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Geek Speak

84 Posts authored by: Leon Adato Expert

Last year, we kicked off a new THWACK tradition: the December Word-a-Day Writing Challenge, which fostered a new kind of interaction in the THWACK community: By sharing personal essays, images, and thoughts, we started personal conversations and created human connections. In just one month, last year’s challenge generated nearly 20,000 views and over 1,500 comments. You can see the amazing writing and thoughtful responses here: Word-A-Day Challenge 2016

 

Much of this can be attributed to the amazing, engaging, thriving THWACK community itself. Whether the topic is the best starship captain, what IT lessons we can learn from blockbuster movies, or the best way to deal with nodes that have multiple IP addresses, we THWACKsters love to chat, debate, and most of all, help. But I also believe that some of last years' success can be attributed to the time of year. With December in sight, and some of us already working on budgets and project plans for the coming year, many of us find our thoughts taking an introspective turn. How did the last 12 months stack up to my expectations? What does the coming year hold? How can I best prepare to meet challenges head-on? By providing a simple prompt of a single, relatively innocuous word, the Word-a-Day Challenge gave many of us a much-needed blank canvas on which to paint our hopes, concerns, dreams, and experiences.

 

Which takes me to this years' challenge. Once again, each day will feature a single word. Once again, one brave volunteer will serve as the "lead" writer for the day, with his or her thoughts on the word of the day featured at the top of the post. Once again, you--the THWACK community--are invited to share your thoughts on the word of the day in the comments area below the lead post. And once again, we will be rewarding your contribution with sweet, sweet THWACK points.

 

What is different this year is that the word list has a decidedly more tech angle to it. Also, our lead writers represent a wider range of voices than last year, with contributors coming from SolarWinds product, marketing, and sales teams. The lead writers also include contributions from our MVP community, which gives you a chance to hear from some of our most experienced customer voices.

 

For those who are more fact-oriented, here are the challenge details:

  • The words will appear in the Word-a-Day challenge area, located here: Word-A-Day Challenge 2017
  • The challenge runs from December 1 to December 31
  • One word will be posted per day, at midnight, US CST (GMT -6)
  • The community has until the following midnight, US CST, to post a meaningful comment on that days' word
    • Comments will earn you 150 THWACK points
    • One comment per THWACK ID per day will be awarded points
    • Points will appear throughout the challenge, BUT NOT INSTANTLY. Chill.
    • A "Meaningful" comment doesn't necessarily mean "long-winded." We're simply looking for something more than a "Me, too!" or "Nice job!" sort of response
    • Words WILL post on the weekends, BUT...

    • ...For posts on Saturday and Sunday, the community will have until midnight CST on Monday (meaning the end of Monday, start of Tuesday) to share comments about those posts. For those folks who really REALLY don't work on the weekend (who ARE you people?!?)

  • Only comments posted in the comments area below the word for that day will be awarded THWACK points (which means words will noot count if posted on Geek Speak, product forums, your own blog, or on the psychic friend's network.)

 

Once again, the Word-a-Day 2017 challenge area can be found here: Word-A-Day Challenge 2017. While nothing will appear in this new forum until December 1, I encourage everyone to follow the page now to receive notifications about new posts as they appear.

 

If you would like to get to know our 28 contributors before the challenge starts, you can find their THWACK pages here:

 

And finally, I present the Word-a-Day list for 2017! I hope that posting them here and now will give you a chance to gather your thoughts and prepare your ideas prior to the Challenge. That way you can fully participate in the conversations that will undoubtedly arise each day.

 

  • December 01 - Identity
  • December 02 - Access
  • December 03 - Insecure
  • December 04 - Imposter
  • December 05 - Code
  • December 06 - FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt)
  • December 07 - Pattern
  • December 08 - Virtual
  • December 09 - Binary
  • December 10 - Footprint
  • December 11 - Loop
  • December 12 - Obfuscate
  • December 13 - Bootstrap
  • December 14 - Cookie
  • December 15 - Argument
  • December 16 - Backbone
  • December 17 - Character
  • December 18 - Fragment
  • December 19 - Gateway
  • December 20 - Inheritance
  • December 21 - Noise
  • December 22 - Object
  • December 23 - Parity
  • December 24 - Peripheral
  • December 25 - Platform
  • December 26 - Utility
  • December 27 - Initial
  • December 28 - Recovery
  • December 29 - Segment
  • December 30 - Density
  • December 31 - Postscript

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"When the student is ready, the teacher appears."

 

I mentioned this idea back when I revealed that the Marvel® movie, Doctor Strange, offered a wealth of lessons for itinerant IT pros (and a few for us grizzled veterans, as well). You can find Part Four here and work your way back from there.

 

It seems inspiration has struck again, this time in the unlikeliest of cinema experiences. There, among the rampant gore and adamantium-laced rage (not to mention the frequent f-bombs), I was struck by how Logan1 held a few IT gems of its own.

 

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

 

Your most reliable tool could, at some future point, become toxic if you aren't able to let go and move on.

 

In the movie, it is revealed that Logan is slowly dying from the inside out. Adamantium, it seems, is not exactly surgical-grade metal, and the toxins have been leaching into his system. Initially held off by his healing factor, the continuous presence of the poison finally takes its toll and does what war, enemies, drowning, and even multiple timelines and horrible sequels could not.

 

One good lesson we should all draw from this is to keep evil shadow government agencies from lacing our skeletons with untested metals.

 

But a more usable lesson might be to let go of tools, techniques, and ideas when they become toxic to us. Even when they still appear to be useful, the wise IT pro understands when it is time to let go of the old before it becomes a deadly embrace.

 

When you see some of yourself in the next generation of IT pros, give them the chance to be better than you were.

 

Logan: "Bad sh*t happens to people I care about. Understand me?"

Laura: "I should be fine then."

 

(Later) Logan: "Don't be what they made you."

 

Many IT professionals eventually reach a tipping point when the adrenaline produced by the new, shiny, and exciting tends to wear off, and the ugly starts to become apparent. Understand, a career in IT is no uglier than other careers.

 

There are a few potential reasons why the honeymoon phase tends to be more euphoric, and the emotional crash when the work becomes a grind more noticeable. It could possibly be because IT is still a relatively new field. Maybe it’s because IT reinvents itself every decade or so. Maybe it is because the cost of entry is relatively low. In other words, it often takes no more than a willingness to learn and a couple of decent breaks.

 

And when that tipping point comes, often a number of years into one's career, it's easy to become "that" person. The bitter, grizzled veteran. The skeptic. The cynic who tries to "help" by warning newcomers of the horror that awaits.

 

Or you become a different version of "that" person, the aloof loner who wants nothing to do with the fresh crop of geeks who just walked in off the street in the latest corporate hiring binge.

 

In either case, you do yourself and the world around you a great disservice with such behavior.

 

In the movie, Logan first avoids helping, and when that option is no longer available to him, he attempts to avoid getting emotionally involved. As an audience, we know (even if we've never read the "Old Man Logan" source material), that this tactic will ultimately fail. We know we'll see the salty, world-weary X-Man open his heart to a strange child before the final credits.

 

What's more, the movie makes plain the opportunities Logan throws away when he chooses a snide remark instead of attempting to get to know Laura, that strange child.

 

So, the lesson to us as IT professionals is that we shouldn't let a bad experience make us feel bad about ourselves, or about our career. And we certainly shouldn't let it get in the way of being a kind and welcoming person to someone new to their career. If anything, we - like Logan at the end of the movie - should try to find those small kernels of capital-T Truth and pass them along, hopefully in ways and at moments when our message will be heard and received in the spirit in which it is meant.

 

Persistent problems need to be faced, fixed, and removed, not ignored and categorized as someone else's problem.

 

Near the beginning of the movie, the reaver Donald Pierce tracks down Logan and asks him for information about Gabrielle, the nurse who rescued Laura from the facility where she and the other child mutants were being raised. Donald makes it clear that he isn’t interested in bringing Logan in for the bounty. He simply wants information.

 

Again, because of his drive to distance himself from the rest of the world, Logan takes this at face value. Even though it is clear that Pierce intends no good for whoever it is he was hunting, Logan is happy it just didn't involve him.

 

And of course, the choice comes back to haunt him.

 

Now I'm not suggesting that Logan should have clawed him in the face in that first scene because, even in as brutal a movie as Logan, that's still not how the world works. But what I am saying is that if you let Pierce be a metaphor for a problem that isn't directly threatening your environment right now, but could come home to roost with disastrous results later, then... yeah, I am saying that you should (metaphorically speaking) claw that bastard’s eyeballs out.

 

I'm looking at you, #WannaCry.

 

Even when your experiences have made you jaded, hang on to your capacity to care.

 

Tightly connected to the previous thought about encouraging the next generation of IT professionals is the idea that we need to do things NOW that allow us to hold on to our capacity to care about people. As Thomas LaRock wrote recently, "Relationships Matter More Than Money" (https://thomaslarock.com/2017/05/relationships-matter-money/).  I would extend this further to include the idea that relationships matter more than a job, and they certainly matter more than a bad day.

 

In the movie, no moment exemplifies this as poignantly as the line that became one of the key voiceover elements in the trailer. In finding a family in trouble, Charles demands they stop and help. Logan retorts, "Someone will come along!" Charles responds quietly but just as forcefully, "Someone HAS come along."

 

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

 

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

Leon Adato

A View from the Air

Posted by Leon Adato Expert Oct 27, 2017

I have something exciting to tell you: THWACKcamp is not unique. Stick with me and I'll explain why.

 

After a hair-raising 37-minute flight connection, I'm comfortably (if somewhat breathlessly) settled into the last row of a tiny plane, which is currently between Houston and Cleveland. And despite the fact that I listened to Patrick's closing comments over five hours ago, it may as well have been five minutes ago. I'm still invigorated by the energy around THWACKcamp 2017: the energy from the teams that put together 18 incredible sessions; the energy from the 2,000+ online chatters who joined to offer their thoughts, comments, and opinions; and the energy from the room full of THWACK MVPs who showed up to take part in this event, which seems to have taken on a life of its own (not a bad thing, in my opinion).

 

It's going to take me a while to process everything I heard and saw over the last two days, from the acts of graciousness, support, and professionalism to the sheer brilliance of the presenters. There's so much that I want to try out.

 

I'm inspired more than ever to pick up Python, both for network projects and simply for the pure joy of learning a new coding language.

 

I have a renewed sense of urgency to get my hands dirty with containers and orchestration so that I can translate that experience into monitoring knowledge.

 

I'm committed to reaching out to our community to hear your stories and help you tell them, either by giving you a platform or by sharing your stories as part of larger narratives.

 

So, if there was so much SolarWinds-y, THWACK-y, Head Geek-y goodness, why would I start this blog by saying THWACKcamp is not unique? Because that sense of excitement, engagement, and invigoration is exactly how I feel when I attend the best IT shows out there. I felt it flying home from the juggernaut that was Microsoft Ignite, which boasted 27,000 attendees. I felt it driving back from the 400-person-strong inaugural DevOpsDays Baltimore. That tells me that THWACKcamp is not just a boutique conference for a certain subset of monitoring snobs and SolarWinds aficionados. It's a convention for ALL of us. While the focus is necessarily on monitoring, there are takeaways for IT pros working across the spectrum of IT disciplines, from storage to security to cloud and beyond.

 

In short, THWACKcamp has arrived. I'll leave it to others to recount the numbers, but, by my count, attendance was in the thousands. That's nothing to sneeze at, and that's before you consider that it's free and 100% online, so many of the barriers for people to attend are removed.

 

I have to admit: my first sentence is deceptive. We ARE unique. At all those other shows I've been to, I have to wait weeks or months to be able to view sessions I regretfully missed at the time, or to review sessions for quotes or other things I might have missed. THWACKcamp is different. You can access all of that content NOW.

 

That's not exactly a groundbreaking technological feat, but it is unique in the industry. And more than that, it's refreshing.

 

So check out the sessions. Give them a re-listen and see if you catch another nugget of knowledge you missed the first time around. Share them with your teams. Come back to them whenever you want (just like you can do for THWACKcamp 2017 (THWACKcamp 2017 ) or past events:

 

Meanwhile, I'm already looking forward to THWACKcamp 2018. I know there are going to be some amazing technologies to share, features to dive into, and stories to tell.

 

Until then!

It is true to the point of cliche that cloud came and changed everything, or at the very least is in the process of changing everything, even as we stand here looking at it. Workloads are moving to the cloud. Hybrid IT is a reality in almost every business. Terms and concepts like microservices, containers, and orchestration pepper almost every conversation in every IT department in every company.

 

Like many IT professionals, I wanted to increase my exposure without completely changing my career or having to carve out huge swaths of time to learn everything from the ground up. Luckily, there is a community ready-made to help folks of every stripe and background: DevOps. The DevOps mindset runs slightly counter to the traditional IT worldview. Along with a dedication to continuous delivery, automation, and process, a central DevOps tenet is, "It's about the people." This alone makes the community extremely open and welcoming to newcomers, especially newcomers like me who have an ops background and a healthy dose of curiosity.

 

So, for the last couple of years, I've been on a bit of journey. I wanted to see if there was a place in the DevOps community for an operations-minded monitoring warhorse like me. While I wasn't worried about being accepted into the DevOps community, I was worried if I would find a place where my interests and skills fit.

 

What concerned me the most was the use of words that sounded familiar but were presented in unfamiliar ways, chief among them the word "monitoring" itself. Every time I found a talk purporting to focus on monitoring, it was mostly about business analytics, developer-centric logging, and application tracing. I was presented with slides that presented such self-evident truths as:

 

"The easy and predictable issues are mostly solved for at scale, so all the interesting problems need high cardinality solutions."

 

Where, I wondered, were the hardcore systems monitoring experts? Where were the folks talking about leveraging what they learned in enterprise-class environments as they transitioned to the cloud?

 

I began to build an understanding that monitoring in DevOps was more than just a change of scale (like going from physical to virtual machines) or location (like going from on-premises to colo). But at the same time, it was less than an utterly different area of monitoring that had no bearing on what I've been doing for 20-odd years. What that meant was that, while I couldn't ignore DevOps' definition of monitoring, nor was I free to write it off as a variation of something I already knew.

 

Charity Majors (@mipsytipsy) has, for me at least, done the best job of painting a picture of what DevOps hopes to address with monitoring:

(excerpted from https://opensource.com/article/17/7/state-systems-administration)

"...And then on the client side: take mobile, for heaven's sake. The combinatorial explosion of (device types * firmwares * operating systems * apps) is a quantum leap in complexity on its own. Mix that in with distributed cache strategy, eventual consistency, datastores that split their brain between client and server, IoT, and the outsourcing of critical components to third-party vendors (which are effectively black boxes), and you start to see why we are all distributed systems engineers in the near and present future. Consider the prevailing trends in infrastructure: containers, schedulers, orchestrators. Microservices. Distributed data stores, polyglot persistence. Infrastructure is becoming ever more ephemeral and composable, loosely coupled over lossy networks. Components are shrinking in size while multiplying in count, by orders of magnitude in both directions... Compared to the old monoliths that we could manage using monitoring and automation, the new systems require new assumptions:

  • Distributed systems are never "up." They exist in a constant state of partially degraded service. Accept failure, design for resiliency, protect and shrink the critical path.
  • You can't hold the entire system in your head or reason about it; you will live or die by the thoroughness of your instrumentation and observability tooling.
  • You need robust service registration and discovery, load balancing, and backpressure between every combination of components..."

While Charity's post goes into greater detail about the challenge and some possible solutions, this excerpt should give you a good sense of the world she's addressing. With this type of insight, I began to form a better understanding of DevOps monitoring. But as my familiarity grew, so too did my desire to make the process easier for other "old monolith" (to use Charity's term) monitoring experts.

 

And this, more than anything else, was the driving force behind my desire to assemble some of the brightest minds in DevOps circles and discuss what it means, "When DevOps Says Monitor" for THWACKcamp this year. It is not too late to register for that session (https://thwack.solarwinds.com/community/thwackcamp-2017/when-devops-says-monitor). Better still, I hope you will join me for the full two-day conference and see what else might shake your assumptions, rattle your sense of normalcy, and set your feet on the road to the next stage of your IT journey.

 

PS: If you CAN'T join for the actual convention, not to worry! All the sessions will be available online to watch at a more convenient time.

I'm back from Microsoft Ignite and I've got to tell you that even though this was my first time at the event, I felt like it was one for the record books. My record books, if nothing else.

 

My feelings about Microsoft are... complicated. I've used Windows for almost 30 years, since version 2.10, which came for free on 12 5.25" floppies when you bought a copy of Excel 2.0. From that point on, while also using and supporting systems that ran DOS, Novell, MacOS, OS/2, SunOS, HP-UX, and Linux, Microsoft's graphical operating system was a consistent part of my life. For a while, I was non-committal about it. Windows had its strengths and weaknesses. But as time went on, and both the company and the technology changed (or didn't), I became apathetic, and then contrarian. I've run Linux on my primary systems for over a decade now, mostly out of spite.

 

That said, I'm also an IT pro. I know which side of the floppy the write-protect tab is flipped to. Disliking Windows technically didn't stop me from getting my MCSE or supporting it at work.

 

The Keynote

The preceding huge build-up is intended to imply that, previous to this year's MS:Ignite keynote, I wasn't ready to lower my guard, open my heart, and learn to trust (if not love) again. I had been so conflicted. But then I heard the keynote.

 

I appreciate, respect, and even rejoice in much of what was shared in Satya Nadella's address. His zen-like demeanor and measured approach proved, in every visible way, that he owns his role as Microsoft's chief visionary. (An amusing sidenote: On my way home after a week at Ignite, I heard Satya on NPR. Once again, he was calm, unassuming, passionate, focused, and clear.

 

Mr. Nadella's vision for Microsoft did not include a standard list of bulleted goals. Instead, he framed a far more comprehensive and interesting vision of the kind of world the company wants to build. This was made clear in many ways, from the simultaneous, real-time translation of his address into more than a dozen languages (using AI, of course), to the fact that, besides himself, just three panelists and one non-speaking demonstration tech were men. Women who occupied important technical roles at Microsoft filled the rest of the seats onstage. Each delivered presentations full of clarity, passion, and enthusiasm.

 

But the inspirational approach didn't stop there. One of the more captivating parts of the keynote came when Nadella spoke about the company's work on designing and building a quantum computer. This struck me as the kind of corporate goal worthy of our best institutions. It sounded, at least to my ears, like Microsoft had an attitude of, "We MIGHT not make it to this goal, but we're going to try our damnedest. Even if we don't go all the way, we're going to learn a ton just by trying to get there!"

 

The Floor

Out on the exhibitor floor, some of that same aspirational thinking was in evidence.

 

I spent more time than I ought to have in the RedHat booth. (I needed a little me time in a Linux-based safe space, okay?) The folks staffing the booth were happy to indulge me. They offered insights into their contributions to past cross-platform efforts, such as getting the Visual Studio ported to Linux. This provided context when I got to zero-in on the details of running SQL server on Linux. While sqlrockstar and I have a lot to say about that, the short story is that it's solid. You aren't going to see 30% performance gains (like you do, in fact, by running Visual Studio on Linux), but there's a modest increase that makes your choice to cuddle up to Tux more than just a novelty.

 

I swung by the MSDN booth on a lark (I maintain my own subscription) and was absolutely blown away when the staffer took the time to check out my account and show me some ways to slice $300 off my renewal price next year. That's a level of dedication to customer satisfaction that I have not expected from M$ in... well, forever, honestly.

 

I also swung by the booth that focused on SharePoint. As some people can attest (I'm looking at you, @jbiggley), I hate that software with the fiery passion of 1,000 suns and I challenged the techs there to change my mind. The person I spoke to got off to a pretty poor start by creating a document and then immediately losing it. That's pretty consistent with my experience of SharePoint, to be honest. He recovered gracefully and indicated a few features and design changes which MIGHT make the software easier to stomach, in case I'm ever forced able to work on that platform again.

 

In the booth, SolarWinds dominated in the way I've come to expect over the past four years of convention-going. There was a mad rush for our signature backpacks (the next time you can find us at a show, you NEED to sign up for one of them, and you need to hit the show floor early). The THWACK.com socks made a lot of people happy, of course. Folks from other booths even came over to see if they could score a pair.

 

What was gratifying to me was the way people came with specific, focused questions. There was less, "Welp, I let you scan my badge, so show me what you got" attitude than I've experienced at other shows. Folks came with a desire to address a specific challenge, to find out about a specific module, or even to replace their current solution.

 

The Buzz

But what had everyone talking? What was the "it" tech that formed the frame of reference for convention goers as they stalked the vendor booths? Microsoft gave everyone three things to think about:

  1. Powershell. This is, of course, not a new tech. But now more than ever (and I realize one could have said this a year ago, or even two, but it keeps becoming ever truer) a modicum of Powershell skills are a requirement if you expect your life as an IT pro to include Microsoft tech.
  2. Teams. This is the new name for the function that is currently occupied by Lync/Skype/Skype for Business. While there is a lot of development runway left before this software takes flight, you could already see (in the keynote demos and on the show floor) that it, along with Bing, will be central to Microsoft's information strategy. Yes, Bing. And no, I'm not making any further comment on that. I feel good enough about Microsoft that I won't openly mock them, but I haven't lost my damn mind.
  3. Project Honolulu. This is another one of those things that will probably require a completely separate blog post. But everyone who showed up at the booth (especially after the session where they unveiled the technical preview release) wanted to know where SolarWinds stood in relation to it.

 

The SWUG Life

Finally, there was the SolarWinds User Group (SWUG) session Tuesday night. In one of the most well-attended SWUGs ever, Steven Hunt, Kevin Sparenberg, and I had the privilege of presenting to a group of users whose enthusiasm and curiosity was undiminished, despite having been at the convention all day. Steven kicked things off with a deep dive into PerfStack, making a compelling case that we monitoring experts need to strongly consider our role as data scientists, considering the vast pile of information we sit on top of. Then I had a chance to show off NetPath a bit, taking Chris O'Brien's NetPath Chalk Talk and extending it to show off some of the hidden tricks and new insights we've gained after watching users interact with it for over a year. And Kevin brought it home with his Better Together talk, which honestly gets better every time I watch him deliver it.

 

The Summary

If you were at Ignite this year, I'd love to hear whether you think my observations are off-base or spot-on. And if you weren't there, I'd highly recommend adding it to your travel plans (it will be in Orlando again next year), especially if you tend to walk on the wild systems side in your IT journey. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Next week I'm flying down to Orlando, Florida to spend a week filling my brain with all things MS: Ignite. I'm especially excited about this trip because it is one of the first times as a Head Geek that I'm traveling to a server- and application-centric show.

 

To be sure, we get our fair share of questions on SAM, DPA, SRM, WPM, VMAN, and the rest of the systems-side of the house at shows like Cisco Live, but I'm expecting (and looking forward to) a whole different class of questions from a convention that boasts 15,000+ folks who care deeply about operating systems, desktops, servers, cloud, and applications.

 

There are a few other things that will make next week special:

          • There. Will. Be. SOCKS. It was a hit at Cisco Live. It was even more of a hit at VMWorld. And now the THWACK socks are ready to take MS: Ignite (and your feet) by storm. We can't wait to see the reactions to our toe-hugging goodness.
          • SWUGLife on the beach: For the second year in a row, Ignite will play host to the most incredible group of users ever assembled: the illustrious, inimitable SolarWinds User Group (or SWUG for short).
          • Geek Boys, Assemble!:  For the first time ever, Patrick, Tom, Kong, and myself will all be at the same show at the same time. It obviously a crime that Destiny couldn't join in the fun, but somehow I think she'll find a way to be with us in spirit. And of course we can just consider this a prelude to the all out Geeksplosion next month at THWACKcamp.
          • THERE. WILL. BE. EBOOKS.: For several weeks, I've been busy crafting the second installment in the SolarWinds Dummies series: Systems Monitoring for Dummies. While you can download it now from this link, we'll also have handouts at the booth to let all of the Ignite attendees know about it, marking the book's first live appearance on the show floor.


But that's more or less the view from show floor. There are things that I'm eager to experience beyond the booth border (#1913, for those who will be in the neighborhood).

 

Tom will be giving two different talks, both of which I personally want to hear about: "Upgrading to SQL Server 2016" is going to be packed full of information and one of those sessions where you'll either want a keyboard or a recorder to get all the details. But "When bad things happen to good applications" promises to be classic SQLRockStar in action. For that one, I plan to bring a lighter for the encore number at the end.

 

I also am very eager to get out and see what Microsoft is all about these days. Sure, I use it on the desktop, and I read the news, and I'm friends with an ever-growing number of folks who work in Redmond. But shows like these are where you get to see the aspirational side of a company and it's technology. Ignite is where I will get to see who Microsoft WANTS to be, at least in the coming year.

 

That aspirational quality will be on display nowhere as much as the keynote talk by Satya Nadella on Monday. Look for me to be live-tweeting at that event, at the very least.

 

Stay tuned for my follow-up log in two weeks, which I expect will be full of unexpected discoveries, a few food-related pictures, and hopefully a few shots of the SolarWinds friends we met up with while we were there.

Anyone who is having issues with performance or considering expanding their deployment has had to wrestle with the question of how, exactly, to get the performance they need. This session will focus on maximizing performance, whether tuning equipment to optimize capabilities, tuning polling intervals to capture the data you need, or adding additional pollers for load balancing and better network visibility.

 

In the "Orion at Scale: Best Practices for the Big League" session, Kevin Sparenberg, product manager, SolarWinds, and Head Geek Patrick Hubbard will teach you best practices for scaling your monitoring environment and ways to confidently plan monitoring expansion. They will focus on maximizing the performance of your expanded deployment, and more!

 

THWACKcamp 2017 is a two-day, live, virtual learning event with eighteen sessions split into two tracks. This year, THWACKcamp has expanded to include topics from the breadth of the SolarWinds portfolio: there will be deep-dive presentations, thought leadership discussions, and panels that cover more than best practices, insider tips, and recommendations from the community about the SolarWinds Orion suite. This year we also introduce SolarWinds Monitoring Cloud product how-tos for cloud-native developers, as well as a peek into managed service providers’ approaches to assuring reliable service delivery to their subscribers.

 

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

The other day, I was talking with my dad and told him IT Pro Day was coming up, and that I needed to write something about it. "Why is it IT PRO Day?" he asked, "Why not just ‘IT People Day’ or ‘IT Enthusiasts Day’? Why leave out all those aspiring amateurs?"

 

My dad was trolling me using my own arguments from a debate we frequently had when I was a kid. You see, my dad has been a musician his whole life. He attended Music & Arts high school in NYC, then Julliard and Columbia, and then had a career that included stints with the New York Philharmonic, NBC Symphony of the Air, and 46 years with the Cleveland Orchestra. Suffice to say, my dad knew what it meant to be "a professional."

 

As a kid, I insisted that the only thing separating pros from amateurs was a paycheck (and the fact that he got to wear a tuxedo to work), and that this simplistic distinction wasn't fair. Of course, what was simplistic was my reasoning. Eventually I understood what made a musician a "pro," and it had nothing to do with their bank account.

 

So that was the nature of his baiting when I brought up IT Pro Day. And it got me thinking: what IS it that makes an IT practitioner a professional? Here's what I've learned from dear old dad:

 

First, having grown up among musicians, I can PROMISE you that being a professional has nothing to do with how much you do (or don't) earn at “the craft,” how obsessively you focus on it, or how you dress (or are asked to dress) for work.

 

Do you take your skills seriously? Dad would say, "If you skip one day of practice, you notice. Two days and the conductor notices. Three days and the audience notices. Pros never let the conductor notice." In an IT context, do you make it your business to stay informed, up to date, know what the upcoming trends are, and get your hands on the new tech (if you can)? It even extends to keeping tabs on your environment, knowing where the project stands, and being on top of the status of your tickets.

 

"If you're not 30 minutes early, you're an hour late," Dad would say as he headed out at 6 p.m. for an 8 p.m. concert. "I can't play faster and catch up if I'm 10 minutes late, you know!"

 

Besides the uncertainty of traffic, instruments needed to be tuned, music sorted, warm ups run. While not every job requires that level of physical punctuality, it's the mental piece that's relevant to us. Are you "present" when you need to be? Do you do what it takes to make sure you CAN be present when it is time to play your part, whether that's in a meeting, during a change control, or when a ticket comes into your queue?

 

When you first learn an instrument, a lot of time is spent learning scales. For those who never made it past the beginner lessons, I have some shocking (and possibly upsetting) news: even the pros practice scales. In fact, I'll say *especially* the pros practice scales. I asked dad about it. He said that you need to work on something until you don't have to think about it any more. That way, it will be there when you need it. As IT pros, we each have certain techniques, command sequences, key combinations, and more that just become a part of us and roll off our fingers. We feel like we could do data center rollouts in our sleep. We run product upgrades "by the numbers." The point is that we've taken the time to get certain things into our bones, so that we don't have to think about them any more. That's what professionals do.

 

This IT Pro Day, I'm offering my thanks and respect to the true IT professionals. The ones who work every day to stay at the top of their game. Who prepare in advance so they can be present when they're needed. Who grind out the hours getting skills, concepts, and processes into their bones so it's second nature when they need them. Doesn't that sound like the kind of IT pros you know? The kind you look up to?

 

The truth is, it probably sounds a lot like you.

As companies race to the cloud and adopt DevOps culture as part of that process, it's becoming more apparent that the word "monitoring" has a significantly different meaning within the walls of a data center than it does in the DevOps huddle area. But what, if anything, is actually different? Or is it all just jargon and an attitude of not invented here (NIH).


In my panel discussion, 'When DevOps Says "Monitor,"' I will be joined by Nathen Harvey, VP of Community Development at Chef, Michael Cote, Director of Technical Marketing at Pivotal, and Clinton Wolfe, cloud architect and DevOps practice lead (and current "hero for hire" seeking his next adventure). In our conversation, we'll break down expectations, and yes, even bad (monitoring) habits in the DevOps world in a way that will make a traditional monitoring engineer feel right at home.

 

Because it was so successful last year, we are continuing our expanded-session, two-day, two-track format for THWACKcamp 2017. SolarWinds product managers and technical experts will guide attendees through how-to sessions designed to shed light on new challenges, while Head Geeks and IT thought leaders will discuss, debate, and provide context for a range of industry topics.

 

In our 100% free, virtual, multi-track IT learning event, thousands of attendees will have the opportunity to hear from industry experts and SolarWinds Head Geeks, such as myself, and technical staff. Registrants also get to interact with each other to discuss topics related to emerging IT challenges, including automation, hybrid IT, DevOps, and more.

 

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

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Recently, Head Geek Destiny Bertucci ( Dez ) and I talked about certifications on an episode of SolarWinds Lab. For almost an hour we dug into the whys and hows of certifications. But, of course, the topic is too big to cover in just one episode.

 

Which is why I wanted to dig in a little deeper today. This conversation is one that you can expect I'll be coming back to at various points through the year. This dialogue will be informed by my experiences both past and present, as well as the feedback you provide as we go on. I want this to be a roundtable discussion, so at the end we'll all have something closer to a 360-degree view. My goal is to help IT professionals of all experience levels make an informed choice about certs: which ones to pursue, how to go about studying, where to set expectations about the benefits of certifying, and even tricks for preparing for and taking the exams.

 

For today's installment, I thought it might make sense to start at the beginning, meaning a bit of a walk down Certification Lane to look at the certs I already have, when I got them, and why.

 

To be clear, I don't mean this to be a #humblebrag in any way. Let's face it. If you watched the episode, you know that there are other Geeks with WAY more certifications than me. My point in recounting this is to offer a window into my decision-making process and, as I said, to get the conversation started.

 

My first tech certification was required by my boss. I was working at a training company that specialized (as many did at the time) in helping people move from the typing pool where they used sturdy IBM selectrics to the data processing center where WordPerfect was king. My boss advised me that getting my WPCE (WordPerfect Certified Resource) cert would accomplish two things:

 

  1. it would establish my credibility as a trainer
  2. if I didn't know a feature before the test, I sure as heck would after.

 

This was not your typical certification test. WordPerfect shipped you out a disk (A 5.25" floppy, no less) and the test was on it. You had up to 80 hours to complete it and it was 100% open book. That's right, you could use any resources you had to finish the test. Because at the end of the day, the test measured execution. Instead of just asking "what 3-keystroke combination takes you to the bottom of the document" the exam would open a document and ask that you DO it. A keylogger ensured the proper keystrokes were performed.

 

(For those who are scratching their heads, it's "Home-Home-DownArrow", by the way. I can also still perfectly recall the 4-color F-key template that was nearly ubiquitous at the time.

 

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And my boss was right. I knew precious little about things like macros before I cracked open the seal on that exam disk. But I sure knew a ton about them (and much more) when I mailed it back in. Looking back, the WPCE was like a kinder, gentler version of the CCIE practical exam. And I'm grateful that was my first foray into the world of IT certs.

 

My second certification didn't come until 7 years later. By that time I had worked my way up the IT food chain, from classroom instructor to desktop support, but I wanted to break into server administration. The manager of that department was open to the idea, but needed some proof that I had the aptitude. The company was willing to pay for the classes and the exams, so I began a months-long journey into the world of Novell networking.

 

At the time, I had my own ideas about how to do things (ah, life in your 20's when you are omniscient!). I decided I would take ALL the classes and once I had a complete overview of Novell, I'd start taking exams.

 

A year later, the classes were a distant dot in the rear view mirror of life but I still hadn't screwed up my courage to start taking the test. What I did have, however, was a lot more experience with servers (by then the desktop support was asked to do rotations in the helpdesk, where we administered almost everything anyway). In the end, I spend many, many nights after work and late into the night reviewing the class books and ended up taking the tests almost 18 months after the classes.

 

I ended up passing, but I also discovered the horrific nightmare landscape that is "adaptive exams" - tests that give you a medium level question on a topic and if you pass it, you get a harder question. This continues until you miss a question, at which point the level of difficulty drops down. And that pattern continues until you complete all the questions for that topic. On a multi-topic exam like the Certified Novell Engineer track, that means several categories of questions that come at you like a game of whack-a-mole where the mole's are armed and trying to whack you back. And the exam ends NOT when you answer all the questions, but when it is mathematically impossible to fail (or pass). Which led to a heart-stopping moment on question 46 (out of 90) when the test abruptly stopped and said "Please wait for results".

 

But it turns out I had passed.

 

Of course, I was prepared for this on the second test. Which is why the fact that it WASN'T adaptive caused yet more heart palpitations. On question 46 I waited for the message. Nothing. So I figured I had a few more questions to answer. Question 50 passed me by and I started to sweat. By question 60 I was in panic mode. At question 77 (out of 77), I was on the verge of tears.

 

But it turns out I passed that one, as well.

 

And 2 more exams later (where I knew to ASK the testing center what kind of test it would be before sitting down) I was the owner of a shiny new CNE (4.0, no less!).

 

And, as things often turn out, I changed jobs about 3 months later. It turns out that in addition to showing aptitude, the manager also needed an open req. My option was to wait for someone on the team to leave, or take a job which fell out of the sky. A local headhunter cold-called my house and the job he had was for a server administration job at a significant amount more than what I was making.

 

It also involved Windows servers.

 

By this time I'd been using Windows since it came for free on 12 5.25" floppies with Excel 1.0. For a large part of my career, "NT" was short for "Not There (yet)". But in 1998 when I switched jobs, NT 4.0 had been out for a while and proven itself a capable alternative.

 

Which is why, in 1999, I found myself NOT as chief engineer of the moon as it traveled through space but instead spending a few months of my evening hours studying for and taking the 5 exams that made up the MCSE along with the rest of my small team of server admins.

 

Getting our MCSE wasn't required, but the company once again offered to pay for both the class and the exam as a perk of the job (ah, those pre-bubble glory days!) so we all took advantage of it. This time I wasn't taking the test because I was told to, or to meet someone else's standard. I was doing it purely for me. It felt different, and not in a bad way.

 

By that point, taking tests had become old hat. I hadn't passed every single one, but my batting average was good enough that I was comfortable when I sat down and clicked "begin exam".

 

Ironically, it would be another 5 years before I needed to take a certification test.

 

In 2004, I was part of a company that was renewing their Cisco Gold Partner status, when the powers-that-be discovered they needed a few more certified employees. They asked for volunteers and I readily raised my hand, figuring this would be the same deal as the last time - night study for a few weeks, take a test, and everybody is happy.

 

It turns out that my company needed 5 certifications - CCNA (1 exam), MCSE (6 exams), MCSE+Messaging (add one more exam to the 6 for MCSE), Cisco Unity (1 exam), and Cisco Interactive Voice Response (1 exam). Oh, and they needed it by the end of the quarter. "I'm good," I told them, "but I'm not THAT good".

 

After a little digging, I discovered a unique option: Go away to a 3 week "boot camp" where they would cover all the MCSE material *and* administer the exams. Go straight from that boot camp to a 1 week boot camp for the CCNA. Then come home and finish up on my own.

 

It is a testament to my wife's strength of character that not only did she not kill me outright for the idea but supported the idea. And so off I went.

 

The weeks passed in a blur of training material, independent study, exams passed, exams failed, and the ticking of the clock. And then it was home and back to the "regular" work day, but with the added pressure of passing two more exams on my own. In the end, it was the IVR exam (of all things) that gave me the most trouble. After two stupendously failed attempts, I passed.

 

Looking back, I know it was all a very paper tiger-y thing to do. A lot of the material - like the MCSE - were things I knew well and used daily. But some (like the IVR) were technologies I had never used and never really intended to use. But that wasn't the point and I wasn't planning to go out and promote those certifications in any case.

 

But taking all those tests in such short order was also - and please don't judge me for this - fun. As much as some people experience test anxiety, but the rush of adrenaline and the sense of accomplishment at the end is hard to beat. In the end I found the whole experience rewarding.

 

And that, believe it or not, was the end of my testing adventure (well, if you don't count my SCP, but that's a post for another day) - at least it WAS it until this year when Destiny and I double-dog-dared each other to go on this certification marathon.

 

This time out, I think I'm able to merge the best of all those experiences. It is a lot of tests in a short period, but I'm only taking exams that prove the skills I've built up over my 30 year career. I'm not doing it to get a promotion or satisfy my boss or meet a deadline. It's all for me this time.

 

And it's also refreshingly simple. The idea that there is ONE correct answer to every question is a wonderful fiction, when compared to the average day of an IT professional.

 

So that's where things stand right now. Tell me where you are in your own certification journey in the comments below. Also let me know if there are topics or areas of the certification process that you want me to explore deeper in future posts.

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After a week with over 27,000 network nerds (and another week to recover), I'm here to tell you about who and what I saw (and who/what I missed) at Cisco Live US 2017.

 

The View From the Booth

Monday morning the doors opened and WE WERE MOBBED. Here are some pictures:

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Our backpack promotion was a HUGE crowd pleaser and we ran out almost immediately. For those who made it in time, you've got a collector's item on your hands. For those who didn't, we're truly sorry that we couldn't bring about a million with us, although I feel like it still wouldn't have been enough.

 

Also in short supply were the THWACK socks in old and new designs.

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These were instant crowd pleasers and I'm happy to say that if you couldn't make it to our booth (or to the show in general), you can still score a pair on the THWACK store for a very affordable 6,000 points.

 

Over four days, our team of 15 people was able to hang out with over 5,000 attendees who stopped by to ask questions, find out what's new with SolarWinds, and share their own experiences, stories, and experiences from the front lines of the IT world.

 

More than ever, I believe that monitoring experts need to take a moment to look at some of the "smaller" tools that SolarWinds has to offer. While none of our sales staff will be able to buy that yacht off the commission, these won't-break-the-bank solutions pack a lot of power.

 

  • Network Topology Mapper - No, this is not just "Network Atlas" as a separate product. It not only discovers the network, it also identifies aspects of the network that network atlas doesn't catch (like channel-bonded circuits). But most of all, it MAPS the discovery automatically. And it will use industry standard icons to represent those devices on the map. No more scanning your visio diagram and then placing little green dots on the page.
  • Kiwi Syslog - My love for this tool knows no bounds. I wrote about it recently and probably drew the diagram to implement a "network filtration layer" over a dozen times on the whiteboards built into our booth.
  • Engineer's Toolkit - Visitors to the booth - both existing customers and people new to SolarWinds - were blown away when they discovered that installing this on the polling engine allows it to drill down to near-real-time monitoring of elements for intense data collection, analysis, and troubleshooting.

 

There are more tools - including the free tools - but you get the point. Small-but-mighty is still "a thing" in the world of monitoring.

 

More people were interested in addressing their hybrid IT challenges this year than I can remember in the past, including just six months ago at Cisco Live Europe. That meant we talked a lot about NetPath, PerfStack, and even the cloud-enabled aspects of SAM and VMan. At a networking show. Convergence is a real thing and it's happening, folks.

 

Also, we had in-booth representation for the SolarWinds MSP solutions that garnered a fair share of interest among the attendees, whether they thought of themselves as MSPs, or simply wanted a cloud-native solution to monitor and manage their own remote sites.

 

All Work And No Play

 

But, of course, Cisco Live is about more than the booth. My other focus this year was preparing for and taking the Cisco CCNA exam. How did I do? You'll just have to wait until the July 12th episode of SolarWinds Lab to find out.

 

But what I did discover is that taking an exam at a convention is a unique experience. The testing center is HUGE, with hundreds of test-takers at all hours of the day. This environment comes with certain advantages. You have plenty of people to study and -- if things don't go well -- commiserate with. But I also felt that the ambient test anxiety took its toll. I saw one man, in his nervousness to get to the test site, take a tumble down the escalator. Then he refused anything except a couple of Band Aids because he "just wanted to get this done."

 

In the end, my feeling is that sitting for certification exams at Cisco Live is an interesting experience, but one I'll skip from now on. I prefer the relative quiet and comfort of my local testing center, and juggling my responsibilities in the booth AND trying to ensure I had studied enough was a huge distraction.

 

What I Missed

While I got to take a few quick walks around the vendor area this year, I missed out on keynotes and sessions, another casualty of preparing for the exam. So I missed any of the big announcements or trends that may have been happening out of the line of site of booth #1111.

 

And while I tried to catch up with folks who have become part of this yearly pilgramage, I missed catching up with Lauren Friedman (@Lauren), Amy ____ (), and even Roddie Hassan (@Eiddor), who I apparently missed by about 20 minutes Thursday as I left for my flight.

 

So... That's It?

Nah, there's more. My amazing wife came with me again this year, which made this trip more like a vacation than work. While Las Vegas is no Israel in terms of food, we DID manage to have a couple of nice meals.

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It was also a smart move: Not only did she win us some extra cash:

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...she also saved my proverbial butt. I typically leave my wallet in the hotel room for the whole conference. I only realized my mistake as the bus dropped us OFF at the test center. It would have meant an hour there-and-back and missing my scheduled time to go get it. But my wife had the presence of mind to stick my wallet in her bag before we left, so the crisis was averted before I had suffered a major heart attack.

 

So if my wife and I were in Vegas, where were the kids?

 

They were back home. Trolling me.

 

Apparently the plans began a month ago, and pictures started posting to Twitter before our plane had even landed. Here are a few samples. You have to give them credit, they were creative.

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But I got the last laugh. Their antics caught the attention of the Cisco Live social media team, who kept egging them on all week. Then, on Wednesday, they presented me with early entry passes to the Bruno Mars concert.

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My daughter took it all in stride:

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Looking Ahead

Cisco Live is now firmly one of the high points of my yearly travel schedule. I'm incredibly excited for Cisco Live Europe, which will be in Barcelona this year .

But I got the ultimate revenge on my kids when it was announced that Cisco Live US 2018 will be in... Orlando. Yep, I'M GOING TO DISNEY!!

 

Outside of the Cisco Live circuit, I'll also be attending Microsoft Ignite in September, and re:Invent in November.

 

So stay tuned for more updates as they happen!

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I realized that I do so many of these "travelog" type posts that, like Tom's "Actuator" newsletter, I might as well have a snappy name to go with it. So here we are.

 

Next week I'll be heading out to Las Vegas with 20 of my SolarWinds peeps (including patrick.hubbard and Dez ) for a week of madness called CiscoLive. So what are my goals for this trip, besides claiming my very own NetVet badge and avoiding bursting into flame whenever I walk outside? (The weather forecasts temperatures between 105 and 111 F°.)

 

First off, CiscoLive kicks off once again with the unofficial event known as #KiltedMonday. While I will NOT be sporting a kilt, I have acquired a scarf woven with the official Jewish tartan and will be wearing it proudly...

 

...along with socks. Because #SocksOfCLUS are also A Thing, and we at SolarWinds are very proud to be offering one of three new patterns for anyone who shows up and registers for a THWACK account.

 

Jumping ahead, a lot of my focus is going to be on Wednesday morning, when Destiny and I will sit for Cisco exams. I'm renewing my CCNA and Destiny is going for the CCNA+Security cert - because of course she is! While I cannot wait to talk to people in the booth, I admit that whenever there's a quiet moment I will probably be huddled in a corner reviewing ACLs, OSPF routing, and IPv6.

 

Finally, I'm looking forward to renewing old friendships that have become a yearly tradition. I hope to get to spend time on the dCloudCouch with Silvia Spiva (@silviakspiva) and Anne Robotti (@arobotti); attempting to get in a podcast with both Lauren Friedman (@lauren) and also Amy Lewis (@CommsNinja), and finding a minute to chill with Roddie Hasan (@eiddor).

 

And, of course, that ignores the fact that 20 SolarWinds folks will all be in the same place at the same time for more than 30 minutes in a row. So you can expect jokes, videos, tweets, interviews, and more!

 

Next week I'll let you know what I actually DID see, as well as anything unexpected that I happened across.

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Want to know a secret?

 

I'm going to start at the end.

 

If your environment collects syslog and trap messages, no matter what vendor solution you are using, create a filtration layer that will take all those messages, process them, and forward just the useful ones along.

 

Now, moving from the end back to the beginning, here's what you want to do: Get some copies of Kiwi Syslog Server, set up a load balancer like an F5 to do UDP round robin between all those servers, and set rules on the first server to filter out everything but the alerts you want to keep. For the messages you want to keep, set up rules to transparently forward them to the system(s) that will process and act on them. Export that rule set and import it to the other servers sitting behind the load balancer. Finally, update all of the devices in your enterprise to send their trap and syslog messages to the VIP presented by the load balancer.

 

That's the secret! Now that I've explained it, the trick, the bottom line, are you curious to know WHY I am telling you all this?

 

This is why: I've seen the following scenario a half-dozen times. I'm brought in to consult on a monitoring project and someone announces, "My monitoring sucks! It's dog slow and just doesn't work. Find me something else!" So, I poke around and realize that all of their traps and syslog messages are going to a single system, which also happens to be the monitoring system. In Solarwinds terms, that's the primary poller.

 

In my experience, network devices generate a metric buttload (yes, that's a scientifically accurate measurement) of messages per hour. In more boring terms, we're talking about roughly 4,000 messages per hour per machine.

 

If you have a server that is trying to manage pinging a set of devices (and collecting and storing those metrics) along with pulling SNMP or WMI data from that same set of devices (again, and storing that data), along with presenting that information in the form of views and reports, and checking the database for exceeded thresholds to create alerts, and analyzing that data to provide baselines, and... Well, you get the point. Polling engines have a lot of work to do. And one of the ways they stay on top of that work is having a finely tuned scheduler that manages all those polling cycles.

 

If you then start throwing a few million spontaneous messages, which must be processed in real-time, what you have is a VERY unhappy system. What you have is monitoring solution that "sucks" through no fault of its own.

 

Once I am able to point this out to clients, the next question is, "Should we turn off syslog or traps?" Of course not. That is a rich and vital source of information. What you need is to put something in front of those messages to filter them out.

 

Which brings me back to the "filtration system."

 

BUT... there's a catch! The catch is that most syslog and trap receivers expect to also process those messages themselves - to create alerts, to store the data, etc. What is needed in my example is to be able to ignore the messages that are unimportant, but then FORWARD the ones that matter to another system that is able to act upon them. The challenge here is to forward them without changing the source machine.

 

Many trap and syslog handlers can forward messages, but they replace the original machine with itself as the source. That's not helpful when you want to correlate a syslog message with data collected another way, say SNMP polling, for example. To do that, you need to perform what is called "transparent" forwarding, which keeps the original source machine information intact.

 

Kiwi Syslog has done this for years. But not so with SNMP traps. For a variety of reasons, which I won't get into now, that capability hasn't existed until 9.6, the latest version.

 

Now that this essential function within your monitoring infrastructure is available (not to mention really, REALLY affordable) you can impact the performance of your monitoring system in a great big, positive way.

 

So, take a minute and check out the new version. Forwarding traps transparently isn't the only new feature, by the way. There's also IPv6 support, SNMP v3 support, use of VarBinds in output, logging to Papertrail, and more! Try it and let me know what you think in the comments below.

 

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Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending and speaking at ByNet Expo in Tel Aviv, Israel.  As i mentioned in my preview article, I had hoped to use this event to talk about cloud, hybrid IT, and SolarWinds' approach to these trends, to meet with customers in the region, and to enjoy the food, culture, and weather.

 

I'm happy to report that the trip was a resounding success on all three fronts.

 

First, a bit of background:

 

Founded in 1975, ByNet (http://www.bynet.co.il/en/) is the region's largest systems integrator, offering professional services and solutions for networking, software, cloud, and more.

 

I was invited by SolarWinds' leading partner in Israel, ProLogic (http://prologic.co.il/) who, honestly, are a great bunch of folks who not only know their stuff when it comes to SolarWinds, but they also are amazing hosts and fantastic people to just hang out with.

 

Now you might be wondering what kind of show ByNet (sometimes pronounced "bee-naht" by the locals) Expo is. Is it a local user-group style gathering? A tech meet-up? A local business owners luncheon?

 

To answer that, let me first run some of the numbers:

  • Overall attendees: 4,500
  • Visitors to the SolarWinds/Prologic booth: ~1,000
  • Visitors to my talk (~150, which was SRO for the space I was in)

 

The booth was staffed by Gilad, Lior, and Yosef, who make up part of the ProLogic team. On the Solarwinds side, I was joined by Adriane Burke out of our Cork office. That was enough to attract some very interesting visitors, including the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Orbotec, Soreq, the Israeli Prime Minister's Office, Hebrew University, Mcafee, and three different branches of the IDF.

 

We also got to chat with some of our existing customers in the region, like Motorola, 3M, the Bank of Israel, and Bank Hapoalim.

 

Sadly missing from our visitor list, despite my repeated invitations on Twitter, was Gal Gadot.

 

But words will only take you so far. Here are some pictures to help give you a sense of how this show measures up:

 

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But those are just some raw facts and figures, along with a few flashy photos. What was the show really like? What did I learn and see and do?

 

First, I continue to be struck by the way language and culture informs and enriches my interactions with customers and those curious about technology. Whether I'm in the booth at a non-U.S. show such as CiscoLive Europe or ByNet Expo, or when I'm meeting with IT pros from other parts of the globe, the use of language, the expectations of where one should pause when describing a concept or asking for clarification, the graciousness with which we excuse a particular word use or phrasing - these are all the hallmarks of both an amazing and ultimately informative exchange. And also of individuals who value the power of language.

 

And every time I have the privilege to experience this, I am simply blown away by its power. I wonder how much we lose, here in the states, by our generally mono-linguistic mindset.

 

Second, whatever language they speak, SolarWinds users are the same across the globe. Which is to say they are inquisitive, informed, and inspiring in the way they push the boundaries of the solution. So many conversations I had were peppered with questions like, "Why can't you...?" and "When will you be able to...?"

 

I love the fact that our community pushes us to do more, be better, and reach higher.

 

With that said, I landed on Friday morning after a 14-hour flight, dropped my bags at the hotel and - what else - set off to do a quick bit of pre-Shabbat shopping. After that, with just an hour or two before I - and most of the country - went offline, I unpacked and got settled in.

 

Twenty-four hours later, after a Shabbat spent walking a chunkble chuck of the city, I headed out for a late night snack. Shawarma, of course.

 

Sunday morning I was joined by my co-worker from Cork, Adrian Burke. ProLogic's Gilad Baron spent the day showing us Jerusalem's Old City, introducing us to some of the best food the city has to offer, and generally keeping us out of trouble.

 

And just like that, the weekend was over and it was time to get to work. On Monday we visited a few key customers to hear their tales of #MonitoringGlory and answer questions. Tuesday was the ByNet Expo show, where the crowd and the venue rivaled anything Adrian and I have seen in our travels.

 

On my last day, Wednesday, I got to sit down in the ProLogic offices with a dozen implementation specialists to talk some Solarwinds nitty-gritty: topics like the product roadmaps, use cases, and trends they are seeing out in the field.

 

After a bit of last-minute shopping and eating that night, I packed and readied myself to return home Thursday morning.

 

Random Musings

  • On Friday afternoon, about an hour before sundown, there is a siren that sounds across the country, telling everyone that Shabbat is approaching. Of course nobody is OBLIGATED to stop working, but it is striking to me how powerful  a country-wide signal to rest can be. This is a cultural value that we do not see in America.
  • It is difficult to take a 67-year-old Israeli taxi driver seriously when he screams into his radio at people who obviously do not understand him. Though challenging, I managed to hide my giggles.
  • Traveling east is hard. Going west, on the other hand, is easy.
  • You never "catch up" on sleep.
  • Learning another language makes you much more sensitive to the importance of pauses in helping other people understand you.
  • Everything in Jerusalem is uphill. Both ways.
  • On a related note: there are very few fat people in Jerusalem.
  • Except for tourists.
  • Orthodox men clearly have their sweat glands removed. Either that or they install personal air conditioners inside their coats. That's right. I said coats. In May. When it's 95 degrees in the sun.

 

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As I type this, I find myself somewhat unexpectedly winging my way back to Israel. For those who recall, I was here last December for DevOpsDays Tel Aviv (described here and here) with the specific goals to:

 

  • Continue my conversations about the intersection between DevOps and traditional monitoring
  • Increase my knowledge of cloud technologies and the causes behind the push to cloud
  • Eat my body weight in kosher shawarma

 

Very recently, an opportunity to speak at Bynet Expo fell into my lap, where we had a chance to articulate SolarWinds' approach to cloud and hybrid IT monitoring and management. The shawarma was calling me back, so I had to go.

 

This is where I'll be for the next week, soaking up some bright Israeli sunshine, meeting with over 3,000 IT pros in the booth, and offering my thoughts on how Sympathetic Innovation is the key to managing hybrid IT.

 

I can't wait to share the experience with everyone when I get back.

 

Oh, and there may be some food pictures. And even a video or two.

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