Friday, August 31, 2012

Windows 8, server 2012 - Why bother?

For the first time in over a decade a new release of Microsoft software is coming out and I'm not an early adopter. In fact I probably won't even get it until I have to.

When Windows XP came out my company was the largest deployment of XP outside of Microsoft. In fact I still have the Windows XP shirt, signed by the team hanging in my office. We deployed Windows Vista before it was released and were one of the first to benefit from Windows 7. We followed the same trend with Office 2003, 2007 and 2010.

Why the change? A few reasons actually. First my account team changed. I'm a big believer that the account team makes or breaks a relationship. In this case breaks. We used to always know what was going on at Microsoft but our new team, who I've met but frankly would probably need to search my gmail to find their names again, just isn't that engaged. I had to about beg to learn about the Microsoft cloud and when we did they explained that the cloud versions would always be behind the installed version.

I used to know what cool features were coming and how they would help my company. Now all I know about windows 8 is that it has a new user interface that works with tablets.  Frankly my concerns with Windows 7 weren't about the interface. They were about the speed of the machine, how long it took to boot up and why it started fast and got so darn slow. Maybe there are some amazing new features in windows 8 but who knows.

I'm not sure what the new version of  office brings to the table, other than I can now use a cloud version, which looks just like the on premise version, and apparently the licensing doesn't rip you off as much.

So we switched to google. I understand their vision of 100% web, client independence and though their software isn't quite as polished as the MS versions, I think in a short time it will be. They also do a much better job of collaboration than MS does, as far as I can tell anyway not having seen the latest MS versions.

Now to be fair, we have a new Google representative as well, and frankly I haven't met them yet either. Hopefully they will be as engaged as our last AE was. She did a great job of explaining the Google vision and convincing us to go Google.

It's not all about the account team. I think Microsoft lost focus of what customers wanted and I think Google understands where the industry is going and is better positioned to get us there. Time will tell...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Verizon outage

If you happened to catch the news for Andover MA (or Lawrence) you may have seen an article about a mattress fire under a bridge in Lawrence. As it turns out there is a conduit above where this mattress was that contains a whole bunch of fiber and copper wire.

This fiber and copper is used by Verizon (and apparently Sprint, AT&T and a few others) and when it burnt up cell coverage, phones, FiOS and even 911 were impacted. 

I don't know how everyone else configured their phone system, but when we ordered our phone lines we requested and were sold a "protected sonet ring". While I'm not the worlds best optical network engineer, my understanding was that a single cable break, or failed component would not cause an outage. Hmmm  Since my phones went down, and cell phone towers seemed to go down and supposedly 911 stopped working I think either I'm incorrect in what we actually got, or protected sonet is a myth.

That annoys me actually...

The other thing that annoyed me was the lack of notification. I mean in today's environment I should have been able to go to their web site and seen outages. I couldn't. 

I should be able to follow them on twitter and get updates. I couldn't, though I did get a response asking me to send them a direct message but by then I was on the ride home so I don't know what this would have done. They did respond fairly quickly when asked, but didn't seem very proactive.

I should have been able to open a ticket and get regular updates. No such luck. I did get updates but they were pretty few and far between. The local newspaper sent out a tweet last night around 4PM saying "next press release from Verizon will be 10AM" 16 hours later...

The lines did come back up and everything is good, but I need to give Verizon a D for support with  redundancy that didn't seem to work and not having timely updates. Hopefully either I'm just not using the support tools properly and there is a web page, twitter handle or phone number I don't know, or they will get better.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Social Selling works.

In a typical week I get around 75 phone calls. On average I answer less then 10% of them. Close to half, it seems are from either "unknown caller", or "blocked called". I refuse to answer those out of principle Even the ones that do come in with a number. many times I am not at my desk, in my office but busy talking to someone else, or otherwise not in the mood to listen to a sales pitch.

I don't get a lot of regular mail though when I do, I usually open it and the throw it away. Email, luckily mostly gets caught at the mail filter, the rest I usually hit the archive button on. I don't have an admin, but if I did I would see even less of these sales pitches.

The funny thing is, and maybe it's because it is still new, when I get someone trying to connect on linkedin, or a direct message on twitter, even though I know they are likely trying to sell me something, I accept and respond to it. 

Even better is when someone emails me with something relevant. For example I got an email last week that started with "Hi Rich. I read your blog and loved the post about..." Now maybe I'm vain or egotistical, I've been called a lot of things but never either of those. In most cases though the fact that they have now emotionally connected with me means I want to help them. It doesn't mean I'm going to buy from them, or use their services, but it does mean I want them to do well.

I wrote a blog post about just such a company They are called Incxo. Typically I wouldn't take time to meet with a recruiting agency.  I'm not hiring and if I was, we have an in-house team that we normally use. If I need to go outside of the company I'd use my network first and only then one of the regular firms I've used in the past. 

In this case though I took 30 minutes, which quickly turned into 90 minutes, learned about what they do differently and even talked about them to other people. The big difference, besides the fact that what they are doing is super interesting, is they engaged in a way that made me feel like they were listening. We connected, even before we met in person. 

Frankly if they had called and left me a voice mail, I would have ignored them, Social, especially when you really engage, works.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Clearly HVAC contractors are not Enterprise 2.0 yet..

I'm trying to get a price to replace some heating baseboard in my house in Maine. Heat's important in Maine. I sort of expected I would call three people, ask for a price and decide. I assumed a week or so. I mean it's literally to replace 32' of forced hot water baseboard from slant fin.

So I looked on google, found two new companies and my local furnace guy and asked them to come over and look at what I needed.

The first guy came in two days. He was the owner, very knowledgeable and helpful. We also talked about installing central air conditioning and upgrading some of the heat too. He left some brochures for us to look at. After five days I called and reminded him I was waiting for a quote. I got a total price, but no real break down so had a few questions. We traded a few emails to clarify some things. I think I understand what I am getting but will need a more detailed breakdown before I sign anything. I'm assuming at some point I will get a design that we can work through showing where the ducts will go, where units get placed outside and inside etc.

The second guy came out the next day. It's been a week and I still don't have a quote though I've called twice. He did bring some literature that explained what the products look like and I was able to review the manufacturers web site. This company actually has no website. The only way I found them was google and yelp kicked out a phone number for me to call.

The local guy that we normally used, answered the phone, but needed to "go to town" to get a price. Clearly not an example of enterprise 2.0. In fact Mayberry from "The Andy Griffith show" comes to mind. Town is literally the next town over, about 10 miles. I've driven further than that for a burrito. It's not like he has to drive to California to see it. I'm not sure why he can't call for a price.

As an exercise I googled "slantfin baseboard price" and in 5 minutes worked up a price ($511 or $645 depending on model) for the materials from I think the labor is about 1 hour to drain the system, 2 hours to remove the existing baseboard, 2 hours to install the new one and 1 hour to test and refill. So 6 hours of labor with 2 guys is probably  $780 ($65 an hour I'm guessing). In my head this is less than $1500. The first guy quoted $1600, so we are close. I'm guessing he gets better pricing on parts, and is faster than me so he can sharpen his pencil a bit.

Now maybe I'm spoiled with some of the high tech companies I work with. Maybe I'm impatient with most responses in a few minutes, or hours. Maybe I just have high expectations, but so far I'm not real impressed with the HVAC vendors I've been dealing with. Clearly not social media aware or ready for Enterprise 2.0....

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Opensim and datacenter management

Somewhere I followed a link to something cool called opensim. It lets you build a 3d world and populate it with other people or objects. In my usual geeky way I tried to imagine how I could use this in my day to day job running IT infrastructure.

I think this is probably more cool than useful, but imagine if you could see in 3d what your data center looked like. All of the servers in the right spot in the racks. You could look at the lights on the switches and see if they were connected to something. You could see the servers and power them off if you wanted to. You could walk to the back of the cabinet and see where they were plugged in and that the circuits weren't using too much power.

How cool would that be, especially for a remote data center? Pretty cool right?

Even better though would be if you could do the opposite. See we can do a lot of this now, if we kept our documentation up to date, and we do a really good job of that. We can see the switch ports, check our documentation to see what plug the power supply is plugged into and even use SNMP to verify the amount of amps being used on the circuit.

The problem is most people don't keep there "cross patch information" files accurately. Most people don't record where they connect power cords, and most people don't track where the servers are racked in the cabinet. What we really want is to be able to do the opposite. We want to be able to walk through the data center and record and update our documents with how things really are connected. Now for power cables this is probably not too hard. Recording the "U location" in the cabinets is probably possible too.

Recording the Ethernet or fiber cables is probably impossible using video though. There are too many in the bundle to be able to tell which one is plugged into what, plus sometimes the cables run from the front to the back of the cabinet and we would lose track of the cable on the camera.

Luckily though our Enterasys switches use something called "Node alias" which records MAC addresses heard on a port, DNS information or DHCP information. While the video recording is not yet possible, figuring out what LAN cable goes where is available today. I think this is an Enterasys only feature, though I'd love to hear if other switch vendors can do the same thing.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Working from home hurts your career?

According to Forbes working remote, too often, can cause you to get worse performance reviews. While I don't like to think this is true, it probably is.

Think about it this way. Much of our communication is hallway discussions. While we do have meetings, most of what we talk about is outside of those formal times. This means if you are remote, likely you are missing out on that piece. This will probably make you feel disconnected. Plus it's hard to build relationships without a less formal setting than a meeting.

How can we solve this though? I mean it's not possible for everyone to be in the same location.

Tools like Google hangouts, chatter and other informal communications can help. The trick is to use them informally or all the time. For example, can you setup a permanent hangout between two development centers? This way as people walk by they casually communicate.

Chatter, if used for casual purposes, can also help build relationships. Letting people talk about music they like, restaurants they like or vacation plans can help people discover shared likes.

Will this help performance reviews? I don't know, but it seems like it should. Thoughts?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Scary security story

In case you missed the latest malware threat called Shamoon go check it out. 

It's scary only because it deletes all of your stuff, but it's apparently pretty directed so probably won't be as bad as it could be. That's not actually what this post is about...

We started talking about this threat though and one of my admins shared this story...

Yesterday I got a call from someone who said they were monitoring my computer for me and thought that I might have "malicious software on my computer that is 1000 times worse than a virus."  I thought I would play along so I asked them what I should do, and they then walked me through opening up the event viewer and looking for errors.  They asked if I had any warning or errors in the system log, and when I told them that I did they said "Oh No!  You have been hit.  Each warning/error means that thousands of files on my 'application hard drive' have been affected"  They then tried to get me to grant them access to my computer through so they could fix it.    That is when I told them that  I was on to them and hung up.  The scary thing is that they called me on my work cell phone number.

OK rule of thumb, people aren't just monitoring your machine and going to help you for free. If they are monitoring your machine, you are more likely to get arrested than a free malware cleaning. Just saying...

Usually attacks aren't this specific and it has to take a lot of time to be this targetted. Anyone else seen this?

Another company to watch - incxo

I was going to wait and save this post for a rainy day, but after talking to these guys I have to share right away. What they are doing is pretty cool. Think crowd-sourced recruiting...

First go check them out..

At first I was a little confused on what they did. Are they a platform for recruiters and jobseekers to work together? Well they are more like a traditional search firm with really cool technology. If you have openings, you can't just post them on their site, like say linkedin jobs. But if you are a recruiter with a stellar candidate you could recommend them.

I got to meet two of their founders, Matt Corbett is their CEO and Anne Haley who is a principal there. They had some cool facts, which I won't be able to remember all of them but the most interesting one was referred candidates are three times more likely to do well than other candidates. They consider "doing well" to mean at least 2 years at the company with at least one promotion. Yeah I'd say that is doing well....

They essentially pay you to recommend someone. If they get hired, you get paid. There are some details, like how long your recommendation lasts, what if more than one recommends etc, but that's the heart of it. If you feel funny profiting from helping someone get a job, you can donate the money to charity.

In fact that's what most good recruiters do. They find good candidates and bring them to the client who then pays them for picking through the hundreds of resumes that aren't good and doing a lot of the work. Good recruiters will also ask, "Do you know anyone that could be a good fit?" Usually then they call that person and if they are a good fit, keep the money. Some recruiters will give you a finders fee, but usually you get good will from the person you recommended and a thank you. Sometimes you don't even get the "Thank you".

So it's a cool model. I think it makes a lot of sense. I don't get paid to tell you that, but you can bet I'll recommend you if you are a good fit for one of their openings.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The problems with BYOD

I recently posted a blog post on the Enterasys blog  talking about the 8 types of BYOD.  Essentially BYOD is made up of 3 attributes that related to LAN connection, Management and Data. It can range from essentially the same technical problems we have today with corporate managed devices on our networks and connecting to our data, to someone's "personal" iphone.

Each of these situations brings up a different problem and solution set required. In summary though it works out like this.

1. If it is on your network, you can control it with firewalls, network policy and SIEM tools.
2. If it is managed by you, then you can use MDM to protect yourself.
3. If it is accessing your data then authentication, like Okta, with automatic provision and de-provision can help.

The corollary to these are.
1. If it's not on your network, traditional network tools won't help. In other words a hardware appliance on my network has zero control over my 3g connected Android device.
2. If you can't manage the device, you can't control the device.
3. If it's not your data the best you can do is have a policy and react accordingly.

There is no protection from someone using their iphone, on their 4g data plan connecting to their facebook. The best you can do is watch and react appropriately.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A few cool companies to watch

Every now and then I come across a really cool company that I like to share. This week there are two that I think are pretty innovative.

I shared a few when I went to Cloudslam12, one of them shopforcloud, got bought already and is now called, so someone else thought they were good too.

This week we started testing hotlink. They take vcenter, which is how almost everyone manages Vmware environments  build a shim and can then manage any hypervisor. In our lab we have Vcenter managing ESX and hyperV. We can migrate virtual machines between the two.They also support Citrix and Redhat's VM environments and I'm sure will be adding more. HINT: Look for a super cool announcement at vmworld.... Oh and Enterasys Data Center Manager works with all of them.

I started using Waze. It's a social traffic tool. Think of google maps traffic layer mixed with real time "friends" updates. It lets you tell the people behind you what is going on. I think it is really helpful, though the traffic maps don't seem to be as robust as I'd like. I think its' because it is still new and not enough people are on it. Watch this get better as more people start using it.

What cool companies did you come across that you want to share? Comments are always welcome.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The new Klout score

OK I'll admit to a certain vanity when it comes to my social media scores. I mean I don't want to be like the marketing VP that has never heard of Klout, so I check it on occasion. And yes that occasion may be pretty close to once a day.

I have to admit, I like the new scoring system. Now the funny thing is what I did that post, I have jokingly explained why I felt my Klout score should be higher and said I thought it should be a mid-50. With the new scoring, it's at 57.

I like 57. It's way better than the 46 I was stuck on. Now looking at it, I think I should be mid-60 instead. I mean they don't look at my blogger account, and let's face it these pearls of wisdom have to be worth half a dozen +k's. Plus, in case you don't know, I also post on and and each of those should be a few more.

Yeah I think mid or high 60's would be good. Ideally even a 68 just so I can beat @valaafshar. Not that I'm competitive in any way...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A good customer service story

I know my last post was about poor customer service, so I thought I'd share a good story of how to engage with customers. 

We have been taking our dogs and cats to a local vet for 15 years. We almost always use the same vet even though they have 3 that work at this clinic. He is great, super friendly and the animals love him too. I'm not sure how much we have spent with this clinic over the last 15 years. In the last few years our dogs have gotten old and sicker. I know the monthly medicine costs for "Princess" costs more than my car payment. In summary we are a pretty lucrative client.

Unfortunately our vet is leaving and moving to Florida. While we do know the other vets and all of the staff, the new full time vet that is taking over is from a different clinic. We've never met him, even though he is a part owner. I'm sure he is good and capable, but that doesn't exactly offset the 15 year relationship we had with the previosu full time vet either. 

But they did something smart. They had a "welcoming party" for the new vet and we were invited, which was great, though we missed it. I'm hoping that on the first visit they will schedule some extra time for us to get to know him. It seems like a great way to reach out to customers and let them know their business is important and see what they are doing well. 

Anytime there is a reason to talk to customers, especially at an executive level, is a great time to differentiate yourself. Don't pass up the chance to be amazing.