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Geek Speak

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In Austin this week for the 50th Labiversary, I hope you have the opportunity to join us for the celebration. Words cannot express just how much fun it was to put together the 50th episode. I hope the fun shows on camera when you watch.

 

Anyway, here's a bunch of links I found on the Intertubz that you may find interesting, enjoy!

 

The Yahoo you know is not changing its name

No, but it is changing the people on the board, with Marissa Meyer being the biggest name to be shown the door. In the 4+ years she has been in charge of Yahoo the only thing she made better was her own bank account (over $300 million total).

 

Yahoo's security is a huge mess

And yet Verizon is still willing to buy this company because they believe that the Yahoo brand has value. In my mind, when I hear the word Yahoo, I think "the most insecure thing on the planet, next to Bluetooth".

 

Yahoo may be dead, but Lycos still survives. Somehow.

Maybe Verizon can buy Lycos next. Or Tripod, because apparently that still exists, too.

 

Trump's cyber-guru Giuliani runs ancient 'easily hackable website'

I'm sure this is nothing to worry about, right? What's the worst that can happen?

 

3 Simple Steps To Disrupt Ransomware

Because it's always worth reminding folks that backups are the key to being able to recover and avoid ransomware from ruining your day.

 

A few nights ago, over a liberal quantity of beers, my friends and I came up wit...

A fascinating conspiracy theory that I felt compelled to share here.

 

How Do Individual Contributors Get Stuck? A Primer

Interesting collection of thoughts on how people get stuck on certain tasks, and why.

 

Adding a new #nerdshirt to my collection this week:

deadpool.jpg

For many federal IT pros, cloud computing continues to show great promise. However, others remain skeptical about transitioning to the cloud—specifically, about transitioning production databases—because of possible security risks and availability issues.

 

There are legitimate concerns when considering whether the cloud is a good choice and there are ways to prepare that can help mitigate risk. Proper preparation makes the cloud environment a more viable option and harness advantages of the cloud with fewer concerns, specifically around security.

 

Here are the top five things to consider.

 

Tip 1: Know your platform

 

There are over 60 cloud providers authorized by FedRAMP and they’re not created equal. Understand what your team needs and what the different providers offer, and select a platform that requires minimal training and oversight.

 

Tip 2: Maintain your own security

 

Although FedRAMP’s rigorous security assessment is a good starting point for helping to protect data, it’s your data, so take steps to protect it. This means encrypting, data masking, and scrubbing out any personally identifiable information.

 

Tip 3: Understand the fees

 

Cost savings is touted as one of the main benefits of moving to a cloud environment. Yet some early adopters found that the cost savings did not come right away. Others did not save money at all. There are many hidden costs when migrating to a cloud environment and it’s critical to understand and account for all costs before the project begins.

 

Consider the training costs. There are also significant expenses involved with migrating and implementing your existing applications in the cloud.

 

Moving to the cloud takes time, effort, and money. This doesn’t mean you won’t save money in the long run. There may ultimately be dramatic cost savings once systems have been migrated, but it may take several years to realize that savings.

 

Tip 4: Establish a recovery plan

 

It’s not impossible for FedRAMP service providers to go offline. Service outages are rare, and most shops are used to occasional service interruptions even when they are self-hosted. Nevertheless, make sure there is a plan B in case of an outage.

 

Similarly, make sure you know what your cloud provider will do in the event of a disaster. Can that provider help you recover lost data? That should be one of your most critical questions and one to which the provider must have an acceptable answer. Losing data is not an option.

 

Tip 5: Analyze performance and identify issues

 

End-to-end application performance monitoring is a must. If an application is running slowly, you will need to quickly find the root cause and fix it or turn it over to the cloud provider. Having data helps avoid finger pointing when something slows down.

 

There are many advantages in moving to a cloud environment. The key is due diligence. Make sure you understand every aspect of the move and embrace the opportunity. You’ll be glad you did.

 

Find the full article on Government Computer News.

If you are like me, you watch your fair share of movies and TV. And being a seasoned IT pro, I always watch with a discerning eye when IT plays a critical role in advancing plot. One of my particular not-so-favorite clichés is when the cynical computer whiz (baseball cap worn usually askew) sits down in front of a
GUI-based PC and just starts hammering away at the keyboard and all these windows flashing up and colors start to dazzle on the monitoring all the time muttering nonsensical IT jargon under his or her breath. Brilliant!

 

What once started with War Games, way back when that led to the proliferation of recreational BBS'es (which eventually gave way to the internet for the masses), Hollywood's focus on IT trailed off, with the occasional exception during the 90s. Over the past seven or eight years, Hollywood finally recognized geek chic and started using IT as the central theme in movies and TV.  I am still on the fence as to whether or not this is a good thing. Remember that discerning eye I mentioned? My teeth gnash and my nails dig in when I watch such obvious IT gaffes displayed for all to see.

 

Here is the latest example that a friend brought to my attention. The decent AMC show, Halt and Catch Fire. I can take it or leave it. To me, the series is filled with a little too much self-importance. An episode from earlier this season had a member doing something “dangerous.”

 

ftp.jpg

Had a great trip to Austin last week for the filming of the 50th episode of SolarWinds Lab. It's always great to see my team amd everyone else in the office. Being able to collaborate on ideas in person is a nice change of pace for remote workers such as myself. The only downside to last week was the fact that Austin was cold! Hey Texas, I visit you to get away from the cold, not to be reminded of it! Let's hope for warmer weather next week.

 

Anyway, here's a bunch of links I found on the Intertubz that you may find interesting. Enjoy!

 

Rumors of Cmd’s death have been greatly exaggerated

I think it is great to see Microsoft, and companies in general, finally take a stand to respond to such tactics. There is a lot of noise on the internet and in order to stand out, people will resort to "turning lies into page views" as a career choice. It's about time we all learn to recognize the trolls for what they are.

 

FTC filed a lawsuit against D-Link over failure to secure its IoT devices

Finally, we see someone take action against the manufacturers of insecure devices. Here's hoping we see similar actions taken against applications that are built insecure, too.

 

Bank robber reveals identity – by using his debit card during crime

I know, I know... if he was smart, he wouldn't be robbing a bank. But this is a special kind of dumb, IMO.

 

Copycat Hackers Are Holding More Than 1,000 Databases for Ransom

Because I thought it was time to remind you of two things: (1) don't pay the ransom and (2) don't use default security options for an internet-facing database.

 

The Real Name Fallacy

Interesting study here, revealing that people are just as apt to be jerks online even when using their real names. Oh, yes, this makes sense. See above about the folks that aren't afraid to lie and use FUD in exchange for page views.

 

MIT Researchers: 2016 Didn’t Have More Famous Deaths Than Usual

Around mid-December, I was curious about this exact thing: are there more celebrity deaths than previous years, or are more just being reported? Similar to shark attacks being perceived as "on the rise" when it was just the reporting of them that had risen.

 

The center of North America is a town called Center, and it's totally a coincidence. Really.

Funny how sometimes things just work out like this, intended or not.

 

The view from my office for much of the next few weeks:

IMG_0676.JPG

In March 2016, the U.S. Department of Defense embarked on a Cybersecurity Discipline Implementation Plan to identify specific tasks its IT personnel must perform to reinforce basic cybersecurity requirements in policies, directives, and orders.

 

The plan segments tasks into four key “lines of effort” to strengthen cybersecurity initiatives:

  1. Strong authentication
  2. Device hardening
  3. Reduce attack surface
  4. Align cybersecurity and computer network defense service providers

 

Let’s analyze the plan’s goals one at a time. “Strong authentication helps prevent unauthorized access, including wide-scale network compromise by [adversaries] impersonating privileged administrators,” reads a portion of the planning guidance. Tasks specifically focus on protecting web servers and applications through PKI user authentication.

 

The authentication effort helps ensure that an organization’s list of privileged and non-privileged users is always current and PKI verifies that unused accounts are deactivated or deleted. Account authentication is tied to named individuals and each account meets a level of access required for users’ roles. Individual privileged users’ accounts are tied to specific users, so accounts only have privileged access to network segments and applications required for assigned tasks.

 

“Ensuring devices are properly hardened increases the cost of, and complexity required for, successful exploitation attempts by the adversary,” the document states.

 

One of the first steps is to verify that each device on the network is mapped to a secure baseline configuration and that the IA team performs routine configuration validation scans. This activity, coupled with vulnerability assessment scans, makes sure that patches are applied expediently and that only permitted ports, protocols and services are operational.

 

It is essential to create a plan of action, and set milestones to track all findings. A mitigation plan, timing for each finding, and an identification of the severity of each finding are also required.

 

IT managers must seek to reduce the attack surface, eliminating internet-facing servers from the core of the Department of Defense Information Network (DODIN), while ensuring that only authorized devices can access the infrastructure.

 

Managers who oversee user access to applications or systems via commercial internet should have a migration plan to move the system or application away from the DODIN core and toward a computing environment that requires a lower level of security.

 

“Monitoring activity at the perimeter, on the DODIN and on all DOD information networks, ensures rapid identification and response to potential intrusions,” the document states. For the IT professional, this means making sure you know exactly what’s happening on the network at all times.

 

A SIEM solution will lead successful strategies here, as it provides log and event management among other benefits. Add in a network traffic analyzer—particularly one that provides the ability to perform traffic forensics—and server monitoring to understand interdependencies within and outside the network.

 

The DOD effort seeks a “persistent state of high enterprise cybersecurity readiness across the DOD environment,” the document states. This is the first phase of the agency’s security plan. With more to come, each step likely will focus on different DOD infrastructure areas. Our job? Be prepared.

 

  Find the full article on Signal.

accidentaldba.jpg

 

Each new President-Elect talks about the goals they have for their first 100 days in office. Life as a new (or accidental) DBA will be no different. Well, maybe a little different, because as a new DBA, you likely have a 90-day probationary period.

 

That’s right: a DBA has less time to show their value than the president! That means you better be prepared to hit the ground running. But don’t panic! I’ve put together this post to help you get started on the right foot.

 

What DBAs Have in Common With the President

 

DBAs have much in common with the president. First, half the people around you doubt whether you are qualified to hold your job. Second, every time you make a decision or plot a course of action, you will be criticized even by your supporters. Third, you will be judged by what you accomplish in your first one hundred days, good or bad, even if it was something not in your control.

 

Also consider that the president is subject to approval ratings. You will have your own version of this: your annual performance review. Come review time, you want your approvals ratings to be as high as possible.

 

Right about now, you're probably reading this and thinking that the being a DBA is the worst job in all of IT. Perhaps it is, but as long as you are aware of these things when you start, the role may not be as awful as it sounds.

 

Your first objective is to create an action plan. If you think you can show up, grab a slice of bacon, and ease into your new position, then you are mistaken. Your bacon can wait until after you start gathering the information you need in order to do your new job effectively.

 

Here’s a quick list of the questions you need to ask yourself:

 

  • What servers are you responsible for?
  • What applications are you expected to support?
  • What time of day are the applications used?
  • Who are your customers?
  • Are the databases being backed up properly right now?
  • How would you know if the backups were failing?

 

Even that list of basics shows how the role of a DBA can quickly become overwhelming. That is why you need to put together a checklist of the bare essentials and get started. Then you can start making short-term plans for improvements.

 

Trust me, it is easier than it sounds. You just need to be organized.

 

The Initial Checklist

 

By now, you should be sitting at your desk on what we will call Day Zero. Your initial meetings with HR are over, you have gotten a tour of the place, and you are making sure you have the access you need to get started.

 

The very first piece of information you need is a list of servers and systems you are responsible for. Without that little nugget of information, it will be difficult to make headway as you start your long, slow, journey upstream.

 

Because I like making lists and categorizing things, I have divided this initial checklist into sections. One section pertains to gathering information on what I simply call your stuff. Another section deals with finding information on your customer’s stuff. The last section is what I call your action plans. Focus your efforts on these three areas on Day Zero: find your stuff, find your customer’s stuff, and start making an action plan.

 

A sample checklist might look like this:

 

  1. Create a list of servers
  2. Check that database backups are running
  3. Spot check and verify that you can do a restore from one of those backups
  4. Build a list of customers
  5. List the most important databases
  6. List upcoming deliverables/projects
  7. Establish environmental baselines
    1. Server configuration check
    2. Instance configuration check
    3. Database configuration check
  8. Compose your recovery plan (not your backup plan, your recovery plan)

 

Notice that the checklist is missing things people will tell you are a must for DBAs to be doing daily—things like index maintenance, performance tuning, reviewing event logs, etc. Sure, all of those things are necessary, but we are still on your list of items for Day Zero. Everything I have mentioned will take you more than a few days to gather. If you get tied up troubleshooting some stored procedure on Day Zero then, you are setting yourself up for a massive failure should a disaster hit and you have not had time to document your recovery plan.

 

Would you rather be a hero for telling that developer to stop writing cursors or a hero for informing a customer that you can have their database available again in less than 30 minutes? I know which choice I would make so soon after starting a new position.

 

On Day Zero, explain to your manager that you will be gathering this inventory data first. By taking the initiative to perform due diligence, you are showing them that your first mission is to safeguard their data, your job, and their job as well. They probably won’t be able to produce the inventory for you, and they are going to want it even more than you do. You will have plenty of time later on for the other stuff. It will fall naturally into your environment baseline and subsequent action plans as you bring standards to your enterprise.

 

Let’s look at why each of the items in the checklist is important to address from Day Zero.

 

Create a List of Servers

 

Trust me that at some point, someone will walk up to you and start talking about a server you never knew existed. And they will be very confused as to why you have never heard of the server, since they work with it all the time. That there is a database there, and you are the DBA, so you should already know all of this, right?

 

Do your best to gather as much information right away about the servers you are expected to administer. That way, you will know more about what you are up against and it will help you when it comes time to formulate your action plans. These plans will be very different if you have five or five hundred instances to look after.

 

Start compiling this list by asking your immediate supervisor and go from there. The trail may take you to application managers and server administrators. For example, your boss might say that you are responsible for the payroll databases, but what are “the payroll databases”? You will need to do some detective work to track down the specific databases involved. But this detective work will pay off by deepening your knowledge and understanding of where you work.

 

If you are looking for a technical solution to finding database servers, there are a handful of ways to get the job done. The easiest is to use a 3rd party monitoring tool that discovers servers and the applications running on them. You could also use free tools like SQL Power Doc out on Codeplex.

 

You should also have a list of servers that are not your responsibility. There is a chance that vendors maintain some systems in your environment. If something goes wrong with one of those servers it is important to know who is responsible for what. And if someone tells you that you do not need to worry about a server, my advice would be to get that in writing. When disaster strikes, you had better be able to provide proof about the systems that are and are not your responsibility.

 

Check Database Backups

 

Once you identify the servers you are responsible for, the next step is to verify that the databases are being backed up properly. Do not assume that everything is working perfectly. Check that the backup files exist (both system and user databases) and check to see if there have been any recent failures.

 

You will also want to note the backup schedule for the servers and databases. You can use that information later to verify that the databases are being backed up to meet business requirements. You would not want to find out that the business is expecting a point-in-time restore ability for a database that is only being backed up once a week.

 

I cannot stress this enough, but if there is one thing you need to focus on as a DBA, it is ensuring that you can recover in the event of a disaster. Any good recovery plan starts with having a reliable database backup strategy.

 

Verify That You Can Restore

 

There is one, and only one, way for you to verify that your backups are good: you need to test that they can be restored. Focus your efforts on any group or set of databases. The real goal here is for you to become familiar with the restore process in your new shop, as well as to verify that the backups are usable.

 

Make certain you know all aspects of the recovery process for your shop before you start poking around on any system of importance. It could save you some embarrassment later, should you sound the alarm that a backup is not valid when it turns out the only thing not valid is your understanding of how things work. And these practice restores are a great way to make certain you are able to meet the RPO and RTO requirements.

 

Build a List of Customers

 

You must find the customers for each of the servers you are responsible for administering. Note that this line of inquiry can result in a very large list. With shared systems, you could find that everyone has a piece of every server!

 

The list of customers is vital information. For example, if there you need to reboot a server, it is nice to know who you need to contact in order to explain that the server will be offline for five minutes while it is rebooted. And while you compile your list of customers, it does not hurt to know who the executives are and which servers they are most dependent upon.

 

When you start listing out the customers, you should also start asking about the applications and systems those customers use, and the time of day they are being used the most. You may be surprised to find some systems that people consider relatively minor are used throughout the day while other systems that are considered most important are used only once a month.

 

List the “Most Important” Databases

 

While you gather your list of customers, go one step further and find out what their most important databases are. This could be done by either (1) asking them or (2) asking others, and then (3) comparing those lists. You will be surprised to find how many people can forget about some of their systems and need a gentle reminder about their importance. As DBAs, we recognize that some databases are more important than others, especially given any particular time of day, week, or month.

 

For example, you could have a mission critical data warehouse. Everyone in the company could tell you that this system is vital. What they cannot tell you, however, is that it is only used for three days out of the month. The database could be offline for weeks and no one would say a word.

 

That does not mean that when these systems are not used, they are not important. But if 17 different groups mention some small tiny database, and they consider the database to be of minor importance, you may consider it very important because it is touched by so many different people.

 

List Upcoming Projects and Deliverables

 

You want to minimize the number of surprises that await you. Knowing what projects are currently planned helps you understand how much time you will be asked to allocate for each one. And do keep in mind that you will be expected to maintain a level of production support, in addition to your project support and the action tasks you are about to start compiling.

 

You’ll also want to know which servers will be decommissioned in the near future so that you don’t waste time performance tuning servers that are on death row.

 

Establish Environmental Baselines

 

Baselining your environment is a necessary function that gets overlooked. The importance of having a documented starting point cannot be stressed enough. Without a starting point as a reference, it will be difficult for you to chart and report your progress over time.

 

You have already done one baseline item: you have evaluated your database backups. You know how large they are, when they are started, and how long they take. Now take the time to document the configurations of the server, the instance, and the individual databases.

 

Then you can focus on the collecting basic performance metrics: memory, CPU, disk, and network. This is where 3rd party tools shine, as they do the heavy lifting for you.

 

Compose Your Recovery Plan

 

Notice how I said recovery plan as opposed to backup plan. In your checklist thus far, you have already verified your database backups are running, started to spot check that you can restore from your backups, and have gotten an idea of your important databases. Now is the time to put all of this together in the form of a disaster recovery (DR) plan.

 

Make no mistake about it: should a disaster happen, your job is on the line. If you fail to recover because you are not prepared, then you could easily find yourself reassigned to “special projects” by the end of the week. The best way to avoid that is to practice, practice, practice. Your business should have some scheduled DR tests perhaps once a year, but you should perform your own smaller DR tests on a more frequent basis.

 

And don’t forget about recovering from past days or weeks. If your customer needs a database backup restored from two months ago make sure you know every step in the process in order to get that job done. If your company uses an offsite tape storage company, and if it takes two days to recall a tape from offsite, then you need to communicate that fact to your users ahead of time as part of your DR plans.

 

Track Your Progress

As a DBA, a lot of your work is done behind the scenes. In fact, people will often wonder what it is you do all day, since much of your work is never actually seen by the end-users. Your checklist will serve you well when you try to show people some of the tangible results that you have been delivering.

 

No matter how many people you meet and greet in the coming weeks, unless you can provide some evidence of tangible results to your manager and others, people will inevitably wonder what it is you do all day. If your initial checklist shows that you have twenty-five servers, six of which have data and logs on the C: drive, and two others had no backups at all, it is going to be easy for you to report later that your twenty-five servers now have backups running and all drives configured properly.

 

One thing I have learned in my years as a DBA: no one cares about effort, only the end result. Make certain you keep track of your progress so that the facts can help provide a way to understand exactly what you have been delivering.

 

 

If you are looking for a technical solution to finding database servers, there are a handful of ways to get the job done. The easiest is to use a 3rd party monitoring tool that discovers servers and applications running on them. You could also use free tools like SQL Power Doc out on Codeplex.

 

You should also have a list of servers you are not responsible for. There is a chance that some systems in your environment are maintained by vendors. If something goes wrong with one of those servers it is important to know who is responsible for what. And if someone tells you that you do not need to worry about a server my advice would be to get that in writing. Believe me, when disaster strikes, you had better be able to provide proof about the systems that are, and are not, your responsibility.

 

Check Database Backups

 

Once you identify the servers you are responsible for the next step is to verify that the databases are being backed up properly. Do not assume that everything is working perfectly. Check that the backup files exist (both system and user databases) and check to see if there have been any recent failures.

 

You will also want to note the backup schedule for the servers and databases. You can use that information later to verify that the databases are being backed up to meet the business requirements. You would not want to find out that the business is expecting a point-in-time restore ability for a database that is only being backed up once a week.

 

I cannot stress this enough but if there is one thing, and only one thing for you to focus on as a DBA, it would be to ensure that you can recover in the event of a disaster.

 

And any good recovery plan starts with having a reliable database backup strategy.

 

Verify that You Can Restore

 

There is one, and only one, way for you to verify that your backups are good: You need to test that they can be restored. Focus your efforts on any group or set of databases. The real goal here is for you to become familiar with the restore process in your new shop as well as to verify that the backups are usable.

 

Make certain you know all aspects of the recovery process for your shop before you start poking around on any system of importance. It could save you some embarrassment later should you sound the alarm that a backup is not valid when it turns out the only thing not valid is your understanding of how things work. And these practice restores are a great way to make certain you are able to meet the RPO and RTO requirements.

 

Build a List of Customers

 

You must find the customers for each of the servers you are responsible for administering. Note that this line of inquiry can result in a very large list. With shared systems you could find that everyone has a piece of every server!

 

The list of customers is vital information to have. For example, if there is a need to reboot a server it is nice to know who you need to contact in order to explain that the server will be offline for five minutes while it is rebooted. And while you compile your list of customers it does not hurt to know who the executives are and which servers they are most dependent upon.

 

When you start listing out the customers you should also start asking about the applications and systems those customers use, and the time of day they are being used the most. You may be surprised to find some systems that people consider to be relatively minor are used throughout the day while other systems that are considered most important are used only once a month.

 

List the “Most Important” Databases

 

While you gather your list of customers go one step further and find out what their most important databases are. This could be done by either (1) asking them or (2) asking others and then (3) comparing those lists. You will be surprised to find how many people can forget about some of their systems and need a gentle reminder about their importance. As a DBA we recognize that some databases are more important than others, especially given any particular time of day, week, or month.

 

For example, you could have a mission critical data warehouse. Everyone in the company could tell you that this system is vital. What they cannot tell you, however, is that it is only used for three days out of the month. So, the database could be offline for weeks and no one would say a word.

 

That does not mean that when these systems are not used they are not important. But if 17 different groups mention some small tiny database, and they consider the database to be of minor importance, you may consider it very important because it is touched by so many different people.

 

List Upcoming Projects and Deliverables

 

You want to minimize the number of surprises that await you; knowing what projects are currently planned helps you to understand how much time you will be asked to allocate for each one. And do keep in mind that you will be expected to maintain a level of production support in addition to your project support in addition to the action tasks you are about to start compiling.

 

You’ll also want to know which servers will be decommissioned in the near future so that you don’t waste time performance tuning servers that are on Death Row.

 

Establish Environmental Baselines

 

Baselining your environment is a necessary function that gets overlooked. The importance of having a documented starting point cannot be stressed enough. Without a starting point as a reference it will be difficult for you to chart and report upon your progress over time.

 

You have already done one baseline item; you have evaluated your database backups. You know how large they are, when they are started, and how long they take. Now take the time to document the configurations of the server, the instance, and the individual databases.

 

Then you can focus on the collecting basic performance metrics for now: memory, CPU, disk, and network. This is where 3rd party tools shine, as they do the heavy lifting for you.

 

Compose Your Recovery Plan

 

Notice how I said ‘recovery’ plan as opposed to ‘backup plan’. In your checklist so far you have already verified your database backups are running, started to spot check that you can restore from your backups, and got an idea of your important databases. Now is the time to put all of this together in the form of a disaster recovery (DR) plan.

 

Make no mistake about it: should a disaster happen then your job is on the line. If you fail to recover because you are not prepared then you could easily find yourself reassigned to “special projects” by the end of the week. The best way to avoid that is to practice, practice, practice. Your business should have some scheduled DR tests perhaps once a year but you should perform your own smaller DR tests on a more frequent basis.

 

And don’t forget about recovering from past days or weeks. If your customer needs a database backup restored from two months ago make certain you know every step in the process in order to get that job done. If your company uses an offsite tape storage company, and if it takes two days to recall a tape from offsite then you need to communicate that fact to your users ahead of time as part of your DR plans.

 

Track Your Progress

As a DBA a lot of your work is done behind the scenes. In fact, people will often wonder what it is you do all day, since much of your work is never actually seen by the end users. Your checklist will serve you well when you try to show people some of the tangible results that you have been delivering.

 

No matter how many people you meet and greet in the coming weeks, unless you can provide some evidence of tangible results to your manager and others people will inevitably wonder what it is you do all day long. If your initial checklist shows that you have twenty-five servers, six of which have data and logs on the C: drive, and two others had no backups at all it is going to be easy for you to report later that your twenty-five servers now have backups running and all drives configured properly.

 

One thing I have learned in my years as a DBA: No one cares about effort, only the end result. Make certain you keep track of your progress so that the facts can help provide a way to understand exactly what you have been delivering.

Leon Adato

Eat, Pray, DevOps

Posted by Leon Adato Expert Jan 4, 2017

eatpraydevops_LJA20161227.png

When I wrote about what I hoped to learn and see at DevOpsDays Tel Aviv, I listed three important goals:

  1. Meet some of our amazing customers
  2. Eat my body weight in schwarma
  3. Speak at the conference.

 

Let's be totally clear: My main goal was #2. Everything else was icing on the (kosher) cake. So sit back, grab a napkin, and maybe don't read this on an empty stomach. This wrap-up is going to have A LOT of food in it.

 

Because my travel schedule has to work around the no-fly (or work, or drive, or... well, lots of things)-zone of Shabbat, my wife and I traveled on Thursday, arriving Friday at noon. The first thing we did was drop our bags at the hotel and make a beeline for Machanei Yehudah, a multi-block open air market that has everything you can imagine, including fruit, fruit gummies, spices, chocolate souffle, and so much more.

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After that, our bags (and stomachs) full, we settled in for 25 hours of Sabbath in a way that is only possible in Jerusalem.

 

Saturday night, refreshed but eager to get on with our adventure, we traveled nearly the entire width of Israel, from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. A trip that took all of about 30 minutes. Sunday is a regular workday over there, so I was able to meet up with some SolarWinds customers who had a few short questions for me.

 

Six hours later, I was back at the hotel practicing my talk. Soon after, we were invited to meet with the other DevOpsDays speakers and sponsors at Pasha, a Turkish restaurant that had food like THIS:

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But it was the dessert that really did it for me: a baklavah-like dish served with a giant heap of ice cream covered in halavah!

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The next morning, while my wife explored the shuk haCarmel, I was in full-on DevOps mode.

 

The first thing that struck me, compared to other DevOpsDays I've attended, was the sheer diversity of attendees. Part of this was the location. Tel Aviv is going to pull from a far more international crowd than, say, Columbus, Ohio. But even so, the number of women, people of color, and level of diversity (as well as nonchalant acceptance), was a joy to behold and be part of.

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The talks themselves were as diverse as the participants, from a deep dive, three-hour Statistical Analysis For Engineers session, to an expletive-filled five-minute Ignite talk done entirely in limerick form. To do them justice, even in summary, would take about two days, the same length of time over which the talks were spread. Instead, here are a few highlights that caught my fancy:

 

  • Chef founders Nathen Harvey and Adam Jacob cut to the heart of a lot of people's fear of content, especially content that is repeated in some way. They said, "We don't have a problem with repeated content when it's good (Star Wars). We have a problem when it's bad (Man of Steel)."
  • They also gave a fantastic analogy about the differences (and benefits/deficits) of simplicity and complexity. A model-T car is very simple, Adam explained. So simple that a typical group of people trapped in a locked room could assemble a working model T from their component parts before they died of starvation. But starting it without knowing precisely how would result in a broken arm. It was just that peculiar, and had that poor of a user interface. On the other hand, today's cars have a "start" button. It's not even labeled "ignition" anymore. But even a group of highly skilled engineers would be hard-pressed to assemble it from parts.
  • Continuing on that thread, speaker Avishai Ish-Shalom noted that things are complex even when we think they're simple. By way of example, he wrote a five-line "hello world" script in python, which took seven minutes of stage time and several mishaps (including missing modules). And that doesn't even take into account the complexity of the underlying operating system, hardware, etc. Complexity, he pointed out, is all around us.
  • Crystal Huff gave a talk on Interviewing Candidates (Badly), which contained the single greatest slide of all time:
    "Would you eat a kitten to get this job?"
  • She also shared a slide of this three-year old whose parents gave her the ultimate Wonder Woman photoshoot of all time (the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WW5l67xBqM)
    toddler-WW.jpg toddler-WW2.jpg
  • Charity Majors gave us, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer to Technical Decision-Making (title based on her book), in which she regaled us with a harrowing tale of Tel Aviv taxi conveyance, along with the wisdom that:
    • The best code is no code
    • The second best code is code someone else wrote and maintains
    • The worst code is everything else.
  • As well as this helpful decision-making gate:
    "If a technical change has no (or little) value added (Redhat vs Ubuntu, for example), the answer is f#&^ you."
  • And finally:
    "Celebrate engineers who remove code, deprecate, and refactor AS MUCH AS those who add features."
  • Corey Quinn bravely shared his failures and how they've shaped his decisions in his talk, The Stories We Tell and the Failures We've Lived.

 

Along with those (and many more) incredible talks, there were the usual slew of OpenSpace discussions that were informative, passionate, and nearly impossible to choose from.

 

On Wednesday, while the rest of the speakers were enjoying a tour of Jerusalem, I was back at work with ProLogic, one of our key partners in the region. Meeting with integrators, partners, and consultants gave me a chance to talk about new solutions, answer questions, and eat donuts. After all that, we went to a local Yemenite restaurant for some truly incredible soup, pita, and dips.

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Believe it or not, Wednesday marked the end of my work responsibilities for the week, leaving my wife and I free to make the return trip to Jerusalem for sightseeing, shopping, and, of course, more FOOD!

 

I am deeply grateful to both DevOpsDays Tel Aviv for inviting me to speak, and for SolarWinds for giving me the chance to experience such incredible events.

 

And now, more pictures of food.

Which I ate.

With impunity.

 

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I think we are all happy to have 2016 in our rearview mirrors. The start of a new year is a great way to try and have a fresh start towards some goals. Not resolutions, mind you, but goals. Write down one or two goals and think about the steps needed to achieve them. Then sit with your family members and ask how you can help with their goals, and how they can help with yours. If you work together to help each other, you will find it better than trying to do resolutions on your own.

 

Let's get 2017 off on the right foot! Here's a bunch of links I found on the Intertubz that you may find interesting. Enjoy!

 

App Security Deserves Far More IT Respect

Yes, it certainly does, but I'm not sure it is IT that needs to focus on security more than it does already. I think it is the business side that must insist upon security when they build out requirements for applications they expect IT to deliver.

 

Better Road, Grumpier Drivers and the Logic of Discontent

Interesting thoughts on throughput versus quality here. Would you rather have your data be accurate or be fast? Most people focus on speed and assume quality. Same thoughts can be applied to roads and our commute.

 

An Amazon Echo may be the key to solving a murder case

Interesting case here where details of a murder case may be available in an Echo. I'm now wondering if it would be possible to use data from the myriad of IoT devices in a home to piece together the final moments before foul play happens.

 

US government subcontractor leaks confidential military personnel data

Because we should start 2017 in the same way we ended 2016: with massive security breaches. I wish I could say that such reports will decline in time, but right now it seems things are getting worse. Then again, maybe we are just getting better at identifying and reporting, kinda like how shark attacks were on the rise one summer.

 

Parents sue Apple, blame FaceTime for daughter's death

As much as I would like for Apple to have installed this feature, I'm not sure I can hold them responsible for the actions of the driver in this case. If it wasn't FaceTime, let's say the driver was on the phone—could you sue Verizon for allowing the call, considering they can calculate your speed as well?

 

A new iPhone bug will crash the Messages app with a single text

Here's hoping my teenage kids don't discover stuff like this any time soon and start experimenting. Then again, I could probably use the downtime.

 

U.S. Customs Starts To Collect Social Media Information

Well, that's not good news for me. Then again, I'm not sure this is good news for anyone. Might be time to think about getting off the grid altogether.

 

Nothing says "Happy New Year" like a family member asking if you could take a quick look at the problem they are having with their laptop...

helpdesk.jpg

Leon Adato

A Challenge in Review

Posted by Leon Adato Expert Jan 3, 2017

With the new year upon us, I wanted to take one more post to thank everyone for their generosity and support of the December Writing Challenge. Over the course of 30 days, this event has gathered more than 17,000 views and over 1,500 comments (a number that continues to climb), and has provided our THWACK users with a unique channel to share personal stories and create connections and a sense of community that is all but unique among IT forums of its kind.

 

As a final look, I wanted to share the way in which your comments and essays have affected the SolarWinds team.

 

Diego Fildes Torrijos (Product Marketing Specialist) wrote:

I found that Peter Monaghan’s comment on my article on “Change” very insightful. He said the following:

I've been in IT for 20+ years now. That's a pretty long time now. Every year along the way I have read an article stating that, "...IT is Changing Now More So Than Ever..." It's cliché! The technology has always been adaptive so I figured I should be as well. I stopped trying t be an expert in anything and learned to know technology just enough to be adept. That allowed me to keep up with all the moving, and changing, parts. Change is constant. Something else I learned. Take everything on your résumé that refers to anything prior to 2000 and delete it. Nobody cares.

 

I felt that this comment really nailed the current state of IT: ever-evolving change. It really made me think about how everything I’ve learned in IT these years (I previously worked for a CMS company) is temporary, because in 10 years it may be obsolete! Wow… so that means that my adaptation to these constant changes is critical for me to be knowledgeable of RELEVANT technology, literally. And even though in my post I suggest something similar, Peter’s post really reinforced this message and made me think about where I will be in IT if I’m lucky enough to be around for +20 years.

 

Rene Lego (Corporate Marketing Director) said:

What stuck out for me is how many people actually looked up and posted the definitions of words.

 

Václav Janištin (Product Marketing Specialist) commented that a few things which touched me in some way. I wanted to understand everything not only from IT pros perspective, but from the point of human being

 

  • “You have to be willing to abandon your preconceived notions and start over - again and again if necessary. You have to accept that the solution which worked for another person in another place may not be your solution.” (SEARCH)
  • “I feel like we don’t live and die by the choices we make, you live or die by choosing to stick with your choices.” (CHOOSE)
  • “Forgive, this word has helped me grow as a person and I just wish that I would’ve figured this out at a younger age” (FORGIVE)
  • Forgive yourself all faults and all other hurts that someone did to you, because everything in live is a choice and you could choose which path lead you to wherever you want to be, but remember – stick with the previous choices doesn’t meant the right thing everytime.

 

Ondrej Skacel (Product Marketing Specialist) submitted a collection of quotes that caught his imagination:

 

The tools are out there. The question is “Is the desire and ability to learn inside of us?”

–bsciencefiction.tv

 

Learning is even more expedient in IT security because the dynamics change all the time. You wonder why a lot of people like, love or dream of Thwack monthly challenges, because it is such a great opportunity to constantly learn. Thwacking = Learning!

–femiodejide

 

The ability to "accept" results that are not perfect in the Security realm is hard to do at times but vital. This is especially true when one is new to an organization and sees current holes in security.  One must make progress to fix the holes that exist but be wary not to try to do it all at once.  One must make a multi-phase approach where there is a clear roadmap to a final solution.  While on the path, it is ok to "accept" certain risks as long as the exposure is not vital to the company.  This was a hard lesson that took some time to realize.

- dcalkins0924

 

“But we should believe - meaning to take as an article of faith that requires no proof, and which cannot be dis-proven by a single less-than stellar outcome - that we are capable of extraordinary things when we are willing to work for it.”

  - adatole

 

**********************************

(Leon here) Once again, thank you to everyone who came, who read, who commented, and who shared.

 

In this final week of writing prompts, everyone really brought their best selves to the task. I will be running the numbers later this week on GeekSpeak (and the THWACK team and I will be busy tallying up and awarding points to everyone who participated. But in the meanwhile, I wanted to share some of the responses that caught my eye over this past, last week of the first ever SolarWinds THWACK December Writing Challenge.

 

Day 24: Hope

Destiny kicked off this this week with a we all can relate to: “Many of us, especially around the holidays, cling to the hope that a miracle can happen.  That during the holidays there is something in the air that helps us push through.  We hunker down and hope that we don't go too far into debt and make it out alive after the in-laws leave the house.  Hoping that the spirits we have these holidays are drank with moderation.”

 

In response, Peter Monaghan, CBCP, SCP, ITIL ver.3 evoked the words of one of the more hopeful movies of our age, The Shawshank Redemption:

"Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies." - Andy Dufresne

 

Then tomiannelli  paraphrased the Humanist Albert Eustace Haydon,

“Our task is to shape the natural world into a home and to weave the web of social relations so that every person might know all that life can give of joy and beauty. We suffer but never surrender. The torch falls from faltering hands but never goes out. Generation after generation it is handed down and carried forward against evil, chaos and the dark.”

 

And unclehooch brought another quote which caught my eye was from, Martin Luther King, Jr. “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Day 25: Intend

It’s important to understand that network defender  has written a poem almost every day, which I share as often as I can while still giving space to the other incredible ideas that are posted each day. His submission for day 25 was:

Pay close attention

As the days portend,

For life rarely goes

As we intend.

 

Meanwhile, THWACK MVP byrona shared “I think of Intentions as potential energy, somebody with a lot of good intentions is a gold mine waiting to be realized.”

 

And pattic took a more pragmatic approach, “Accept the fact that some people don’t intend to let you down. Their best is just less than you expected.”

 

Day 26: Create

For this day’s entry, THWACK MVP rschroeder put the word into context, saying, “To make something new.  Create. Repurpose.  Reshape.  Imagine and make something new.”

 

But Richard Phillips  offered a more philosophical approach: “We can be creative, but we cannot truly create. We can be creative with what has already been created / provided, but we cannot create.”

 

And jamison.jennings  opened up about the different ways he expressed the word of the day

Interesting that we can only be creative with what has already been created.

I'm a musician, I can be creative with the notes but there are no new chords or notes for me to play.

I am a woodworker, I can only be creative with how I assemble the pieces.

I am a wood turner, I can only be creative with how I shape the items that I turn.

I would say that I was created to be creative.

 

Day 27: Bless

Kevin Sparenberg’s final essay for the year was a powerful study in how our community shows its bravery in sharing personal stories, as well as how our members support and respect each other in ways that are not always seen across the internet.

 

Peter Monaghan, CBCP, SCP, ITIL ver.3 responded by sharing “I am reminded of this Chinese proverb when it comes to "Count Your Blessing." For that saying has a truly deeper meaning: The Most Famous Chinese Horse Proverb: 塞翁失馬 (Sāi Wēng Shī Mǎ) or Sāi Wēng lost his horse. The meaning of the proverb is only apparent when one is familiar with the accompanying story of Sāi Wēng.

 

(for the details of the story, you’ll have to check out his comments)

 

mjperkins shared a bit of seasonally appropriate (sports season, ethat is) humor, saying: “Of course, there's that other 'bless' from my brother's football-playing days. Hitting an opponent so hard that they fell back with arms splayed looking somewhat like a crucifix meant you had just 'blessed' them.”

 

And byrona replied, “Ok, so when I first came to this page and saw that picture of Ralphie from A Christmas Story I about died laughing, such a good picture; how can you possibly look at that and not smile or even laugh.  You blessed me with laughter today by posting that; thanks!”

 

Day 28: Give

Video production specialist Erik Eff was able to sneak in a lead essay in this final week, offering his insights on the intersection between giving, commercialism, and personal responsibility.

 

In counterpoint to this, unclehooch shared a quote from Winston Churchil: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”

 

But zelgadis6 found a more modern philosophical anecdote from the Red Hot Chili Peppers: “give it away, give it away, give it away now" bow chicka-chicka-bow-bow, give it away now

 

And network defender‘s daily poem was deeply meaningful:

Give unto others

As has been given unto you,

Be generous and loving

In all that you do.

 

Day 29: Return

In Destiny’s final essay of the year, she shared a truly personal story about how a simple item can return her to childhood moments and bring back so many positive feelings.

 

But THWACK MVP Zack Mutchler  took the word of the day in a different direction, “In the same thread as a lot of the other words this month, "return" has me thinking about wandering (maybe I'm overdue for a walkabout?) To wander away from our chosen path, or direction, is nice sometimes. But we must be mindful to not lose ourselves our our motivations and always return back to a level-set.”

 

Meanwhile, EBeach wasn’t clear whether the return was “Return of the Jedi” or one of the other episodes when they said, “I did a return of a Christmas gift, why would you buy Star Wars in anything but blu-ray.”

 

And THWACK MVP jeremymayfield found philosophical ponderings right in his own keyboard: “I like to also think of return and a refresh, much like the keyboard, when you press return you get a new line, a new starting point.   So when we return we can look at it as an opportunity to start something clean and new, and not going backwards, but forward in a familiar place.”

 

Day 30: Celebrate

In the final post of the year, tomiannelli shared his “Things to celebrate this year:

  1. 1. My mother-in-law turned 90 and we had a big party for her.
  2. 2. Got to visit my father in his new home in NJ for a week. After he got out of the hospital, he was in a comma for 10 days with acute respiratory distress syndrome. He is thriving now.
  3. 3. A friend of our became an American citizen and we got to celebrate with him and attend his ceremony.
  4. 4. 25 years with my wife Linda.....
  5. 5. The birth of our our latest Grand Niece to our nice and god-daughter just a couple of weeks ago.
  6. 6. Having pulled off our first dinner party in 3 years. For a current prime minister and his family at our home.
  7. 7. My wife's surgeries went well and she has the use of both of her hands again, without all the pain.”

 

And THWACK MVP byrona brought the workplace back to mind with, “One thing that my manager always talks about is the importance of celebrating our victories.  When we accomplish a project or achieve some significant milestone at work we often just move on to the next but it's important to celebrate those victories as it gives us the fuel to move on and tackle the next with more vigor.”

 

And finally, I had to finish with one of  network defender‘s daily poems:

Celebrate diversity

Both Left and Right,

Regardless of skin

Dark or light.

 

Different religions

Straight, LGBT or Q,

I will shake your hand

And stand beside you.

 

For I am a little weird

Normal is not me,

Accept who I am

And I’ll accept thee.

 

*****************

My sincerest gratitude goes to everyone who participated this year. Many of us are already looking forward to next years’ challenge and how it will bring our community together. In the meanwhile, all of us here at SolarWinds wish our entire THWACK community a happy, healthy, and successful 2017!

I hope everyone enjoyed the long holiday weekend, and that it was alert-free for you and your company. We hosted 17 people at my home, including some family members we have not seen in years. It was a good time, but tiring, so I'm going to use this week to recharge my batteries a bit.

 

Of course, that won't stop me from putting together The Actuator this week. So here's a bunch of links I found on the Intertubz that you may find interesting. Enjoy!

 

Thinking Beyond the Network Layer: Why the Entire Attack Surface Counts

If you think IoT is a security issue, wait until microservices hit you right in the DevOps.

 

Security Risks of TSA PreCheck

This is a tough one for me. I fly a lot, and I feel the TSA is fairly useless with regards to security. However, the alternatives presented for removing the TSA are often those that infringe upon a right to privacy, or are overly militaristic. Not sure I want to give up those rights in exchange for a few extra minutes of security theater when I fly.

 

Four Cybersecurity Resolutions for 2017

This article could have just stopped at "move beyond passwords," but that advice is worth sharing as much as possible.

 

Virgin America flight delayed after passenger Wi-Fi hotspot named 'Samsung Galaxy Note 7'

There's no mention if the passengers beat this person with their complimentary SkyMall magazines.

 

Canada declares ‘high-speed’ internet essential for quality of life

Well, since they figured out healthcare already, now they can focus on the important things.

 

SQL Server on Linux: How? Introduction

Some light holiday reading for adatole , sharing some of the details on how the SQL Server team ported their code to Linux. Okay. I might be the only one that finds this interesting, not just from a tech geek viewpoint, but from a business viewpoint, too.

 

Quite possibly my favorite gift this year:

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Among your warm holiday memories probably lurks the recollection of searching through a strand of lights to find the one that takes down the entire string. Through the years, most of us have either seen this play out, or experienced that frustration firsthand.

 

The frustration, tedium, and time required for even the savviest of today’s IT professionals to unravel issues in a complex IT infrastructure can be a lot like that downed string of lights. Often, the search for that one glitch, that single, solitary issue, puts the entire system in peril.

 

That’s because today’s technology infrastructures – and federal IT infrastructure is no different – rely heavily on application stacks. These stacks are made up of layers that work in concert to run critical components supporting application delivery. The problem is that one faulty layer can adversely impact the entire operation, just like that one bad Christmas light bulb.

 

So where does one begin to tackle this complex and evolving IT infrastructure and all of its potential issues? Rather than hunting and pecking for problems, the solution is obtaining a holistic view of the entire stack – constantly monitoring the parts – to either identify issues more effectively for quickened resolution, or even fix problems before they arise.

 

End-to-end monitoring of the IT infrastructure is essential. There are platforms available to do just that, including solutions whose sole focus is ensuring critical monitoring. Therefore, it is important for federal IT teams to consider deploying solutions that provide:

 

  • Complete application performance monitoring
  • A performance view across on-premises, virtualized, and cloud components
  • Consolidated metrics
  • Alerts that allow for faster identification and resolution of issues

 

Many hands make for lighter work

 

Today’s issues are complex and require highly skilled professionals. To help ensure that your team is ready to tackle those critical issues head-on, establish cross-departmental collaborative processes so that every team member is involved in identifying problems and working toward solutions. This collaborative approach will avoid silos within a team and help ensure that the organization is stronger and better prepared to confront issues as they arise.

 

Empowerment can work wonders to enhance an IT team’s performance. It helps to keep the team functioning as a whole and collaborating to make sure issues are quickly resolved, and also that every team member feels a sense of ownership in the outcome.

 

Bring back the holiday cheer

 

The IT department’s spirits need not be dampened by a darkened string of lights!  That is, not if proper processes are put into place to ensure the team is collaborating and taking a holistic approach to an agency’s complex IT infrastructure. Provide them with proper processes, empowerment and the essential tools to monitor the network, and they’ll be in the spirit all through the year.

 

Find the full article on Government Computer News.

Here we are in week 4 of the challenge, with just one more to go. I cannot stress enough how amazed, impressed, and moved I have been with some of the responses. And with others amused, informed, and even entertained. The heartfelt and thoughtful responses from both occasional posters and regulars alike has become a cathartic way for me to take 30 days assessing the year from various perspectives: how was 2016 for the IT industry, for my career, and for my personal growth with so often takes a back seat to other things which appear, in the moment, to be priorities but of course are not once the clarity of hindsight kicks in.

 

I know from the comments that many of you feel the same.

 

So what caught my eye this week?

 

Day 17: Awaken

Head Geek Destiny Bertucci (Dez) offered up a poem by Naima (Micah - Wikipedia ) on the theme of the day and how this poem has inspired her. In response,

THWACK MVP rschroeder wrote, “Uffda!  That's quite a poem.  But some topics within it are too heavy for a Saturday morning.  So I'll stay cozy in my bed and wonder why I'd awaken so early on a cold and snowy northern Minnesota morning.”

 

Another THWACK MVP, jeremymayfield, had this to offer:

“When I think of awaken, I think of an inner spirit.   As a Christian I feel that we awaken our spirits when we are baptized, and we have to continue to recharge and feed that spirit with scripture, service, and prayer.  We can awaken our love for something and someone.   We can also awaken a desire or need to be better.   I find that there are time we awaken a sleeping giant in ourselves which can both inspire and drive us to great heights than we could ever imagine.”

 

And steven.melnichuk@tbdssab.ca was far more realistic about the meaning of “awaken” in his daily life:  “my mind has been awaken to the idea that my kids wake up really early. My body, not so much.”

 

Day 18: Ask

In his fourth essay of the challenge, senior product manager Ben Garves (thegreateebzies) took us on a trip down search engine memory lane, causing silverwolf to echo the sentiments of many: 

“Oh gawd... memories...gawd now I feel old...im not crying, YOU'RE crying!”

 

Meanwhile bsciencefiction.tv opined that

“I think in IT, as important as knowing things is knowing who to ask things. We cannot know everything, although I sometimes think my friends ssd and mikegale do know everything.”

 

And mldechjr took a biblical turn, saying,
ASK, AND YE SHALL RECEIVE
YE HAVE NOT, BECAUSE YE ASK NOT
“Although this is a biblical reference it is true with many things in life.  I found out many times when dealing people that that they might have been willing to do something or participate if they had been asked. That goes both ways, if you want to join in, ask and you will probably be welcomed with open arms.  Don't be silent!”

 

Day 19: Judge

For the 19th day of the challenge, resident poet network defender captured the thoughts of many of the other posters, offering this verse:

Try not judge your fellow man

We’re all dealt a different hand,

Go walk a mile in his shoes

Try expanding your narrow views.

 

But steven.melnichuk@tbdssab.ca quoted the thoughts of one of IT’s greatest philosophers, Yoda:

“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.” - Yoda

 

And THWACK MVP rschroeder began (as he does almost every day) with a definition and then his thoughts:

Day 19: Judge:    to form an opinion about, through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premises

I seek to reduce my judging other people and systems as much as possible.

Where judging must occur, I hope to do it impartially and only by fact and experience, leaving rumor or opinion or prejudice behind.

 

Day 20: Fulfill

The post for day 20 came from Anne Guidry, the editorial genius behind much of the content you see. She offered the key to her quiet brilliance when she wrote “I believe in making an effort, showing up, doing the hard work that has to be done, because work that is hard is fulfilling.”

 

This inspired mtgilmore1 to share a quote from Joel Osteen:

"We live in a culture that relishes tearing others down. It's ultimately more fulfilling, though, to help people reach their goals. Instead of feeling jealous, remember: If God did it for them, He can do it for you."

 

Meanwhile, THWACK MVP Radioteacher echoed an idea expressed by many for this day’s word:

“I am really fortunate.  At the end of most every day I see progress.  It is a very fulfilling work.”

 

And EBeach was quite pragmatic (and complimentary) when they said, “Thwack order got fulfilled in 3 days. How nice it is. Got the hoodie.”

 

Day 21: Love

Senior Director Jenne Barbour’s (jennebarbour) writing MO is to take her experiences of the day and relate them to the word for that day. Which led to a post full of thoughts about food and family.

 

That, in turn, inspired tomiannelli to write, “My music collection is not larger by some measures, yet it contains 245 songs [16 hours] with Love in the title. Myriad ways of describing an intense emotion. […] Expressing love to another, just in words, can be scary, but worth the risk. Taking that leap feels like you are falling off a cliff but focusing on love will make you miss the ground and that is all it takes to fly!”

 

THWACK MVP rschroeder Pulled a quote from Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land: “Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.”

 

But Richard Phillips caught me off guard when he opened up to the community, saying “Learn to appreciate the love(s) that you have in your life while you have them. Learn to reciprocate that love. Build memories so that you have something to hang onto once "it's gone."”

But you really need to read his whole post for context and to appreciate the elegance of his thoughts.

 

Day 22: End

Ironically, Head Geek Patrick Hubbard (patrick.hubbard) begins his challenge posting series with this word.

 

Meanwhile, network defender poesizes (is that even a word?)

It’s the end of the world as we’ve known it

The PC Police have shown it

You can’t say what you think

Or the snowflakes will sink

I think society has finally blown it.

 

But pattic quoted one of the four modern apostles (John, Paul, George, and Ringo)

And in the end the love you take

Is equal to the love you make

  • Paul McCartney

 

And THWACK MVP rschroeder offered both sides of the coin, saying “The end of a hard project.  The end of a tough week.  The end of a bad time.  It's like a super hero that arrives in time to prevent me from making a big mistake.  I can THINK the thoughts, but must never give voice to them.

 

The end of a wonderful project.  The end of a great week.  The end of a fun time.  It's like a refreshing experience that lightens one's burdens and gives one strength to turn and look ahead at the next adventures awaiting us.”

 

Day 23: Begin

On the last day of week 4 of the challenge, miseri pondered what it means to begin: “To begin can mean many things - a second chance, start of a new thing or even to take another way on the journey you are.  I am always excited about beginnings but we sometimes can get tired of new things when we think we have made enough use of them. The best way to live life is to view each day, each moment and each opportunity as the beginning of a stage in your life.

 

THWACK MVP jeremymayfield continued this line of personal introspection, saying, “How can I begin to begin.  Its often said when you fail you can always begin again.   In know this personally.   […]  To truly begin again is to let yourself be free of the pains, and issues that had driven you away from where you were going, or who you were and the person you wanted to be. Take time to reflect on the truly important things in life.  Make sure you appreciate what you have, and if you don't now is your time to begin again.”

 

And THWACK MVP rschroeder wrapped up by saying,

I'd begin to see the end of conflict, not its start.

A fresh new love, not a broken heart

A fresh sunrise at the break of day

Or a full moon's rise--that's my way

 

The cure that brings hope

A new DHCP scope

A flower's new bloom,

Not democracy's doom

 

I hope you all have been enjoying these posts as much as I have. I’m looking forward to what next week has to offer.

 

  • Leon

The story so far:

 

  1. It's Not Always The Network! Or is it? Part 1 -- by John Herbert (jgherbert)
  2. It's Not Always The Network! Or is it? Part 2 -- by John Herbert (jgherbert)
  3. It's Not Always The Network! Or is it? Part 3 -- by Tom Hollingsworth (networkingnerd)
  4. It's Not Always The Network! Or is it? Part 4 -- by Tom Hollingsworth (networkingnerd)
  5. It's Not Always The Network! Or is it? Part 5 -- by John Herbert (jgherbert)
  6. It's Not Always The Network! Or is it? Part 6 -- by Tom Hollingsworth (networkingnerd)
  7. It's Not Always The Network! Or is it? Part 7 -- by John Herbert (jgherbert)

 

As 2016 draws to a close, Amanda finds that there's always still room for the unexpected. Here's the eighth—and final—installment, by Tom Hollingsworth (networkingnerd).

 

The View From The Top: James (CEO)

 

The past year has been interesting to say the least. We had a great year overall as a company and hit all of our sales goals. Employee morale seems to be high and we're ready to push forward with some exciting new initiatives as soon as we get through the holidays. I think one thing that has really stood out to me as a reason for our success is the way in which our IT staff has really started shining.

 

Before, I just saw IT as a cost center of the business. They kept asking for more budget to buy things that were supposed to make the business run faster and better, but we never saw that. Instead, we saw the continual issues that kept popping up that caused our various departments to suffer delays and, in some cases, real work stoppages. I knew that I had to make a change and get everyone on board.

 

Bringing Amanda into a leadership position was one of the best decisions I could have made. She took the problematic network and really turned it around. She took the source of all our problems and made it the source of all the solutions to them. Her investment in the right tools really helped speed along resolution time on the major issues we faced.

 

I won't pretend that all the problems in this business will ever go away. But I think I'm starting to see that developing the right people along the way can do a great job of making those problems less impactful to our business.

 

The View From The Trenches: Amanda (Sr Network Manager)

 

Change freezes are the best time of the year. No major installations or work mean maintenance tickets only ... and a real chance for us all to catch our breath. This year was probably one of the most challenging that I've ever had in IT. Getting put in a leadership role was hard. I couldn't keep my head down and plug away at the issues. I had to keep everyone in the loop and keep working toward finding ways to fix problems and keep the business running at the same time.

 

One thing that helped me more than I could have ever realized was getting the right tools in place. Too often in the past, I found myself just guessing at solutions to issues based on my own experiences. As soon as I faced a problem that I hadn't seen before, my level of capability was reset to zero and I had to start from scratch. By getting the tools that gave me the right information about the problems, I was able to reduce the time it took to get things resolved. That made the stakeholders happy. And when I shared those tools with other IT departments, they were able to resolve issues quickly as well, which meant the network stopped getting blamed for every little thing that went wrong.

 

I think in the end my biggest lesson was that IT needs to support the business. Sales, accounting, and all the other areas of this company all have a direct line into the bottom line. IT has always been more about providing support at a level that's hard to categorize. I know that James and the board would always groan when we asked for more budget to do things, but we did it because we could see the challenges that needed to be solved. By finding a way to equate those challenges to business issues and framing the discussion around improving processes and making us more revenue, I think James has finally started to realize how important it is for IT to be a part of the bigger picture.

 

That's not to say there aren't challenges today. I've already seen how we need to have some proper change control methods around here. My networking team has already implemented these ideas, and I plan on getting the CTO to pass them around to the other departments as well. Another thing that I think is critical based on my workload is getting the various teams here to train across roles. I saw it first hand when James would call me for a network issue that ended up being a part of the storage or virtualization team. I learned a lot about those technologies as I helped troubleshoot. They aren't all that different from what we do. I think a little cross training for every team would go a long way in helping us pinpoint issues when they come up instead of dumping the problem on the nearest friendly face.

 

The View From The Middle

 

James called Amanda to his office. She went in feeling hopeful and looking forward to the new year. James and Amanda sat down with one of the other Board members to discuss some items related to Amanda's desire to cross-train the departments, as well as improving change controls and documentation. James waited until Amanda had gone through her list of discussion items. Afterwards, he opened with, "These are some great ideas Amanda, and I know you want to bring them to the CTO. However, I just got word from him that he's going be moving on at the end of the year to take a position in a different company. You're one of the first people outside the Board to know."

 

Amanda was a bit shocked by this. She had no idea the CTO was ready to move on. She said, "That's great for him! Leaves us in a bit of a tough spot though. Do you have someone in mind to take his spot? Mike has been here for quite a while and would make a great candidate." James chuckled as he glanced over at the Board member in the room. He offered, "I told you she was going to suggest Mike. You owe me $5."

 

James turned back to Amanda and said, "I know that Mike has been here for quite a while. He's pretty good at what he does but I don't think he's got what it takes to make it as the CTO. He's still got that idea that the storage stuff is the most important part of this business. He can't see past the end of his desk sometimes." James continued, "No, I think we're going to be opening up applications for the CTO position outside the company. There are some great candidates out there that have some experience and ideas that could be useful to the company."

 

Amanda nodded her head in agreement with James's idea.

 

James then said, "However, that doesn't fix our problem of going without a CTO in the short term. We need someone that has proven that they have visibility across the IT organization; that they can respond well to problems and get them fixed while also having the ability to keep the board updated on the situation."

 

James grinned widely as he slid a folder across the table to Amanda. He said, "That's why the board and I want you to step in as the Interim CTO until we can finish interviewing candidates. Those are some big shoes to fill, but you have our every confidence. You also have the support of the IT department heads. After the way you helped them with the various problems throughout the year, they agreed that they would like to work with you for the time being. We’ll get some professional development scheduled for you as soon as possible. If you’re going to be overseeing the CTO’s office for now, we want to help you succeed with the kind of training that you’ll need. It’s not something you get fixing networks every day, but you’ll find it useful in your new role when dealing with the other department heads."

 

Amanda was speechless. It took her a few moments to find her own words. She thanked James profusely. She said, "Thank you for this! I think it's going to be quite the challenge but I know that I can help you keep the IT department working while you interview for a new CTO. I won't let you down."

 

James replied, "That's exactly what I wanted to hear. And I fully expect to see your application in the pile as well. There's nothing stopping us for taking that "interim" title away if you're the right person for the job. Show us what you're capable of and we'll evaluate you just like the other candidates. Your experience so far shows that you've got a lot of the talents that we're looking for."

 

As Amanda stood up to leave with her new title and duties, James called after her, "Thanks for being a part of our team Amanda. You've done a great job around here and helped show me that it's not always the network."

Only a few shopping days remaining before Christmas! I hope you and yours are settling in for a long holiday weekend. We host our families each year, meaning there will be fifteen people here on Sunday. Naturally I ordered the Roast Beast for the main dish.

 

Anyway, here's a bunch of links I found on the Intertubz that you may find interesting, enjoy!

 

My Yahoo Account Was Hacked! Now What?

Well, for starters, you could try explaining why you are using Yahoo for email.

 

Verizon Rethinking The Yahoo Purchase Deal After Breach

If Verizon even has an ounce of intelligence at the highest levels they will run, not walk, away from Yahoo before the end of the week. I cannot imagine they would still want to go through with this deal.

 

Over 8,800 WordPress Plugins Have Flaws: Study

Yes, and this is why I make an effort to keep my plugins to a minimum and get them updated frequently. Well, that was the plan until a failed update crashed my blog for two days. So I got to play Wordpress Admin last week. Yay.

 

AWS Launches Managed Services

Amazon takes a step into the future of IT by launching this service. I would expect a lot of this managed service to be automated and built into the cost, just as Microsoft is currently doing with Azure.

 

Cisco Is Shutting Down Its Cloud

If you are like me you will read this and think "Cisco has a cloud?", followed by "Why?"

 

DevOps Will Underpin the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Setting aside their inflated sense of self-importance, DevOps now feel that they are about to start an industrial revolution. The author of this article should be shown a history book on technology: DevOps isn't new, it's just a marketing buzzword. And I can only hope that as a result of this "revolution" DevOps will find a way to automate away the use of the term "DevOps", right before they automate themselves out of a job.

 

Evernote’s new privacy policy raises eyebrows

Because awful privacy violations shouldn't be limited to governments here comes EverNote to do their part in making the world a little less safer.

 

My son having a lengthy discussion about requirements and deliverables:

EGL-xmas.jpg

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