DOMA: The End of Seperate and Unequal

Columbia Missourian 6-27-2013 Front Page

I’m pleased that my opinion piece on the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA made it onto the front page of the Columbia Missourian!  This is a major victory for gay rights, but the battle has just begun — and like many other gay people, a lot of decisions about where to go from here are just now starting to be asked.

Read the full article here —


Got Control-M Questions? There’s a Book for That!

I’ve had the pleasure of using BMC Software’s Control-M line of batch and workload automation products for over 10 years now.  However, even I’ll admit, the lack of documentation outside of what BMC provides is pretty bad.  Sure there are a few online resources – such as the Control-X mailing list on Yahoo, and the BMC Communities forums, but outside of those two there really isn’t a good reference set for using the product.  Ever try doing a good search looking for answers on how to do something with Control-M?  If so you know what the phrase “no search results found” means!


Thankfully, after a long wait, there is finally a pretty darn good book available for Control-M.  It’s not the end-all, be-all reference manual by any means (I’ve been using the product for over a decade and even I’m still discovering new things!), but it’s a great book for those new to Control-M and who want to get a running start using the product, and understanding what all the hoopla is about workload automation (it’s not a batch scheduler anymore folks!)  It takes you through v7 of the distributed systems version (Windows, Linux, AS/400, etc.) and gives you a good hands-on journey of how the tool works, and the gotchas that you need to watch out for. 

To that end, it gives me great pleasure to offer up two free copies of the eBook!  Why spend $73+ over at Amazon when you can get it for free here?

Here’s how you can win!

1) Reply with a comment to this post telling me your favorite feature of Control-M (I love to find out what others are doing with the product!)

2)  Tweet me @RobertStinnett with a 160 character of less tidbit about Control-M

How easy is that?

The contest starts now (January 18th, 2013) and we’ll let it run until February 1, 2013.  That should give folks plenty of time to find this and respond!

So what are you waiting for?  Comment, Tweet and read more about the book over on Amazon.  Even if you don’t win, I highly recommend you pick up a copy for you reference library at work!

#CMG2012 – Big Data, Virtualization, the Cloud & More

It’s that time of year again, time for the annual Computer Measurement Group conference which is being held in Las Vegas, NV this year.  As I write this I’m in a hotel room in St. Louis prepping to catch an early morning flight out.  The CMG conference has been one of my favorites over the years primarily because it has adapted as the times have changed.  Originally it focused a lot on capacity planning, performance and metrics — themes you will still find at the conference — but has also adopted tracks dealing with the cloud, virtualization and big data, just to name a few.

One of the best things about CMG is that it’s very vendor-neutral.  Most of the presentations don’t focus on “use tool XYZ to do this” but rather just give you the theory and practice of what they are talking about.  You are free to use whatever tools you have at hand to implement or study further.  A welcome break from all these conferences nowadays that seem to be nothing more than vendors charging you to attend a week-long sales event!

During the week I’ll be posting more information about what’s going on at the conference on Twitter (look for hashtag #CMG2012) and here.  I’m particularly interested in the sessions dealing with Big Data and the cloud, two of the biggest topics in IT right now.  If you happen to be in Vegas at CMG or the Gartner Data Center conference hit me up and it would be cool to talk shop with some of you!

Gatlinburg, TN – Here We Come!

The making of friends who are real friends, is the best token we have of a man’s success in life
Edward Everett Hale

The best parts of life are spent with friends; and this year my partner Keith and I are starting a new tradition with our friends Don and George from NY by taking a group vacation together.  When we first talked about this idea back in the early spring it seemed like a pipe dream.  After all, we lived almost 1,000 miles apart from each other — yet in our short visits we had grown to be very close friends.  So when we finally pulled the trigger and decided to go on a vacation together we knew we were embarking on a journey that would be remembered and celebrated for years to come.  Our first stop for our first vacation, Gatlinburg, TN!

As we count down the days, the excitement continues to grow.  With each passing night we get one day closer to what will hopefully be the first trip of many more to come.  What makes it special is not the fact that we are two gay couples traveling together, or that we’re going to one of the most scenic spots in the USA — what makes it special is that we are all doing it together.  We may not get to see each other but a few times a year, but true friends know that even a minute spent together just strengthens those bonds even more.

So Keith and I will head out from Missouri; Don and George will head out from NY.  Each of us has almost exactly the same amount of miles to drive — 673 vs. 704, and we’ll meet in Gatliburg for 9 days of friendship, fun and adventures!  We’ll be staying in a beautiful cabin in the Smokey Mountains, enjoying the very best of what nature has to offer!

During our adventures I’ll be posting pictures and memories; sharing stories and laughs; and documenting the first of many trips of a lifetime!  August 24th is the date we head out, and I can’t wait!

Gatlinburg, TN — Here we come! 

If You Want to Do DevOps, First Ignore the Consultants

OMG! If I hear one more person spout off about how to do DevOps the “right way” by attending conference XYZ or hiring some $300 an hour consultant I am going to pull what little remaining hair I have out.  There is no better way to know you are doing something wrong than to start bringing in an army of consultants and attending overpriced conferences where every vendor from here to Timbuktoo is trying to sell you something.  Tools don’t solve bad processes – period.  Why are people making this so difficult?

DevOps (and all the other flavors such as NoOps, MightBeOps, HiThereOps [I’m joking, btw]) has recently taken the IT world by storm.  You can’t sit next to some IT manager or geek on a plane without them saying the word DevOps at least once.  Of course every last person you talk to has a different take on it.  In short, it’s the buzzword of the year for 2012.

DevOps isn’t something you are going to teach anyone.  No conference is going to tell you the “right way” to do it.  It’s not going to be the same for every company.  No consultant is going to come in and sprinkle magic powder over your IT department and make it into a DevOps powerhouse.

DevOps is, and should be, the way you work and interact – period. It’s letting your best and brightest do what’s right – work together, communicate openly.  How hard does this have to be people?  It’s about letting the Java guys actually talk and work with the database guys.  It’s allowing your operations folks actually get involved with the development folks.  In short, it’s about one simple, easy to understand concept – communication!  There you go, I just saved you $20,000 in consultant fees.  Send me a t-shirt from your company and we’ll call it even.

I recently wrote a small piece for SearchDataCenter about how I got involved in DevOps in one of the organizations I do work for.  We didn’t need consultants, conferences or a slew of new hires to do it – we just simple did it.  Imagine that.  As an operations guy, I now have open and frank talks with the developers, the web guys, the database gurus and the network whiz.  At the same time the developers tell me when I have my head screwed on wrong, and they also open up my eyes as to why we could do something one way, but it would be better to do it another.  Communication, without a dozen different meetings, it’s amazing!

I have to laugh when I read about some of the practices that some folks are “selling” for DevOps – one fellow I got into a Twitter war with with advocating wholesale firing of the entire operations department.  Good luck with that one buddy!  Let me know when the going out of business sale happens at your company so I can pick up some desks and chairs on the cheap.  There is a reason we have operations folks, and there is a reason we have development folks – but there isn’t any reason the two can’t work together on a daily basis!

Sometimes you don’t need consultants and conferences and books – sometimes you just need to value individuals and their interactions; let them talk and work together!  After all, isn’t that part of the Agile manifesto?

~ Rob

Data Center Automation: Moving from Pipe Dream to Reality

Just click a button and you can have a new server online running Linux, Apache, MySQL and Rails in 15 minutes!

Never, ever log into a server again – it’s all automated from patches to new code deployments!

Zero downtime – it’s all automated so it can never fail!

Which one of those pipe dreams have you heard today? 

Data Center Automation – the holy grail of IT departments everywhere.  It’s actually a really good idea, in fact it’s a necessary component in most organizations because of the sheer complexity of IT.  Who in the world would actually want to maintain 100s or 1000s of servers the old fashioned way?  Why would a company risk rolling out new deployments by having someone sit down at the keyboard and type in the commands manually to start the process?  Yet for all the rewards that data center automation promises, the path to getting there is filled with some harsh realities.

Reality #1:  You have to do it manually first.

You can’t automate what you don’t understand.  Even I was a big proponent of this in years past.  Just automate everything that doesn’t move – and if it does move, figure out how we can automate it’s movements!  The reality is that you can’t automate what you don’t understand.  Automation tools can help make sure you get it right every time, but you have to know how to get it right the first time. 

Reality #2:  It takes time.  Lots of time.

Not only will the technical challenge be massive, but the cultural change will be enormous!  Rome wasn’t built in a day and any company thinking they can roll out data center automation in a few weeks (or even a quarter) is dreaming.  Sure, you might get lucky and be starting off with a “Greenfield” project, but the reality is we all have legacy systems and processes that we have to work around – and in many cases change.  Change takes time.  Doing it right takes time.  Making changes so that you do it right consistently while keeping the systems up and running takes a lot of time.

Reality #3:  The culture shock can kill.

Say the word automation and I guarantee you will find a dozen people in your organization within the next 5 minutes who think you mean that you are going to automate them out of a job.  The cultural change in any IT organization to adopt data center automation is huge.  People have to be willing to give up “doing it themselves” and instead transfer their knowledge the tool.  The good thing is that once they have done this they are now freed up to work on the more important stuff.  Would you rather be building your 5000th Windows 2008 server or would you rather let the tool do that for you and you work on implementing new virtualization technologies? 

While it sounds like an easy question, many people equate the word automation with “job at risk”.  Throw in “change” and you get complete chaos at some companies.

Reality #4:  Tools won’t solve process and people problems.

Some people think they can install Puppet or Bladelogic and all their problems are solved.  However, what many people find out is that their organizational problems are things no tool can fix.  This relates directly back to change, but also encompasses the process by which we do our work. 

Automation is not going to help your IT department if they still have to go through a dozen manual approval processes and the company isn’t willing to shift people and responsibilities around.  Throwing a tool around a broken process just gives you a colossally expensive broken process!

Think DevOps!

Reality #5:  It’s OK to take small steps.

You may want full end-to-end data center automation.  Everything from server provisioning to compliancy checks are done automatically without anyone getting in the way.  That’s a great goal – and one I think every organization should work towards.  The problem is you aren’t going to achieve it the first time out of the gate.

Set realistic expectations and know that each small step is helping get you a bit closer to utopia.  Don’t be afraid to follow the Agile approach of delivering things in small chunks and coming back and improving on it later. 

Your end users would love single-click server deployments; but chances are for iteration #1 they will be pleased as can be if they can just get a base OS installed and running!  Show your value incrementally, and the business (and your coworkers) will support your efforts enthusiastically.

Microsoft Surface: A Tablet That Promotes Productivity? That’s Crazy!

The tech circles were abuzz this evening about the latest offering from Microsoft, the Surface, their new tablet computer that will run the Windows 8 OS in two various forms (Windows 8 Pro and Windows RT, a special version for the ARM processor).  Right off the bat this new device is intriguing for one very important reason – it finally let’s you run the same productivity software from your tablet that you can from your desktop or laptop!

Tablet computers are nothing new, in fact Microsoft had tablet versions of XP around over a decade ago, but like many things it was way ahead of its time.  Then along came Apple and Android which pretty much were your two choices.  There is no doubt both of them garnered a lot of followers and fans, but for many folks, especially those who use a tablet for productivity instead of just Facebook and web browsing, they were always lacking.

Looking for that familiarity and ease of use you got with Microsoft Office?  Sorry, keep looking.

Wanted something you could easily switch back and forth from your regular PC?  Not happening with an iPad.

Looking for an application to help you keep in touch with your favorite web service or cloud based offering?  There’s an app for that – and it will cost you.  Plus did we forget to mention that some of the features you love about the traditional application won’t be available?

I tried an Apple iPad about 6 month ago but I just couldn’t get into it.  I found it slow, and the fact it was not compatible with a lot of what I did in the office really bothered me.  I won’t even go into detail about how many times I managed to crash the entire thing just running a factory image with the web browser!  Then there was the keyboard – or lack thereof.  Sure, you could get an external one, but they were bulky at best and really sort of defeated the purpose for me. 

I guess what I was looking for was the Microsoft Windows experience for a mobile device.  Well Microsoft must have been listening, because if the Surface is half of what they are touting it to be it going to give both the iOs and Android based tablets a run for their money.  It’s the business user meets the tablet – with enough cool features built in to attract home and entertainment users as well!

Right off the bat I love the fact it runs on an Intel based processor with the Windows 8 OS for one of the versions.  This means all my favorite apps I can load onto it without having to try and find something that “is close enough” in a specialized app form.  It also means that many programmers, already familiar with Intel based chips, are going to be able to get their applications to market in record time.  I am willing to bet money that Visual Studio will have native development support for the Surface!

I’m also impressed with how they have designed the cover.  It’s not just a simple cover – no, it’s a full featured keyboard that is there when you need it, out of the way when you don’t.  It really does make this more than just an “entertainment device” in my mind, it turns it into a full fledged productivity device.  From the office, to the park, to the tech conference – I can really see this thing going where I go and providing the functionality of what I need, where I need it.

Of course it’s going to be a few months before we see the first production units.  Microsoft has made no announcement as of yet as to availability, or pricing.  So folks like me will just have to keep waiting.  However, knowing that there is an alternative out there that fits my mobile, business oriented lifestyle has be excited to try and buy this device.  Productivity for the win!

June is National Gay Pride Month – Celebrate Diversity

Gay Pride FlagAcross America June is National Gay Pride Month.  First recognized by President Bill Clinton in 2000, President Barack Obama carried the tradition forward in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.  It’s a great time to celebrate not only the diversity gay friends, co-workers and family members bring to our lives – but also to recognize that the USA, and indeed the world, is one huge melting pot.  We are all different, and it’s those differences that make the world, and ourselves, such an interest place to live!

You may not know it, but I guarantee you that you know someone who is gay.  Chances are there is even someone in your own family who is gay.  They are ordinary people – like yourself – who are living life.  Yet everyday these normal people face a backlash from hate mongers and extreme-far-right religious zealots who want to oppress them and in some cases do physical harm to them.  Why?  Just because they are being who they are.

During June take some time to celebrate the diversity that LGBT people bring to the world. If there is a local pride event happening near where you are why not stop in and join the celebration — you will find that the pride events are family-like atmospheres that are welcoming and fun to attend (I’ll be at St. Louis Pride Fest 2012 from on June 23 – 24).  If you know someone who is gay take the time to find out more about them. Invite them out to lunch or dinner and make a night out of it laughing and learning about who they are and what their dreams and aspirations are.

We are all different – and that is what makes us all so unique.  Celebrate diversity!