SNoUG-SR – 10 years and going strong

Yesterday we had the annual gathering of the SNoUG Suisse Romand, an event I always look forward to. This time it was together with LSCY, sponsored by IBM, Avnet and TechData. SNoUG-SR events are always free, BTW. It would be too expensive to take money.
First things first. Those who have been there last time at Givaudan, still remember lunch. This time it wasn’t up to the standard we are used to. The beef was hard and the fish overcooked. But probably we are just spoiled.
As expected, the presentations in the morning – the SNoUG part – were very interesting.
First we had a small celebration 10 years SNoUG-SR. Actually it was founded together as SNoUG 1992 in Zürich, together with the Swiss German guys, when Notes V2.1 came out. In 2002 the SR group formed and in 2009 it became independent from the Swiss Germans (… somehow the term „kicked us out“ springs to mind …). At least this year, they sponsored big chocolate coins with 10 years SNoUG SR written on it. Something to bring home for the kids.

Next came HSCB. Marius Schmid talked about how HSCB implemented ID Vault. They had a Notes app before for handling ID’s, but that involved a lot of manual work. By implementing ID Vault, a lot of things got easier, but still no walk in the park apparently.

NovaTeam’s Christophe Pathod presented a side bar app, for handling mail archives. It does makes the live of users a lot easier. I would really like to get my hand on this, weren’t it for the fact, that my archive is broken and I can’t get it to work again.

Flavien Boucher of Sogeti presented how they introduced IBM Connections. Now that was my highlight of the day.
A few years ago, Sogeti was looking for a solution to interconnect the different branches worldwide. The usual problem.
They looked at 4 different products and in the end choose IBM Connections over Sharepoint, because Connections is people centric.
It is called Teampark and there should be a book about it somewhere but I can’t find it.
Now how they implemented it, is an interesting story.
It’s everything else, culture change, change management, HR, marketing but not a pure IT project. I met somebody of another company that has Connections, but nobody uses it. Why? Wrong project lead. IT can provide the infrastructure, but can not influence the culture change which is absolutely necessary.
Sogeti used what they called Catalysts in an early phase. They contacted people who used Facebook and other social platforms and talked about Sogeti. They just asked them to rather use it in-house. Pretty clever idea.
The first community that formed when Connections went live was Pizza Party and since then Connetions is going strong. Today about 14’000 of the 20’000 users have logged in at least once but usage is growing. Target is, that 84% of all employees to use Connections. The last 16% are probably those, no admin really wants to touch anything anyway.
The whole system is self serve and they are setting up a gamification – hey, new buzzword for bullshit bingo – system, because Sogeti has 3000 new users every year. Here I began to wonder, do they really have a fluctuation of employees of 15%? What’s wrong in this picture?

That was it for the morning. After lunch came the LSCY part.
I don’t have to go into the details, because everybody should know by now, what was announced this year. Yes, we go mobile and social.
As always Louis Richardson was a pleasure to listen to and some of his examples about companies not willing to be social, could help me in the future.
The demo part was a bit an anticlimax. There was a room full of Notes gurus and the demo was about live text, how to make widgets from websites, the collaboration history and so on. Things we have known for a while. The Connections 4 part was a bit more interesting but the iNotes Social Edition was slides only, due to network problems. All in all not bad, but while „networking“, we missed something new and exciting to talk about and more discussions than ever were about which direction should we go, when the Notes business dries out.

Last but not least, thanks to the committee for organising the event. Thank you Gerald Mengisen for your work as a president and a warm welcome to the once again president Pierre Fevrier-Vincent.
There is still a position vacant in the organisation of SNoUG. Volunteers please!

PS: I would, but my ability to write in french would make me a laughing stock. It’s even worse than my English (now I spoiled your punch line).

From zero to hero in two days

Yes, yes, I know, I always said I hate administration work, but I am a certified Collax V-Family Expert now anyway.

The last two days were packed with excitement. Together with jET Computer Schweiz we have organised the first virtualization course for the Collax V-Family in Switzerland and since I want to eat my own dog food, it was time to dive head first into the KVM virtualization.

First, instead of ESXi, KVM or Hyper-V, even the Collax basic virtualization product, the V-Cube, which is based on KVM, does not come free, but at €195 a year with all the upgrades delivered directly to the V-Cube and a support with real people on the other end of the line, it’s more than worth it. And your customer will still pay less, because you will have the V-Cube up and running in under half an hour. Installing and configuring Windows XP takes longer.
Installing virtual machines is a blast. You can either put on it whatever you want or use templates from Collax. For example the CSG (Collax Security Gateway) has all I ever wanted for building a professional DMZ. What I find extremely helpful is the integrated graphical representation of the network. In one glance I was able to see the mistakes I did, when there was no line between the CSG and the rest of the world.

First we went for the basics. Claus Wickinghoff from linudata GmbH insisted in doing the the basic Collax Plattform Server first … when we all thought that’s baby stuff, let’s go for the real thing … but he was right. We all had those Ahaaaa-events, where we finally understood the philosophy of the Collax web interface, how you do things. Doing it right in a structured way – I think everybody is guilty in not reading the f.. hand book once in a while – just makes live a lot easier. Once you get the basic stuff, the virtualization becomes much easier to handle, because the interface is very similar.
No joke. We all installed the V-Cube in less than an hour. I tried to put Windows 8 on it, which runs, but there is one thing, nobody understood and was consistent. We were not able to write „@“ in the VNC in Windows 8, and only in Windows 8. Neither in the integrated client in the Collax Web Admin, nor in every other VNC client we tried. Just does not work. I believe that has nothing to do with the V-Cube.

At the end of the course, Claus Wickinghoff demonstrated the installation of a two machine cluster. Took him two hours with two VM’s and a lot of talking in between. He claims he can do it in an hour. He also said, with a lot of different open source products, he would be able to do the same thing, but that would probably take him a week and every installation would be different. Not something an admin appreciates. Collax takes all the pain from you and experience shows, that those clusters just work. Something a Domino admin knows is just the way it should be.
A feature which I believe is unique in the Collax cluster, is the embedded SAN. For a two machine cluster you don’t need an extra SAN. It’s integrated in the cluster and it’s redundant. That’s a huge saving and the Collax licence cost for V-Cube, Inter-V (for the cluster) and V-Store (SAN) are a very small part of the migration project. Where VMWare has a licensing schema where you need a half day course to understand it, Collax just charges per hardware.
The failover works great. I removed the interconnect between the two machines and within a few seconds, one machine killed the other and the load was transfered to the first and both applications where up an running (or still running on the surviving node of the cluster) in seconds.

All in all a great experience.
Now let’s imagine we put WS, IBM http and Connections on one box and DB2, Tivoly and Domino on the other and we got a high available social business cluster for SMB. Add that Web Administration Tool from TimeToAct and the administrator can stay on the beach while doing really fancy stuff.
IBM should like us for this, because KVM is the virtualization of choice from an IBM perspective. Domino officially supports KVM. Whatever that means, since I would be more concerned about the underlying OS.

With that course Giammi GmbH became the first Collax Gold Partner in Switzerland … a round of applause please.

Oh, and did I mention that my old Motorola phone finally gave up the gost? Must be 5 or more years. And I did not panic for two the days, not having connection to the outside world. Amazing isn’t it.
My new iPhone is doing it’s first charging cycle. Years and years of making jokes about those manager tamagochis (smart phones) and now I finally made it to the smart phone world. But nobody can expect, that I will have it with me, all the time. That’s probably not going to change.

Windows 8 Preview

I just installed Windows 8 (the Preview). I used Virtual Box. That thing from Oracle isn’t bad at all for what I need. Looks like it is faster than Fusion.

Back to Windows. First impression? A bit of a toy. Second impression? Still a toy. But I am glad the Start button is gone. At least Microsoft thought about a new concept for once.

I tried to use mail, but it want’s an Exchange server. I just couldn’t find a possibility to connect to an IMAP server somewhere, which means, after 10 seconds of fruitless search, I gave up. Yes I know, that this is lousy, but if you come up with a new concept, it should be easy to learn. Now I have to watch how-to-videos. How boring.

I should dive deeper into it for a comparison with OSX but the first impression does not give me any motivation to do it and since it isn’t vital for me, it will probably sleep in a virtual machine folder for a long time.

… but that Virtual Box … have to look at it closer.

Snow and project management

One week of skiing. Weather was nice, but way too warm. Snow was too wet. I hate skiing in spring, really, I don’t mind – 15 °C but + 5 °C at 2500 m is silly. Days were packed but I still had time to read a book of Clarence (Kelly) Johnson. His work always interested me, because he is one of the most successful aircraft designers. Probably you don’t know his name, but Lockheed’s Skunk Works should be known to everybody. Also the planes he and his team designed:
P38 Lightning
P80 Shooting Star
F104 Star Fighter
A12 – SR71 Blackbird
… to name a few
Apart from the technical stuff he describes, his way of running the shop and getting projects done in time and below budget is remarkable. It is almost unimaginable today, that money is payed back to the customer and he finished most projects, even very difficult ones, before dead line.
He had 14 points of management. Not all of them are suitable to IT projects and corporate customers, but some certainly are.

  1. The Skunk Works manager must be delegated practically complete control of his program in all aspects. He should report to a division president or higher.
    Definitely! IT Project managers must have the absolute power.
  2. Strong but small project offices must be provided both by the military and industry.
    SMALL! You can easily replace the military with a corporate customer. One reason why projects go awry, is the long chain of command. Many managers are more interested in covering their ass, than taking decisions.
  3. The number of people having any connection with the project must be restricted in an almost vicious manner. Use a small number of good people (10% to 25% compared to the so-called normal systems).
    Logic, no?
  4. A very simple drawing and drawing release system with great flexibility for making changes must be provided.
    That works for other documents, too.
  5. There must be a minimum number of reports required, but important work must be recorded thoroughly.
    Doing reports is important but unproductive and most of the time nobody reads them anyway. Therefore keeping it to a minimum makes sense.

  6. There must be a monthly cost review covering not only what has been spent and committed but also projected costs to the conclusion of the program. Don’t have the books 90 days late, and don’t surprise the customer with sudden overruns.
    No comment necessary.
  7. The contractor must be delegated and must assume more than normal responsibility to get good vendor bids for subcontract on the project. Commercial bid procedures are very often better than military ones.
  8. The inspection system as currently used by the Skunk Works, which has been approved by both the Air Force and Navy, meets the intent of existing military requirements and should be used on new projects. Push more basic inspection responsibility back to subcontractors and vendors. Don’t duplicate so much inspection.
    In some cases four eyes see more, but 16 is overdoing it.
  9. The contractor must be delegated the authority to test his final product in flight. He can and must test it in the initial stages. If he doesn’t, he rapidly loses his competency to design other vehicles.
    OK, that is a bit difficult, since we often don’t need that functionality, but „eat your own dog food“ goes in that direction.
  10. The specifications applying to the hardware must be agreed to well in advance of contracting. The Skunk Works practice of having a specification section stating clearly which important military specification items will not knowingly be complied with and reasons therefore is highly recommended.
    Very, very important. Many projects fail, because the desired outcom wasn’t clear at all. Customer and contractor had different ideas. Measure twice, cut once.
  11. Funding a program must be timely so that the contractor doesn’t have to keep running to the bank to support government projects.
    That’s only fair.
  12. There must be mutual trust between the military project organization and the contractor with very close cooperation and liaison on a day-to-day basis. This cuts down misunderstanding and correspondence to an absolute minimum.
    No cc, no bcc, one email a day or whatever works. I strongly suggest a team room and no email conversations at all.
  13. Access by outsiders to the project and its personnel must be strictly controlled by appropriate security measures.
    That could prove useful, if too many want to influence.
  14. Because only a few people will be used in engineering and most other areas, ways must be provided to reward good performance by pay not based on the number of personnel supervised.
    The guys who do the work are important. Not the ones pushing excell sheets and reports around.

    He made a few other points in his book.
    In my own words:

    Don’t work overtime. From the start of the project, work on it with constant pressure. Don’t be lazy at the start and get in a hurry in the end. Otherwise peoples performance will fall towards the end, when pressure rises.

    We owe our employees good working conditions and some kind of job security.
    The „you are below average therefore you should look for another job“ mentality that is more and more common today is just plain stupid and shows that the Cxx-level has not understood statistics or are just using this argument to get rid of people. By far most people are just average, including the Cxx-level.

    Keep everybody close together. In the Skunk Works, engineers worked in the same building or even rooms alongside the mechanics, where the parts and the planes were build. It’s not a bad thing, if the engineers get their hands dirty.
    In our world of home office and working everywhere, this sounds odd, but it still holds true. People who work close together and are in continuous communication get better results.

    Let people make mistakes and let them fix them. If people are afraid to make mistakes, they are more concerned about not making mistakes than about the projects. Rather look for the reason why mistakes happen, than for the culprit.

    A book worth to read.

IBMSCfSB … in that case I would have kept LotusLive

IBM SmartCloud for Social Business. One really wonders, what they are smoking and I don’t want some.
I don’t have to go into details, why this isn’t a good name, just one argument. I have troubles to remember it.
But it fit’s into a long line of strange product names coming from IBM.

Even more amazing; it looks like nobody cares.