Speaking At The ITPROceed Event–June 12th 2014, ALM Antwerp


The Belgian IT Pro community is organizing the ITPROceed event a “technology geek fest” as they call it on their web site.

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It’s a joint venture between the IT pro community and Microsoft Belgium to help you all proceed in designing, deploying and operating Microsoft technologies.

The sessions will not only help you proceed but succeed as well. The speakers are Microsoft MVPs, MEET members & passionate community experts. They’ll share expertise & information gather by using these technologies in real life deployments.

A rich mix of technologies you have available and need today will be discussed like the Cloud OS, System Center, SQL, Office 365, Windows 8, Unified Communications, Lync, Azure and SharePoint.

I’m speaking

I’ll be speaking about the features in Windows Server 2012 R2 that make it “The Scalable & Capable Cloud OS”.

Come see how you can leverage the capabilities of Windows Server 2012 R2, a true cloud OS, to achieve powerful and scalable solutions. We’ll demonstrate how to use technologies as SMB Direct, DVMQ/vRSS, ODX, UNMAP, VHDX and Storage QoS. This will help you get the most out of commodity infrastructure and investment in Windows today.  We’ll share our experiences with you based on real life deployments to help you proceed and succeed.

Join us!

Really, make time in your schedule and attend this event by registering here.

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Attend the sessions, talk shop with your peers and discuss your questions with the experts. I’ll see you there.

Conferences On My Roadmap For 2014


Here’s a little roadmap of conferences on my radar screen for 2014. Some I can’t attend because of conflicts in my schedule and other priorities, but I list ‘m here for your consideration.

DELL Enterprise Forum

If you’re working with Dell technologies, either hardware or software this is for you. It very interactive and you get provide feedback to the product teams as well as briefings on what coming. Some are under NDA, some not.

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TechEd North America 2014

I’m attending, everything has been arranged. So if you’re a blog reader/twitter follower give us a ping.

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E2EVC 2014 Brussels

This is a non marketing event by experts in virtualization. So these people design, implement and support virtualization solutions for a living.  E2EVC Virtualization Conference is a non-commercial, it does not run a profit for the organizers or speakers. Everybody volunteers. The attendance fee covers the costs of the conference rooms, coffee breaks and such. The value is in the knowledge sharing and the networking.

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See http://workinghardinit.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/e2evc-2014-brussels/

OSCON 2014

I love watching the OSCON presentations on line and it’s one of my never attended that on my must attend list. Whether that will happen this year remains to be seen.image

TechEd Europe 2014

It runs from October 27th to October 31st 2014 in Barcelona. I hope to meet you there and I hope they are ready at that time to talk about vNext Winking smile. It’s a great opportunity to network and talk shop with so many of my peers I’ll most definitely try to be there. Any vNext information would most certainly make it a not to miss event. They announced it a bit late and they already have lost some of the potential attendees to TechEd North America. Not their best move ever I must say.

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E2EVC 2014 Barcelona

Details have yet to be announced. But if my schedule allows I will attend and present!

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Dell World 2014

No details as of yet but for partners & customers this is a valuable opportunity to talk to the product teams, directors, marketing mangers and engage in some serious conversation about technology and where DELL fits in your road map.

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Microsoft MVP Summit 2014

I will NOT miss the MVP Summit Smile. No details as it’s all NDA.

E2EVC 2014 Brussels


Ladies & gentleman, on May 30-June 1, 2014 the E2EVC 2014 Brussels Virtualization Conference is taking place. This is a non marketing event by experts in virtualization. So these people design, implement and support virtualization solutions for a living.  E2EVC Virtualization Conference is a non-commercial, it does not run a profit for the organizers or speakers. Everybody volunteers. The attendance fee covers the costs of the conference rooms, coffee breaks and such. The value is in the knowledge sharing and the networking.

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This community event strives to bring the best virtualisation experts together to exchange knowledge and to establish new connections. It’s a weekend event (so people can attend without interrupting their work or customer services. Filled with presentations, Master Classes and discussions you can have 3 days to network and learn from your peers.

So the next event will take place in Brussels, Belgium May 30 – June 1, 2014 in Hotel Novotel Brussels Centre Tour Noire. So my Belgian colleagues, this is your change to be al little Dutch as they have a SPECIAL PRICE FOR BELGIAN RESIDENTS – 199 EUR!

If you’re not Belgian you are also very welcome. So do register for E2EVC 2014 Brussels. If you have knowledge to share, please volunteer to speak. This community event has as a goal to share knowledge and stimulates professionals to present on their subject matters.

A big thank you for Alex Juschin & team for his never ending efforts to help organize this conference!

New Year, New Challenges


Time flies. 2013 is almost done and I’m always reminded of the fact that time is the most precious resource. We need to keep that in mind, always, lest we waste it. It’s been a busy working, learning, playing (homo ludens, gamification is nothing new Winking smile) & community work. For the latter there was a lot of presenting, attending conferences (Storage Forum, TechDays, MMS, Hyper-V.nu event, “Best of MMS 2013 in Belgium”, TechEd, E2EVC, Dell World), several think tanks, 2 MVP Summits, studying, doing labs, helping out others by sharing our experiences & learning form others sharing theirs. I hope 2014 will continue that way and I’ll do what I can to make it happen.

Windows Server & Hyper-V is a growing force

Some still dismiss it, but Hyper-V is going places, as it’s a fully free hypervisor. It’s also the cheapest choice when it comes to virtualizing Windows. Management tools you say, the cost & complexity of System Center? Well if you have better options, use them, go for better, cheaper solutions whether is scripting, tools or frameworks. There is no obligation. Free advice to VMware: make your hypervisor free. Until you do that you’re stuck at producing more for free as your prices can’t go up anymore and you’re missing out on all other frameworks as nobody will eat the licensing cost if they don’t need the management tools around it.

On the Microsoft side of things, 2013 was about Windows Server 2012 R2 which we deployed the day we got the preview bits. The pieces of highly capable & scalable cloud OS are all coming together for the best possible performance. We did some great experiments & POCs  with RDMA / SMB Direct. This was fun, had a challenging learning curve and produced some very nice results. This work will pay off, more on that in a future blog post. vRSS was another big item for us, I just love its capabilities. We also got to leverage UNMAP & ODX and when combined with the above and the enhanced capabilities of VHDX it really makes Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V shine.

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We’ve also been busy evaluating on whether private & hybrid clouds are worthwhile investing in and if so in what way, where and how much, how far and how long. My hybrid cloud is not your hybrid cloud. Many approaches exist and they do not mean by definition buying every single product or service in the catalog. The fact is that some private cloud and certain hybrid clouds approaches require an economy of scale that many don’t have. The toolsets themselves are not helping those without this scale benefit either. Optimized/dynamic IT with public cloud & some hybrid cloud might be your best bet especially when one considers data gravity. Ouch, blasphemy? Not really, common sense. As an advisor you cannot just rehash sales brochures & buys stuff. Independent thinking is a requirement.

The wars for control of the Datacenter Abstraction Layer / Software Defined Datacenter is on. Everyone is fighting for control as this is a big future revenue generator. Now hardware vendors are not that great at software & vice versa. So nobody has won yet. Meanwhile “cloud only” (Amazon, Google) players are probably smiling as they don’t need that fight that war  at least not that hard, that direct.  They fight for the new territories like robotics, AI, …

On top of that a lot of cloud thinkers see a (very) limited use case for IAAS in the long run. If they’re wrong, the ones gaining control could become very dominant. But for now, it’s still a very much an immature, in flux, effort. Building one now is very expensive & maybe not worth while unless you have the economies of scale to make it so and it is long-lived enough to get the ROI.

Storage wise the landscape is in full flux and I hope a lot of companies big & small keep kicking & pushing for better, affordable solutions. The ones opposing that know all to well why. I’d love Storage Spaces to make a real big dent just to get some of the bigger players to focus on the real needs of their customers.

What about BYOD, COPE,  CYOD, CLEO VDI & app virtualization? It’s still very expensive, requiring diverse solutions and a lot of effort. There is a lot of money to made catering to it, but not in buying it, unless you are in that segment of the market where it makes sense (retail, sales, logistics, medicine …) which all happen to be markets that are highly regulated or process driven without much deviation & a measurable benefit . i.e. there is a ROI that mitigates the TCO. Not saying that it can’t, it can if you do it right. But too little understanding of benefits, costs and risks will get you in a mess. There’s a reason it’s going into the “Trough of Disillusionment” right now.imageFor many, without clear goals & benefits, my advice would be to let that market mature and I can see the solutions available in completer solutions in the public cloud at better prices. Play and experiment with mobile devices and see what works and what doesn’t, but don’t spent too much time and money on them if you don’t have a clear, well defined objective. And I hear you about the paperless office, but the first thing you need to do there is get rid of the readily available printing capacity. A smartphone or a tablet will not reduce paper usage. It just adds more paperless use cases, which is not a reduction. At best, you’re diluting the issue and make it look better. Make printing more expensive & less available & see what emerges to deal with the absence of the capability.

As interesting technology to watch (I’m not involved right now) I had fun with 3D printing, robotics, drones,  …  The production & execution capabilities might shift  the entire political, economical landscape, if we play our cards right & eat some cost (it’s called investing) for long term benefits.

Related to Hyper-V, virtualization & * Cloud is the fact that the capabilities & scalabilities needed are here with Windows Server 2012 R2, so we’ll see some serious growth in 2014 for Hyper-V. There are some hurdles. Some Microsoft will need to fix, others are the learning curve both with customers & the channel. Now the landscape has changing and some struggling. And as none will ever admit to that we come to the next subject. Being an expert.

Experts

With so much power comes also responsibility to wield it wisely or suffer the consequences. It fun to work with experts. They know how little they know and how much they don’t know. So they spend a lot of times testing, discussing, thinking & experimenting all this in all kinds of way. It’s never ever a nine to five job. Becoming and being an “expert” is a sustained, long term, continuous effort and is not done in the isolation of a cubical or flex work spot.

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© Kathy Sierra at http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/

You keep at it until thinks break, until you get it wrong. That goes for bot ideas and designs. It’s often not about doing it right all the time but about figuring out what works and what doesn’t. To come up with creative answers that work when the landscape changes. Here’s a hint for you: it’s not in a glossy sales brochure, a sales rep’s advice or the manual. Most experts have failed a lot more than they got it right but they did it when it didn’t hurt as much. The probably failed a hundred times more than mediocre, play it safe, quick buck driven types who’ll never learn what could be. But, remember, being a reckless idiot will only get you killed. I know and have worked with a lot of industry experts this year and I’m looking forward to working with them in 2014.

The good

There is an amazing amount of talent out there of hardworking engaged people. I have had the pleasure of talking & working with many of them. We have have a slew of technologies at our disposal to support them and businesses. Both the talent and the people are available and can be leveraged.

The bad

If there was a negative it 2013 it was the harsh reality, more often than I feel comfortable with, that more resources don’t necessarily lead to an equivalent amount of more results. It’s fascinating & sad at the same time noticing an ever diminishing return on investment. Just spinning wheels in the mud. Lot’s of noise, lots of dirt, lost of burnt gas and a stench of burning fuels without much progress to show for it. All this while most people are drowning in work in an era of do more with less. Talk about turning things around Smile. Perception is everything.

The ugly

There are a couple of major threats to IT in business today. These are not new and no, cloud is not one of them. They are lack of leadership & independent thinking. While the CEO of CFO are now in charge in order to better aligning business and IT this is not a panacea. For one the misalignment is a artificial problem, and they probably where involved creating it. But they or IT are not the (only) one to blame, it’s not that simple. Brainwashing by glossy magazines marketing & sales affects everyone. As a advisor, the real value of IT is in giving the business what it needs, what doesn’t necessary match what they want, the trick is making them think it is.

Technology itself is not the biggest challenge, but managing all the moving bits in an ever faster changing landscape. Combine that with management approaches that are based on “that’s what I read & hear everyone is doing”. Add cost cutting as a goal in itself and things start to look pretty grim. We’re surrounded by point solutions that are sold very well but make little difference to the game.  It’s like a child playing with a chess board a without knowing even as little as the rules.

Sometimes, when bean counters get in control or IT initiatives are even put under facility management, directly or indirectly, you know the differentiating role if IT at a company is as dead as a dodo. In some cases that’s where IT belongs and I won’t argue against that. Yes, not all companies have the same needs.  But if you need IT to make a difference, you’d better not do that. If you do, at best, IT moves to a parallel circuit where it can make a difference as a shadow force. Yes, IT also does “Shadow IT” to get the job done … call it asymmetric warfare & counter intelligence to keep the boat floating if you will. They do what they have to do to live & fight another day or perhaps some genius created that to get thing moving fast Winking smile. False economies for short term gains in an arena where simplicity rules, yet where artificial complexity is introduced, are ensuring IT will never ever be a real an enabler. Meanwhile ever greater “economy of scale projects” to cuts costs take way too long, are way too expensive and often use the wrong technologies. That’s an indicator the wrong people are calling the shots. In todays IT landscape, where we become ever more myopic, we need to act short term effectively, while moving ahead & thinking long term (i.e. get some glasses, NVG, IR, …)

To some IT seems destined (or doomed) to be only a commodity that, while needed, is worth very little. Can you spell “Maginot Line” or are you to busy weeping about the demise of the Brown Bess musket in the 20th century? IT needn’t be that way. “IT doesn’t matter” only holds true if you do it wrong. Done right, both in time, location & execution, IT can be very cost effective, useful, differentiating & even disrupting. Alas in many environments not even the commodity stuff is cost effective. Lack of insight & strategy will more likely bleed the company dry by “friendly” but wrong advice. The biggest mistake one can make with commodities (except for turning them into boutique items) is letting salesmen & consultants decide for you what’s the best value for money. As a child, for some reason, your mother has told you not to talk to stranger or go with them, especially not if they promise you candy. As an adult they’ve turned that into a business model and now trust perfect strangers with the livelihood & the future of the company. Go figure. When people tell you to do X or look at Y, think about their agenda.  Please read “The Prince”.  If need advisors, do it like the mob. Get one or more great consigliere, reward ‘m well for results. Dispose of them when those don’t arise, make sure your advisor has no profit from not delivering results.

High Speed, Low Drag, Fast Results, Backwards Compatible & Future Proof IT

Choosing a dynamic and scalable IT infrastructure solution in combination with a flexible and integrated development platform is extremely important. It provides one of the pillars for the successful implementation and support of business applications. Today this is not just an opinion or even option. It is a prerequisite of success in modern business. It is a necessity.

The need to provide long term backward compatibility, support for current and new technologies, facilitate agile development and allow easy deployment and maintenance throughout the life cycle is paramount. These considerations are valid whether we are looking for a single line of business application or an entire infrastructure solution. This is a continuous process and it needs to be taken into account with every action taken.

It’s not tied to any paradigm, architecture, technology or trend. Sometimes that means moving fast and aggressive. Sometimes it means slow and easy. Sometimes it means wait, sometime is means run. It depends on what we’re working on. How to achieve this isn’t new at all actually.

There is a reason that the Art of War, Machiavelli and other classics are popular with managerial types. This isn’t new at all. Unfortunately many of them fast forward through the boring parts and end up being opportunists and not leaders. While business is like warfare, the effort is often focused to heavily on the internal politics, not against the competitors. Where in the old days we had runners to relay information, the speed in IT today is more like a frantic dogfight in the 21 century, where even an F16 cannot deliver the capabilities to dominate air combat in the long term, which leads me to Observe, Orient, Decide & Act (OODA). Sure Boyd was a hard one to work with for the careerist hierarchy, but he defined the successful strategies & tactics for air combat that only came into the public eye during the 1st Gulf war. He never made general, he was way to non political for that, but he’s name is still known far outside his chose profession while most air force generals have faded away in to a oblivion or perhaps got shot before the fight started in earnest.  For a strategy needs to be defined by you or by real trusted advisors, not sales men. This strategy needs to be executed and tactics defined on how you do that. Finally you can decide on a plan for what to use and when to do it. Way to many people that claim to have a strategy don’t know what it is. It’s hard enough to be successful with a good strategy let alone with a mediocre one, or even worse think you have one while you don’t know what defines a strategy. And trust me, without one, you’re toast or blissfully ignorant if you’re lucky. Often between C level decision making & execution we see lots of actions to shape things up. Processes, analysis, methodologies, reporting, rules, regulation but there is something missing. But tools are just tools and having a race car doesn’t make one a NASCAR driver, it just gets you in a car crash. Bean counting and ITIL means nothing if you are not using it at the right time, the right place, for the right reasons, in the right way. Some parts of your business should be a total free fire zone, while others should be process based with a vengeance. Choose wisely. I have a presentation on that Smile by the way.

The road ahead

One has to keep moving forward. And guess what? There are many roads to travel and beautiful sights to see, great experiences to be had.

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While I‘m a hands on technologist & will be one for a long time I’ll spend more time in 2014 on strategic roles that involve technology. There is a clear and present need, coupled with a demand. It’s an opportunity to deliver value. I see way too much many examples of quick, dirty & clueless “solutions” that are just waiting to become a stinking cesspool of technology debt at best another nail in the coffin. Remember that even the best designs and implementations have a time limited value and will rot away over time as they age and the world changes. So what does that tell you about the mediocre ones? Perhaps you need a consigliere?

Take care and I wish you all a great, healthy & prosperous 2014! May it bring you  interesting projects, lots of opportunities & practical nuclear fusion for a cheap, easy and “infinite” source of clean energy.

How To Save A Company From Death By Meetings


I had a very interesting discussion with a fellow virtualization expert & strategic advisor at E2EVC Rome 2013. We discussed many issues and the topic came up that we see way too many potentially strong organizations sub come to “death by meetings”.  Instead of fixing this they are treating the symptoms and are declaring the symptoms to be “illegal”. It’s almost pandemic. You really need to opt out of this this madness for the sake of the company and getting work done.

I think we need to take this further. Bar reverting to the tactics of a UK manager who locked all meeting rooms and took the keys away whilst telling his staff to stop meeting and start working, we should implement these rules:

  1. There is an absolute maximum of 5 hours meeting per 8 hour workday. Work less than full time? Adjust accordingly. This is non negotiable for anyone. You must decline any meeting that violates this rule. You must not strive for this maximum.
  2. You must decline any meeting that has no agenda.
  3. No meeting can have more than 5 attendees unless a very valid reason and need is motivated in the agenda. If not, you have to decline the meeting.
  4. Meetings have to be planned in advance & cannot be made permanent. That is reserved for councils or meetings of the board.
  5. Everyone, from the lowest pay grade to the top manager hast to abide by these rules
  6. Teleconferencing is a perfectly valid way of meeting and is included in these 5 hours.

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People, really, stop meeting for 8 hours a day. It’s scary so many companies can’t get a grip on this. Your thoughts?

The Dilbert Life Series – A Bad Manager’s Priorities


As usual the normal disclaimer applies: don’t take yourself to seriously. Relax Smile

Where great managers can make a serious difference in many ways to both the success of a company and to the personal achievements of their employees the opposite also happens. Many types of managers exist. Dealing with or even controlling them, depending on whether you live above or under them is well documented. The aim of that is to get the best out of the resources and people available. The better the managers, the better this will work out. Perfection is not of this world and you won’t have the best possible manager for every possible position. That’s a given, just like they won’t have the best possible employee or consultant for every job or project. So there is no need to get emotional about it or expect perfection before calling something good. There is however one type, the bad manager, that should not be controlled. They should be dealt with in only one way which is termination. If that’s not possible you need to get as far away from them as possible. Mind you the latter is only an option if you’re a subordinate employee. If, as a boss you run away from bad subordinate manager than you really need to reconsider your career choices.

Me, Myself and I

A bad manager will never choose you over his or her own priorities, nor will they put the organizations needs first. The first is by definition. Don’t take it personal. The company does not exist for your needs. The second is more problematic as the organization’s needs are priority one. Let’s take a look their priorities in order of declining importance as determined by experience.

  1.  Me, myself and I. This is normal and it applies to everyone. But there is more to this than just plain self-interest. People who are given or rise to power, have a strong tendency to put their own needs and interests above those of others. Your manager’s ambitions & agenda (professional, personal and financial) will always take precedence of any need you might have. They need to fill their treasury and the pressure to “live up to expectations” of their overlords is on.
  2. Reputation. Managers need to be seen & act as very reliable, trustworthy persons who can get results. With some luck they are. But we all know about “perception is reality”. This is true until you hit the ground after jumping of the 36 floor because you pretend you can fly. Whether a bad manager actually delivers anything is irrelevant as long as the perception is there. Office politics are part of the game and they don’t take prisoners. Your boss is going to be more prone to protect his or her reputation than to protect yours. That’s why managers get pissed off about even only a perceived loss of reputation. In the dog eat dog world they’ll even ruin your reputation if and when needed as they can’t be seen as the root cause of problems. They’ll blatantly steal your work and take credit for all that goes well in the same way. You’re an expendable asset and you should never forget it.
  3. Their superiors. This is both hierarchical and functional. It’s not only the fact that a lot of people feel the need to please others for whatever reason. It is also just self-interest (promotions, ego) and self-preservation. So realize that your managers will almost always choose to follow their bosses or the peers they fear or need in order to gain a stronger or more favorable position with them. Yes, they will do so even if it is bad for the company or organization. This holds a warning: if you’re a functional superior to your managers than you’re a threat and they might try to get rid of you.
  4. Customers. You can forget about being more important than the needs of the customers. Whether these are external or internal customers is irrelevant. Your managers job is to serve the need of the customers. Your managers will not get ahead if he doesn’t serve their needs.
  5. The team. Yes the team, the assets are more important than you. As long as managers can have the team do what needs to be done, they have a way of serving the above priorities, which are more important. In that respect the ability of a manager to keep the team running is paramount. They’ll feed the teams just enough to keep them alive, hopeful enough to carry on and will challenges them to keep them sharp. Keep ‘m mean, lean & hungry.
  6. You. Sure you have some skills they needs. If not they might keep you around just to add another FTE to the head count in order to proof the importance or the weight of their jobs. So he won’t kick you most of the time and will even throw you a bone every now and then. Good doggy. But you know that saying “People are our biggest asset?” It’s a lie, especially to them.

How to deal with this?

The above is always true in a lesser way for all individuals and as such also for managers. The big difference is that the balance has totally shifted to the dark side with really bad ones. In essence you have a couple of options. Grow a pair of balls and make sure you have some power as well, play the same game and get them terminated. If your upper management is worth their pay they might be way ahead of you and that will bet the end of it for you. If it has to come from the bottom realize that this is not easy. Terminating a manager from lower in the hierarchy always upsets the powers that be. To them such an event is highly disconcerting and visions of guillotines, tar, feathers and pitch forks pop up. Another option is to take evasive maneuvers. You could do so by moving laterally or vertically in the organization out of harm’s way. Last but not least. Leave. Yes, that might not be fair on you and what you already accomplished at the company but life is not fair and is certainly too precious to put up with the above. In the end you must know your opponent and know yourself. Perhaps you can live with them and there are various ways of dealing with various types of managers, who all have their weaknesses and strengths. It’s a personal decision, but a real bad manager, that’s something you really can do without and shouldn’t tolerate ever, for your own health and well-being.

If You Can, You Should Attend TechEd 2013 Europe


It’s that time of the year again, when TechEd is coming closer. I’m attending the European Edition in Madrid, Spain. But I can guarantee you I will be on line a lot during the USA edition as well. At be attending the USA edition this year if I could but work, time and budget wise I can’t make that happen. This isn’t because the European edition is less, absolutely not. The reason is that at MMS2013 in Las Vegas last month we got the heads up that Microsoft will start talking publicly about the new version of Windows and I’m game for that. Windows Server 2012 is the best Windows version ever but I know what I’d like to see in there to make it even better. I’m kind of curious if anyone at MSFT follows my thinking on this subject. I hope so!

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So yes I’m a TechEd advocate, you bet! If you want to know why, read my blog post here on http://workinghardinit.wordpress.com/2010/06/05/why-i-find-value-in-a-conference/.

Come and learn amongst your peers, network with them and industry experts. To become competent and gain expertise you are going to have to get out there and expose your ideas, insights and thinking to your peers around the globe. That’s how it works. To those who dismiss quality conferences like this I can only say that you are wrong. To those who claim it’s a paid holiday I can only say that to a liar all other men are liars and to a thief all other men are thieves.  Enough said. Invest in knowledge and competence development, it will pay of better than some extra thousands of € in the bank!

So if you can please join me and attend TechEd. It’s a blast and a tremendous learning experience. I never ever miss attending TechEd, not even at times it wasn’t easy for me to do so. You can register here. I hope to see you there!

Key Take Aways From MMS2013


Introduction

I’ve parked myself at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas awaiting the start of my long haul home to Europe. The new terminal is inspiring me to share as I reflect on the past week and on what’s happening at work.

ICT in the 21st Century

A lot is going on and moving in ICT and even more is coming our way. In the Microsoft sphere we got the official heads up at MMS2013 that new features would be publicly discussed at TechEd 2013 (USA or Europe). So you might want to attend that one. I for one think that’s great. We need that information to verify we’re still are on the right track and fine tune our course. Especially in those areas where we can get quick wins with sometimes significant cost savings & benefits.  I could start telling you about all the great sessions and products at MMS2013 whilst quacking like a duck “cloud, cloud, …, cloud, cloud, cloud, … cloud”. But I will not. You can watch it all here.  I will reflect on the key take away.

Cheaper & Faster

Cheaper AND faster are the new mantra or’ “fast is the new cheap”. Cheaper makes everyone happy especially when quality remains high. Faster is sometimes a bit more of a challenge to sell. “New features, already?”  you say. Yes. The nature of our economies and industry is being transformed by the cloud and commoditization. It brings a lot of benefits, especially in a high speed, low drag world.

Fast is actually faster. For many years now any strategy & execution plan that took more than a couple of years was doomed. You get bypassed and your big investments will never live up to their potential. So, apart from the necessary larger and more long term investments, we evolve more and more towards a perpetual improvements & rapid adoption model. Innovation and the subsequent commoditization of it is pushing this. That’s not bad. By making constant smaller (easier to fund) investments that deliver fast results we get to a more adaptable, agile environment for lesser costs. It’s not that all long term, large scale projects are going away but the ratio is shifting. In smart countries this is already being done for building hospitals and other infrastructure that evolves fast. It’s not unique to ICT. Massive projects taking too long and too much funding lead to out of date solutions at the time of delivery at huge costs. Use this approach where needed but forget about it for the other projects. Cloud will be an important tool in all this, not the goal.

A Word of Warning

Fast and cheap shouldn’t translate into mediocre crap at dump pricing that will bite us. It should also keep in mind the ecosystem and don’t act like a shock & awe offensive leaving everything in it’s track in disarray. It needs to fit into a plan with clear goals an knowing where it fits in and helps.  It’s about balance. That’s the art. Knowing what, where, when and with/for who to do it. Not easy. Now let’s hope some of my managers read this blog. It might help them. As the question beckons an answer: who is it that will lead us in this new era? Well not one single person, far from it. It’s a team effort and to lead a team takes competence and some character.

It takes competence and personality

Competence and personality, combined with  applying both these (skills and  drive) diligently in a sustained fashion. That requires a lot of effort, even when no one is watching you, or perhaps better stated, especially then. Do what needs to be done where and when needed. Not because it could get you promoted or more money. That’s the character part. That’s what drives us to learn by participating in our ICT communities, presenting, attending conferences and networking. But also in those hours spend reading, studying and working in the lab alone or with a buddy. That’s what will make us able to handle the though and bad situations you’ll encounter and overcome them. It’s your resourcefulness that will make you seek and find opportunity in adverse conditions. People like the team members amongst whom I have the distinct pleasure of working. You can’t find such synergy if it’s only about personal gain and getting ahead. There is both a broad and deep skill set needed by all involved and doesn’t come easy nor can it be bought. It has to be acquired through work and experience. The transformation of the ICT landscape is uncharted domain for all but a few of us so it’s going to ask a lot of effort, often outside of our comfort zone.

Sure there are cynics who laugh at this and can’t imagine why someone would do all that without personal and immediate reward. Those are the ones we don’t need and who won’t be there at crunch time. Only after the facts they seek the spotlight to poach the glory if things went well or to condemn those that failed whilst trying. Well, the last so called leader who did that doesn’t work with us anymore. Enough said.

Yahoo’s “Physically Together” is Management Failure


I’m awaiting boarding at SEATAC and browsing the news. I suggest you read “Physically Together”: Here’s the Internal Yahoo No-Work-From-Home Memo for Remote Workers and Maybe More and consider the quote below.

“… Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home  …”

If I was working for Yahoo I’d be jumping the ship. That mentality just doesn’t compute. If anything I have seen the working conditions become worse and worse in offices over the past decade. All the new open/flex work office plans with the continuous interrupts, office chit chat & gossip, noise and countless never ending meetings (I guess partially to escape the lousy desk experience) are probably very good for the bottom line but all the rest of it seems to be working out a lot less well.

Granted, part of that is because of bad execution. It works if you can and will adopt that culture. But more often than not they just transplant the old ways into the new office environment with disastrous results. But the savings are there; so they don’t really mind. Just like they don’t mind outsourcing or consultants. Those don’t come into the office either but they do help reduce head count and CAPEX, whatever helps the Excel sheet look better. Speed and quality can often suffer as well in these cases but then the response is to have better governance and processes, not to drag them all into the landscape office meadow.

And as far as speed and quality … I’ll be crystal clear, I’m not buying that for one second. If I had not been responding to alerts (we have no on call) on weekends the company would no longer exist. It would have lost it’s entire infrastructure a couple of times with little or no hope of recovery. If they force me to be at the office between 08:30 and 17:30 every day they would not get that commitment and I would work a lot less hours. The same goes for my team. We expect a lot and we give a lot. Checks and balances. How are you supposed to build a top notch team on mediocre management practices is beyond me. We put in the effort because that’s what we give back to our employers in return for a lot of flexibility and freedom on how we organize ourselves and the team.

Some middle management that wants hot bodies in the seats to respond to every question they have is very worrying to me and those people have no sense of real priorities. Perhaps of self importance, yes, but not priorities Look organize yourself any way you need to to deliver what ever it is but the above quote executed across the board is sad in it’s simplification and denial of realities.

But go ahead. Sacrifice your agility and flexibility to be able to keep operations going during snow storms, flu pandemics and go on wasting time and resources commuting during peak traffic hours. The trick to making all of this work is to make it part of the normal way of working. The ratio of type of flex and telework might change during such times but that’s it. Any organization who cannot see this, act on it and leverage the new possibilities technology offers us is a victim of management failure. These across the board decisions are a clear sign of that and make me list Yahoo on the “Unsuitable Employers” list. Their speed and quality may very well suffer from this decision.

Are you perhaps saying your employees are goofing of at home and are under performing? Well if physical presence is the only way to make sure they are doing a good job you’re really in trouble. You have many other and more serious problems I think and good luck to you if you think pulling then back into the office will fix this. Probably this is really the issue. They’ve lost insight in who does what and why. End states are not defined, lack of accountability, … or otherwise put: management failure.

Or are you a serious professional who can’t stand the idea of your senior engineer sitting in his pajamas writing code or building a cluster at 10:00 or 22:00 hours? You think he needs to be in khakis and shirt? If it’s the pajama image you could consider hiring super models as engineers, the idea will become a lot more pleasant,  I guarantee it Winking smile. Or are you worried about the odd working hours and the impact on the well being of your employees? Changes are they’ll do that anyway or even more when having to be in the office. They can’t get the real work done when having to sit in that sub optimal cube all day and dealing with all the senseless interrupts.

What if people don’t flee you because of this policy but just zone out. They show up for whatever mandatory time they need to. When shuffled like cattle into their cubicles and or pastures (open landscape offices) they’ll put on their noise cancellation headsets, run of to meetings (anything to escape the chaos and interrupt hell the modern office environment has become. Their talent, engagement, motivation and zeal will go to what they love to do and those organizations will end up as mediocre players putting in the bear minimum. Well played. Look, today we’re expected to be able to work from anywhere at any time and indeed technology has enabled this for a significant amount of people. A lot of us do that and we’re very flexible about it as we commit to our jobs and working lives in ever more flexible ways. Now on top of that they expect us to show up on the clock and proof attendance in a rather than creating a win-win situation?

On top of that they do this in a time where managers claim that talent will flee companies that do not allow BYOD or other consumer IT.  Really, but having old school office organizations wont? Flexibility works both ways. Employees can be very efficient and committed. But any manager looking to extract every last ounce of profit or plays power games because they can’t deal with end state management will loose more then they will ever gain. A BYOD device policy cannot attract and retain the best of the best. Trust me, those fine employees will figure out very fast that they’ll choose flex time, telecommuting, better pay and extra paid holidays over that stupid iPad or iPhone. Consumerization of ICT means they don’t need your technology and devices. They’ll buy their own and use it for their own advancement and interest and you’ll be left in your holding the short end of the stick. You shouldn’t care that your  employees make you money while stepping on a cross trainer at home or even from their bath tub.

I really don’t buy into the fact that this is all complicating the creation of products or the delivery of services. It also doesn’t ruin any long term supportability. People will go where they think they are best off.  So what is this move? A need to reduce head count and trying to achieve this by people calling it quit voluntarily? So basically you’re even unable to fix performance issues with your feedback/planning and evaluation system? Oh boy. So what if your best quit and the worst show up at the office? Yahoo’s in a pretty bad state it seems.

Is it a power play and about limiting options for people to see how obedient they are? If all the “our employees are our biggest and most important resource” is true some things would be really different. For one your employees would tell you to stop considering and treating them a resource to move around at will. After all this is not an national crisis and this is not the military at war. In a real war for talent employees would interview you whether to see if you’re even worth working for. Most companies don’t like the power to shift to the employees to far. They have seen this for short periods of time in certain professions and they still haven’t recovered from that shock to their system. They’d rather have less of it, not more. It’s all way to complicated for them to handle and manage. It also costs them more.

Heading Home after the 2013 MVP Global Summit


The 2013 MVP Global Summit has come and gone already. I’m very happy to have attended and I was once again emerged in a culture of sharing knowledge and helping out our fellow MVPs and friends. Thank you Carsten!

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We shared a lot of experiences we had running Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V in production. We met up with new MVPs and veteran attendees. To all my fellow MVPs and the people at Microsoft I’d like to say that it has been an honor and a privilege to have been able to talk shop with so many highly skilled, intelligent and engaged people. What ever their background they all share a level of commitment to be all they can be in their expertise. Thank you all for taking the time and putting in the effort. I hope to see you all next time!