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30Nov/12Off

Oh how I love the spin

TechOps Guy: Nate

So last night one of my friends sent me a link to an article saying that one of my former employers (whom I left more than two years ago) was closing one of their main business units and laying off 33 employees.

I'm quite out of touch with what is going on over there from a business standpoint, though I do know there's been a ton of attrition since I left (the team I was on has turned over entirely at least twice, and has had at least 3 different directors to lead it). I was really frustrated in 2010 which some of my posts at the time were pretty obvious, so I got out.

A few days after I left another guy started (he wasn't supposed to replace me but rather work on a project that I told the VP I refused to be a part of). I interviewed him even a few weeks before I left.  He tried, hard I imagine. I haven't talked to him but have talked to others who have - he left almost a year ago for similar reasons that I left - management. I've heard tons of stories about what's gone on there since I left, most of them very funny (wouldn't be if I was still there though). Sometimes you can't help but laugh.

The person who was in my position before me left for the same reason - these days I am VERY careful about finding management that is good to work with/for, it's more important than any other aspect of the job for me - I learned the hard way.

I can't count how many companies I have talked to or how many stories I have heard that have people being driven away by management decisions. It's just sick, it really is. I've talked to multiple companies where entire teams have turned over in very short periods of time (at least five in Seattle alone). Hell, I've been part of two of them at consecutive companies myself!

At one point this business unit that they are closing was responsible for a large portion of their revenue. I don't know where they stand today for revenues, I liked to tell people 2009 was the best year for the company - since then - not so much. Things really did look promising in 2009.....

I tried while I was there - I did - originally I was going to leave in December of 2008, barely 6 months after I started. But I decided to tough it out a bit more. I had some fun while I was there, management issues aside. Learned a few things, had some good experiences, met some cool people/friends. Considering it was literally across the street from my apartment at the time, it was difficult to beat that kind of commute.

They laid some folks off in early 2011 too (can't find news article) including two of my co-workers who both were begging to be laid off so they could collect unemployment.

Big surprise huh - anyway, I just look at the spin they put on the whole thing how it's a good thing for customers, good thing for everyone that they are making this decision.

I came across another article, which I found amusing:

To be honest, we’d never heard of AudienceScience before, but it is indeed a global digital marketing/tech firm that houses offices ranging from the U.S. to India. [..]

A web site seemingly focused on advertising agencies, hadn't even heard of them before.

I do own stock in the company - I only got it so I'd have a memento, I never bet anything on stock options.

We now take you back to your regularly scheduled programming.

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30Nov/12Off

Is the Surface destined to be the next Zune for MS?

TechOps Guy: Nate

First off  - sorry to my three readers I haven't posted in a bit, there just hasn't been a whole lot interesting going on. Obviously I am excited about HP's storage announcements that are coming in a few days, I expect some posts out of that :)

Anyway back to Microsoft's Surface. One of the rumours is Microsoft had halved orders for the Surface RT due to less than anticipated demand. Other RT-based tablets have performed similarly poorly.

I just was thinking about the time when Microsoft brought out the first Zune, they were not satisfied with how their partners were unable to compete against the iPod, and in a stroke of brilliance brought out their own product along with a new music store which broke compatibility with all other Windows media players on the market. The thing that I remember most about the Zune, well pretty much the only thing was it's squirt feature.

[..] Steve Ballmer in his infamously disturbing interview in BusinessWeek that evoked horrible images of brown Zunes squirting all over each other:

"Guys who can touch us in multiple places probably matter more than guys who can touch us in any one place.”
“I want to squirt you a picture of my kids. You want to squirt me back a video of your vacation. That's a software experience."
Zunes squirt, and don’t you forget it Robertson, or there might be a chair headed your way.

So here we are again, Microsoft is once again frustrated by it's partners not being able to compete effectively against the iPad, and they believe they can make a more effective user experience. So enter stage left the Surface and Surface Pro. Dell has recently launched an advertising blitz for their XPS 12 touch enabled Windows 8 Pro UltraBook Tablet. I swear when I was on the website yesterday it claimed a ship date of early next month, but now it claims a ship date of Jan 3 2013, and an entry level price tag of $1199 for 4GB RAM, 128G SSD, Intel i5 processor in a 3.35 pound package, that is a really heavy tablet (when it's in tablet mode of course).

Yesterday pricing was released for the Surface Pro, with keyboard the prices are roughly $1020 for 4GB RAM and 64GB SSD to $1120 for 128G SSD. Without the keyboard the Surface weighs in at just two pounds - or about 6oz more than one of my HP Touchpads.

Battery life on the Surface Pro is expected to be 4-6 hours, obviously less than ARM-based systems, but still a respectable number I think.

I am sort of surprised that something as powerful as a Core i5 is being used, rather than the Atom, which was supposed to be Intel's go-to product for things like tablets. The processor they are using looks to have a 17W TDP, which includes an Intel video chipset. Compared to the latest and greatest Atom which has a 10W TDP without a video chipset. I'm sure the i5 smokes the Atom pretty easily, so probably was a good trade off for a few extra watts of power.

When I saw the price I was pretty shocked - I really expected the Pro to cost about $200 more.  Sure it's not really price competitive with other Tablets out there but to me at least it's really not a tablet - it's a touch enabled Ultrabook, much like Dell's XPS 12 offering. It's running an x86 processor with PC applications being it's key selling point. I would expect most people to not consider the Surface Pro to be in the same market as an iPad or Android tablets so direct comparisons will probably be rare after the initial launch is complete.

With each successive consumer operating system launch Microsoft has had over the past decade the level of excitement has declined - the one exception perhaps is Windows 7, people were happy to get that after being screwed by Vista.

I've been convinced since the beginning that the Windows 8 stuff won't make a dent in iPad sales (unless you consider stemming the losses of PC sales a dent by shifting some of those losses to Surface).

What Microsoft has come up with hasn't done anything for me at least to change my opinion (remember this is someone who has a ton of WebOS stuff - though was never convinced WebOS at the time had the ability to inflict anything upon Apple - it makes me sad in some respects to see OpenWebOS crawl along, I know with each passing day they fall further and further behind due to lack of resources).

I suspect the RT-based devices will do quite poorly as well, obviously the market has gotten along just fine over recent years without having Microsoft Office on a tablet. There have been many reports of organizations large and small doing massive deployments of iPads to support their businesses.

Microsoft did a huge disservice to their customers by not properly porting their Office apps to Metro, thus forcing two different user interfaces on the devices. On top of that they did a further disservice by consuming such a large portion of the internal SSD for stupid things like a recovery partition. Don't we live in the world of cloud today? Even WebOS can recover easily just by connecting the device to a computer and running an application to do a full OS re-install, even if the device seems "bricked".

I fully expected something like that for Windows 8, and for the surface perhaps something built in - perhaps a ~200MB rescue partition that has enough software to boot the device, connect to the internet and recover from the cloud. (though I'd still rather have it local since it can take a while). Or be able to put the rescue stuff on a SD card.

Microsoft does provide a means to recover via USB, but it's far from straight forward (should be included in the new user startup wizard). Though from what I see they don't go so far as to make the recovery information downloadable from the internet.

To create a USB Recovery Drive on a Surface RT, follow these steps:

  1. From the Start screen, tap the Desktop tile to open the Windows Desktop.
  2. Slide your finger in from the right to fetch the Charms bar, then tap the Settings icon.
  3. When the Settings Pane appears, tap the words Control Panel from the pane’s top edge.
  4. When the Desktop Control Panel appears, tap the System and Security section, then tap File History.
  5. When the File History window appears, shown below, tap Recovery in the bottom, left corner. Then tap Create a Recovery Drive when the Recovery window appears.

The Surface Pro does look like a decent product for the space - though I believe the space will flop significantly based on the expectations.

I suspect that Windows 8 (at least the metro side of things) will flop just about as much as Vista did. At least as long as there are the dual interfaces that are totally incompatible with each other (e.g. apparently Internet explorer in Metro and Internet explorer on the desktop are oblivious of each other). If/when Microsoft can figure out how to properly unify them they may have something. I suspect most developers will continue to target the desktop mode because of course there is a large market out there of existing pre-Metro operating systems.

It's a decent first step for Microsoft getting their software ready for tablets, they still have a lot of work to do  - what is the old saying - by version 3 they usually get it right ?

This is version 1..

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20Nov/12Off

NEWSFLASH: Autonomy sucked

TechOps Guy: Nate

HP came out this morning and told the world what most of the world knew already, the acquition of Autonomy was a mistake, resulting in a $8.8B write down. This is basically hot on the heels of another $8B write down on their EDS acquisition.

$17 Billion in losses

That number is just staggering. People say government is bad at waste, HP (among others) shows that the private sector is just as good at waste.

I suspected something with Autonomy was up when I saw a post by someone I know on LinkedIn saying he was laid off along with 200 other people - he was at Autonomy, I was not sure if the rest were part of Autonomy or not(I assume most were).

Imagine if they skipped out on Autonomy - and instead invested that $10B in mobile, a market that dwarfs that of Autonomy. Instead they prematurely killed Palm - who was widely regarded as having the best user experience at the time.  Most people knew it was going to take billions of further investment in Palm to see if they could make it work. Palm was broke when they were acquired, so it obviously lacked the resources to do it themselves. The best example of this is Microsoft's mobile platform. Floundering for more than a decade at this point. But they don't give up! Because they can't give up.

HP's cash reserves are low - which caused a credit reporting agency to cut their outlook.

I guess the good thing that is coming out of this is HP is admitting their mistakes. Hopefully they can run things better going forward.

It is fascinating to me how many large companies are doing so poorly in recent years. Part of the reason for these companies to be as big as they are is they are diversified much more than their smaller counterparts. Whether it is HP or Dell in the PC space, or the once high flyer consumer electronics makers Sony, SharpPanasonic and NEC. IBM by contrast of course is doing quite well, they are doing stuff HP and Dell are constantly struggling to try to copy. Apparently Korean (I believe) makers Samsung and LG are eating the Japanese lunch. I suppose at some point this will shift further west to China decimating the Koreans.

People were convinced that Japan was going to take over the world in the late 80s and early 90s - and they never did, nor are there signs they ever will. For some reason I'll probably never forget I was a freshman in high school in Palo Alto and one of my friends was the grandson of one of the founders of HP of all places. As a second language course I took spanish - naturally because it was supposed to be easier. He took Japanese. I asked him why and he said because his father thought it was the business language of the future. Now it seems the popular language to teach is Chinese. Anyway getting off topic.

I haven't seen recent mention of whether Hitachi - one of the other Japanese conglomerates is having issues other than these lay-offs a few years ago. For some reason or another I get the sense Hitachi is more industrial than the others so aren't as impacted with the shift to Korea for consumer electronics.

Next I'm waiting for Ballmer to get the boot for the abortion that is Windows 8.

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13Nov/12Off

100GbE: Still a very hefty premium

TechOps Guy: Nate

UPDATED

Big Switch Networks decloaked today, and released their new OpenFlow controller, in partnership with many different networking vendors.

Arista Networks, Dell, Brocade, Juniper Networks, Brocade Communications, and Extreme Networks have all partnered with Big Switch, and their OpenFlow-enabled switches are certified to be control-freaked by Big Network Controller. Switches from IBM and HP have been tested for interoperability, but there are no formal partnerships.

All of this SDN stuff really is sort of confusing to me (it really seems like the whole software defined thing is riding on a big hype cloud). One thing that stands out to me here is that this OpenFlow stuff seems to only cover switching and routing. I don't see any mention of things like firewalls, or more importantly - load balancers.  Maybe those folks will integrate with OpenFlow at some point in some way.

On this article A10 Networks (load balancing company) is mentioned as a partner, but running a search for either OpenFlow or BigSwitch on the A10 site reveals no results.

For me if I'm going to be moving workloads between datacenters, at least those that deal with internet connectivity, I certainly want that inbound connectivity to move to the new datacenter as well, and not incur the costs/latency of forwarding such traffic over a back end connection. The only exception being if there is a fault at the new datacenter which is severe enough to want to route internet traffic from another facility to it. I suppose at the same time the fault would likely have to block the ability of moving the workload to another (non faulty) facility.

F5 networks had a demo they put out on long distance vMotion almost three years ago. Using their WAN Optimization, their Global Traffic Managers(Global DNS), and Local Traffic managers(load balancers), it was a pretty cool setup. Of course this was ages before VMware had such a solution in house, and I believe this solution (for the niche that it serves) can cover a significantly longer distance than what you get with VMware today.

Anyway that's not the topic of the post. At the same time I noticed Extreme announced their first 100GbE offering (per usual it looks like it won't be available to ship for at least 6 months - they like to announce early for some strange reason). On their X-8 platform which has 1.2Tbps of throughput per line card, and up to 20Tbps (15Tbps non blocking even with a fabric failure) per chassis. I say "up to" because there are multiple fabric modules, and there are two different speeds(2.5Tbps and 5Tbps).

The card is a combo 4-port 100GbE card. They also announced a newer larger scale 12-port 40GbE line card. What struck me(still) was the cost distinction between the two:

NTE list pricing includes: 40GbE 12 port XL module at US $6,000.00 per port; 100GbE 4 port XL module at US $35,000 per port.

I think I recall hearing/reading last year that 100GbE was going for around $100,000/port, if so this would be a great discount, but still pretty crazy expensive compared to 40GbE obviously!

UPDATE - It seems my comment was lost in the spam, the lack of approval wasn't intentional.

While I'm here let me rag on Extreme a bit here - I posted a comment on one of their blog posts (about 3 weeks ago) where they said they moved away from designing their own ASICs with the X-8 platform.

They never approved the comment.

My comment was basically asking them when their last ASIC design was - to my knowledge their last ASIC was the 4GNSS ASIC (they called it a programmable ASIC - I assume that meant more of a FPGA but who knows), that originally showed up in the Black Diamond 10808 back in 2003(I had a pair of these boxes in 2005). I believe they re-used it, perhaps refined it a bit in the following years but don't believe any new ASICs were designed since (sure I could be wrong but they haven't clarified). So I'd say their last ASIC design was more than a decade ago, and only now this blogger comes out and says they don't do ASICs any more. Before that the last one I know of was their Inferno chipset, a much better name, which was present in their older platforms running on the original ExtremeWare operating system, the last such switches to be sold were in their Alpine series and the Summit 48si (I still have one of these at home but it doesn't do much today - too loud for home use).

Anyway, shame on you for not approving my reasonable response to your post!

btw I approve all posts here, even those that try to attack me/my posts. If for some reason your post is not immediately available, contact me (see blurb on right) because your post may of been caught by the SPAM filter. I don't go through those caught posts often(there are a lot), maybe 2-3 times a year.

6Nov/12Off

Off to Seattle again Nov 15th – 26th

TechOps Guy: Nate

Woohoo - going to head back up to the Seattle area to visit friends and my favorite hangouts. I am driving again of course - hoping to leave the Bay Area around 5AM on November 15th, go up to the Crescent City, CA area, and refresh my pictures of the California and Oregon coastline with the new camera I bought earlier in the year (42X optical zoom!!). Stay the night in Vancouver, WA(expecting about ~16 hours of driving total for the day), before heading up to Seattle (well Bellevue) on Friday, November 16th which is my b-day.

Party as hard as I can while I am there before heading back on November 26th, just in time for my Jury Duty on November 27th(just found out about that a couple of weeks ago).

If that wasn't enough driving - I'm driving down to Orange County on Friday night (returning on Sunday) for my sister's baby shower. This was more last minute, as I told her I'd go down there for the baby shower or Thanksgiving but not both. Since Thanksgiving moved to a week earlier than I expected this year it turns out I wasn't going to be able to make it down there this time around so I'm going for her little party instead.

I walk to work most of the time(0.9 miles away from home) so I hardly put any miles on my car, but I make up for it with these road trips!  Though one of my co-workers says his car is only 11 months old and he already has 27,000 miles on it!! (mostly from commuting which is 70-90 minutes each way). I have almost 22,000 miles on my car and I bought it about 21 months ago.

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6Nov/12Off

Hazards of Multi Master MySQL Webinar

TechOps Guy: Nate

Stupid me, here I was thinking if you run MySQL in multi master mode it should not have issues with writes coming in to multiple locations. I've never heard of any issues(at the same time it's been a while since I've heard anyone talk about running multi master MySQL themselves), but apparently there are some as this guy is indicating, he has a webinar about it on November 15th. It sounds interesting to me, though I'll be on the road that day so won't be able to listen in, hopefully he posts the data afterwards.

At my current organization we do have multi master MySQL though we have yet to run them active-active (with writes going to both) for more than a short period at a time (usually just during fail-over events - "oh my god MySQL is about to crash fail over!"). The load balancing is handled by our Netscalers and their MySQL-aware load balancing.  Overall the load is low enough(avg under 10% CPU and avg 75 write IOPS/DB - all reads being served from RAM)  that I don't think it'd provide any performance benefit to us anyway.

From the MySQL performance blog post

This talk gives an overview and concrete examples of how writing across dual-masters can and will break your assumptions about ACID compliance, how you can work around it, and some alternative solutions that are on the market today that attempt to address this problem.  This will be a great session for DBAs just getting into this problem space, are moving from hot-cold architectures to hot-warm or even hot-hot, and even for developers to get a sense of the difficultly of this problem.

 

 

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