Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
Thursday, November 4, 2010
- By assuming the risk of time and materials, you can save a significant amount of money, however unless you truly have the time to manage the project closely a fixed bid price may be best.
- Used equipment can be a good way to reduce costs, however for large ticket items, a professional inspection and service check is a good insurance policy.
- If a vendor promised something three times and for whatever reasons had to back out, cancel and go somewhere else. You’re getting the run around.
- Don’t forget inspectors. If you are doing anything that requires an inspector to sign off, make sure to include them at the beginning of the project. It’s much easier to change the design on paper than when it is all built.
- Make sure you have time to test and resolve power and cooling issues, preferably not the same weekend you are moving.
- The last week is the worst. Everyone will be stressed out, trying to hit their deadlines. Part of the job is keeping everyone from getting on each other’s nerves.
- Don’t get oversold on “green”. Super energy efficient is great, but not always worth the extra money. We had planned to design our data center retrofit to leverage a very efficient cooling layout, but to do so would have cost $150,000 in demolition and ductwork. The ROI just didn’t make sense.
- Meet often, but with the right people. We spent close to $5,000 because of people interrupting the HVAC mechanics to ask when the cooling would be ready. One person needs to be the point person and everyone goes to them. Otherwise you get rumors, distraction and all sorts of technical and political issues.
- Construction is disruptive. To avoid upsetting one group, make sure you annoy everyone equally.
- Plan for other damages and issues to crop up. Something as simple as carrying piping materials can cause damage to the walls. It’s real easy to damage sheetrock walls with a 10’ long metal pipe. Expect to spend some money to fix these later, or make sure it is in the contract that the vendor will do it.
- Always get at least three bids. Unless it is so small it will cost more in internal labor to go through the bidding process, take the time. The easiest way to save money is to negotiate for it and the best time for that is before you assign the work. Plus different vendors may suggest ways to cut costs. If so suggest them to the other vendors to see if it makes sense.
- If possible ask your vendors for the parts lists and comparison shop. Many times they work with a favorite supply house that may not always get the best price, especially if they just mark up the price and pass it along. By comparison shopping you show you are involved in the project, plus shows you are very serious about saving money. Typically contractors will mark up the materials 10% so if you find a better price and ask them to order it, expect a slight increase.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
If the sales team changes you have 90 days to decide if you want to stay
Billing needs to be correct or the vendor has penalties
Chance to renegotiate pricing if market prices decrease
Terminate for convenience
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
So the top ten reasons why people can't use chatter. This is sort of specific to #enterasys but I'm betting you can relate to it.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
But, regardless of the risk of becoming a salesforce cheerleader, we started using chatter, see an older post on that, and just yesterday chatted about the new chatter desktop. I just counted, by hand - there should be a better way - and we have over 65 chatter desktop users. It's over because frankly I got bored doing all the counting and stopped there.
It's actually a very cool but useful tool. Just today one of the QA engineers chatted he was starting a new suite of DHCP automated tests and was looking for real world configurations so he could better mimic how people use it. I saw the chat and replied he was more than welcome to come down and see what options we use. He gets a better testing environment, we get better tested product, which is great because we always beta test or alpha test our products and the closet the QA environment is to production the more they will catch before telling us it's OK. All because of a 200 word chat....
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
We had a lovely Enterasys N7 chassis and it has served us well, but we were running out of ports and needed to expand our iSCSI storage, so time to go to S. Plus we need 10Gb ports but didn’t have any more room in the N for more blades.
The first step is of course removing the N. The first thing to do is to remove all the blades. These things are
heavy and there’s not much room to have a bunch of people trying to help. Lightening the load is the only real way to do it. They do make a fancy lift that can slide in between the rails and lift it for you. We don’t have one, so we manually do it. Remove the power supplies too....
One of the challenges is that the N7 was 7 blades vertically and the S is using 2 blades horizontally. The trick we found was to split the cables based on the blade, before you put the new S8 chassis in the rack. It’s also a good time to re-label all the cables, if you need to.
But once this is done it’s a lot easier. The trick is to take the cables that go into the bottom blade and run them through the lower opening and the ones for the top through the top opening.
Since the cables are already split the top half of the cables go in the top blade and the bottom go in the lower blade. It just makes it easier to find the right cable when you need it. We did need to re-run 20 or so cables since they were too short. It’s one of the problems with the direction of the blades changing. We might just start using 20 foot cables instead of 15’s.
Typically it takes 5 minutes to run the cable, label, it, connect it in and make it look clean, per Ethernet cable. Power cables are 2 minutes but that’s because they are shorter and usually a lot less of them to have to try and straighten out. Really they do take that long. I questioned it once and they made me cable a rack. It took me that long and it still looked awful. You can do it quicker, but it will look awful and be harder to manage and troubleshoot.
Once all the cables are in, it’s just a little cleanup on them to make them look good and we are done.
Total time to actually do the work was about 5 hours. There’s a lot more time that goes into planning, verifying the documentation is correct and updating it when you are done, Total time including that was closer to 1 week.
I've got pictures, but they didn't seem to want to post today. If you are interested, let me know. I'd be glad to share that with you.
Monday, October 18, 2010
We've been using Salesforce.com chatter for a while now. in fact we were one of the private beta customers. When we rolled it out, it was not really announced and instead sort of grew by word of mouth. We had decent traffic, probably 100 chats a week, which is good, but we recently had our first chatter class and expect it to jump up a bit.
Chatter is salesforce's version of facebook and twitter but for private use. It also allows you to follow "salesforce objects" like contacts, opportunities, cases etc. Pretty cool if you are in sales or support, marginally interesting for other functions.
We do a lot of customer demo's and I always like to see if the customer we show our data center and products to actually end up buying so I'll probably start following them to keep up with what they do. It also will allow me to offer suggestions if I see them having a problem (because they open a case with support).
We also use it a lot just tokeep people connected. It's amazing how much "water cooler"discussions can get started based on a single chat. We recently upgraded a core switch in our data center, during the day, with no network downtime during the change out. Pretty cool stuff. But it's not just cool to us IT geeks, but to the firmware engineers building the product to see it work. It’s good for the service guys to see how long it took us, so they can better price out when they do it. It's also cool for the hardware engineers to see how we do cable management. All of this from one chat.
We actually had our first official class today. I announced we were having it at 8:00PM Wednesday night and had 8 responses in 10 minutes, goes to show how many people are checking their email
after hours. By the end of the next day the class was full with 25 people signed up. We'll be having another one soon since it was in such high demand. Also we had a request for remote training so we'll be doing a webcast as well.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
The thing that struck me as interesting is after trading emails for a week trying to figure out what it was for we said "Hey can you send us the invoice, so we can see what it is you are talking about?" the answer was "I'll have to check with my boss."
Now maybe I'm old fashioned, but if I'm expecting someone to pay a bill, it's sort of implied that they should be able to see the bill. .The sad part is, this invoice is actually all the way back in 2006. Really it's almost 5 years old and they just now realized it was past due? Shouldn't there be a statute of limitations on this stuff?
It's only around $2500 so it's hardly going to break the bank, but shouldn't they tell me when it's past due by 30,60,90 days, rather than wait 5 years? We've actually started putting in a clause in our new contracts that they can't invoice us for services back more than 12 months just to avoid this issue in the future.
We actually have half a dozen clauses we use now. I'll post more of them later
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
If you don't pay at the pump then you need to go in, pay and then go pump. So I went in gave the lady my $30 and went out to pump the diesel. I noticed though that the pump works great but at 29.50 is stops and starts pumping very slowly. Every time it stops right at 29.50, then takes another 25 seconds to put in the remaining fifty cents. If they can stop at an exact dollar amount, why not stop it at exactly 30 and save me 25 seconds a trip?
It turns out everyone has a theory, but the one I like the best is "because users will freak out thinking the pump won't stop if the gas pumps don;t stop early enough". Interesting and this actually ties back into something IT related.
Figuring out what users want, versus what they ask for. Believe it or not, not all users understand exactly what they are looking for and do their best to explain it in terms of what they know. Gasp! Our job in IT is to ask enough intelligent questions to understand what they want and get it for them.
One example we had a number of years ago was with our marketing department. They wanted a "customized web site that delivers content based on logins and rights, so each user gets the content that they want".
"Oh so a portal like the sharepoint portal we deployed last year?" I innocently asked.
"No, not that. It needs to be customizable based on who logs in."
This went back and forth for a while and we finally built them a portal on sharepoint and simply told them it was a "user customizable web site" instead of a site on sharepoint. Go figure.
We also had a service desk call a year or so ago because the fax machine was down and they couldn't process orders. Now we don't get a ton of orders through the fax machine, so this struck us as a little odd. As it turns out the sales team would print out the order, attach a cover sheet, fax it upstairs to order management who would then print out the order to file it and then enter is into SAP.
Now to most IT folks the problem is more than the fax machine didn't work, and really more along the lines of a very antiquated process. We ended up fixing the fax machine, but the tech that was there was bright enough to say, "You know we can probably make this a little bit easier for you", and we ended up automating the feed from the sales team directly into SAP.
Two key points:
1. Build what they want, not what they ask for. Better is to resolve the discrepancy.
2. Hire really bright techs who ask questions and follow up to improve things, not just close the ticket.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
I saw an early version months ago at a CIO Conference in Redmond. it looked pretty cool and if they had released it during the summer I might have gotten one, but like many other people, I just switched to an Android, specifically, the HTC EVO. As one of my guys said, for almost a week straight when he got his, "The most powerful handheld in the world". Not sure how true that is. but it is much cooler than the blackberry curve I had.
Mobile phones a tricky and I don't envy Microsoft having to try and beat some of these. Iphone users are almost rabidly fanatic, and the droid-ers are almost as bad.
It will be curious to see who wins. I remember in the 90's everyone counted Microsoft out of IP networking. They were pushing NetBios. Web browsers, I still have my T-shirt for downloading IE the day it launched. Web servers, I remember not planning to even mention Microsoft IIS in "Running a Perfect Intranet" because it was just not relevant. I'm not sure what the latest percentages are, but clearly they are in the top 3 of those markets.
I suspect the top 3 will end up being iphone, blackberry (assuming they can figure out that the iphone is more than a touch screen) and Microsoft. The droid phones I think will suffer from the same problem linux has. No central ownership confuses the market and makes it risky for CIO's to bet their careers on it. They will own a lot of market share together, but probably won't be a clear winner.
Of course I reserve the right to be smarter tomorrow than I am today.