The Countdown Continues…

This is my last week at my company, and it’s scary.

I’ve taken the good advice that my boss Damian suggested and made a checklist of things left to go over with my successor. As with all endeavors, we’re limited by time more than anything else.

It’s right now that my previous investments in documenting the scripts that automate various processes around the network are kicking back in my favor. It’s easy enough to skim a 150+ line Oracle script if it’s well documented, explains known limitations and caveats, and I’ve got a white-board that I can use to annotate peculiarities.

Over all, the process is more draining than I thought it would be. I’m still enjoying explaining the way the network works (as well as pointing out weaknesses that should be fixed), but at the end of the day, I’m completely wiped out. On top of this, I’m also dealing with the emotions that come with leaving a job that I’ve been with for what seems like ever. To put it in perspective, I started dating my wife of several years 6 months before I started working here. My world is very much changing.

On the other hand, I am a neophile. I get bored too often, and I enjoy change. I might be scared out of my mind at leaving a nice comfortable position, but it’s also thrilling. I don’t know what the future holds, and I can’t wait to find out. That’s the part that keeps me going.

I should also mention that we got the final tuning in place for the Silver Peak WAN Optimizers this past weekend. We’re seeing a relatively steady 50% decrease in Oracle SQL traffic, and between 40-80% in CIFS. What remains to be seen is whether, longer term, those protocols constitute enough of the traffic to make the devices worth the investment. I definitely like the reporting and transparency, but that by itself isn’t enough. Ultimately, the decision will be up to my successor and his boss…and letting go of decisions like that is something else that’s hard to do.

I have heard myself constantly correcting my speech while going over the infrastructure. I’ll make reference to plans, as in “and I figure by early next year, we’ll be starting serious IPv6 trials”, then I’ll realize what I said, and change it to, “I mean, I think it would be a good idea to…” – It’s surprisingly hard to change my mindset when it comes to this.

That being said, I’m making it, and I’m improving all the time. I cleaned up my desk, and it looks better than it ever has. I’ve got a pile of notebooks, each of which contains about 20 pages of notes regarding some part of the infrastructure, which then fades to a notebook of blank pages. I didn’t realize how bad I am at that until I collated them and saw the pile. I think only two of them were completely full, and one was a Moleskine that I used for conferences, and is coming home with me.

All in all, I’m still looking forward to the change. Mentally, it could be dicey for a while, but I’m convinced that I’ll pull through. If you’ve been through something like this before, I’m very much open to suggestions on how to bridge the gap from “Master of All I Survey” to “That guy who used to come here a lot on the weekends”.

Hilarious Updates (and a magazine to buy)

I usually don’t do updates like this, but there are great things afoot.

Greg Ferro (who has a great networking blog that you should read) linked to this re-caption of the famous scene from Downfall, where-in Hitler has some problems with his unified communications platform. (incidentally, this meme has been pretty long running, and I know that YouTube took down all of the Downfall parodies a while back, so don’t be surprised if the video has disappeared before too long)

Second, Tom Limoncelli (who has a great sysadmin blog that you should read) linked to the CDC’s Emergency Preparedness and Response page for the Zombie Apocalypse. I look ed and looked, but I can’t find anything about April 1st on it, so clearly, they know something we don’t. I can only recommend that we follow the rules. I’m going running tonight.

Next up, I actually laid in my bed this morning and read a 28 page document before I got up. I caught it on twitter, and I’m happy that I did. Jim Moyle wrote a really great whitepaper about deploying Windows 7 via VDI. There’s a lot of information in that whitepaper even if you aren’t deploying via VDI. The paper addresses the increased IOPS that Windows 7 requires, and discusses taking them into account when you’re testing, as well as doing what you can to mitigate the problems. It’s definitely worth your time.

Lastly, I was at Barnes and Noble last night and found this year’s version of the Linux Shell Handbook which is put out by Linux Pro Magazine. If you see it on the newsstand, you should pick it up, because on page 43, you’ll see an article that I wrote for last year’s, called “Control Console”, that talks about administering Linux users and groups from the command line. Joe Brockmeier also contributed to this year’s version:

Pick it up at fine booksellers everywhere!

Yo dawg, I heard you like conferences…

If you’ve been reading this blog for over, oh, say, a month, then you know that I appreciate conferences (I got to chair PICC’11, and I’ve been a two time contributor to the LISA conference blog. And why do I appreciate conferences?

It’s pretty simple, really. Attending conferences gives you a variety of experiences that can’t be had anywhere else. The array of attendees from all different situations, the speakers who have been chosen precisely because they have something interesting to say, and training from people who are at the top of their game. No amount of IRC time or Skype can replicate that.

What is sometimes irritating is that there are too many conferences to choose from. In times like these, we have to have tight purse strings, and that limits our choices (sometimes to nothing at all!).

I’m not privy to the details, but I suspect that has a lot to do with the design of what USENIX is doing next month. The idea kind of blows me away….it’s the USENIX Federated Conferences Week. Essentially, they took a ton of what would be short conferences, and they squished them together into the same week at the same place.

Here’s HotCloud’11, HotStorage’11, the USENIX Annual Technical Conference (ATC), the Workshop on I/O Virtualization, and the WebApps’11 conferences…each of which would be its own full on conference and put them all together in Portland, OR from June 14-17.

Of course, that’s leaving out the training…and you can’t do that, because over the course of four days, there are 6 training classes from the top people in the business:

Rik Farrow, editor of the USENIX magazine ;login:, is teaching “Securing Linux Servers and SELinux. John Arrasjid and Ben Lin from VMware are teaching vCloud Overview and Design Considerations, Ted T’so (the first North American kernel developer and filesystem-wizard) is teaching Linux Performance Tuning, James Shewmaker is teaching Hacker Detection for System Administrators (a SANS class), and Aleksey Tsalolikhin is teaching Introduction to Automating System Administration with CFEngine 3.

Of all of those classes, I took SELinux and Linux Performance Tuning when I went to LISA, and I really enjoyed them both. Rik is a very knowledgeable guy with a lot of experience, and he teaches it well. SELinux isn’t simple or easy to comprehend, and has a ton of moving parts. You can read my review of it here on the USENIX blog.

As I mentioned, I also took Ted T’so’s class on Linux Performance Tuning. I literally can’t say enough good things about it. I filled up 8 pages of notes in the half day class. It was great. You can read my review on the USENIX blog, too, but it won’t do it justice. If you only take one class, make it this one.

So why is USENIX putting all of these things together in one place? Well, I’m sure there are lots of reasons, but the one I’d care about most if I were going is that they basically save you the cost of 2(N) plane tickets, where N+1 is the number of conferences you wanted to go to. Think about it, I would love to go to HotStorage and the Workshop on I/O Virtualization…and if they were two conferences, I’d have to order 4 plane tickets. If I wanted to get into HotCloud, that would be 6 plane tickets. With Federated Conferences Week, that’s just 2 tickets, regardless of how many things I go to. It’s a no-brainer that this is a huge money savings.

HotCloud '11 HotStorage '11 USENIX ATC '11 WIOV '11 WebApps '11

Seriously, all of this in one place!

Of course, you still have to pay for the conferences, right? Well, sort of. It’s not like you have to pay for each conference. They’re all in the same spot, so you pay per day, and you go to as many things as you can, regardless of which conference it’s in (this is almost like treating each conference like it’s own set of tracks). And the prices are surprisingly low for something like this (plus you get a discount if you attend multiple days).

Oh, and for those of you who are setting your budgets now for the Winter, keep in mind that LISA’11 is scheduled in Boston, December 4-9, and if you’re the contributing type (and you should be, even if you think you aren’t!), the Call for Participation is still open.

So yeah, if you’re in the market for a conference in June, and want the widest array of experiences at one conference, then I’d recommend the Federated Conferences Week. Definitely check it out!