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Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste

Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste

You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.

- Rahm Emmanuel

When I first heard this quote years ago, I was appalled, how can a public figure use a tragedy to forward their private or personal agenda. He was specifically referring to the energy crisis of the 1970 to move the country forward to a better energy policy, this never happened and the opportunity was wasted. But I’m not using this to talk about politics.

If you work in technology, it’s not if a crisis will happen, but rather, when. As a technologist I constantly have to deal with crisis. It can be as small as an employee not being able to print or as big as an entire enterprise infrastructure going down. Can you say firefight? We learn to live in chaos, controlled chaos but chaos none the less. This chaos becomes a normal part of life.

As a consultant, I have learned to embrace Rahm’s quote and to work with this state of chaos. It’s my job to help organizations embrace technology and technological change; change needs to happen. It can be scary and intimidating. If the organization procrastinates, doesn’t embrace change, crises will ensue faster and have a deeper and longer effect on day-to-day business. Again, it’s not if crisis will happen, it is when.

But let Rahm’s words ring in your ears, “Never let a good crisis go to waste”. There are times when crisis can and should be your best friend. It can help move technology forward. A stuck project, can receive an immediate and needed jump start. Moving to completion very fast.

We had a server migration staged, and down-time needed from the client in order to complete the data and system migration. The project was staged, but both the client and I procrastinated scheduling the outage and migration, till, crisis. Their existing server failed, and didn’t want to reboot. So Plan B, migrate. It was going to take quite a bit of effort to restore the server to functional state without moving forward, this was an option, restore to the exact same position prior to the outage. It was going to take a little more effort to complete the data move and migrate the systems. So the plan, migrate.

If you are in charge of technology and work as an employee of a company, when a crisis hits, most likely, you’re concerned about saving face. And hoping you’re not sacked. You may get hit with blame and fault, when the real reason maybe lack of progress in your organization. We need to learn to embrace the crisis, use it as a opportunity to reach technology goals. Depending on your situation, this may require you to face your fears and deal with management, to make a business case for your improvement.

When facing a crisis, it is always better in an environment where you can look at the crisis without fear of reprisal. To be able to learn from mistakes and retrospectively look back at issues so we can preform better in the future. But this is no reason to fear the crisis, the expected situation can be your friend and help you drive project and plan to fruition.

Peter Aldrich • Jun 28, 2017 •

DevOpsDays 2017 -or- Why I Love This Community

DevOpsDays 2017 -or- Why I Love This Community

Some of the blog readers may know that I (Aaron) have been doing a bit of traveling lately. Some of the conferences I have been attending fall under the DevOpsDays heading. Recently, I was at DevOpsDays Toronto and earlier this year at DevOpsDays Seattle. I’ve gone to so many (and applied to speak at more) mostly because I love these events. What’s awesome, what really makes them stand out, is that they’re not just another lineup of Big Names pitching their brand of How To Do DevOps Correctly, but that the organizers push for local and locally relevant content that speaks to their communities directly.

Why are DevOpsDays so special?

For those unfamiliar, while DevOpsDays has a global organizing body (and started in Belgium in 2009) each city’s own conference is organized at the grassroots. All organizers must be local and from at least three different companies before the global organizers give their blessing to go ahead with setting up a conference. The attendee attraction tends to be extremely local with nearly half of the attendees in Toronto being from the Greater Toronto Area (even despite this being the only DevOpsDays conference in Ontario).

The format of these conferences is also a bit unique. Instead of spending all day listening to speakers and then going to some over-the-top party for “networking” mixed with plenty of breaks for sponsors trying to sell the latest bleeding edge tech, half the day is community-driven Open Spaces. And more often than not, the sponsors are there looking to recruit the top talent in the local areas. Vendors are encouraged to not just sit on the sidelines, but to participate in the event and engage with the community, drawing even more local flavor into the events. In an ideal world the Sponsors would be from all local companies as well.

What’s an Open Space?

Open Spaces are not just a big room where the attendees can gather. Open Spaces (often referred to as the “unconference”) are attendee driven sessions where anything can happen and whatever does happen is the only thing that could have happened. Attendees get to suggest topics of what they’d like to discuss. Maybe they have something they want to share, maybe they have something they want to learn about, but they can suggest anything. Andrew Clay Shafer (@littleidea) is fond of suggesting a game of Werewolf as a session when he attends.

Trivia fact: DevOpsDays actually got started because of an Open Space topic suggested by Shafer at an Agile Conference in 2008.

They follow the “Principle of two feet”. If you’re in an Open Space and you feel like you are neither contributing to the discussion nor getting anything out of it, you’re welcome to use your two feet to move to another one. So it’s a great space to discuss anything in a local forum with others who are solving the same problems you are in your local community. That is awesome.

Bringing People Together

One of my favorite things is to bring people together and watching it happen in multiple local communities all over the world fills me with joy. I love that in a world with incredible derision and darkness, in a world where murders, hate crimes and genocide occur, we can all get together and talk about how we solve complex technological problems and how we can be our best selves. We’re founding these communities on principles of “Aggressive Inclusiveness” where not only are diverse voices welcome, but encouraged. It’s a group of people standing up and saying, “We are better together than we are apart.” and then doing something about that and actively coming together.

Maybe I’ve soapboxed a bit there, but this is what makes these events so special to me and special to Cage Data. We want you to love technology again. We want you to build your technical operations into the best that it can be and help your company become its best self. We can’t do that without building strong communities of individual humans to hold up the operation and drive innovation. All of this leads to Cage sending me out to DevOpsDays events and giving me time to build DevOps CT and Organize DevOpsDays Hartford 2017. Won’t you join our community?

Aaron Aldrich • May 31, 2017 • DevOps, DevOpsDays, Community

Don't Get Left Behind

Don't Get Left Behind

I started out in the technology business years ago, too many in fact. I have to admit for transparency, I am not one of the original tech gurus who wrote code and stored it on keypunch cards. No, the first code I wrote was in high school; I stored it on paper teletype tape back in the late 1970s. Yes, I just dated myself, it’s ok, like fine wine, I feel like I’m getting better with age… or like cheese I am just starting to stink.

I did not get involved in the computer industry until the early 1990s. I needed a job, and a friend got me an interview for an open Account Manager position with MacWarehouse. Remember when you needed a catalogue to order equipment. If you happened to be in K-12 Education and located in one of the New England states, I was the guy who took care of you.

I moved from sales to the technical side of life fairly quickly and now, I’ve been doing something in the computer industry for almost 30 years. OK that freaks me out.

I have seen a lot of changes. I don’t want to think about what has changed in the past 30 years. There has been one change in recent years that is important to technology today, and if you don’t recognize it, you’ll be left behind.

I started a consulting business about 15 years ago and have always exclusively focused on working business-to-business. Sure, when I first started out I fixed anything. I needed to work, but soon enough I really wanted to focus on providing business people great service. Coming from the corporate world of KPMG, I knew big companies were able to leverage great technology and technology plans; resources abounded. It might take time to get something accomplished, bureaucracy, but with the right budget and business plan it would get done. Smaller businesses weren’t able to get or have the same level of service nor did they have the same expertise. This was my role.

My marketing talked about allowing me to take the “technology monkey” off your back, so you, the business owner, can do what you do best, run your business. Even today this sounds like a great thought. You didn’t go into x business to be a computer expert, right? You wanted to be a dentist, or accountant, or make widgets better then anyone else can make widgets. In fact this last week I heard a radio commercial form a competitor whose market focus was exactly this: “You didn’t get into business to fix computers”

But here’s the thing. It’s all changing. Technology is a commodity. It’s part of day to day like. Computers are everywhere. Bruce Schneier’s recent blog post, Security and the Internet of Things talks about the change in security due to the fact everything is a computer now. Your refrigerator is no longer just a refrigerator; it’s a computer which makes food cold. Your stove is a computer which makes food hot. Your car is hundreds of computers with wheels and an engine which takes you from place to place.

Business is changing, and
changing in a drastic way.

These devices are part of your day to day life. Business is changing, and changing in a drastic way. Your business needs to have a core competency of technology. If you are not competent with technology in your business, I would predict the next ten years for you are going to be hard. If you have at the root of your business someone who is resistant to the fast paced change and advancement of technology, it’s my belief the next 10 years will be a difficult time. New companies are starting up with new technology processes and procedures that make their speed for change exponentially faster then those of us who have been around the block.

Speed, agility, and change is the name of the game. Automation is happening everywhere. Not just in the technology industry, it’s happening in places like manufacturing and transportation. As a business leader we need to take a step back and a step forward. We can no longer look at our businesses as if we are just doing X (plug in what you do for a business here) to survive. We must look at our business as technology companies which also do X. We need to take a step back and look at what we are doing, and we need to take a step forward to embrace the change happening.

If you run a business and are still thinking of computers as machines you use to help communicate and run your business, you are behind the times. These systems are the core of what you do, and if you do not recognize this you need to start thinking differently.

Change is happening and happening fast, don't get left behind.

Peter Aldrich • Mar 7, 2017 •

Tools From the Kit: GitLab

Tools From the Kit: GitLab

This is the first post in our “Tools From the Kit” series. To see more posts in the series, checkout our introductory post.

If there is one tool that our engineering staff cannot live without, its most certainly GitLab. If your familiar with GitLab, then you probably know about it being a GitHub like tool that you can host on your own server, entirely for FREE! What you might not be aware of is that GitLab, the company, wants to build GitLab, the product, into a suite of tools to manage your entire engineering flow.

Dave Long • Feb 6, 2017 • Tools

Tools From The Kit

As engineers we often find ourselves holding tight to the tools that enable us to be more productive every day. At Cage, we’ve built tools chains that drive what we do every day. These tools boost our productivity and velocity and let us feel safer as we build bigger and better things.

Since we love our tools so much, we thought we’d open up the toolbox and talk a little about some of the tools that we use everyday to get the job done. Let me introduce you to a new series where we will pick out a tool from our toolkit every month, talking about what the tool does and why we use it. We’ll start with GitLab, the version control and continuous integration platform that our engineers live and breathe by everyday.

  1. See how GitLab drives engineering at Cage Data beyond version control
Dave Long • Feb 6, 2017 • Tools

Christmas Time Is Here

Christmas Time Is Here

It seems to happen every year. You tell yourself, this year I’m not going to let it happen, but then it happens. As the end of the year approaches and we all talk about how the stores are putting up Christmas decorations earlier and earlier. Right after Halloween, or even before Halloween, we see Christmas trees showing up in all of the large chain stores. We say, “it’s too soon”. Then we let the Holiday do what they do best, creep right up behind us and scare the stuffing out of us because, “AHHH, Christmas is NEXT WEEK”.

As part of my annual preparation for the The Holidays, I have a tradition, like many of you, to watch my most favorite Christmas programs. With technology today we do not have to wait till they are aired on one of the three major television networks, but we have then instantly at our finger tips.

I was struck this year when I watched A Charlie Brown Christmas, we all know it, we all love it. At Cage, we even have a “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree”. What got me, even in 1965, Charlie Brown struggles with the meaning of Christmas, and the “commercialism” wrapped around the holidays.

We seem to revel against it every year. We push it back from coming and then it takes us by surprise. We push back on the commercialism and yet it is wrapped around the entire celebration. Charlie Brown and many of us struggle with the meaning of Christmas. But it is simple, “peace and good will towards everyone” we want to pay attention to the human located inside of everyone we come in-contact.

Whenever we have problems or conflict, it’s easy to treat the issue like a puzzle to be solved. Especially in the technology field, we approach problems like machines completing a task, but any difficult problem is almost always a human problem. And we have to remember, rarely do real people act as malign antagonists. Most often, people act with good intentions making the best decisions they can with the information they possess at the time.

We must approach everyone and every task remembering that behind the facade of email text, there’s a real person, a fully developed human being who is also dealing with their in-laws for Christmas and having to buy last minute gifts and hoping that the package arrives from Amazon in time to wrap The Most Amazing Gift for their Kids or Significant other. So it’s at this hectic, but magical season I invite everyone – You, Myself and Cage included – to join us wishing all around you Peace and Good Will during this Holiday Season.

Peter Aldrich • Dec 21, 2016 • Christmas Time

Happy Thanksgiving 2016

Happy Thanksgiving 2016

Many of us have our grade school memories of Thanksgiving, it’s all about Native Americans and Pilgrims sitting around a big table; the 1621 Plymouth colonists celebrated the first Thanksgiving with the Wampanoag Tribe. This celebration organized by Governor William Bradford lasted three days and included harvest from the colonist “fowling mission” and five deer provided by the colonist new native allies.

This tradition continued in the following years, until the revolution when the Continental Congress designated one or more days of Thanksgiving a year. In 1789, George Washington issued a proclamation recommending “to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving”. Many other Presidents issued proclamations for Thanksgiving and most people believe it was Abraham Lincoln Thanksgiving Proclamation which stated the formal holiday.

It’s good to look back at the traditions developed over time. It is good to look back over our personal history as well. Why do you do the things you do around the holiday? Why do we always make the same foods for Thanksgiving? My family has the tradition of making my grandmother’s stuffing. We call it Hungarian Stuffing, but I think it is just because this was the way my grandmother made stuffing and she was Hungarian.

Traditions are good, they ground us, they point to our past and history; this history makes us who we are today. Sometimes the past is good, other times not so much. But all in all, our past compiles to make us who we are today (See what I did there, I used a computer-y term).

This past year has been decisive, driving a wedge between many of us. Let’s take this time of thanksgiving to reach out and talk to someone who we may not have talked to recently due to one reason or another. It might be vast political or social views, it might be because we have gone in different directions with life choices. If we connect and concentrate on the things that bring us together rather then drive us apart, I believe you will find we have more in common then we have different.

The Pilgrims and the Native Americans had vast culture differences but they came together to celebrate. Our divided country of the mid 1800s was highly polarized and yet Lincoln called us to come together to give Thanks:

And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the Great Disposer of Events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the land which it has pleased Him to assign as a dwelling place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations. Abraham Lincoln’s 1862 Thanksgiving Proclamation

So from all of us at Cage Data, we would like to wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving.

Peter Aldrich • Nov 23, 2016 • Thanksgiving

Critical Mass

Critical Mass

I started writing this post thinking about using the term “critical mass” and I thought to myself, those word you are using are you sure they mean what you think they mean? (kudos to Inigo Montoya) So I looked it up. Critical Mass is the amount of fissionable material needed to maintain a nuclear chain reaction. And yes we have come to use it in the business community in regard to the amount of effort needed to sustain a venture.

Peter Aldrich • Sep 21, 2016 • Events, DevOps

Big Changes to Cage Data Support

It hasn’t been too long since Cage Data made an announcement like this, but here we are again. As we continue to grow, we want to make sure we’re continuing to offer the best possible customer support. After some conversations with our team we determined that our biggest need was some frontline customer champions to answer your calls and requests when the rest of us are knee-deep in technical problems.

Peter • Aug 23, 2016 • Cage Data, Support, Changes

To patch or not to patch that is the question

To patch or not to patch that is the question

Recently we had a very strange issue occur with a Dell VRTX, the system is a sub-two-year-old production chassis running two physical M620 server blades. One module is a physical Windows Domain Controller (DC) the second being Microsoft Hypervisor (HV) host. One day during routine administrative task we notice the DC was “not responding” correctly.

Peter • May 4, 2016 • Firmware, Dell, VRTX

Retrospective: DevOps Days Rockies 2016

Retrospective: DevOps Days Rockies 2016

I’ve been inaugurated with my first DevOps Days. It was a fantastic, exhausting weekend where I probably gained more perspective on the DevOps community in 2 days than most of my working career.

What’s a DevOps Day anyway?

If you’re not familiar with the concept of the DevOps Days conference, it’s sort of like an industry conference injected with extreme participation. The attendance is kept intentionally low (although we were at about 425 attendees) and a major focus of the event is the Open Space meeting. Even the Keynote Speakers are encouraged to be new voices in the community over the existing and previous-years’ speakers. This leads for an awesome overall message of “your voice matters.” The only downside is that you meet a ton of people and do a lot of brain-stretching in a short period of time; my introverted side was totally spent by Saturday morning.

Aaron • Apr 28, 2016 • DevOps, Automate Your 💩, DevOps Days

Actionable Alerts: Reducing False Positives & Making On-Call Suck Less

Actionable Alerts: Reducing False Positives & Making On-Call Suck Less

This was a guest post written for the VictorOps Blog. To help make your on-call suck less, check out VictorOps

In the world of IT Operations, there is no escaping the Dreaded On-Call. Someone has to keep a look out at night to make sure the business continues to run and we’re not all going to get a nasty surprise come the morning.

Aaron • Mar 2, 2016 • DevOps

Computers in Africa

Computers in Africa

Since 2009 I have been working with the Kampala Children’s Centre in Kampala, Uganda with the mission to provide resources through technology for the children at the center to have new opportunities for their futures.

Dave Long • Aug 3, 2015 • Africa, Raspberry Pi, Development

Windows 10 Update

What you should do if your computer asks you to update

Windows 10 Update

It is official. Change is upon us. Microsoft announced on June 1st that Windows 10 will be available to consumers starting July 29th. With all the changes that have happened in the computing world, the software giant announced that it is offering it’s updates for free to all current users of Windows 7 and Windows 8 to match Apple’s similar offerings for it’s newest operating systems. And they want the world to know about it. You may have noticed a pop-up on your computer screen similar to the one at the top of this page. All Windows 7 and Windows 8 computers are being prompted through their task bar and Windows Update to reserve their very own free copy of Windows 10 so they can begin using it July 29th. And this isn’t inherently a bad thing, but when computers meet the workplace, life isn’t always about the newest thing and certainly isn’t always about what is free.

Aaron Aldrich • Jun 8, 2015 • Windows 10, Announcements

Whiteboarding

Whiteboarding

We met with a new potential customer last week. When we got back to our office, we started chatting about the meeting and we dug into the meeting notes and began whiteboarding our thoughts.

Pete Aldrich • May 19, 2015 • Tech Management, How We Work

Changes to the Cage Data Phone System

Changes to the Cage Data Phone System

As part of our ongoing efforts to improve the support experience for our clients, Cage Data is pleased to announce some new changes to our phone system. Primarily, we’re making sure that we can provide better, faster help when you call us.

Aaron Aldrich • Mar 31, 2015 • Announcements, Phones

4 Reasons You Should Care About Hillary's Email

4 Reasons You Should Care About Hillary's Email

Let’s talk about the recent headlines concerning Hilary Clinton and her email issues, shall we? In a nutshell, she supposedly used her personal email to conduct business work. Of course, we are not the Secretary of State and we are not talking about issues of national security in our email, but even so, there are reasons why we should not use our personal email to address work issues.

Pete Aldrich • Mar 12, 2015 • Email, Tech Management

New Features in Service Desk

Our team is always trying to deliver the best support for our clients and today, we’re glad to announce some new features that we are rolling out for our service desk platform:

  • Creating tickets on behalf of clients: Our support team is now able to take your calls and create tickets for you.
  • Adding participants to tickets: If you have an issue that involves multiple people, our team can now add everyone to the ticket.
Dave Long • Mar 3, 2015 • Announcements, Service Desk

PowerEdge Processor Stuck at 100%

PowerEdge Processor Stuck at 100%

It started with slow performance, users complaining of network applications being extremely slow, and not being able to print. As normal we examined all of the usual suspects. We looked to task manager and performance monitor to reveal the culprit, but there was no joy in Mudville for our troubleshooting. No single task stood out as the perpetrator. No matter which processes were ended, performance quickly degraded again. We concluded that the issue must be outside of our operating system, and we used Dell Server Administrator to examine the hardware of the server, but everything was running as normal.

Peter Aldrich • Feb 3, 2015 • PowerEdge Servers, Hardware

Rebuilding Quick Actions in Outlook for Mac

As much as everyone loves to bag on Microsoft, I must say that I love their email client. Outlook has always been the most robust and flexible mail client and their Quick Actions only added to that. Having customizable macros that can allow me to accomplish multiple actions at the click of a single button – or better yet, a hot key – was wonderful. So when I had to move more into the Mac environment to support various mobile tech needs, I was sorely disappointed with their native Outlook 2011. Even when the brand-new Outlook 15 for Mac was released, they still lacked the Quick Actions functions.

This is when I decided to take matters into my own hands. As I did some research to make sure I hadn’t just simply overlooked a feature or missed an option some place, I stumbled upon the power of AppleScript and the Automator.

Aaron Aldrich • Jan 26, 2015 • How-To, Mac, AppleScript, Automator, Outlook, Microsoft

Angular on Rails - Fixing XHR

Angular on Rails - Fixing XHR

TLDR Get request.xhr? to work with Rails and Angular’s $http service by adding the following code to your Angular app:

Dave Long • Aug 5, 2014 • How-To, Angularjs, Rails