pick up your swag.

VMworld Europe

Another first is that SolarWinds will be on the Solutions Expo floor at VMworld Europe in Barcelona. In the lead-up to the event, we’ll be hosting a pre-VMworld Europe webcast to talk shop about Virtualization Manager and its virtue for empowering troubleshooting in the highly virtualized domain of hybrid IT.

  • sqlrockstar will again be speaking in the following session.
    • Wednesday, September 13        12:30 – 1:30 p.m.

Thomas LaRock

Performance Tuning and Monitoring for Virtualized Database Servers

  • chrispaap and I, along with our SolarWinds EMEA SMEs, will be in the booth to answer your questions, talk shop about monitoring with discipline, and hand out swag.

 

I’ll update this section with details as they become available.

 

Let me know in the comment section if you will be in attendance at VMworld US or VMworld Europe. If you can’t make it to one of these events, let me know how we at SolarWinds can better meet and exceed your virtualization pain points.

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