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December Writing Challenge Week 5 Recap and Challenge Wrap-Up

Level 17

December Writing Challenge Week 5 Recap

And with these last four words, the 2019 writing challenge comes to a close. I know I’ve said it a couple of times, but even so, I cannot express enough my gratitude and appreciation for everyone who took part in the challenge this year—from the folks who run the THWACK® community, to our design team, to the lead writers, to the editing team, and, of course, to everyone who took time out of their busy day (and nights, in some cases) to thoughtfully comment and contribute.

Because we work in IT, and therefore have an ongoing love affair with data, here are some numbers for you:

The 2019 December Writing Challenge

  • 31 days, 31 words
  • 29 authors
    • 13 MVPs

It’s been an incredible way to mentally pivot from the previous year, and set ourselves up for success, health, and joy in 2020.

Thank you again.

  • - Leon

Day 28. Software Defined Network (SDN)

THWACK MVP Mike Ashton-Moore returned to the ELI5 roots, by crafting his explanation using the xkcd Simple Writer online tool. Despite limiting himself to the first 1,000 (or “ten-hundred,” to use the xkcd term) words, Mike created a simple and compelling explanation.

George Sutherland Dec 29, 2019 8:49 PM

SDN is the network version of the post office. You put your package in the system and let the post office figure out the best and fastest mode of delivery.

Ravi Khanchandani  Dec 30, 2019 12:58 AM

Life comes a full circle with SDN, from centralized routing to distributed routing and back to centralized routing.

The SDN controller is like the Traffic Police HQ that sends out instructions to the crossings or edge devices to control the traffic. How much traffic gets diverted to what paths, what kind of traffic goes which path, who gets priority over the others. Ambulances accorded highest priority, trucks get diverted to the wider paths, car pools & public transport get dedicated lanes, other cars get a best effort path

Juan Bourn Dec 30, 2019 10:37 AM

I gotta admit, I had to read this twice. Not being very familiar with SDN prior to this, I didn’t understand the special boxes and bypassing them lol. I couldn’t make the relationship tangible. But after a second read through, it made sense. Good job on making it easy to understand. You can’t do anything about your audience, so no knock for my inability to understand the first time around!

Day 29. Anomaly detection

As product marketing manager for our security portfolio, Kathleen Walker is extremely well versed in the idea of anomaly detection. But her explanation today puts it in terms even non-InfoSec folks can understand.

Vinay BY  Dec 30, 2019 5:06 AM

As the standard definition states -> “anomaly detection is the identification of rare items, events or observations which raise suspicions by differing significantly from the majority of the data”

Something unusual from the data pattern that you see on a regular basis, this as well helps you to dig down further to understand what happened exactly and why was it so. Anomaly detection can be performed in several areas, basically performed before aggregating the data into your system or application.

Thomas Iannelli
  Dec 30, 2019 5:27 AM

We don’t have kids living with us, but we do the same thing for our dog, Alba, and she for us. We watch her to make sure she eats, drinks, and performs her biological functions. When one of those things is off we either change the diet or take her to the vet. She watches us. She even got used to my wife, who works at home, going into her office at certain times, taking a break at certain times to put her feet up, or watch TV during lunch. So much so that Alba will put herself in the rooms of the house before my wife. She does it just so casually. But when my wife doesn’t show up, she frantically goes thru the house looking for her. Why isn’t she where she is supposed to be. Alba does the same thing when I go to work. It is fine that I am leaving during the week. She will not fuss and sometimes will greet me at the door. But if I get my keys on the weekend or in the evening she is all over me wanting to go for the ride. There is a trip happening out of the ordinary. When we have house guests, as we did over the holiday, she gets very excited when they arrive, and even the next morning will try to go to the guest bedroom and check to make sure they are still here. But after a day or two it is just the new normal. Nothing to get too excited about. The anomaly has become the norm.

I guess the trick is to detect the anomaly and assess quickly if it is outlier, if it is going to be the new normal, or if it is a bad thing that needs to be corrected.

Paul Guido  Dec 30, 2019 9:32 AM (in response to Charles Hunt)

cahunt As soon as I saw the subject, I thought of this song. “One of these things is not like the other” is one of my primary trouble-shooting methods to this very day.

Once I used the phrase that “The systems were nominal” and people did not understand the way I used “nominal.” I was using it in the same way that NASA uses it in space systems that are running within specifications.

In my brain, an anomaly is outside the tolerance of nominal.

Day 30. AIOps

Melanie Achard returns for one more simple explanation, this time of a term heavily obscured by buzzwords, vendor-speak, and confusion.

Vinay BY  Dec 30, 2019 10:21 AM

AIOps or artificial intelligence for IT operations includes the below attributes in one or the other way, to me they are all interlinked:

Proactive Monitoring

Data pattern detection, Anomaly detection, self-understanding and Machine Learning which improvises the entire automation flow

Events, Logs, Ticket Dump

Bots & Automation

Reduction of Human effort, cost reduction, time reduction and service availability

Thomas Iannelli  Dec 30, 2019 5:41 AM

Then the computer is watching and based on either machine learning or anthropogenic algorithms process the data for anomaly detection and then takes some action. In the form of an automated response to remediate the situation or to alert a human that something here needs you to focus attention on it. Am I understanding correctly?

Jake Muszynski Dec 30, 2019 12:13 PM

Computers don't lose focus, my biggest issue with people reviewing the hordes of data that varous monitors create is that they get distracted, they only focus on the latest thing. AI helps by looking at all the things, then surfacing what might need attention. In a busy place, it can really make a difference.

Day 31. Ransomware

On our final day of the challenge, THWACK MVP Jeremy Mayfield spins a story bringing into sharp clarity both the meaning and the risk of the word of the day.

Faz f Dec 31, 2019 5:57 AM

This is when your older Sibling/friend has your toy and will not give it back unless you do something for them. It's always good to keep your toys safe.

Michael Perkins Dec 31, 2019 11:36 AM

Ransomware lets a crook lock you out of your own stuff, then make you pay whatever the crook wants for the key. This is why you keep copies of your stuff. It takes away the crook's leverage and lets you go "Phbbbbbbbbbbt!" in the crook's face.

Brian Jarchow Dec 31, 2019 12:38 PM

Ransomware reminds me of the elementary school bully who is kind enough to make sure you won't get beaten up if you give him all of your lunch money.


That was fun....let's do it again next year!


Level 8



Thanks a ton adatole, it was great


I've enjoyed each of these that I've been able to participate in. It's nice to hear the opinions and perspectives of other community members. There's always something to learn.

Level 15

Thanks everyone for all the great articles !

Level 14

Thanks again for holding this challenge!

Level 14

Thanks for the shout out! Outstanding job with this year's challenge adatole


Really enjoyed doing that and reading everyone else's articles as well, some truly brilliant explanations in there that I will continue to use.

Level 13

Thanks adatole​!  It's always fun to read these every year.

Level 10

It was incredibly enjoyable and gave me a lot to think about and learn. 

Next year, let's do it all in Haiku!

Just kidding.


Level 12

I like the one liner explanations from the comments!

Level 12

thanks for the post

About the Author
In my sordid career, I have been an actor, bug exterminator and wild-animal remover (nothing crazy like pumas or wildebeasts. Just skunks and raccoons.), electrician, carpenter, stage-combat instructor, American Sign Language interpreter, and Sunday school teacher. Oh, and I work with computers. Since 1989 (when you got a free copy of Windows 286 on twelve 5¼” floppies when you bought a copy of Excel 1.0) I have worked as a classroom instructor, courseware designer, desktop support tech, server support engineer, and software distribution expert. Then about 14 years ago I got involved with systems monitoring. I've worked with a wide range of tools: Tivoli, Nagios, Patrol, ZenOss, OpenView, SiteScope, and of course SolarWinds. I've designed solutions for companies that were extremely modest (~10 systems) to those that were mind-bogglingly large (250,000 systems in 5,000 locations). During that time, I've had to chance to learn about monitoring all types of systems – routers, switches, load-balancers, and SAN fabric as well as windows, linux, and unix servers running on physical and virtual platforms.