Category Archives: Job

What is in the bag?

This posting is ~2 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

Michael White published the third release of his “What is in the bag” blog post. In reference to this, I would like to share the content of my bag.

I used a RIMOWA Salsa business trolley for several years. Unfortunately, it broke in June 2017 and a repair was refused by RIMOWA. I was very disappointed of the product quality and the customer service experience with RIMOWA.

I decided to switch to a backpack, which felt much more comfortable than carrying or pulling the RIMOWA trolley.

Since November 2017, I’m using an Eastpak Floid Ash Blend2. It is a small backpack, with just enough space for my equipment. The whole backpack, with all its content, weighs about 4 kg.

Eastpak Floid Ash Blend2

Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

When I’m on the road, a Lenovo ThinkPad T480s is my primary working device. It has a 14″ WQHD display, 16 GB RAM, and a 512 GB nVME SSD. It is running Windows 10 and the 3 cell battery with 57 Wh capacity allows me to work 8 to 12 hours without a power supply.

CAISON 14 inch

Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

I really take care of my devices. Because of this, my ThinkPad is stored in a CAISON 14 inch sleeve, when it is no used.

I also use an Lenovo ThinkPad X250 as fallback or during projects, when I need a more smaller device (e.g. doing networking stuff at a datacenter). But this laptop isn’t in my backpack. :)

My X250 is also carried in a sleeve, if it is no used.

Of course, I carry a few accessories around with me. They are safely stored in a BUBM bag.

BUBM bag

Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

First, there are a lot of small things in it:

  • 2x Trancend 64 GB USB 3 Sticks
  • Patriot 8 GB USB Stick
  • Intenso 8 GB USB Stick
  • 16 GB MicroSD Card
  • DELL 10W AC Adapter with USB Outlet
  • 2m CAT 6 Cable
  • 0,5m CAT 6 Cable
  • Lightning to USB Cable
  • Micro-USB to USB Cable
  • Apple EarPods with 3.5 mm Headphone Plug

In addition to that:

An external HDD for software and backups. I use a Transcend StoreJet M3S 1 TB USB 3 HDD drive. It has a USB 3.1 Gen 1 interface and it is Military-grade shock resistant. This makes it a perfect fit for me. It stores all the software I possibly need during my work (several releases of VMware vSphere vCenter, ESXi, Windows Server, Veeam Backup & Replication, HPE Support Pack for ProLiant etc), as well as my Veeam Agent backups. Of course, the hard drive is encrypted. :)

Transcend StoreJet M3S 1 TB USB 3 HDD

Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

Both laptops have an Ethernet port. Nevertheless I’m a WiFi fan. The MikroTik hAP ac² is primarily used as a WiFi-to-Ethernet bridge. If necessary, I can hook devices to the additional four switch ports (10/ 100/ 1000 Mbit). The switch can do much more, but in my case, it is primarily… a bridge. A very nice feature is the PoE-In capability. I have the power supply with me, but most times I power it with PoE.

MikroTik hAP ac²

Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

The MikroTik hAP² offers PoE-In, but only passive PoE. So I need a 802.3af to passive PoE converter. I use this 802.3af PoE converter from Ubiquiti.

802.3af PoE converter

Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

The ThinkPad trackpad is good, but sometimes a wireless mouse is better. I use a Logitech M185 wireless mouse. Pretty solid, nothing much to say about it. :)

Logitech M185

Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

Another Logitech device is my Logitech R400 Laser presentation remote. I had it multiple times the situation, that such a device was not available during presentations, so I decided to buy my own remote.

Logitech R400 Laser presentation remote

Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

Another important device for customer presentations: My Lenovo USB-C Travel Hub. It offers, beside a USB 3 and a GbE RJ45 port, two ports for external display connection (VGA and HDMI). The travel hub is connected with USB Type-C to my ThinkPad.

Lenovo USB-C Travel Hub

Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

My ThinkPad T480s was delivered with a 60W USB-C AC adapter, but I decided to buy a smaller Lenovo USB-C 45W AC Adapter.

Lenovo 45W Travel USB-C Power Supply

Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

For notes and sketches, I use a simple notebook and two LAMY pencils, a LAMY logo (brushed) pencil, and a LAMY logo ballpoint pen.

Notebook and LAMY Pens

Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

That’s it. That is everything a have in my bag.

What is in your laptop bag?

Security: If it doesn’t hurt, you’re doing it wrong!

This posting is ~3 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

The Informationsverbund Berlin-Bonn (IVBB), the secure network of the german government , was breached by an unknown hacker group. Okay, a secure government network might be a worthy target for an attack, but your network not, right? Do you use the same password for multiple accounts? There were multiple massive data breaches in the past. Have you ever checked if your data were also compromised? I can recommend haveibeenpwned.com. If you want to have some fun, scan GitHub for —–BEGIN RSA PRIVATE KEY—–. Do you use a full disk encryption on your laptop or PC? Do you sign and/ or encrypt emails using S/MIME or PGP? Do you use different passwords for different services? Do you use 2FA/ MFA to secury importan services? Do you never work with admin privileges when doing normal office tasks? No? Why? Because it’s uncomfortable to do it right, isn’t it?

My focus is on infrastructure, and I’m trying to educate my customers that hey have to take care about security. It’s not the missing dedicated management network, or the usage of self signed certificates that makes an infrastructre unsecure. Mostly it’s the missing user management, the same password for different admin users, doing office work with admin privileges, or missing security patches because of “never touch a running system”, or “don’t ruin my uptime”. I don’t khow how often I heard the story of ransomware attacks, that were caused by admins opening email attachments with admin privileges…

My theory

Security must approach infinitely near the point, where it becomes unusable.

Correlation Between Security and Comfort

Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

Security is nothing you can take care about later. It has to be part of the design. It has to be part of the processes. Most security incidents doesn’t happen because of 0-day exploits. It’s because of default passwords for admin accounts, missing security patches, and because of lazy admins or developers.

Don’t be lazy. Do it right. Even if it’s uncomfortable.

My tool chain for 2018

This posting is ~3 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

Each of us has his or her personal tool chain. Depending on your job role, the tool chain will look different. My personal tool chain does not have changed much over the last few years, but if I added or removed a tool to my tool chain, this change was often influenced by other peoples tool chain.

Rainer Sturm/ pixelio.de

My primary work device is a Lenovo ThinkPad X250 (Intel i5 5200U, 8 GB RAM, 250 GB SSD) with Windows 10. I’ve added a 6 cell battery, so I have ~ 95 Wh of battery capacity. This gives me ~ 16h of battery lifetime with my common workload. The 12,5″ screen seems to be small, but it’s okay as I have two 24″ displays at the office. It’s small, lightweight, long battery life and powerful. I awaited the new Lenovo Thinkpads, that were presented some day ago on the CES. But Lenovo removed the Ethernet port on the X280. So this is not longer an option. Maybe the T480 with an additional 72 Wh battery… Devices and accessories are safely stowed in an Eastpack Floid Ash Blend2. It’s a great backpack, light and not too big.

Browser and Office

I have used Google Chrome for years, but with the latest Firefox release I switched back to Firefox and disabled all Google services I used before. I even try to avoid using google.com and use duckduckgo.com instead. Microsoft Office 2013 is corporate standard, so nothing much to say about it.

Knowledge Management

I primarily use two tools to dump my brain onto my hard disk. One is Microsoft OneNote, the other one is XMind 8 Pro. I’m using OneNote to store snippets, meeting protocols, summaries etc. in two notebooks. One notebook is for customer related stuff, the other notebook is for knowhow and snippets. A third notebook is shared between colleagues and me. I often use the web version of OneNote, available on onenote.com.

Tools

Royal TS is an awesome remote management solution, helping me to keep track of all those RDP and VNC sessions. And it can do much more. I switches from PuTTY to KiTTY last year. KiTTY is a PuTTY fork with some nice additions, like folders or scripting. My VMware application stack consists of the good, old VMware vSphere C# Client (don’t judge me…), PowerCLI and the VMware vSphere Remote Console. The web-based Clients are onboard as well. Filezilla is something that I’m using for years. FTP, S/FTP oder SCP are common protocols, most times used to upload firmware, or download config files from network devices. Wireshark is another veteran in my tool chain. Nothing much to say. The army knife in case of network troubleshooting. Authy is pretty new in my tool chain. I discovered it some weeks ago as an alternative to the Google Authenticator app in my iPhone. A pretty cool app. I can have the same accounts on my smartphone and in a desktop app. No need to grab my phone if I need 2FA at my laptop. And, IMHO a big benefit, an encrypted backup of my 2FA accounts. But 2FA or MFA is only one factor. The other factor is the password and I’m forcing me to use different passwords for different services. I’m getting older, so I use Keepass to store my usernames and passwords in a safe, password protected and encrypted database.

Development

I’m not a developer. But sometimes I have to write scripts in PowerShell or Python, transform data etc. My developer tool chain is full of well known tools. Notepad++ is my favorite text editor for years. ISE Steroids is still my favorite PowerShell IDE, even if I have Visual Studio Code installed. But this is mainly used for Python. ISE Steroids variable monitoring function is superior. Currently, I don’t get my mind wrapped around the VS Code debugging mode. But I swear that I will try it in 2018! GitHub Desktop is mandatory, not only for PowerShell and Python snippets, but also for my scripts and dot files (VIM, ZSH etc.).

Other stuff

Sometimes I like to hear music during work. I love Spotify. I don’t have to run VMs on my laptop, but when I have to, VMware Workstation Pro is my desktop virtualizer of choice. For reading PDFs I switched from Adobe Reader to Google Chrome, and after removing Chrome, to Foxit Reader.

Continuity vs. change

This posting is ~3 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

Note: I trashed this blog post several times. But I would like to express my point of view (hey, this is my blog. :D )

Some weeks back, I had an interesting discussion with a HR consultant. Bottom line: You ruin your career, if you stay for more than 3 years at the same company. IMHO this is bullshit.

I have started my IT career, right after school, with an apprenticeship at a local IT company. I finished this apprenticeship three years later, and my employer offered me a position as IT-Technician. Until 2004, I changed my employer three times. There were good reasons for each change. I learned pretty much in these years. The last change took me to my current employer. I have started as a Technical Consultant in October 2004. Today, thirteen years later, I’m leading the consulting and services business unit. There is a good chance I will not leave this company until retirement. At least not for the same or similar job role.

But is it a good idea to work for such a long time for the same company? What about challenges, motivation, perspectives, and income? How can you develop yourself, if you are working for the same company for such a long time? Isn’t this boring?

Challenges

Challenges are important. They help us to develop ourselves. Sure, customer projects can be challenging. But that is not what I mean. The biggest challenge, that we are all facing, is our job! Technology is changing so fast, and it will never stop. I’m a infrastructure guy. I don’t think that I have to explain how things like virtualization or cloud have changed the way we build infrastructure. “Never stop learning” is one of the biggest challenges in our job.

Motivation

Money is a bad motivator. It motivates only for a short period of time. Once you get used to it, the motivation is gone. “Strive for perfection” – that is something that motivates me. “Strive for perfection”, regardless if it is for a project, or for your own skill set.

Income

Is income everything? Nope, it is not. I had the chance to earn much more money. But at what price? Travelling from monday to friday, and leaving the family again on sunday? To be one of many highly skilled employees, with a manager in oversea? Ôr doing stuff I don’t want to do, just because it is well paid? That was never an option for me. What about working hours? Amount of travel? Car policy? Employer-funded pension? Having a safe job? To work for the founder of the company, and not for the shareholders. Money is not everything.

Perspectives

Good employees rarely remain unrecognized. Companies, that strive for sustainability, should try to promote employees. Often it is better to raise someone from the team into a manager role, than hiring someone from outside of the company. This opens perspectives for employees. Sure, sometimes you have to hire someone from outside. There are different reasons for this.

Should I stay or should I go?

It is not reprehensible to move forward, if the  conditions no longer fit. But it does not have to be bad to stay with an employer, and to develop itself and the company.

Fight the chaos: Design your toolbox properly

This posting is ~4 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

You need tools and methods to accomplish your daily tasks. No one will deny this insight.

I would like to give you an insight into my box of tools and methods. These tools and methods work for me, but they do not have to work for you. The design of your personal toolbox depends on your job.

Depending on who you ask, my job role consists of several roles: Currently, I am working as a consultant, head of the business unit, pre-sales consultant and technical account manager. That’s what you get when working in a very small company… And because of these different roles, my personal toolbox may differ from yours.

Daily Toolbox

Independent of the task, role or customer, some tools are always in use.

Google ChromeBrowser
Microsoft OutlookMail
Microsoft OneNoteKnowledge Management
MyLifeOrganizedTo-Do list, task management & personal organizer
XMindMind Mapping Software

Google Chrome and Microsoft Outlook don’t have to be explained. I use several extensions for Chrome, like OneTab, chromeIPass, Clip to OneNote, Adblock Plus, Ghostery and SwitchyOmega.

Microsoft OneNote is my personal notepad, I use it for notes, snippets, sketches, code dump etc. I don’t take paper with me.In the past, I used it on my iPad and my laptop, but for about a year I only take my Lenovo X250 with me. And if I do not have my laptop with me, a simple Internet browser or my iPhone is enough to get my notes.

MyLifeOrganized is similar to OmniFocus. It’s a very powerful tool for to-do lists and task management. I’m currently testing it, and I really like it. But it’s not cheap (MOL Pro for Windows $59.95,  MOL Pro for iPhone $29.99, Cloud Sync for 12 month $14.95).

XMind is available for free, but there is also a Plus and Pro version. I switched from Mindjet MindManager to XMind, because XMind was capable to read MindManager files. Mindjet MindManager is really expensive, and after leaving the FernUniversität Hagen, I was not entitled for academic discounts anymore. But XMind is really similar to MindManager. I like the concept of mind maps and I use it quite often for project planning and management.

Productivity

Microsoft WordWriting docs,  proposals etc.
Microsoft ExcelCalculations, data processing, proposals
Microsoft PowerPointPresentations
Internet ExplorerSometimes you need it…
Notepad++Powerful text editor

Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint are self-explanatory. Sometimes I have to use the Internet Explorer. It is 2016 and there is still software out there that simply does not work properly with Firefox or Chrome. It’s a pity… Notepad++ is a free (GPL licensed) source code editor and Notepad replacement . Good piece of software and it’s free!

Admin

When I’m working for customers, I mostly need three tools: An internet browser, something for RDP connections, the vSphere C# client, and a SSH client.

Royal TSConnection Management Software
VMware vSphere C# ClientStill necessary for some tasks…
KiTTYA PuTTY clone

Royal TS makes my life so much easier! Royal TS is a connection management software for RDP, VNC, SSH based terminals or web-based interfaces. It also includes credential management. Very handy!

The vSphere C# client is mandatory. Even if I have not explicitly listed it, I also have installed the Client Integration Plug-In in the vSphere Web Client, as well as the VMware Remote Console.

KiTTY is a PuTTY clone. KiTTY is a fork from version 0.67 of PuTTY and includes some features like portability, automatic password, session filter, send to tray and many more.

Pre-Sales

HPE SalesBUILDER for windowsPre-Sales configuration tool
HPE Ninja STARS for HPE 3PARSizing tool for HPE 3PAR StoreServ

I often work with HPE products, and because of this, the HPE SalesBUILDER and the HPE Ninja STARS tool are quite often in use. Both are available to HPE Partners only.

Development

I’m not a developer, but sometimes I have to write code, mostly PowerShell.

Windows PowerShell ISE with ISESteroidsPowerShell IDE
VMware PowerCLIPowerShell interface for managing VMware vSphere
GitHub DesktopVersion control and source code management
Python 3.5 IDLEIntegrated Development and Learning Environment

For PowerShell, I use the Windows PowerShell ISE with ISESteroids. ISESteroids is an  add-on for the Windows PowerShell ISE, which extends the ISE with many, many useful features. I have written a blog post about it.

VMware PowerCLI is self-explanatory and a must, if you are frequently working with VMware products.

I have rarely used GitHub Desktop to manage my code, but I have decided to change this for 2017. I use GitHub Desktop to sync my code between my two laptops (one for work, and the other for lab, projects etc.).

I’m still in the process to learn Python, and I have written a blog post months ago why I want to learn Python (Hey infrastructure guy, you should learn Python!). I played a bit with PyCharm Community edition, but now I’m using the Python IDLE again. It’s basic functionality is enough for the moment.

Methods

A fool with a tool is still a fool. You are nothing without supporting methods. I mainly use three different methods:

You may be wondering about this list, because GTD and Pomodoro are both time-management methods. And you may wonder how Kanban fits into this list. It’s all about the flow.

The idea behind GTD is to get tasks out of your head by writing them down, and breaking them down into smaller work pieces. This allows you to focus on accomplishing tasks. Btw: Mind mapping is a great way to graphically depict this.

Pomodoro uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 20 to 25 minutes, separated by short breaks of 5 minutes. After four intervals, a break of 15 minutes is given. This technique can improve mental agility, and help you to focus on the currently active task. But what if a distraction pops into your head,? Write it down, then get back on the active task. That is the link between GTD and Pomodoro.

Kanban implements the pull principle in Lean Management. It limits the work in progress, thereby avoiding waste through multitasking and context switching. Kanban uses visual elements (cards on a board) to visualize the current state of the work and the workflow.

Summary

This box of tools and methods works for me in my current situation. Feel free to leave a comment, or write a blog post about your tools and methods.

Why VARs should rethink their business model

This posting is ~4 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

Okay, the headline of this blog post is a bit provocative. This blog post is not written from the vendor perspective. It’s the perspective of someone, who’s sitting between the vendor and the customer. A value-added reseller (VAR) is typically located between vendor and customer. And the business model of a VAR is typically based on selling hardware, software and service.

Added value

The typical customer doesn’t have the time, money and the know-how to transform business requirements into a bill of materials (BOM). It’s a “make-or-buy” decision. And “buy” is often better than “make”. The customer needs a partner who helps him to transform the business requirements into a solution and a BOM.

Even “simple” things, like a new server, are sometimes complex. What memory configuration? How many disks? Which controller? Which CPU for which application? Who ensures that the firmware is upgraded? Who labels the cables during rack-and-stack? These things are not self-evident. Sure, servers are commodities. You can buy a HPE ProLiant from an online shop. You can buy expansion enclosures for a HPE 3PAR from an online shop. You can buy nearly everything online. But what customer risks it to buy crap? At this point, a VAR can offer added value.

The downside of a buyers market

IT budgets are under considerable cost pressure. The customer always wants the best price. And there are many VARs. As a VAR, you are not in the best position. Information technology is a buyers market. As a VAR, you must offer added value and the best price. Customers love free advice… and then they buy from an online shop, or from another VAR that was cheaper.

Cloud eliminates hardware/ software revenues

Cloud offerings are awesome! For customers… But they are the plague for VARs. Usually you need to sell more billable hours to achieve the same margins with cloud offerings and service, as with a combination of hardware, software and service. And your employees need different skills. Take the example of Office 365. To date, a VAR has sold 200 licenses for Microsoft Office (Open License). Now he sells 200 E3 plans. Revenue is not the same. Maybe a little more service for the implementation of Office 365 and AD FS. Or Microsoft Exchange. Many customers consider the use of Exchange Online (often as part of an Office 365 deployment). Or Microsoft Azure instead of VMware vSphere on-premises. No hardware, less software, similar amount of service, but a different skills.

Develop your business model

Cloud offerings and “price-conscious” customers are forcing VARs to rethink their business model. Decreasing margins and a highly competitive market make the sale of hardware and software increasingly unattractive. But cloud offerings require other skills from your sales and technical teams. Such fundamental changes need time, patience and leadership to be successful.

Lean ITIL Service Operation

This posting is ~4 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

The IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a set of pre-defined processes and common practices (I try to avoid the word “best practice” when talking about ITIL) for the IT service management (ITSM).

When I talk with customers about ITIL, they often complain about the overhead of ITSM processes, that were designed according to ITIL. I already wrote about this in one of my previous blog posts (Is lean ITSM a myth?). Companies mainly have three problems during the implementation and/ or operation of ITIL processes:

  • slow processes
  • complex processes
  • error prone processes.

ITIL doesn’t tell you how to design a process. ITIL is a collection of common practices. Usually, you have someone that helps you to design and implement the processes and functions. If you don’t have an experienced consultant, you might get processes, that lead you to the wrong direction: Big, fat, complex, ugly, error prone processes.

At the end, your processes have to deliver value. But I saw so many crappy/ slow/ complex processes that doesn’t deliver any value, that I seriously began to doubt in ITIL. But again: ITIL isn’t slow, complex or error prone by default. The processes you design are slow, complex and error prone. The success of ITSM with ITIL is based on the processes that you design and implement.

The ITIL life cycle

The biggest difference between ITIL v2 and ITIL v3 is, that ITIL v3 focuses on the full life cycle of services, covering the entire IT organization.

ITIL v3 Lifecycle

Patrick Terlisten/ www.vcloudnine.de/ Creative Commons CC0

ITIL Service Operation

The ITIL Service Operation phase manages services in supported environments. The ITIL Service Operation volume describes the Service Operation phase as the part of the lifecycle, where the services and value is actually delivered to end-users and customers. The Service Operation phase is the only phase of the ITIL life cycle, that consists of process and functions.

ProcessFunction
Event ManagementService Desk
Access ManagementTechnical Management
Request FulfillmentApplication Management
Problem ManagementIT Operations Management
Incident Management

When designing the processs and functions, it’s important to focus on the delivered value! Without this focus, you will never be able to develop your IT from manufactory to factory.

Value Stream Mapping

Value Stream Mapping is method for analyzing the current state, and designing the new state of a process. Knowledge about the current state is mandatory for the design of the future state. Value Stream Mapping is a well-known method in Lean Management, and it can be applied to any value chain. A value chain is a number of activities to deliver a valuable product or service to a customer.

Value Stream Mapping can be used to analyze ITIL Service Operation processes and functions for potential waste. With the knowledge about potential waste, processes and functions can be optimized.

The Lean Management/ Toyota Production System knows three types of waste:

  • Mura (waste due to variation)
  • Muri (waste due to overburdening)
  • Muda (transportation, waiting, overproduction, defects, inventory, movement, extra processing)

I’m sure you can apply all three types of waste to ITIL Service Operation processes and functions. And because of this, methods and instruments known from the Lean Management can help to streamline ITIL Service Operation processes and functions.

Lean Managenent and ITIL

Lean Management offers a lot instruments and methods, that can be used together with the processes and functions of the ITIL Service Operation phase.

One of the greatest benefits is automation. Automate as much as you can. Kaizen (“improvement”) can be used as part of the Continuous Improvement of ITIL. Kanban can be used as part of the Service Desk, Incident or Problem Management. Problem-solving techniques, like A3, Kepner-Tregoe or 5W, can be used in the Problem and Incident Management processes. FMEA can be used for quality management as part of the Application, Technical and IT Operations Management. Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) can be used as part of the IT Operations Management. And there are many more possibilities to use methods and instruments of the Lean Management as part of the ITIL Service Operation Phase.

Summary

Every process may suffer from different types of waste. This can be due to bad design or bad execution. This can be a big problem in case of the processes and functions of the ITIL Service Operation, because these processes and functions  actually deliver services to end-users and customers. To provide the best possible service quality, you need effective and valuable processes and functions. The Value Stream Mapping can help to analyze current processes. With the knowledge about the value-adding activites of the current processes, IT organizations are able to design valuable and waste-free processes and functions. Methods and instruments of the Lean Management can help to achieve this.

Lean ITIL Service Operation must be the goal!

Hey infrastructure guy, you should learn Python!

This posting is ~5 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

I’m not a developer. I’m an infrastructure guy. All I ever needed was to write some scripts. Therefore, I never needed more than DOS batches, BASH/ CSH/ KSH, Visual Basic Script and nowadays PowerShell. So why should I learn another programming language?

One to rule them all?

I don’t think that there is a single programming language that is perfect for all use cases. The spread and acceptance of a language shows a positive correlation with the number of available frameworks, tools and libraries. That’s why I love the Microsoft PowerShell. Nearly all vendors offer a PowerShell module for their products (think about VMware PowerCLI, Rubrik, Veeam, DataCore and much more). The downside: The PowerShell code has to run on a Windows box. I think the time of writing DOS batches is over. UNIX shell scripts are still awesome, but focused on UNIX.

Different problems require different tools. I think it’s better to know a few, general-purpose tools well, as every conceivable special tool. Don’t get me wrong: PowerShell is awesome powerful! It’s quite easy to learn and you will have quick success.

Why Python?

Python is easy to learn (I can confirm this, at least for what I’ve seen). Python was developed from scratch by Guido van Rossum in the early 1990s. Python is an interpreted and dynamic programming language, which supports multiple paradigms, like the object-oriented or the functional programming. Python features a dynamic type system and automatic memory management. It uses only 35 keywords, what makes it easy to lern. It’s underlying philosophy is The Zen of Python.

Beautiful is better than ugly.
Explicit is better than implicit.
Simple is better than complex.
Complex is better than complicated.
Flat is better than nested.
Sparse is better than dense.
Readability counts.

These rules lead to code with a high legibility, and it is possible to solve problems with fewer lines of code. Python is highly extensible. It comes with a large standard library and you can choose from 72.000 packages, that are available using the official 3rd party repository.

For me, as an infrastructure guy, the VMware vSphere API Python Bindings, the 3PAR Python client or the module for the Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise OmniSwitch RESTful API are reasons enough to start with Python. It’s the extensibility and platform independence of Python, what makes it so interesting. Like PowerShell, Python is an awesome language to automate things.

First steps with Python

Currently, the stabled releases are 2.7 and 3.5. I recommend to start with the 3.5 release. You can get the latest release from python.org. They offer packages for Windows, MacOS X and Linux/ UNIX. Python comes with an IDE called IDLE (Integrated Development and Learning Environment). Make sure that you take a look into the official documentation! If you want something more comfortable, try JetBrain PyCharm. JetBrains offer a free community edition for Windows, MacOS X and Linux. But it’s not the worst idea to start with IDLE. I use both IDEs, IDLE and PyCharm.

Where can you get help? YouTube is full of videos about Python. If you have a Pluralsight subscription, checkout the courses on Pluralsight. There are many good books out there, as well as some good howtos. Just use Google. It depends on what type of learner you are.

Learn the basics and try to strengthen them during a small project. Buy a Raspberry Pi. Raspberry Pi and Python are the biggest friends. If you are focused on VMware vSphere, take a closer look at the VMware vSphere API Python Bindings. Create yourself a project to learn.

I just started to learn Python, but I think that this wasn’t the worst idea in my life.

Is lean ITSM a myth?

This posting is ~5 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

When I talk with companies about IT processes and IT service management (ITSM), ITIL seems to be the de facto standard for ITSM. Implementing an ITSM without using ITIL, seems to be impossible. I have many customers that have implemented ITIL-based ITSM processes and most of them had enormous trouble during the implementation and/ or operation.

Lean ITSM and ITIL?

Companies mainly have three problems during the implementation and/ or operation of ITIL processes:

  • slow processes
  • complex processes
  • error prone processes.

ITIL doesn’t show you how to design a process. ITIL is a collection of best practices. Usually, you have someone that helps you to design and implement the processes and functions. If you don’t have an experienced consultant, you might get processes, that lead you to the wrong direction: Big, fat, complex, ugly, error prone processes.

You don’t have to implement all processes. It’s sufficient to implement some of the processes of the ITIL Service Operation phase to slow down you business. I used the term “agility” in one of my last blog posts (Industrialize your IT – after you have done your homework) to describe the ability of an organization to act flexible, proactive, adaptable and with initiative in times of change and uncertainty.

Agility needs lean processes

If your business has to be agile, your IT has to be agile. Agility needs lean processes. What are the characteristics of a lean process?

  • It delivers value

For sure, every process should deliver value. The value should, however, be determined by the customer. Only if the customer would pay for it, it’s has a true value.

  • It respects and involves the people who run the process

I don’t know how often I saw teams, that has to communicate over a ticket system, just because “it’s the process”. That’s not what I would call a process that respects and involves people. It’s a waste of time and knowhow.

  • It’s steamlined and free of waste

The Toyota Production System (TPS) knows three types of waste:

  • Mura (waste due to variation)
  • Muri (waste due to overburdening)
  • Muda (transportation, waiting, overproduction, defects, inventory, movement, extra processing)

To get a streamlined and waste-free process, you have to examine your current processes for potential waste. The Lean Management/ TPS knows different methods and instruments to streamline processes and to avoid waste.

Lean IT or ITIL? Or lean ITIL?

Some companies think that Kanban is all you need for Lean IT. No, that’s not all you need. Kanban is only an instrument to implement the pull principle. Lean IT is much more. But you don’t have to throw away your ITIL knowhow.

It can be useful to review your current ITIL processes for potential waste. Many Lean Management methods and instruments can be used in ITIL processes and functions. With a little skill, you can streamline your processes and get much leaner ITIL processes.

This is nothing new. ITIL and Six Sigma are often used together. In this case, Six Sigma is used to optimize the quality and the output of ITIL processes. So why not use Lean Management methods and instruments to put ITIL processes on diet?

Industrialize your IT – after you have done your homework

This posting is ~5 years years old. You should keep this in mind. IT is a short living business. This information might be outdated.

Today a tweet from Keith Townsend (@CTOAdvisor) has caught my attention:

Keith wrote a nice blog post and I really recommend to read it. His point is, that automation enables business agility.

The point of automation is to enable business agility. Business agility isn’t achieved by automating inefficient processes. The start of an IT automation project begins by examining existing processes and eliminating inefficiency.

Agility is the ability of an organization to act flexible, proactive, adaptable and with initiative in times of change and uncertainty. Can IT automation enable business agility? No, I don’t think that IT automation can enable business agility.

It’s all about processes

Business processes are the key to business agility. Keith wrote, that

Business processes are very organic systems that grow and evolve as a company’s business and culture matures.

and I’m totally fine with this statement. Processes tend to optimize themselves, if you let them. In cases where consultants are hired to improve faulty processes, the processes are often not the problem. The people who run them are often the problem.

Before you should think about IT automation, you should optimize your processes. Keith has a similar view:

Automation comes after you’ve established a repeatable process that has few if any points of contention.

Lean processes are the key

A business process has to deliver value. That’s quite clear. But a process has to deliver value and it has to be lean. Otherwise the business would lose its agility.

What are the characteristics of a lean process?

  • It delivers value
  • It respects and involves the people who run the process
  • It’s steamlined and free of waste

Streamlining processes and avoiding waste are the anchors for IT automation! But you should only automate what you have fully understood. Keith mentioned a nice example:

Money and time are better spent implementing an IP management system and continuing the manual processes. The problem wasn’t self-provisioning of VM’s but waiting for IP address assignment.

This example clearly shows that it’s mandatory to check each and every process for potential waste and pain points. Only after this step, you will be able to design a new, lean process.

IT automation can’t enable business agility. But lean business processes can do. IT automation can help you to streamline your business processes.

Time is changing

At the end I would like to refer to an important statement in Keiths blog post:

All of this goes back to my drumbeat that IT infrastructure practitioners acquire business alongside their technical skill set.

100% agree! The time of the people who have been sitting in dark basements, with their “There are 10 types of people” shirts and the opinion, that IT is the navel of the world, comes to an end.