How to win friends and influence people

Sometimes I’m in a position to influence decisions. I normally base my opinion on the technical detail of a solution, and how it fits current and future business needs. But recently, I’ve realised how much the approach of the sales team comes in to play.

For example, Pure Storage are a joy to work with. They have a very strong product set which very much fits the needs of the business I currently work at. They’re easy to engage with as a company and an account team. We have approached them previously to ask for a solution to a problem, and they have been honest in excluding themselves from the running as the products they have weren’t a good fit. Wonderful. I believe in credit where it’s due, and am receiving nothing for saying this.

Then comes Rubrik. I have never contacted them. In the past 9 months, they have e-mailed me 18 times. 9 times in the last month alone. They have offered to pay me just to talk to them. That feels shady – Your product should speak for itself. How good is your product if you have to pay people to listen to you?

Sometimes I’m in a position to influence a decision, someimes I’m not If I’m ever in a position to influence vendor selection for any product Rubrik sell, I’ll try my hardest to ensure they’re not in the running. You’re never the only vendor available.

KPIs and SLAs – More important than outcomes?

Some time ago I was working in a vSphere role and I got an escalation through about an unexepcted reboot of a host. Sure, we all encounter a PSOD if we’re unlucky. They’re certainly not a normal occurace, and it’s a stop screen where the default config doesn’t result in a reboot. I started looking at the logs, vpxd.log, hostd.log, vpa.log, and so on. There was no indication of any failure. The logs just stopped, then re-started when the host was booting up.

That’s neither normal nor expected. No problem though, keep looking and something will show up. I had a look at the host SEL to see if anything showed up. The host had been rebooted by a user in a different team. Problem solved.

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Why are we slowly heading back to inaccessibility?

When the pandemic hit businesses, understandably, panicked. Suddenly the majority of the workforce was remote, and that was a new thing to a lot of companies. How do you manage staff when they’re not sat at a desk you own? How do you know people are working if you can’t see them?

Zoom, WebEx, Teams enter stage left. For me, Teams has been a revolution – You can have a text chat with someone, turn it in to a phone call, a video call, a screen share with no real effort. Wonderful. Collaboration should be this easy, and in 2020 it was.

Industry events that used to be in-person only were suddenly, and hastily, thrown online. Yes, thrown. It’s different to put on an event that is online than one that is held in-person, and a lot of the first events I attended didn’t have time to re-assess how to deliver their content. Those events were painful to be honest, but it was new so nobody is really at fault.

There were a lot of clunky handovers from speaker to speaker, all waiting for the another to give the signal they had finished speaking / it was your turn to speak. There was a surprisingly large number of backgrounds that featured guitars, too.

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Do we want to solve problems, or say we’ve solved problems?

I saw the above tweet the other day. It’s fairly amusing, and later I saw a few imply it was the process solution implemented as a result of the Facebook outage on 4th October 2021.

It resonated – How often do we implement solutions without solving problems? How often is a process introduced (‘Do not unplug’) that makes no attempt to solve the underlying problem (Whatever cannot be unplugged).

All too often we focus on implementing a solution without taking a step back to ensure it actually solves the problem. If we ignore all the bad stuff we can only talk about the good stuff, right? A report that’s all green is better than a report that has red on it, right? All that matters is the report, right?

Ostrich management never ends well.

Reducing power usage part 2

Since posting part 1 of reducing power, I received the order of my ASRock and have re-used the hard drives from the previous Shuttle I had. The Shuttle wasn’t loud by any stretch, but the ASRock is incredibly quiet. To the point where I have to check it’s still running!

After previously being impressed with how long my hard drives have lasted, one went pop during a power failure. That’s a bit disappointing, but the drives are only Western Digital Blue’s which are just generic consumer desktop disks.

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Reducing power usage part 1

A good 7 years ago, I bought a Shuttle SX38P2 Pro which has been running pretty much 24/7 ever since. Recently the PSU fan has been struggling, but I can’t complain for the time it’s been in use. Over those 7ish years I’ve suffered a single drive failure.

# smartctl -a /dev/ada0 | grep Power_On_Hours
9 Power_On_Hours 0x0032 081 081 000 Old_age Always - 13972
# smartctl -a /dev/ada1 | grep Power_On_Hours
9 Power_On_Hours 0x0032 015 015 000 Old_age Always - 62738

As the fan was struggling, I contacted Shuttle to ask about replacements but received no reply. That was disappointing, but I guess understandable as the model has been discontinued (I didn’t think the cooling was model-specific though).

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Unifi Protect

I decided to buy a Unify G3-Flex. I’m already a user of some of the SDN products that Ubiquity have in their range, and was interested in their video offering. The G3-Flex was the cheapest way to get in to the range so I figured it was worth a punt.

Sadly, the video controller (pretty much required if you want the nice functionality, or if you’re not going to create your own) doesn’t support ARM so you cannot install this on a Raspberry Pi. That’s disappointing as you can install the SDN controller on a Pi fairly happily (for how much longer is open to debate. It feels as though the Cloud Key is the preferred option for Ubiquity going forward. Won’t lie, don’t want one.) There is also an NVR you can buy if you don’t want to build your own controller. For one camera costing $79, it made no sense to splash out $365 on a controller when I can build my own for free.

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VMware Skyline Update

Just a quick update on my VMware Skyline usage. Since my last post on Skyline, it seems to have been updated. Cool!

The filters still don’t get retained if you click on an issue then go back. But, there are more filter options now – There used to be 4 categories there’s now maybe 7 which is useful for more complex environments.

On the overview page, you can now scroll past the first 15 findings. It appears you now have infinite scroll, allowing you to see all findings. This is good!

I still don’t see a way to tell when something was first discovered as a finding.

If a finding is attributed to more than 10 assets, you can now scroll and see them all rather than just the first 10 and having to guess on the names of the other assets. This is a big improvement indeed.

You can now also select to see all findings for a vCentre or cluster (for example), rather than having to select each host individually. Again, another useful improvement.

We’re starting to move towards a version 2 release. Thank’s, VMware! Please keep releasing improvements.

vSphere 6.7 Upgrade – PSC’s

I’ve recently upgraded our environment from vSphere 6.0 (shush, it’s still in support until March 2020). Fairly standard setup really, a couple of vCenter’s, a couple of PSC’s (to allow ELM), and several hosts. We also ran the HTML 5 Fling as nobody wants to use that god-awful web client which was forced on us for some reason. Yes, it’s been years. No, I’m not over it.

I won’t go in to how to perform the upgrade, that’s well documented and often repeated already, I’ll just point out a couple of things I noticed.

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VMware Communities

The VMware Communities are an interesting beast. I’ve not really bothered with them in the past, possibly because I feel there’s nothing I can add. But upon reading them recently, I’ve noticed something which is a bit weird and possibly interesting (but probably not).

There have been enough posts of this type for me to notice. An example:

Example of odd posts on VMware communities
Example of odd posts on VMware communities

The posts all follow this structure – Link to an author who appears to be unrelated to anything, link to a VMware knowledgebase article that is probably related to the question, give a publication name and product version, then finish with a one sentence question.

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