Windows 2003? Let it go!


Reflecting on some of the discussions I was in recently I can only say that there is no escaping reality. Here are some reference blogs for you.

You can’t get of Windows 2003 you say? Held hostage by ancient software from a previous century?  Sure I understand your problems and perils. But we do not negotiate with hostage takers. We get rid of them. Be realistic, do you think this is somehow going to get any better with age? What in 24 months? What about 48? You get the drift. What’s bad now will only be horrible in x amount of time.

Look at some issues people run into already:

Issues like this are not going to go away, new ones will pop up. Are you going to keep everything in your infrastructure frozen in time to try an avoid these? That’s not even coping, that’s suffering.

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What ever it is that’s blocking you, tomorrow is when you start planning to deal with it and execute on that plan. Don’t be paralyzed by fear or indecision. Over 12 years it will have been a supported OS by its end of life. Windows 2003 had a real good run but now it’s over. Let it go before it hurts you. You have no added value from a more recent version of Windows? Really? We need to talk, seriously.

UPDATE: Inspired by Aidan Finn (@joe_elway) who offered a very good picture to get the message across => click the picture to get the soundtrack! LET IT GO!

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Looking Back at the DELL CIO Executive Summit 2014


Yesterday I attended the DELL CIO Executive Summit 2014 in Brussels. Basically it was home match for me (yes that happens) and I consider it a compliment that I have been given the opportunity to be invited to a day of C level discussions.

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Apart from a great networking opportunity with our peers we had direct access to many of DELL’s executives. I found it interesting to see what some existing customers had to say and share about their experiences with DELL Services. Especially in the security side of things where they provide a level of expertise and assistance I did not yet realize they did.

The format was small scale and encouraged interactive discussions. That succeeded quite well and made for good interaction between the attending CIOs an DELL executives. We were not being sold to or killed by PowerPoint. Instead we engaged in very open discussions on our challenges and opportunities while providing feedback. It reminded me of the great interaction promoting format at the DELL Enterprise Forum 2014 in Frankfurt this year. You learn a lot from each other and how others deal with the opportunities that arise.

To give you an idea about the amount of access we got consider the following. Where can you walk up to the CEO of a +/- 24 Billion $ company and provide him some feedback on what you like and don’t like about the company he founded? Even better you get a direct, no nonsense answer which explains why and where.  Does he need to do this? My guess is not, but he does and I appreciate that as an IT Professional, Microsoft MVP and customer.

Before the CIO Executive Summit started I joined the Solutions Summit, to go talk shop with sponsors/partners like Intel and Microsoft, DELL employees & peers and lay my eyes on some generation 13 hardware for the 1st time in real life.

It was a long but very good day. As the question gets asked every now and then as to why I attend such summits and events, I can only say that it’s highly interesting to talk to your peers, vendors, engineers and executives. It prevents tunnel vision & acting in your village without knowledge of the world around you. Keeping your situational awareness in IT and business requires you to put in the effort and is highly advisable. It’s as important as a map, reconnaissance and intelligence to the military, without it you’re acting on a playing field you don’t even see let alone understand.

DELL CIO Executive Summit


I’ve been invited and I’m attending the CIO Executive Summit with DELL’s Executive Leadership Team on Wednesday September 17, 2014 in Brussels. It’s an opportunity to meet and network with my peers and IT leaders.  It also provide the opportunities to discuss challenges with Dell executives and where they see DELL help us with those.

It runs parallel with DELL Solutions Tour 2014 Brussels (see http://www.dellsolutionstour2014.com/ for events near you) where I’m sure many will be looking at the recently released generation 13 servers & new Intel CPU offerings.

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I’ll be attending 2 “Strategic Deep Dive Sessions” that address some of critical challenges facing IT C-Level professionals. I’m doing the one on security. This is important as alone eternal vigilance, preparedness & situational awareness can help mitigate disaster. The technology is just a force multiplier.

The other track is on future ready IT solutions. That means a lot different thins to many of us. The new capabilities and ever faster evolving IT places a financial and operational burden on everyone. I’m very interested to discuss how DELL will deal with this beyond the traditional answers. The need for fast, effective & cost effective solutions that deliver great ROI & TCO is definitely there but the move to OPEX versus CAPEX and the potential loss of ownership also introduces risk that can cost us dearly if not managed right. IT, is still more than a financial model of service billing, even if sometimes it looks like that. It’s important to keep the mix in balance & do it smart.

So on Wednesday I’ll be focusing on strategy and not action or tools. Something that get’s missed way too much by way too many way too often. Michael Dell will be there and if I get the opportunity I’ll be happy to give some feedback.

What You Need To Hear, Not What You Want To Hear


The usual disclaimer covers this blog. Dilbert® Life series are humorous post on corporate culture from hell and dysfunctional organizations running wild. This can be quite shocking and sobering to those who take themselves to serious. So these blog posts need to be read with a healthy dose of humor and be put into perspective. If you can’t do that, leave now. If it hits home too hard, you have other problems. It could be that you don’t like what you see in this mirror. Or perhaps …

You’re so vain, you probably think this blog is about you
You’re so vain, I’ll bet you think this blog is about you
Don’t you? Don’t you?

Many thanks to Carly Simon’s “You’re so vain” Smile

Shopaholic Organizations

There is a shocking addiction to trying to buy ones way out of problems. If the service desk process sucks then you buy a CRM package. If this doesn’t do what you hoped out of the box, have it customized. You don’t have 100% IT automation? You need to buy a CMDB! Need to track changes? Go ITIL & do ITLM/ITSM all over the board. Projects don’t respect their boundaries? Hire some PRINCE expertise. Can’t keep up with all the project & resource management? Buy a ERP and integrate it with the project management software you’ve been abusing. You have no clue what to do next? Hire management consultants! We have one for every flavor of management. Your employees suck? Hire consultants. Slow applications? Buy flash only storage and 40Gbps switches. Your employees are disengaged? Get a coach, buy a team building experience and a 5$ pizza discount coupon as an “atta boy”. Maybe you could even gamify the company to success? And if you feel all alone and misunderstood you can join all the peer groups & professional organizations you can find to play that same broken record to each other over and over again whilst hoping you catch a break to a better gig.

Whatever the problem you’re facing, there is a product to buy and help to be hired. Like a true addict you keep using more of the same in the hope it will work. Nice twist on what Einstein called the definition of insanity. Yet why do so many people think it will help, all evidence to the contrary?

The obsessive and compulsive need to buy stuff to fix or even solve problems, needs, lack of skills, knowledge and insights is staggering. Sure the world is full of people and companies that will gladly take your money. Why? Well that’s their business model. The only aim is to separate you from your money. They’ll tell you they understand you, that they’ve helped hundreds of people and businesses like you. So they’ll sell you whatever it is they sell and they couldn’t care less if you’re still around next year. Until perhaps the moment in 18 months they know they can sucker you again. The only line of defense you have against that is your own good judgment. It’s not that all of them their products or services have no value at all. The better vendors will even walk away from an engagement when it not mutually beneficial. But the core of the problem is that you are having issues and that’s your inability to deal with problems that cannot be solved by buying something. It’s very much like a shopaholic.

It’s a business model for someone

The idea that there is a an easy fix to solve the issues your facing and make sure you can shine as a successful leader instead of being stuck in your current mess is very temping one. There is always someone who understands this. Who’s ready to step up and deliver. Which would be great if it was not for a few simple rules:

  • A fool and his money are easily separated. And if not, as long as the money is good enough they’ll put in more effort.
  • Your problems are internal, they are caused by you and need to be fixed by you. Any addiction to whatever (products, services, consulting, coaching) are actually keeping you away from the solution.

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  • You as a manager, perhaps even a leader, will have to step up. Be all you can be and if that is not enough step aside. Do the latter yourself before it’s done to you, it’s less messy that way.

Listen, when the money is gone, all that is left are your internal resources, if you’re lucky. Acting as if they don’t matter means they won’t be very engaged. All budgets are limited, but that doesn’t mean that you need to be a scrooge. It means you need to create and build a capable organization even when budgets are plentiful that can stand on its own feet. One that is able to analyze and decide independently what it needs to do and act on that. Spend your money there. Otherwise as soon as you run out, you lose all your capabilities to act. It’s like a ship without power, on top of not even not having a rudder. You’re a drift, floating between the sharks that bled you dry.

Also, if all your organization knows what to do is hire & buy everything from others it can easily replace it with a cheaper one that’s optimized that model needing 40% to 50% less employees & managers. Pure substitution play. Game over. Economics 101.

You need to get a clue, make it happen, you and your team, no one else.  But it has to start with you. If you need coaches, consultants, products just to get started you’re not going to make it.

Ouch, that hurt!

Deep down you know the painful truth. While it would indeed be great if you’d be able to hire a coach, consultant or buy service, product that can take away your pains it doesn’t work that way. You cannot purchase those magical bottles of pixie dust or unicorn tears that can put the struggles and headaches behind you allowing you to solely focus on enjoying a successful business and be forever bliss.

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I could tell you that you’re in luck as I have a nice stash of pixie dust bottles I can use in a pinch and for a price. But that’s not it. It’s experience, knowledge, having to work and live with solutions, see the good, the bad and the ugly of both marketing, “marchitecture” in combination with grand and hopefully realistic visions of analysis & architects what’s need. The only thing this has in common with pixie dust is that is doesn’t come cheap or easy neither, but it does work Winking smile

Too many times solutions are nothing but rehashed marketing & sales pitches that succeed due to a lack of skill on both sides. All kinds of schemes are used to justify them. They don’t achieve much at all. These are often self-serving “quick fixes” to something that is as structural & often over-hyped, over complicated problem serving some people agendas.

So you spend your money and for a little while you experience the illusion that you’ve solved something. But like any addict, you, the shopaholic, will return hard and fast to reality. Poorer and sadly none the wiser. You coast from purchase to purchase never breaking this destructive pattern. You like to fool yourself into believing that you’re investing instead of spending money because you see so many successful companies buy the same products or services. It’s kind of painful and sad to watch. Some of you will blame the market, incompetent employees or dishonest vendors, lack of commitment, disobedience. While all these factors do exist and play their role it’s not the real cause of your woes. The environment you operate in is no different for you or competitors. Sure there might be a hobby business around, run by the son of a super-rich business tycoon but that’s a minority. No, the playing field is the same, so could it, however painful that thought, be you, that’s not made of the right stuff?

What if despite all your best efforts and even some pixie dust you still have issues that are killing your performance?  You can suck it up and BS your way out. Say that what you did is the best in the world and nothing more can be done. Hire consultants to audit whatever it is you want to audit (or whoever you want to put in their place if you’re really political), blame you predecessor, the lack of (upper) management vision or the current sun spots cycle. You can also really dive in and pint point where the issues are. But that’s hard, very hard. A lot harder than buying a vile of unicorn tears which seems the missing ingredient in any unrealistic project, overly ambitious architecture or design. It’s horribly difficult to obtain because it is scarce beyond imagination.

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I’ll make you a deal. While I possess some flasks, they are the most expensive substance ever to come by. So if you require the tears of a unicorn, you’re going to need truck loads with money of large denomination kind.

But there are no unicorn tears. YOU will need to fix your problems. Forget about buying products, that’s in essence automation and optimization. If you do that to a problem you only make it bigger and worse faster. Forget about coaches and consultants, they’ll only enable you to move faster and more targeted if you know the goal, that is. They will not solve your problems. That’s your job.

Don’t try to improve things with tools and services until you really know what’s wrong. Look very deep, hard and honest at your company, your managerial results and your actions. If you only find you do things to save your own behind, cover your back and hopefully move ahead you’re not fit to lead anything at all and you’re a much a strategist as my hamster. But in defense of my hamster: he lacks any ambition.  As a leader / manager you should care a bit more. Action is needed, from you. Lip service is useless. Talk is cheap. Fear kills. Deflecting decisions and responsibility makes you lose all credibility. If you care, act like it. If you don’t care no one else will for sure. If you can’t be bothered to do the hard work, no one will. You can’t lead from behind.

So what needs to be done?

Stop what you’re doing right now. Observe, orient, decide, and act (OODA) and see the progress of intelligent decisions and watch how money invested differs in results so much from money spent. There is no substitute. You don’t need tools, coaches, taskforces, committees and services. Those are only for amplification, they are force multipliers and that’s great as long as you don’t apply them to your problems. Hard as it may sound, its (free) advise that you won’t get from a sales person. You cannot avoid your responsibilities.

The eyes of the world are upon you

You brought this on yourself. You stepped on the plate as a leader. So yes, your employees are watching and they don’t miss much what affects them. I know employees can act very entitled and be a major pain in the proverbial behinds, but this discussion isn’t about that. Do you want to know why they doubt you, don’t follow you, ignore or possibly even oppose you? Because you show no leadership and do not portray any sign of competence or insight. For the good of the company and themselves they do what they need to, with or without you. No one goes over the top anymore at the blow of the whistle. So don’t pull rank, instead try to become credible.

SMB 3, ODX, Windows Server 2012 R2 & Windows 8.1 perform magic in file sharing for both corporate & branch offices


SMB 3 for Transparent Failover File Shares

SMB 3 gives us lots of goodies and one of them is Transparent Failover which allows us to make file shares continuously available on a cluster. I have talked about this before in Transparent Failover & Node Fault Tolerance With SMB 2.2 Tested (yes, that was with the developer preview bits after BUILD 2011, I was hooked fast and early) and here Continuously Available File Shares Don’t Support Short File Names – "The request is not supported" & “CA failure – Failed to set continuously available property on a new or existing file share as Resume Key filter is not started.”

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This is an awesome capability to have. This also made me decide to deploy Windows 8 and now 8.1 as the default client OS. The fact that maintenance (it the Resume Key filter that makes this possible) can now happen during day time and patches can be done via Cluster Aware Updating is such a win-win for everyone it’s a no brainer. Just do it. Even better, it’s continuous availability thanks to the Witness service!

When the node running the file share crashes, the clients will experience a somewhat long delay in responsiveness but after 10 seconds the continue where they left off when the role has resumed on the other node. Awesome! Learn more bout this here Continuously Available File Server: Under the Hood and SMB Transparent Failover – making file shares continuously available.

Windows Clients also benefits from ODX

But there is more it’s SMB 3 & ODX that brings us even more goodness. The offloading of read & write to the SAN saving CPU cycles and bandwidth. Especially in the case of branch offices this rocks. SMB 3 clients who copy data between files shares on Windows Server 2012 (R2) that has storage an a ODX capable SAN get the benefit that the transfer request is translated to ODX by the server who gets a token that represents the data. This token is used by Windows to do the copying and is delivered to the storage array who internally does all the heavy lifting and tell the client the job is done. No more reading data form disk, translating it into TCP/IP, moving it across the wire to reassemble them on the other side and write them to disk.

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To make ODX happen we need a decent SAN that supports this well. A DELL Compellent shines here. Next to that you can’t have any filter drives on the volumes that don’t support offloaded read and write. This means that we need to make sure that features like data deduplication support this but also that 3rd party vendors for anti-virus and backup don’t ruin the party.

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In the screenshot above you can see that Windows data deduplication supports ODX. And if you run antivirus on the host you have to make sure that the filter driver supports ODX. In our case McAfee Enterprise does. So we’re good. Do make sure to exclude the cluster related folders & subfolders from on access scans and schedules scans.

Do not run DFS Namespace servers on the cluster nodes. The DfsDriver does not support ODX!

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The solution is easy, run your DFS Namespaces servers separate from your cluster hosts, somewhere else. That’s not a show stopper.

The user experience

What it looks like to a user? Totally normal except for the speed at which the file copies happen.

Here’s me copying an ISO file from a file share on server A to a file share on server B from my Windows 8.1 workstation at the branch office in another city, 65 KM away from our data center and connected via a 200Mbps pipe (MPLS).

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On average we get about 300 MB/s or 2.4 Gbps, which “over” a 200Mbps WAN is a kind of magic. I assure you that they’re not complaining and get used to this quite (too) fast Winking smile.

The IT Pro experience

Leveraging SMB 3 and ODX means we avoid that people consume tons of bandwidth over the WAN and make copying large data sets a lot faster. On top of that the CPU cycles and bandwidth on the server are conserved for other needs as well. All this while we can failover the cluster nodes without our business users being impacted. Continuous to high availability, speed, less bandwidth & CPU cycles needed. What’s not to like?

Pretty cool huh! These improvements help out a lot and we’ve paid for them via software assurance so why not leverage them? Light up your IT infrastructure and make it shine.

What’s stopping you?

So what are your plans to leverage your software assurance benefits? What’s stopping you? When I asked that I got a couple of answers:

  • I don’t have money for new hardware. Well my SAN is also pré Windows 2012 (DELL Compellent SC40 controllers. I just chose based on my own research not on what VARs like to sell to get maximal kickbacks Winking smile. The servers I used are almost 4 years old but fully up to date DELL PowerEdge R710’s, recuperated from their duty as Hyper-V hosts. These server easily last us 6 years and over time we collected some spare servers for parts or replacement after the support expires. DELL doesn’t take away your access to firmware &drivers like some do and their servers aren’t artificially crippled in feature set.
  • Skills? Study, learn, test! I mean it, no excuse!
  • Bad support from ISV an OEMs for recent Windows versions are holding you back? Buy other brands, vote with your money and do not accept their excuses. You pay them to deliver.

As IT professionals we must and we can deliver. This is only possible as the result of sustained effort & planning. All the labs, testing, studying helps out when I’m designing and deploying solutions. As I take the entire stack into account in designs and we do our due diligence, I know it will work. The fact that being active in the community also helps me know early on what vendors & products have issues and makes that we can avoid the “marchitecture” solutions that don’t deliver when deployed. You can achieve this as well, you just have to make it happen. That’s not too expensive or time consuming, at least a lot less than being stuck after you spent your money.

I’m Not Your (FREE) Personal Assistant


Volunteering in the community

As active community member and MVP I spend a lot of time and effort sharing information and experiences with the community. I also assist colleagues & peers across the globe when they have questions or issues I might be able to help them with. It’s part of sharing and caring. Just like my fellow community members & MVPs I blog, record video’s, web & screen casts, present at conferences & user groups. I hang out for the Ask The Experts moments of opportunity at both local and international. When possible I also attend the ChalkTalks nights like the one that local user group WinTalks organizes where people can bring their questions or problems to discuss.

The impossibility of answering the questions

I share a lot of information, ideas, opinions and experiences. Asking me directly, repeatedly, to give you quick & fast solutions for your current issues, problems and consulting challenges is not the way to go however. For one the complexity of the issues and the situation as exists is often ignored in these question. So it’s impossible to answer them in that fashion.

Also, as is the case with most of us, I’m a very, very busy man. A tremendous amount of knowledge many of my peers and I share is freely available to the community and we absolutely love doing that. If you ask a question on a blog post or contact me I will try and answer if it’s not too much work & is relevant to the blog post. It benefits everyone to see the question and the answer. But for real support you have forums and vendors service desks that are a lot better suited and have dedicated staff or thousands of volunteer eyes. For consulting engagements to solve the complex issues you’re running into you’ll just have to hire the expertise or make me an offer way too good to decline. When hiring expertise, you do get what you pay for if you do it smart. I’m not to blame and will not pay the bill for your previous bad hires, pseudo experts, marketing based decisions that got people into a pickle.

Keeping it real

We all have jobs with lots of work that we need to do to pay the bills. So we cannot be a free support desk, ad interim engineer, consultant or strategic advisor. This means e-mails and DMs with consulting questions or easily searchable questions are ignored unless the problem is personally interesting to me as a learning experience or it’s indeed “the opportunity of a life time”. The latter is highly unlikely.

You need to realize that you need to design your solutions to whatever level of complexity you can handle or afford. Many make this mistake. I understand all the issues around acquiring, building, maintaining, retaining & hiring expertise. Really I do, I do not live under a rock in the wilderness. It’s hard to find expertise and it’s hard to market expertise. So basically we end up with “best practices” & partially mediocrity. For good reason, that’s where you have to be and stay if you’re not willing/capable to pay for expertise. For a lot of commodity solutions that’s how it should be.

If you need better support & consultants than you currently have you should really consider hiring some of my fellow MVPs via their companies but don’t be surprised to be paying anything from € 200/hour and up for proven highly skilled experts for short very specialized assignments. Don’t balk at this, Ever hired MCS? Or a plumber? Right, these people are true consultants, not what passes for them nowadays but what is actually contracting or body shopping. Nothing wrong with temporary augmentation of your labor force, but is not high expertise consulting. Microsoft PFE/MCS aren’t expensive for the value they provide and the time and effort they put in. Next time you need to pay a plumber after a DIY project has gone wrong you’ll realize this.

You don’t have to engage experts. But if you do, you’ll need to bring a big wallet. You need to understand that your unwillingness to pay does not dictated rates, let alone value. Banks, doctors, shops, government … they only accept money and they laugh at me when I tell them I’d like to pay with some ones else’s gratitude.

Some of the people in my network know I have helped many in the past and know that I do this as a service to the community and learning experience. That benefits everyone out there, just like I benefit from them. That’s my choice, in my personal free time. I can assure you that neither those people or I  take this sort of help for granted, let alone demand it.

I can’t fix you being stupid, lazy, cheap or any combination of the above.

  • You’ll have to do your own searching of the internet via Bing or Google for you.
  • You’ll have to read the articles, blog & documentation.
  • You’ll have to analyze your own issues and come up with an plan of action.
  • You need to realize that developing yourself and skillsets is a time consuming, sustained effort. I understand you have other priorities, but that doesn’t mean I have to pick up the slack and put my own aside.
  • You’ll need to face reality. If your business needs something, they’ll need to make sure they are profitable enough to afford it.

Stupidity Is Not A Great Consulting Skill


Most companies don’t get that body shopping and contracting is not consulting. And today way too many consultants don’t match up to the requirements of being one. So basically these people pay way too much for too little. I have no mercy for fake consultants and companies so messed up in their political crap they fail to recognize quality and value. Just read The do’s and don’ts when engaging consultants Part I and The do’s and don’ts when engaging consultants Part II where I’ve given some rules of fist for optimizing the use of consultants. But here’s some advice to fake consultants. At least try to act professional and be nice. Because one on the main rules of long term happiness while staying employed is the fact that people not want to work with a*holes.

  • Don’t download or synchronize hacking tools while at your employer/customer.
  • If you’re an IT Pro or developer  and you cannot figure out how to expand or mount an ISO with the tools on a modern PC/OS you should realize they want to fire you on the spot for gross incompetence.
  • Playing games like a long term frustrated employee with help desk personnel regarding mundane tasks and leveraging policies or rules as excused not to get work done is annoying, immature & frowned upon.
  • Waiting until you get asked why you didn’t get work done to mention your PC got confiscated due to a security incident an the replacement was missing a tool proves you’re a dead weight.
  • Churning is nothing short of fraud. You deliver real work or get out.
  • It’s rather easy to see that the hours you telecommute are not matching your time sheets. It gets noted. At best they’ll pull a Yahoo on you.
  • When you state that optimizing parallelism in SQL Server and using multiple LUNs and data files is waste of time in an environment that’s on the record for being in the top 5 SQL server operations in the country you might perhaps realize you are being an a* hole. Yes it requires some work, the database is not designed to cater to your laziness, but for performance.
  • It’s designed and build at a great value point by skilled people who earn mediocre wages but are very good and love what they do. Do you even realize the level of your arrogance and the fact that you are now on the “do not hire list”?
  • Realize that not all people who’re working as an employee are clueless sheep that only serve to line your pockets. Most of them are good. Many of of them are great, some even excellent to exceptional. Even when not subject matter experts they’ll see through any fake expertise.

Look, when you’re dead, you don’t realize that, so for you there is no drawback, it’s all good. It’s your surroundings that notice it and have to deal with the loss, the pain. It’s the same when you are stupid. It’s the people around you that suffer. Get it?