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Geek Speak

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Two recent thwack conversations touched on the theme of change and initiated tremendous engagement from community members. The first article, Moving Network Configuration Management Forward by lindsayhill, discussed network configuration management that enables higher reliability at the speed of business and the hold up with moving forward. The second discussion, Why are IT people afraid of change? by optwpierce, covered a situation where an IT pro ran into IT inertiaother organizations refused to adopt a more efficient method.


I’ve mentioned before that the only guarantee in IT is that something will break. I’d like to amend tothe only guarantee in IT is that something will change. People, process, and technology will change. Accordingly, IT professionals need to adjust to those dynamics as well.


So why doesn’t IT just change? To understand the angst against change, you have to understand what changes in IT and the drivers of change. IT change management used to be characterized by just IT operations only i.e. those configurations associated with systems, applications, storage, networks, and software. IT received an annual budget that it could spend as it saw fit to support all of the business projects. Because of the steady, constant nature of the IT budget, IT could plan on a regular cadence for procurement, deployment, testing, and integration.


Unfortunately, many times this did not meet the business requirements or the business opportunity window. This opened the door for IT-as-a-Service from someone other than IT. And guess what, others can sometimes do it better, faster, and cheaper.

So two things emerged against change: process and people. Sentiments like “We’ve always done it this way” “It’s not broken, why fix it” or “If we automate and orchestrate those responsibilities, what will I be doing?” arose in IT organizations. However, these excuses can’t hold off the impending IT transformation. The business is mandating that IT operations match the speed and the scale of services that it wants to use. IT change management needs to evolve to incorporate business operations alongside its day-to-day IT operations.


The threat is clear to IT budgets and IT professionalseither effectively and efficiently deal with change management at scale and high velocity or be completely disrupted out of a career. I highly recommend reading the aforementioned articles and the associated comments. And share how you and your IT organization are dealing with change in the comment section below.

At some point IT will be asked to make a business case for some expense related to the Help Desk. It could be to justify hiring new staff, laptop upgrades, training, or to avoid the axe in a time of tightening budgets. When that time comes, for whatever reason, you’ll want to be able to show the return on investment (ROI) of the Help Desk expenses.

At first, this seems like it should be easy enough to show – simply calculate the cost of the Help Desk, create some metrics to calculate the value of what the Help Desk provides to its customers (customers, not users), and then demonstrate that the second value is greater than the first.

In practice, this is often extraordinarily difficult for two reasons. The first is that it’s actually hard to get people to agree on the value of the Help Desk metrics that are easy to measure. Some examples:

  • Number of tickets/cases handled: Some will argue that a high number proves the value of Help Desk, while others maintain that it shows the environment is too fault-prone or difficult to use.
  • The cost of the customer-hours of productivity that Help Desk saves: It’s difficult to get people to agree on the monetary value of a customer-hour or on how much time a particular Help Desk action saved.
  • Average time to ticket/problem resolution: A low number here is an obvious sign of a good Help Desk, but does a closed ticket mean the problem is actually resolved?

The second reason is that the things you actually want to measure turn out to be really difficult to put a number to. What you really want to know is:

  • Are our customers happy with the service they’ve received?
  • Are our customers more productive because of us? If yes, how much more productive?
  • Was the issue actually resolved satisfactorily, or did the customer simply work around it?

What metrics are you tracking for your Help Desk? What do you wish you could track?

In my previous blogs, I provided an overview of thin provisioning and discussed moving from fat to thin with thin provisioning. Now, I’d like to talk about over allocation or over committing of storage space. When you over commit storage it helps enhance application uptime. Further, it makes storage capacity management simple.


What is the over committing of storage?

When VM’s are assigned with storage more than what is actually available, it is known as over-allocation. By this mechanism, applications start their operation viewing more storage than what was actually assigned. For example, say 3 applications need 50 GB each to start operation. With over committing, all 3 can start their operation with just a total 50 GB of physical storage. The remaining 100 GB or more can be added to the storage array when the existing 50 GB’s utilization is increasing.  This way available storage arrays are utilized appropriately.


Some advantages of over committing storage are: 

  • It cuts down capital expenditures (capex): Capex will be cut down since storage space that goes unused is very minimal.
  • It allows you to dedicate more storage to VM’s than the actual available storage.
  • Flexibility of storage: there is no storage limit, more volume can be added as and when needed.
  • No trouble of forecasting storage growth: Helps you avoid the trouble of having to predict the accurate growth of volume.


Some disadvantages include:

  • Applications halt or crash: When the disk group/groups run into overcommit state (when the physical storage gets utilized 100%), applications will not have free disk to store the processed/collected data, causing the application to crash.
  • Adding free capacity can be time consuming: Manual interventions, like adding disk drives are needed to increase free capacity in the disk group/groups. And manual interventions are time consuming.
  • Chances for errors: There is a high chance for errorslike when freeing storage by deleting unwanted files or VM’s that are no longer needed, which can cause the loss of a file that had required data.
  • Rogue application:  A rogue application can completely bring down the storage as it might rapidly consume the free storage. Just imagine the rouge application sharing the same disk group as a business critical application, such as CRM, ERP, etc.


To get the best out of over committing in thin provisioning and avoid any risk, it’s important to be readily prepared. So always remember to keep a close eye on your storage. By monitoring your storage, it makes over committing and thin provisioning much easier. Furthermore, you should manage your storage or datastore by setting alerts for over allocation, so you quickly receive an SMS or email before something goes wrong. Finally, be sure to set your alerts at a decent %, so you have the necessary time to add more disk to existing storage volume.

  I hope this 3 piece blog series provided you with some helpful tips and information. If anyone has questions regarding thin provisioning, feel free to ask me in the comments section. 

Being IT pros, we pride ourselves in being tech savvy and keeping abreast of technology developments in the industry. Recently, Spiceworks released a technology adoption report highlighting a survey conducted with over 1100 IT pros from across NA and EMEA countries. This blog is a summary of key findings from that report. Here are some interesting stats for your consumption.


With 37% of network and systems admin respondents, the survey also included participation from help desk technicians, IT managers, IT directors, CIO/CTOs, and tech consultants. Cutting across all major industry verticals—manufacturing, education, healthcare, finance, government, retail, construction, software, and MSP—the reports help us understand where IT teams in corporations are headed towards in terms of technology adoption.


Technology Adoption Trends


65% and 56% of surveyed IT pros in NA and EMEA (respectively) have already adopted Cloud computing.


Been there, done that. The top 10 services hosted on the Cloud are:

  1. Web hosting
  2. Email hosting
  3. Productivity solutions more info (e.g., file sharing, online collaboration, productivity suites)
  4. Content filtering (e.g., email filtering, web gateway)
  5. Backup/recovery
  6. Industry-specific apps
  7. Infrastructure (e.g., IaaS, cloud computing, storage)
  8. Business support (e.g., SCM, ERP, HR, Accounting)
  9. Sales support
  10. Hosted VOIP

Web hosting and email hosting have been most popular with over 60-80% of respondents choosing these services.


Make way. Here I come. In the next six months, IT pros are looking to host the following services:

  1. Online backup and recovery
  2. Productivity solutions
  3. Infrastructure
  4. Email hosting
  5. Application hosting






71% and 79% of surveyed IT pros in NA and EMEA (respectively) have already virtualized their infrastructure.


I’m virtual. Are you? The top virtual workloads that run today are:

  1. IT services (e.g., storage, printing, domain)
  2. Internal IT (e.g., security, inventory)
  3. Productivity apps (e.g., collaboration, email)
  4. Industry-specific apps
  5. Business support (e.g., ERP/Accounting/HR)
  6. Development (e.g., engineering, software development, R&D)
  7. Content publishing (e.g., blog, streaming, knowledge-base, support)
  8. Sales support

IT services and internal IT have been most popular with over 77-81% of respondents choosing these workloads to be virtualized.

Going virtual. Soon. In the six months, IT pros are planning to run the following services on virtual infrastructures:

  • Companies with less than 100 employees – Internal IT and IT services
  • Companies with 100-250 employees – Industry-specific apps and Business support
  • Companies with 250-500 employees – Sales support (CRM) and Content publishing
  • Companies with 500 employees or more – IT services and Industry-specific apps






BYOD Adoption.

  • 69% and 53% of surveyed IT pros in NA and EMEA (respectively) have adopted smartphones for work.
  • 78% and 68% of surveyed IT pros in NA and EMEA (respectively) have adopted tablets for work.


BYOD Support.

  • 69% and 65% of respondents in NA and EMEA (respectively) are supporting BYOD devices.
  • Of this lot,
    • 60% IT pros support smartphones
    • 51% support tablets
    • 38% support laptop



You can view the full report here: http://www.spiceworks.com/marketing/state-of-it/report/


Clearly, IT teams are catching up with the implementation of these technologies in their enterprises. Cost, security, scalability, and ease-of-use are some major factors that help determine whether you should consider adopting these technologies or not. One thing is for sure. The application of these technologies and the benefits IT teams gain from them are definitely on the rise.


Tell us about your organization. Where do you stand in terms of adopting these technologies?

In my previous post I wrote it seems that the consensus is what I would have expected on IP address management. I myself have experienced these same tedious tasks in regards to assigning IP addresses on the network; which I must say is VERY tedious. So how do we get around these tedious tasks to ensure consistency and a source of truth on the network? As a few comments mentioned; Infoblox, Windows 2012 IPAM management and as well Solarwinds IPAM module are possible solutions. I have personally used each of these except Infoblox. I have looked into the Infoblox solution and it seems to be pretty good however for the most part it is overkill in my opinion. I spent a good bit of time setting up and testing the Windows 2012 IPAM management but it was a bit complicated and cumbersome for the most part. Seemed to me it should be a little easier to setup and configure. But then again, maybe it was just a lack of configuration ease on my part. I have also setup and used the Solarwinds IPAM module and it is very solid and easy to setup and configure. Once you have your DNS/DHCP servers added as managed nodes into Solarwinds, discover them as DNS/DHCP servers; you can then head over to the IPAM module and start the integration pieces. You have the ability to create subnets and supernets; and then the IPAM module will auto discover via network scans and DNS/DHCP zone lookups and begin filling in the zone information. Now if you have the luxury of assigning IP addresses using DHCP then this is pretty easy to keep track of obviously. But if you still have to assign IP addresses statically then you can easily drill into the subnet within the IPAM module and find an available IP that has not already been assigned and assign and create your DNS name there. This will ensure that no one else tries to assign the same address to another device; assuming that everyone goes to the one single source of truth for assignments. This solution makes this tedious time consuming task much simpler and consistent. So I challenge you to at least give it a shot and see if one of these solutions does not make your IP address management much easier and free your time up for other tasks of the day.


Choose your Overlord

Posted by TiffanyNels Apr 9, 2015

We are down to the final two contenders in this year's bracket battle. Darth Vader and Loki are headed into the arena and once again, only you have the power to determine who will walk out. How will the Frost Giant fare against the Sith? Darth Vader prevailed over a wand, but can he handle a scepter?


We get the sense that many of you are resigned to the inevitable reality Darth Vader has this thing all wrapped up. Not so fast there my pretties...


For you Loki-philes there is plenty of time to gather your minions and get the voting going. Comment, tweet, post updates to facebook (#swbracketbattle; #evillaugh), recruit everyone you know to vote for your chosen leader. Not to leave the Imperial Troops out... but we figured Darth Vader already has y'all mobilized and marching forward.


Our official overlord will be announced on Monday. Vote today!

I’ve talked at length about how technology and skills will fuel the IT career path, including why Hybrid Cloud matters to IT pros. I’ve also talked about how IT generalists, admins with a broad range of IT knowledge (but not very much depth), need to evolve in order to survive. In addition, I have mentioned that two groups of IT professionals are in the best position to not only survive, but thrive. They are the specialists and the versatilists. IT specialists are experts in a particular IT discipline or domain. IT versatilists take it a step further by being experts across a few related IT disciplines. For more context, please refer to my Mission Critical article on the Stack Wars. Note that this write-up is gated. It takes skills and tools for IT pros to provide business utility. With this in mind, the important thing for IT pros to answer is, what skills are companies hiring and paying premiums for?

Rich Hein recently published “Hot IT skills that will get you hired and well-paid” on networkworld.com that highlights survey data from tech job site, Dice.com. The numbers of opportunities and average salaries are tremendous for IT professionals. Below are the breakdown of skills, year-over-year growth, average annual salary, and the number of jobs currently listed on Dice.com.



YoY Growth

Avg Salary

Job count









Big data





























  1. Cybersecurity – think about all the corporate hacks that have taken place in the past year or so. Sony, Target, Anthem come to mind. Any data center environment requires infrastructure hardening, including monitoring and logging for forensics.
  2. Puppet – think configuration management at scale. Easy to automate and orchestrate those changes.
  3. Big data, Hadoop, and NoSQL – think about answers to questions that leverage vast amount of disparate and unstructured data—analyzed in a relative short amount of time.
  4. Cloud – think hype or hope for IT operations trying to move at biz operations pace.
  5. Python – think coding at web-scale.
  6. Waterfall – think flowing downwards through all the phases of the software development cycle.
  7. Salesforce – think customer relationship management. The bottom line is all about the business.


Below is the 2014-2015 Dice Salary Survey for Big Data skills. The image is from Rich's article.

Dice Salary Survey.png


IT departments are making tough business-driven decisions on their budgetary spend. Don't stand still with your IT skills. Pick up some IT skills mentioned above and help extend the life of your IT career. And one more thing - go get paid!

Listen to IT administrators when they vent about their least-favorite aspects of the job and you’ll hear common themes: the long hours, time spent on-call, the thankless nature of the job, and the “this would be a great job if it weren’t for our users…” Dig deeper though, and just about every IT admin, if offered the chance to change one thing about their job, would change the same thing: spend less time on break-fix and more time implementing new projects.


Viewed in that light, the Help Desk can seem like part of the problem. It’s a never-ending source of trouble tickets that keep the admins too busy to get to the fun parts of the job.


I invite admins to view your Help Desk differently: it’s a source of invaluable feedback on how your department is doing. For example:

  • Have you set up alerts to proactively monitor your infrastructure? Problem reports from Help Desk will quickly let you know what you left off your list.
  • Did you roll out an upgrade or patch recently? A lack of any update-related problem reports over the next couple days lets you know you did it well.
  • Has there been an increase in complaints about network performance? Perhaps that network Quality of Service tool you’re using isn’t configured correctly to meet current need.
  • Has there been a noticeable decrease in reports of out-of-space errors? You must be doing an excellent job of capacity management and planning.

If you can view your Help Desk as a feedback tool, it will help you to serve your customers better. (I encourage you to consider them to be “customers” and not “users” – it will elevate the quality of personal service that you offer.) Better service to your customers leads to less time spent on break-fix, freeing you up for the fun parts of the job.

Administrators, how do you view your Help Desk? What’s the most valuable piece of feedback you’ve received through your Help Desk?

How many times have you asked or been asked for an IP address for your network and heard the famous words of “just ping until you find an available address” or “we have an IPAM solution but not everyone enters information correctly”? Oh, the joys of IP address management. It comes with such joy sometimes, doesn’t it? In this time of where we are today; it is amazing to me that organizations still function in this manner especially when everyone seems to think they want dynamic and elastic environments, correct? Why is it that just to get an IP address is such a tedious effort involving too many hoops to go through? Is it because your organization doesn’t currently have a good policy on these sorts of tasks? Or is it because there are too many manual processes in place to accomplish this simple task? So why then, would you not want to implement a streamlined, automated process to handle this workflow of assigning IP addresses by removing all of the middleman processes involved as well? Are you serious? Is what you are thinking right? If we were to do that it would mean that we would be slowly removing tasks and procedures that we are responsible for. Oh, the famous “worried about being replaced by automation” response. So how do you handle IP address management in your environments?

Leon Adato

Convention, Interrupted

Posted by Leon Adato Apr 7, 2015

In two weeks I'm going to be attending and speaking at Ethernet Technology Summit 2015 and I have to get something off my chest: I'm a little rusty at the convention thing.


The last convention I attended was a COMDEX in Vegas. I didn't gamble a dime, didn't drink myself silly, and didn't take in many of the sites (well, except for spending an inordinate amount of time in the Star Trek Experience attraction). That’s not why I was there. For me, the trip was all about the tech.


I walked every aisle, spoke to as many vendors as I could, tried to soak it all in. COMDEX was a true Vegas buffet, and I walked myself to the point of exhaustion stuffing my brain with new ideas and technologies. But that was a few years ago, and I haven't attended anything of significance since then.


My absence from conventions hasn't been due to lack of interest. My jobs have simply not afforded me the luxury. But as Head Geek, I’m thrilled to get back into the game.

To be sure, Ethernet Technology Summit is a far more focused event than COMDEX (and that’s a good thing). But I don't expect it to be any less engaging or worthwhile.


In addition to exhibitors, there’s a smorgasbord of information I’ll be taking in and bringing back with me about SDN, IoT, high speed data, and more. And then there are the keynotes.


Finally, I expect that I'll need to be on my toes to take part in a panel discussion on monitoring ethernet networks.


Even though it’s been a few years, I've solicited the help of a couple of incredible advisors: Kong Yang and Thomas LaRock are convention veterans. They are sharing their hard-won knowledge with me so I won't be hitting the floor (or the podium) completely green.


So if you are going to be at Ethernet Summit, let me know so I can find you and say ‘hi’. If you aren't, make sure you are following @LeonAdato, @SolarWinds, and @EthernetTech on Twitter, and join the #ethernetsummit conversation so you can share what I'm learning.


It's the Final Countdown

Posted by TiffanyNels Apr 6, 2015

We are down to four... And, it is an interesting set of match-ups.


One could almost predict the final winner (but as those of you who watched this weekend's official Final Four... upsets happen. I might also point out to some of the other heavy hitters who have already gone down. And yes, I am bringing up old stuff... Moriarty over the The Master. SERIOUSLY? Just boggles the mind.)


We will say that we are BLOWN AWAY and so appreciative of everyone's participation in this year's bracket battle. It would appear that the topic hit a chord with a lot of folks. The passionate debates have been great to track and be a part of.


For those not yet up to your knees is villainous rankings, there is still time to get involved and vote on the Overlord to end all (and earn some thwack points).


Head on over to the bracket right NOW!  Catch up on the path to conquest for each Final Four contender. The sand is running through the hour glass as we speak.


Speak now, or forever hold your peace. The final showdown is on.


One last request... any suggestions for next year?

Finally out of Beta, today we’re releasing our newest Inventory Management product, SolarWinds Sandwich Monitor.  This addition to the SolarWinds product line will allow you to monitor and manage IT Consumables Inventory across your enterprise. Administrators finally get visibility into cold, high humidity environments via exclusive Sandwich Packet Sniffer technology.


“With Sandwich Packet Sniffer technology, I never have to stick my nose into a disgusting old sandwich bag”, said Dex Manley dexml, Sandwich Demo Product Manager. “You know how sometimes you see what looks like a ham and cheese waaaay in the back, and you’re really hungry?  Chain of custody for assured freshness can be very difficult to verify, especially when it’s not yours.  With Sandwich Monitor I never have to open the seal and get blasted with moldy baloney odor again.” said Dex.



In addition to freshness monitoring, SolarWinds Sandwich Monitor also includes Sandwich Component Monitoring with SandwichStack, making it easy to zero in on sandwich components which are not meeting freshness or taste SLAs.  SandwichInsight with Expert Advice makes it easy to resolve sandwich performance issues with minimal effort.


SandwichMap allows you to quickly locate sandwiches which have gone on walkabout.  Finally, ReheatMaps provide ideal orientation for re-heating warm sandwiches in a microwave.  ReheatMaps assure sandwiches are warmed evenly, even in challenging microwave RF environments.


I’m really happy about SandwichGPS.  No matter how many sticky notes you put on a container, they seem to magically shed just before lunchtime.  Sandwich Monitor can pinpoint thieves quickly, allowing quick retribution like ACL-ing out their YouTube traffic and blocking Facebook.  It was a stretch feature for the PM and Dev teams and it’s amazing it made it into the first version.


I think what I like best is that Sandwich Monitor is completely free, as we recognize all IT professionals, not just the amazing members of the thwack community, would really like to more proactively manage their sandwiches. It’s not enough to think you know where your sandwich is, and troubleshooting its disposition hours after coworkers have piled their huge lunchboxes all over it can be really frustrating.  And closing sandwich-related help desk tickets? Fuggedaboudit.


There will be blood...

Posted by TiffanyNels Mar 30, 2015

That is it folks, the Mischievous round is done. Once again, I am personally devastated that the Doctor Who representatives (The Master and the Daleks) did not make it beyond the first round. Thanks to those (looking in your direction sqlrockstar and @emoore@empireiron.com) for keeping the dream alive. Perhaps, we will take this as a powerful message. Next year, no Doctor Who. Humpf.


Who else avoided a first round elimination? Our official results will post shortly, but here is a recap of some of the most popular and hotly contested match ups. 

  • We thought that this match up would be closer by far, but the power of the Dark Side and a choke hold were too much for Voldemort's weak geek cred
  • Bahlkris thinks these two are a winning sitcom combination (dark sense of humor, indeed)... the pilot episode could be a rematch to determine who gets the bigger bedroom. In the meantime, this round goes to Khan over Hannibal
  • And Skeletor's Cinderella story continues, with a complete trouncing of Jaws.


So, we have a new set of match-ups, likely more random than before.


Voting in the Rotten round starts around 10 am CT today. We still need your help to determine the most infamous of the baddies.

We are a solid 3 months into 2015 at this point, the first quarter is nearly out, and subsequently we should start seeing the seeds or even some fruit of various ‘2015 Predictions’ by “industry” folks.  Well, rather than wait until the end of the year to see, what ‘might’ happen vs what might not. What are *you* seeing.  You are the community, you are the people for whom the predictions toll, but most importantly you are the ones who actually decide IF they will come to fruition or not.


We’ve seen predictions around Cloud adoption, implementation of Software Defined Data Centers, whether components of Software Defined Storage, Software Defined Networking or other similar type capabilities.   I don’t want to even bring up the fact that the past 10 years have been, “The Year of VDI” but every year it is predicted, and every year sadness follows because wide-scale adoption keeps people saying, “one more time…”


So what are you seeing, let’s say… Forget the Analysts, the Trade Press, even my own predictions because they mean nothing if they don’t actually happen. (No, this isn’t some kind of obscure Nostradamus stuff :)) But the best kind of predictions follow as Self-Fulfilling prophecies and you are in the drivers seat of IT to see things start happening or *want* things to start happening.


So now that we have a few months under our belt, what are some of the Predictions you DO see happening and others you would *like* to see happen.  Fortunately the industry and marketplace is mature that a majority of the solutions exist to adopt, it’s just a matter of…


Which ones are resonating with you?

Management wants to be able to track employees productivity and their performance to use in periodic employee evaluations. Performance improvements can lead to keeping your job, bonuses, and pay increases, where declines in performance lead to pay decreases, black marks in your HR file, and possibly losing your job. When accurate metrics are used in evaluations, they can be beneficial to the organization and individual.


One type of metric is the Service Level Agreement, or SLA. This defines how IT, as a group, is going to respond to the issue that a user reports. Some organizations define the SLA to be the time it takes to resolve the issue. While some issues can be resolved quickly, like a password change, other issues can take a long time to diagnose and correct. The SLA can also be measured by how long it takes for the initial response to the request. While I believe this is a better metric than time to resolution, this can be abused. The person assigned the ticket can easily make initial contact but not make any progress in diagnosing or resolving the issue.


Another metric is customer satisfaction. One way of getting this metric is using surveys sent to the requestor after the issue is resolved. Not all surveys make it to their destination and if they do, many get ignored or deleted. The questions on surveys are written in multiple choice for easy analysis, but don’t really provide much for collecting real feedback from the requestor. If an issue was handled by multiple people, then who does the survey reflect upon and does the requestor realize this.


Managers want to know how well their employees are doing and a way to accurately measure the employee. Ticketing systems have some metrics that can be used to track how well employees are doing. How do you accurately measure employees, in particular Help Desk employees?  What are the metrics that really matter? Can all of these metrics be tracked in one system? How would you like to be measured?

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