Dilbert Life Series: The War For Talent


Disclaimer: The Dilbert® Life series is a string of post on corporate culture from hell and dysfunctional organizations running wild. This can be quite shocking and sobering. A sense of humor will help when reading this. If you need to live in a sugar coated world were all is well and bliss and think all you do is close to godliness, stop reading right now and forget about the blog entries. It’s going to be dark. Pitch black at times actually, with a twist of humor, if you can laugh at yourself.

Attracting & retaining talent

If you listen to the talking heads in the media, recruiters & companies and read business related publications you’ll have noticed that when it comes to “Human Resources” there is supposedly a global war on. A war for talent. It’s not just attracting the best and brightest employees that is a concern but retaining them is even a bigger challenge it seems. When things are not to their liking they just pack off and fly off to the next awesome job opportunity which are available in vast numbers and give freedom to excel whilst paying great salaries.

They are talking about somebody else

Keeping employees happy is supposed to be a major concern in “the talent wars”. All companies are in this war we’re told. Perhaps even if just for the fact that no company will admit they are not looking for great talented employees. All evidence to the contrary I might add as a lot of organizations do not act as if they are in a war for talent at all. Good jobs don’t seem to be available in any decent number either. It often looks more like they are in a race to the bottom.

Last year of our major news papers had front page news. “War for talent? Forget it, that doesn’t exist”. They point to high unemployment, low wage jobs, social dumping, demographics, immigration, age, sex, race, … discrimination. In short a slew of reasons to conclude the war for talent doesn’t exist. Basically it boils down to this: if companies are in a a war for talent they can’t afford to lose so they can’t afford to act like this. Ergo, there is no war for talent.

I kind of disagree. There is most definitely a war for talent and there has always been one until computers & robotics outsmart us (dream on!). But let’s face it reality, 95% of us is not considered talent at all, but a resource, so we’re not in that war. As a resource we’re as expendable as ammo in a war. As long as they can keep the supply line filled they’ll fire (pun intended) and waste those resources at will.  Basically we’re lucky if we’re smart enough and young (cheap?) enough to be considered employable. Forget the lower 20% of our unskilled workforce, for them the deal is even rougher. And when you get fired at > 50, well good luck “grandpa”. All this while the talking heads blabber on about working beyond 67 …

You want proof? Look around you. Here’s where the war for talent is raging: A Google Programmer ‘Blew Off’ A $500,000 Salary At A Startup — Because He’s Already Making $3 Million Every Year. Well that isn’t me and probably not you either. Now don’t think everyone at Google is in that position, it’s a minority. => Techies CAN sue Google, Apple, Intel et al accused of wage-strangling pact. You see they want your talent, but not pay for it in free market.

Lets look at some evidence that there might be no war for talent.

Toys & work force multipliers are not salary or a career

BYOD, a smartphone, tablet, laptop paid for by work. They bombard us with commercials about how we need to supply & support this if we want to stand a chance to even attract young talent. That’s only partially true. If I’m true top talent I’ll be able to afford those my self, thank you. I’d rather take a 6 figure salary and 30 days paid vacation & affordable quality health care. After all you need to take good care of talent, right?

Performance Reviews

A golden oldie. When judging by the annual performance review practices out there, they are trying to make talent walk by proving to them the organization is too hopeless to even stop totally useless evaluation practices.

November 14, 1993

In corporate life your management often has no clue what you do. They often don’t even understand it. To add injury to insult you often have to write them yourself.

January 06, 2003

Usually there’s only  a stick

If you don’t have promotions, bonuses, rewards (not a merit badge, that’s just Neanderthal gamification done very, very wrong) or pay raises in place what’s with this war for talent anyway?

The fact that you can fire me if I’m not up to your standards? What kind of a messed up model is that? If we’re below standards you have a stick, I get that. If I meet, exceed or absolutely own those standards what exactly do you have to offer? Absolutely nothing? March 10, 1995

Ouch! We cannot do anything for you, it’s out of our control, they’ll tell you. Could be, but I cannot get away with that answer when it comes to delivering results. Do you even offer a career path? Employees don’t get promoted and if they do, it’s without a pay raise. Pay raises themselves are dead except for the legal minimum.

The exit interview to improve retention

The exit interview is as useful as a post mortem in preventing death. It helps find out what went wrong after the facts, but slightly less accurate than a real post mortem because in general the deceased don’t lie to you when you’re probing around and they always show up, all be it they have to be carried in. Just think the people left you was because while you’re great & wonderful and they just didn’t fit in and leave it at that. You’ll sleep better and waste less time.

You are creating your own hell

Most CxO types complain constantly about the lack of skilled employees that can think independently and have the ability to execute in order to achieve an end state.  In reality that is their own fault. The system doesn’t work. The expect to buy and discard talent at will. Well there isn’t enough talent to go around anymore because too many don’t really invest in developing it for short term accounting benefits.

Talent needs time and opportunity to develops skills and expertise. No one wants to give that any more. So you’re creating your own shortage as it’s not magically going to start growing on trees. Secondly when you have people that have the intrinsic motivation, drive and abilities to develop themselves to be experts you don’t reward them. Instead they demand ever more from them and pay them nothing more then anyone else or even less as you promote the bodies you can do without. We’re creating our own skills gap hell. But it’s easier to cry that you are a victim of a failing education system that doesn’t deliver experts that are experienced and cheap straight out of college.

Short term perceived gains for real long term damage & costs

Without the right people in the right place you no longer have analytical, design and architectural expertise. You have outsourced all that to vendors, “partners” and consultants. So now who can evaluate what is valid and valuable for you? No one. You’ll just get sold the flavor of the day that generates them the most profits. And of that doesn’t work there is always new stuff to sell you that will fix it. You fell for the trap of easy and cheap access to expertise meaning you lost all the expertise you had yourself. You are now dependent on mercenaries and their aim is to make money for themselves and survive even if it means killing you.  Every penny you spend wisely internally is an investment. Every penny you spend stupidly on a vendor is buying stuff that potentially makes you more dependent on them.

Companies are the ones to blame as they’re constantly in search of quick & dirty wins for short term (personal) gain. “Quick” is forgotten as fast as the word itself entails but the dirty part lingers around and stinks up the place long after the facts.

War for talent? Think again.

So exactly what’s the game play here? Employees doing exactly enough not to get fired? Because by the rules that ignore the above everything we do above that level is a misallocation of our resources. That’s very, very Office Space like dude.

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In general it’s a race to the bottom leading to ever more mediocrity at ever higher costs and we all know who’ll get to pay the bill. Let’s hope some spin doctors can turn it into “good news”.

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VEEAM Invests in Faster & More Efficient Data Protection With Backup & Replication 8


Ever more data to protect without breaking the systems or the bank

One of my major concerns today in IT, weather it is on premises or in the cloud, is the cost, time, reliability and feasibility of backup and restores. This true for most of us. Due to the environments in which I deliver my services my main issue with backups is the quantity of data. The amount of data is staggering and growth is not showing a downward trend.

The big four: CPU, Memory, Network & Storage

Over the years we have seen a vast increase in compute, memory, network and storage capabilities and pricing. CPUs are up to 18 cores per socket as I write this. DDR4 memory is here and the cost is relatively low. We have affordable 10Gbps networking to throw at the problem as well or in some case 8 to 16Gbps Fibre Channel. So when it comes to CPU, memory and network we’re pretty well served.

Storage is evolving as well and we’re getting ever bigger and, if you have the budget that is, faster storage arrays in different flavors. But it remains a challenge. First of all to get the right amount of IOPS and storage capacity at an affordable price point is a balancing act. Secondly when dealing with backups we need to manage the source IOPS & latency against the target. But that’s not all, while you might want to squeeze every last IOPS & 1ms latency out of your backup target you can’t carelessly do that to your source storage. If you do, this might constitute a Denial Of Service attack against your applications and services. Even today storage QoS is either non existent, in it’s infancy or at best limited to particular workloads on storage solutions.

The force multiplier: Backup software capabilities & approaches

If you’ve made sure the above 4 resources are not your killer bottle neck the backup software, methods algorithms and the approach used will be either your biggest problem or you best friends. You need your backup software to be:

  • Capable
  • Scalable
  • Fast
  • Configurable
  • Scale Out

There are some challenging environments out there. To deal with this backup software should be able to leverage the wealth of capabilities compute, network, memory & storage are offering to protect large amounts of data reliable and fast. This should be done smart and in an operationally supportable manner. VEEAM has been working on this for a long time and they keep getting better at this with every release and it allows for scale out designs in regards to backups targets.

VEEAM Backup & Replication 8.0

There are many improvements in v8 but a couple stand out.

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Consistency groups (Hyper-V)

Backup jobs can execute more than one VM backup task simultaneously from the same volume snapshot with “Allow Processing of Multiple VMs with a single volume snapshot”.

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This means you can reduce the number of snapshots significantly where in the past you needed a volume snapshot per VM. VEEAM limits the the maximum amount of VMs you can backup per snapshot to 4 when using software VSS and to eight with hardware VSS. They do this because under heavy load VSS/CSV sometimes has issues. This number can be tweaked to fit your needs (no all environments are created equally) with 2 registry values under HKLM\SOFTWARE\Veeam\Veeam Backup and Replication key:

  • MaxVmCountOnHvSoftSnapshot (DWORD)
  • MaxVmCountOnHvHardSnapshot (DWORD) registry values

Reducing the number of snapshots to be taken is good as it saves resources, speeds up things & as VSS can be finicky, not needing more than absolutely necessary is a good thing.

Backup I/O Control.

Another improvement is backup I/O Control which delivers capability to dynamically adjust the number of backup tasks based on IOPS latency. Under Options you’ll find a new Tabbed sheet, I/O Control. It contains the parallel processing option that used to be under “Advanced” tab in Veeam B&R 7.

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The idea is to move to a more “policy driven” approach for handling the load backups can put on the storage. Until now we’d configure a number of X amounts of tasks to run against the source storage in order to keep IOPS/Latency in check. But this is very static and in a dynamic / elastic “cloud” world this isn’t very flexible nor is it feasible to keep tuned to the best number for the current workload.

I/O Control let’s you set limits on how much latency is acceptable for your data stores. Removing or adding VMs to the data store won’t invalidate your carefully set number of tasks allowed as it’s now the latency that’s used to dynamically tune that number for you.

I/O control has two settings:

 “Stop assigning new tasks to datastore at: X ms” :VEEAM looks at the latency (IOPS) before assigning a proxy (backup target) to a virtual disk or won’t launch the task until the load has dropped.  This prevents the depletion of IOPS by launching to many backups.

“Throttle I/O of existing tasks at: Y ms”: This will throttle the IO of already running  backup jobs when needed due to some application workloads in the VMs running on the source storage kicking in. The backups will be throttled so they’ll take longer but they won’t kill the performance of the applications while they are running.

These two setting allow for the dynamic and on the fly tweaking of the number of backups tasks running as well as their impact on the storage performance. Once you have determined what latency values are acceptable to you you’re done, VEEAM handles the tweaking for you. The default values seems to reflect industry best practices (sustained > 20 ms is considered problematic)

The below screenshot is for the backup job log and shows latency being monitoredclip_image002

With VEEMA B&R v8 Enterprise + You can even do this per data store, meaning you can optimize this per backup source. This recognizes that is no “one sizes fits all perfectly” and allows for differentiation. Yet it does so in a way that does not compromise on the simplicity of use that VEEAM offers. This sounds easy but from experience I know this isn’t. VEEAM manages to offer a great balance between simplicity and functionality for companies of all sizes.

Select “Configure”

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In the “Datastore Latency Settings” you can add one, more or all data store you are protecting with VEEAM. This allows for differentiation when you have CSV that are used for SQL Server VMs versus stateless web servers of or other workloads that are not storage I/O intensive.

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Select the datastore (in our case the CSV volumes in Hyper-V Cluster)

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By selecting the desired datastore and clicking “Edit”  you can individually adjust the settings for that datastore.

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Conclusion

It looks like we have some great additional capabilities in an already very good solution. I’ll be using these new capabilities in real life scenarios to see how these work out for us and optimize the backups of the virtualized environment under my care. Hardware VSS Providers, SANs, CSV’s normally need some tweaking and care to make them run well, so that’s what we’ll be doing.

Concluding My Summit, Conference & Community Engagements for 2014


After Redmond (MVP Global Summit 2014), which was a great experience I flew to Berlin to attend and speak at the Microsoft Technical Summit 2014 on “What’s New In Windows Server 2012 R2 Clustering”. Germany has a seriously engaged ITPro & Dev scene, that’s for sure, and the session room was packed! Afterwards some interesting questions popped up in the hallways. That’s great as question really make us think about technologies and solutions from other view points and perspectives.

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After Berlin I was off to Experts Live 2014 in Ede (The Netherlands) where I presented on “The capable & Scalable Cloud OS”. The talk went well and I had a great crowd attending with whom I had some great chats after the session.

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That concluded the third leg of my international road tour where I invest in myself, the community & the people I work with. Never ever stop learning Smile. Normally this also concludes my traveling schedule for 2014 unless I’m needed/requested somewhere to help out. Being an MVP is about sharing in the community. The only way to prosper is to share the knowledge, experience and the wealth. It provides for a healthy ecosystem from which we all reap the benefits. This should be promoted and facilitated. There is too much expertise & knowledge not being leveraged due to the fact it’s economically unfeasible, and that’s a waste when people are screaming for IT skills. In a war for talent, any waste is surely very counter productive?

Workshop Datacenter Modernization -Microsoft Technical Summit 2014 Germany (Berlin)


While speaking (What’s new in Failover Clustering in Windows Server 2012 R2) and attending the Microsoft Technical Summit 2014 I’m taking the opportunity to see how Microsoft Germany and partners are doing a workshop which is based on the IT Camps they have been delivering over the past year. There is a lot of content to be delivered and both trainers Carsten Rachfahl (Rachfahl IT-Solutions GmbH) and Bernhard Frank (Partner Technology Strategist (Hosting), Microsoft) are doing that magnificently.

One thing I note is that they sure do put in a lot of effort. The one I’m attending requires some server infrastructure, a couple of switches, cabling for over 50 laptops etc. These have been neatly packed into road cases and the 50+ laptops had been placed, cabled and deployed using PXE boot /WDS the night before. Yes even in the era of cloud you need hardware especially if you’re doing an IT Camp on “Datacenter Modernization” (think private & hybrid infrastructure design and deployment).

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Not bypassing this aspect of private cloud building adds value to the workshop and is made possible with the help of Wortmann AG. Yes the attendees get to deploy storage spaces, Scale Out File Server, networking etc. They don’t abstract any of the underlying technologies away, I like that a lot, it adds value and realism.

I’m happy to see that they leverage the real world experience of experts (fellow Hyper-V MVP Carsten Rachfahl) who helps hosting companies and enterprises deploy these technologies. Storage, Scale Out File Server, Hyper-V clusters, System Center and self service (Azure Pack) are the technologies used to achieve the goals of the workshop.

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The smart use of PowerShell (workflows, PDT) allows to automate the process and frees up time to discuss and explain the technologies and design decisions. They take great care to explain the steps and tools used so the attendees can use these later in their own environments. Talking about their own experiences and mistakes helps the attendees avoid common mishaps and move along faster.

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The fact that they have added workshops like this to the summit adds value. I think it’s a great idea that they are held on the last day as this means that attendees can put the information they gathered from 2 days of sessions into practice. This helps understanding the technologies better.

There is very little criticism to be given on the content and the way they deliver it. I have to say that it’s all very well done. Perhaps they make private cloud look a bit too easy Winking smile. Bernard, Carsten, well done guys, I’m impressed. If you’re based in Germany and you or your team members need to get up to speed on how these technologies can be leveraged to modernize your data center I can highly recommend these guys and their workshops/IT Camps.

Hyper-V Guest Protected Network Testing Tip


I’ve been pinged a few times over the years with people saying that the new protected network feature does not work for them. This setting is set per vNIC of the virtual machine.

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The issue lies in how & what people test, bar any number of other reasons why a live migration might not start or complete.  What people tend to do is disable a NIC to which the vSwitch is connected. But a Protected Network is about media sense loss detection of network disconnects and this requires the NIC to be actually there and enabled. Remember, we’re talking about the NIC on the host connected to the virtual switch. A physical link failure here, meaning that the virtual switch the protected virtual network adapter no longer has network connectivity, will lead to all the VMs with  the protected network enabled do be live migrated to another node in the cluster that still has a connected virtual switch for the same network.  The latter is to avoid  senseless virtual machine migrations to other nodes that might also have lost connectivity due to a failed physical switch.

So the point is that testing by disabling the NIC in the OS will not do. You need to unplug the cables to the virtual switch or disable the port on the switch or even shutdown the switch (a bit drastic).

Do note that it can take a little time for the live migration to kick in,  it varies a bit, but it beats having to wait for the issue to be resolved. You’ll see event id 1255 logged when the VMs lose network connectivity:image

In this day and age with NIC teaming to redundant switches & the fact that you might be using converged networking these tests aren’t as simple as you might think. Also don’t pull out all if the cables used for clustering if you want the cluster to be able to help you out here with a live migration. Because when the other cluster nodes can’t talk to the node your testing in any way it will be kicked out of the cluster, the VMs will go down, be moved to another node and started. This might seem obvious but if you a are using a teamed 10Gbps solution in a converged setup this might cause exactly that.

Another thing to note is that if you have a virtual switch with a dedicated backup network exposed to hosts & VMs that can tolerate down time you might want to disable protected networks on that vNIC as you don’t want to live migrate the VMs of when that network has an issue. It all depends on your needs & tastes.

Last but not least please behave, and don’t do anything silly in production when testing this. Be careful in your testing.

Golden Nuggets: Windows Server 2012 R2 Failover Cluster CSV Placement Policy


Some enhancements only become truly evident to people when they see them in action. For many features this means something need to go wrong before they kick in. Others are more visible during normal operations. This is the case with the CSV enhancements in Windows Server 2012 R2 Failover Clustering.

One golden nugget here is the CSV placement policy (which really shines in combination with SOFS/Storage Spaces). This will spread ownership of the CSV amongst the cluster nodes to ensure a balanced distribution. In a failover cluster, one node is the “coordinator node” (owner) for a CSV. The coordinator node owns the physical disk resource that is associated with a logical unit (LUN). All I/O operations for the File System on that LUN are are through the coordinator node. In previous versions there is no automatic rebalancing of coordinator node assignment. This means that all LUNs could potentially be owned by the same node. In storage spaces & SOFS scenarios becomes even more important.

The benefits

  • It helps all nodes carry their share of the workload as it load balances the disk I/O.
  • Failovers of CSV owners are potentially quicker and more predictable/consistent as an even distribution ensures that no one node owns a disproportionate number of CSVs.
  • When losing storage access the number of CSVs that are in redirected mode is potentially less as they are evenly distributed. In an unbalanced cluster it could be for all of them in a worse case scenario.
  • When using SOFS with Storage Spaces it makes sure the Storage Spaces Ownership is distributed fairly.

When does it happen

  • Each time a node leaves or joins the cluster. This means you don’t need to intervene manually or via PowerShell to get an even distribution. This goes for both exiting nodes as when adding a new node. The new node will get a CSV assigned if there is any on surplus on one of the existing nodes.
  • The process also works when you start a failover cluster when it has shut down.

When customers see this in action (it’s most obvious when then add a node as then they are normally watching) they generally smile as the cluster does it job getting  the best possible results out of their hardware.