what do you tell your kids about your job

I was talking with one of my neighbors the other day. We both have kids and the subject of work and kids came up. When your kids ask what you do at work how do you answer them? When I was at a hardware company, the answer was simple….. I play with computers so that I can help other people who want to use them and make it easier for them to use the stuff we sell. My youngest thought that I played Nintendo all day and wanted to be just like his dad. The only thing that he heard was that I play with computers all day. I must be an expert at every computer game on earth.

Now that they are older and hopefully wiser, my story has changed a bit. The last time they asked me what I do at work all day I answered ….. I talk on the phone for a few hours, I read a lot of books and documents, I experiment with different configurations and combinations of software, and I go to meetings and talk about software. I can just imagine what they think that I do all day. Putting on their filter, this is probably what they hear…. I talk smack about fantasy football all morning with my friends and associates. When my manager catches me and tells me to get to work I have to read boring and dusty old manuals. I still play with computers but now it is trying to combine different games for multiplayer arena smackdowns.

I have also been talking to some former coleagues that still work at universities and they see me as a demo jockey. All they perceive that I do is go from one customer to another and demo stuff. Yesterday I did my first demo in years. It actually went well. It is truly hard to understand the grid management software until you see it in action. I think that I have a good handle on this software and understand how it works. When I was at Rice we used Nagios for a monitoring and management system. It was interesting but it has some severe limitations on time delays and sampling skews. After playing with database monitoring tools and operating system extensions, I think I could replace a Nagios system with the Grid Enterprise Management system. One of the significant advantages is that it would show a relationship between correlated systems and heiarchy of hardware to deliver a service. I like the concept of going to an applicaiton server and looking at a breakdown of the response time too see if it was the DNS server, Apache web server, or LDAP server that took the most time to reply.

I think I know how to talk to former coleagues and potential customers on the capabilities of our products and what I do on a day to day basis. I can almost even explain it to someone who is trying to get a job in our group. If I could just figure out how to explain it to my kids my life would be perfect.

am I just lazy or is it just crazy

So last week was a bit of a let down. I have been to Orlando a few times and stayed in bad and good hotels. I have had good and bad service. This past week I got a mix of both. The hotel that I stayed in was a Disney property. The hotel was loud, filled with little kids, and not very happy people. Most of the people staying in the hotel were bright and cheerful in the morning but not loving the world come the end of the day. They all had the look of “just shoot me now. Don’t make me ride the teacups again and I won’t hurl on you”.  The staff at the hotel wasn’t much better either.
One of the guys said that it was a little wierd waking up to a bright and cheerful mouse telling you that it was going to be a bright and sunny day in the magic kingdom. His comment was that it was either a cruel joke by someone he reported to or he was at a Disney property again.

I thought that once I got back to Houston, things would be normal again. I went into the office yesterday with the hopes of working out and visiting two customer sites. I got in the office at 6:45 and half my co-workers were there and had been there since 6am. I got sidetracked and only got to visit one customer (all day long) and tried to repair a bad sequence of events that showed me what really bad service was. When I left at 6pm, half the office was still there. Many of them stayed until 9pm. When I got in this morning at 6:45, half the office was there again today. When I left at 6pm, they were still there. Is it me or do the people I work with work long hours.

This begs the question…. is it better to put in the hours or is it better to do what is required to be successful? Yes, I could work three times harder and do some really awsome projects. Yes, I could read another four or five hours of technical manuals a week. Yes, I could get better demos working on my laptop. I just have to ask myself, is it worth it? I would rather read a good novel so that I pay attention to the technical manuals. I would rather spend 30 more minutes at the gym rather than 30 more minutes in front of my laptop. I would rather spend 30 minutes having dinner with my family than really knowing the demo backwards and forwards. In my experience, the really great demo comes from doing it a few hundred times and not customizing what everyone else has done. The demos on my laptop will never be as good as the ones on the demo servers in Austin. I just need to walk through them a few more times and get it down properly.

I’m hoping that at my age, I know what needs to get done and do it right the first time. I think that I did today and only had three things on my to do list at the end of the day. I can wake up early tomorrow and take care of them before driving in to the office again.

the value of service

this week will be an interesting study in service. today i was in new orleans and got a chance to see life without services. we made a few customer calls yesterday and helped build a house through habitat for humanity. man, talk about no services. there was electricity but no running water in the new houses. we had to cart buckets of water to clean brushed and paint rollers. toilets were porta potties. very primitive.

the airport is open but just getting back to normal. next week should be the turning point with the saints home opener.

at the other extreme is my meetings in Orlando. when i got to the airport i was met by 9 people to help me get on a bus. one was singing and humming, all were smiling, and the bus driver told jokes to the kids on the bus. the bus had movies for the short trip to the hotels.

it will be an interesting trip. my main focus will be on how well i am served and how i can translatee it to our customers.

to be continued…

disaster recovery looks so simple

>>> begin cynic mode <<<

Am I missing something? If I have a production system in one city and a development team or production system in another city why not make them disaster recovery failover for each other? For example, I have a system in Houston that runs my production xyz service. I have a company that I acquired that runs a production jkf service. Why not create a new instance on each of the databases and use dataguard between the two systems?

Given that the 10g database contains DataGuard with either physical or logical backup, the only cost in this configuration would be to add more memory and disk to the two systems and make sure that we have a good network connection between the two systems. Is the problem that no one is running 10g? No, not really. I have seen a bunch of companies that are running on 10g. Is the problem that no one has enough memory or cpu on these systems? Ok, I will give you that memory might be a problem. Most processors are only running 50-60% so there is enough CPU power. Is there a problem with the network? Since most IT shops don’t want to talk about what their border routers traffic looks like, the most likely problem appears to be network bandwidth.

Given that this is a bundled option with 10g, I don’t see why more and more people are not using DataGuard as a disaster recovery and business continuity option. With the current implementation, you don’t even have to copy all of the tables, just part of them. It seems like it would be easy to figure out which ones are super critical and would cost money for the corporation and make sure they are up and recoverable quickly.

>>> cynicism off <<<<

hosted services vs large it dept

I have been reviewing a couple of accounts that I have been working with of late and one has a small but dedicated it department and the other has three or four employees and pays Oracle to host financial applications like HR or payroll. When you think about it how different is this from outsourcing all HR functions to a company like Administaff. At my last job I actually worked for Administaff and not the company I represented.

This reviewing made me think what would I do if I were a CIO? My gut would be to host everything myself but that implies a large staff. Given my personality I probably would want HR and payroll hosted for me. Given that I want to play with everything having a contract SLA with a company like Orae host the apps would work best for me.

If I were a CEO or CFO I would probably lean towards outsourcing to Admnistaff because it does offload having an HR department and payroll system which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

probably a good thing that I am a technologist and not an executive.

value of friends

I have been working in the computer industry for a good 20 years now. I have had a variety of jobs and worked at a few companies. I had the opportunity to have dinner with someone I worked with a few weeks ago and got put back into the loop with co-workers from a company that got rid of almost everyone with seniority. It was interesting to hear their stories and what they are doing now. I had the opportunity the other night to get together with another group from the same company for fantasy football. We have kept in touch over the year with get togethers and weddings but there is real value in all getting together in the same room and having a common goal.

Part of me wishes that I had this same relationship at my new job. I’m the new guy and haven’t got the history built up yet. I see the potential but it will be different. I’ve always found it difficult to keep work and friends separated. The other day I found out that my neighbor is now a customer. I really struggled with asking her and her team out to lunch. It seemed to cross too many boundaries and was wierd for both of us.

On my to do list for this week and next:
 1) write at least five friends I haven’t talked to in over a month
 2) write some good smack for both of my fantasy football leagues to build up some common ground with old and new friends
 3) start a dialog with at least two new people at work
 4) start a dialog with at least two customers to get to know them better
 5) spend more time with my family this weekend.

Note that 5 is probably the most important but I try to do this every weekend. I include it on the list just to remind me even though it is a given…..