Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Architect for the IBM Storage product line at the
IBM Systems Client Experience Center in Tucson Arizona, and featured contributor
to IBM's developerWorks. In 2018, Tony celebrates his 32th year anniversary with IBM Storage. He is
author of the Inside System Storage series of books. This blog is for the open exchange of ideas relating to storage and storage networking hardware, software and services.
(Short URL for this blog: ibm.co/Pearson )
My books are available on Lulu.com! Order your copies today!
Safe Harbor Statement: The information on IBM products is intended to outline IBM's general product direction and it should not be relied on in making a purchasing decision. The information on the new products is for informational purposes only and may not be incorporated into any contract. The information on IBM products is not a commitment, promise, or legal obligation to deliver any material, code, or functionality. The development, release, and timing of any features or functionality described for IBM products remains at IBM's sole discretion.
Tony Pearson is a an active participant in local, regional, and industry-specific interests, and does not receive any special payments to mention them on this blog.
Tony Pearson receives part of the revenue proceeds from sales of books he has authored listed in the side panel.
Tony Pearson is not a medical doctor, and this blog does not reference any IBM product or service that is intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, prevention or monitoring of a disease or medical condition, unless otherwise specified on individual posts.
Back then, IBM allowed its employees the option to run Windows, Linux or Mac OS. Since then, dual-boot Windows/Linux configurations, like the one I had back then on my Thinkpad T410, proved too difficult for our help desk, so these are no longer allowed.
In 2015, I received my new Thinkpad T440p to replace the old T410 model. For those 20 to 25 percent of the IBM employee population that manage, support and connect directly to client networks, IBM required Linux encrypted with LUKS, using Windows as KVM guests when needed for specific applications. This is more secure than running Windows natively, preventing viruses and other malware to spread between IBM and its clients.
As I am occasionally asked to help out our colleagues in lab services or with critical situations, I decided to implement my laptop to match, just in case. RHEL is rock solid, and running Windows as KVM guests could not be easier. Not having to worry about Windows viruses while travelling on business is a huge benefit as well.
Upgrading from RHEL 6.1 all the way up to RHEL 6.9 was simply a push of a button, all the new applications and kernel get installed, followed by a quick reboot. The migration from RHEL 6.9 to RHEL 7.4, however, was a major undertaking.
In past migrations, I was moving from a working laptop to a second laptop, affording me to be fully productive on the old machine until I was ready to cut over. In this case, I am performing a fresh install on my existing machine. To avoid any problems or delays, I wrote myself an 8-page, 17 step migration plan to capture all the tasks I needed to do to minimize the impact to my productivity.
(Of cousre, IBM has a help desk. You hand over your laptop, they backup the home directory, wipe your system clean, fresh install, restore your home directory, and return the laptop to you 3-5 days later, leaving the rest of the tasks up to you. Basically, this would merely replace the first three of my 17 steps below. I did not feel like burdening our help desk, nor wait 3-5 days without a laptop!)
Here were my steps:
Backup my existing system
In addition to backing up all my individual files to the Cloud, I also used [Clonezilla] to create a full image backup of my 500GB drive to an external USB drive.
Not all data is in file form. I also exported my browser bookmarks, so that I could import them back later. I also ran an "rpm -qa" to get a list of my existing applications installed.
Initially, I thought to format the 4TB external drive in UDF format, which is readable by Windows, Linux and Mac OS and supports files that are larger than 4GB in size.
Not knowing whether I should use [ExFAT] or Universal Disk Format [UDF] format, I split the 4TB into two 1.9TB partitions, and formatted one as ExFAT, and the other as UDF. Both formats support files greater than 4GB in size, which I have, but I discovered that on the older RHEL 6.9 release, based on a 2.6 Linux kernel, you can only write 68GB of data to a UDF partition. This is fixed in later kernels, but doesn't help me with my existing RHEL 6.9 release.
Fortunately, the latest Clonezilla LiveCD chops up the cloned images into files small enough that you can write to a variety of formats, and has a newer kernel that allows writing the full capacity of UDF partition.
In a crisis, I can restore back to RHEL 6.9 within 2 hours. This was my "relief valve" if I encountered any major delays and had to go travel for business on short notice.
Fresh install of RHEL 7.4 Linux
This completely wipes clean my drive, and installs two partitions. A tiny "/boot" partition needed to boot the system, and the remaining drive capacity as a large LUKS-encrypted LVM, to be internally partitioned between "/" and "swap" logical volumes.
Copy all of my files back
The challenge is that some files might clobber some of the configurations of the new applications. For this reason, I created /home/tpearson/RHEL69 and put everything there, so that I can move them to the correct locations as appropriate.
Copying all the files back in this manner eliminated having to be tethered to the external USB drive.
Setup LAN connectivity
I have to connect to IBM and guest systems, so this configuration is important. This includes EAP, TLS and VPN configurations. I thought I could just re-use the certificates I have for RHEL 6.9, but no, I had to create and register fresh new certificates for RHEL 7.4 release.
Configure Cinnamon Desktop
RHEL 7.4 uses Gnome 3 by default, which is quite different than Gnome2 used in RHEL 6.9 release. I don't care for it, so I configured [Cinnamon desktop] instead. Many people who use Linux Mint or Ubuntu might be familiar with this, and for those switching from Windows or RHEL 6.9 Linux, Cinnamon has familiar "Start" button in lower left corner.
By default, our RHEL 7.4 image comes with Firefox and Chrome browsers, so all I needed to do was import the bookmarks that I had exported in step 1 above.
Configure KVM guests
I was able to bring over my Windows7 Kernel-Virtual Machine [KVM] from RHEL 6.9 and run without problems, but this was bloated and now consuming nearly 60GB of space. Therefore, I decided to get a fresh Windows7 and Windows10 guest images instead.
Like with Linux, I wrote down what applications I had installed on Windows, and used that to configure the Windows guests. Nearly everything I do runs natively on Linux, but I do use Microsoft Office (Powerpoint, Excel, Word) and a nice tool called [CutePDF] that allows me to print to PDF instead of an actual printer.
Windows10 comes with the "Print-to-PDF" feature built-in, so no need for CutePDF on that one.
Configure IBM Notes, Sametime and Gnote
IBM is a heavy user of [IBM Notes] (formerly called Lotus Notes), not just for email but also for its document management and database capabilities. Sametime is our "Instant Messenger" app. [Gnote] is a linux-based tool to store short notes, I use it for all of my email templates for quick copy-and-paste responses.
IBM recently made using printers super easy. Print to the common "Cloud printer", and then pick up your print-outs from any printer in the building, any IBM building, worldwide. I could print in Tucson, for example, and pick up my print-outs when I am in the IBM buildings in Austin, Texas!
I also had to configure my printer at home, for those days where I need to print a boarding pass or quick document.
Configure File Sharing
IBM has deployed IBM [Spectrum Scale] internally for employees to share files across the company called "Global Storage Architecture" (GSA). Configuration for me just meant having to find my local cell (tucgsa) for Tucson, and entering my credentials.
Install Docker and DSX Desktop
[DSX Desktop] is the local laptop version of IBM's cloud-based [Data Science Experience], allowing me to perform Hadoop and Spark analytics for the various projects I work on. It runs as a Docker container, so I had to configure Docker as well.
Install Multimedia Codecs
One of the big detractors for Linux, compared to Windows or Mac OS, is the lack of multimedia support. Linux distros, like Red Hat, don't ship with these pre-installed, leaving this as an exercise for the end user.
IBM does a lot of audio and video files, including replays of conference calls and webinars for internal training. I keep a collection of different audio and video files to ensure that I have everything configured correctly for proper playback.
Install GIMP and other software
The GNU Image Manipulation Program [GIMP] is a great tool for quick editing of graphics. Another tool, Inkscape is designed for vector graphics.
Configure file-level backup
In addition to doing full-volume image backups with Clonezilla, I back up individual files, which are sent over the IBM internal network to a central server. All I need is configure to my previous backup set, and create the appropriate include/exclude list.
Many employees might just back up their home directory, but I customize a lot of the Linux configuration, so I like to backup a few more directories. Here is what I choose to back up:
Congigure Grub2 boot configuration
RHEL 7.4 supports [Grub2], which allows you to boot iso files directly. I like to add Clonezilla and [SystemRescueCD] as boot options. These were simple enough to add, just follow instructions, copy files to the /boot directory, and create a menuentry for each.
Validate final configuration
After eight days, I have finally completed all these steps, and am able to validate that everything is working correctly. I did some sample workflows, such as:
Verify that I can launch Windows KVM guest, edit Powerpoint presentation, and print to PDF file.
Verify that I can open email, launching embedded URL links, and copy-and-paste templates from Gnote
Launch GIMP, verify that I can edit graphics, and import the results in a Powerpoint presentation.
Download and play a Webinar replay MP4 file
Fresh Clone of full volume image
Using the Clonezilla that I added to the Grub2 boot menu, I am able to backup my full 500GB drive. At this point, I will keep the RHEL 6.9 for a few weeks as emergency backup, but so far, everything seems to be working just fine.
This took longer than I expected, but am happy with the final result. Red Hat is rock-solid, and the new RHEL 7.4 allows me to run DSX Desktop, Windows 10, and some other applications that were not available on our previous RHEL 6.9 build.
Well, it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means? IBM Announcements!
Everyone is getting ready for next week's "Think 2018" event, so these might get missed under all the excitement.
IBM Spectrum Archive Enterprise Edition V1.2.6
IBM [Spectrum Archive] Enterprise Edition supports Linear Tape File System (LTFS) cartridges as part of a larger IBM Spectrum Scale deployment. Version 1.2.6 provides features to help transition from old technology to new technology, at the library, drive and cartridge level. It also adds support for "Little Endian" mode for IBM Power servers.
Tape library replacement procedure
Tape intermixing in pool for technology upgrade
Support for LTO 8 Media on LTO 8 drives
Support for Power Systems in Little Endian (LE) mode
IBM Copy Services Manager [CSM] was formerly knows as Tivoli Storage Productivity Center for Replication. It manages the copy services like FlashCopy and remote mirroring for DS8000, Spectrum Virtualize family, and Spectrum Accelerate family products. Version 6.2.2 adds some nice features:
Support for scheduled tasks against Copy Services Manager sessions
Support to create DS8000 system diagnostics from the Copy Services Manager GUI and CLI for issue resolution
New SNMP event and email notifications for any detected path failures
Ability to enable embedded Easy Tier heat map transfer to support full Copy Services Manager session configuration, including practice volumes
Next week, I will not be in Las Vegas for Think 2018. If you won't be there either, you might consider watching some of the livestream videos at [www.ibm.com/events/think/watch] starting March 19, 2018.
Many of you have seen the Storage announcements that were made last month on February 20. I gave you all the skinny about the context of the technology shift and some resources to go deeper still in my blog post [IBM Storage Announcements for February 2018].
So, there’s a lot going on in IBM Storage right now. I’m looking forward to the upcoming IBM Systems Technical University in Orlando, Florida, from April 30 to May 4, 2018.
TechU’s are my favorite events to attend. This is a true event for techies! You get hands-on labs, demos, technical sessions, and birds of a feather (BOF) sessions and open technology discussions.
There are over 200 sessions on IBM Storage. I have the honor of sharing the latest in storage technology and strategy. Here are the topics I am scheduled to present:
IBM hybrid cloud storage solutions
Managing risks with data footprint reduction
Information lifecycle management: Why archive is different than backup
The seven tiers of business continuity and disaster recovery
Introduction to IBM Cloud Object Storage System (powered by Cleversafe)
The pendulum swings back: Understanding Converged and Hyperconverged Systems
Reporting and monitoring: How to verify your storage is being used efficiently
Well, it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means? IBM Announcements! This week IBM announced new and refreshed storage products.
On Feb 20, there will be a [Live Stream event] to watch the announcements online. The event is at Half Moon Bay in California, starting at 9:30am Pacific Standard Time (PST).
IBM decided to do things a bit differently for this launch. Instead of dozens of stodgy press releases, IBM has opted to complement with a series of blog posts, with [Storage innovation drives 21st century business] providing an overall recap.
(FTC Disclosure: I work for IBM. This blog post can be considered a "paid celebrity endorsement")
IBM Spectrum NAS
IBM Spectrum NAS is a new software-defined storage offering to address three specific market segments:
General purpose file serving and home directories
Native SMB protocol NAS for Microsoft Windows Applications
File serving for Virtualization Environments, such as VMware and Hyper-V
IBM Spectrum NAS is software that you can run on your x86 servers, either bare metal or as Virtual Machines. You start with four nodes, and can scale out to tens of machines as you grow.
IBM Spectrum NAS was written from scratch, not based on open source SAMBA software. It has already been deployed internally within IBM last year, and now is being productized. It is very compatible with the SMB2 and SMB3.1 protocol specifications, and supports the NFS3, NFS4 and NFS4.1 protocols as well.
As a scale-out solution, it is both more robust and scalable than a single Windows server, and less expensive to run than traditional dual-controller NAS filers.
IBM Spectrum Protect has been enhanced to detect ransomware attacks, and improved auditing to meet European Union's General Data Protection Regulation [GDPR] privacy legislation.
(If you are not in Europe, and feel this legislation does not apply, you may be sadly mistaken. This legislation may affect any company that shares information with EU companies, or has even a single client from the European Union. Think of it as this year's [Y2K crisis]. It hits globally on May 25, 2018.)
IBM Spectrum Plus offers snapshot support for both VMware and Hyper-V virtualization environments. The vSnap repository can now be replicated to remote facility for Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BC/DR). IBM Spectrum Plus is now also available as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering on IBM Cloud.
IBM Spectrum Virtualize is the software in SAN Volume Controller, FlashSystem V9000, and the Storwize V7000 and V5000 series. It is also available as software you can deploy on your own x86 servers, or in the IBM Cloud. Fellow IBM master inventor and blogger Barry Whyte has a great post on the details of Spectrum Virtualize v8.1.2 latest release, including [Data Reduction Pools].
Cohasset Associates has reviewed the IBM Cloud Object Storage (IBM COS) Compliance Enabled Vaults (CEV) capability and determined that this feature meets the U.S. Security Exchange Commission SEC 17a-4 requirement for non-erasable, non-rewriteable (NENR) tamperproof enforcement.
Some clients also refer to this as Immutability, Content Addressable Storage, or Write-Once Read-Many (WORM). Rather than invent new terminology, IBM opts to use Non-erasable, Non-rewriteable to match the standard language in the SEC 17a-4 legislation.
IBM COS is now also eligible for "Storage Utility" pricing. See my blog post [ IBM Announcements 2017 November] for details on how Storage Utility pricing is implemented.
More than 15 years ago, I was the chief architect for IBM Spectrum Control, which back then was called the IBM TotalStorage Productivity Center.
A subset of IBM Spectrum Control was needed for a variety of IBM storage products to support VMware in a consistent manner, so IBM made this available as the "Spectrum Control Base Edition", entitled at no additional charge. Last year, IBM also merged in storage enablement for containerized environments like Docker.
Since "IBM Spectrum Control Base Edition with Storage Enablement for containerized environments" is too long to say, IBM shortened this to "Spectrum Connect". In addition to VMware and Docker support, Spectrum Connect also supports Microsoft PowerShell and IBM Cloud Private.
If you have 11.6.2a microcode on your XIV Gen3, you can now perform Online Volume Migration (OLVM) to FlashSystem A9000 and A9000R systems running 12.2.1 release. This will help clients in their migration efforts.
It is funny how an article or blog post can remind me of something long, long ago.
Back in 2005, my manager, Rich Lechner, was then the Executive Advocate for a client in Chicago. While visiting that client, he asked what the client wanted most. His answer, for IBM to come in and do an "Information Lifecycle Management" (ILM) study on his IT environment. He agreed to send me on-site for a week.
I had done disk and tape studies of this kind before, but this time, I was going to do an end-to-end to evaluate their growth, and where was the best storage media for different data types.
Joining me were three "observers" from IBM Lab Services: Barbara Read, Steve Bisel and Tom Moore. As if I did not have enough pressure from the client, now I had to be "watched" while I interviewed the storage administrators, generated and reviewed reports.
At the end of the week, I had provide the client's upper management with a list of short-term, mid-term and long-term recommendations. As a side benefit, the client decided to purchase two DS8000 storage systems, replacing their HDS equipment!
After that initial engagement, the four of us formed a team. We performed similar studies at other client locations. Barbara Read was the process expert who wrote the "Documents of Understanding". Steve was our financial expert, and used spreadsheets to show total cost of ownership comparisons. Tom was our infrastructure expert, and used Microsoft Visio to document the inventory of IT equipment, and how it was all interconnected.
I was the consultant and public speaker for the team. I was able to incorporate the work of the three others into a Powerpoint presentation. During the week, we would show initial findings to the client, and then follow it up a few weeks later with a full report.
A lot has changed in the past 13 years! First, ILM was renamed to "Storage Infrastructure Optimization" (SIO) studies. Our initial team trained dozens of other practitioners. Today, SIO studies are done all over the world.
This week -- Jan 29 to Feb 2, 2018 -- I am in New York city with other IBM Storage executives, to meet with Channel distributors and Business Partners. If you are in the NYC area, and wish to have a product briefing, or just dinner or drinks, let me know!
I believe the "T" stands for "Third generation", as we have had other 9132 boxes before. Here are the details:
Small: Just 1U in size
Ports: 8, 16 or 32 ports
Transceivers: 32, 16, 8, and 4 Gbps
Protocols: FCP only, no FICON, FCIP, FCoE or iSCSI
Why is this important? Because the 16 Gbps and 32 Gbps transceivers support NVMe over Fabrics. Let's do a quick NVMe recap:
Last May, IBM announced that its developers are re-tooling the end-to-end storage stack to support [New Faster Protocols for Flash Storage], to boost the experience of everyone consuming the massive amounts of data now being perpetuated across cloud services, retail, banking, travel and other industries.
NVMe is a new language protocol that is replacing traditional SAS and SATA standards for solid state drives (SSD). Through employing parallelism, to simultaneously process data across a network of devices, clients can anticipate significantly reduced delays caused by data bottlenecks and move higher volumes of data within their existing flash storage systems.
IBM's NVMe strategy is based on optimizing the entire storage system stack - from applications requiring the data to flash technology to store it. Through the development of its FlashSystem family of all-flash storage solutions, IBM recognized years ago that multiple technologies would be required to address the demands of ultra-low latency data processing. IBM is developing solutions with NVMe across its storage portfolio, which it plans to bring to market in 2018.
At the AI Summit New York, December 2017, IBM disclosed a [technology preview and demonstration] with the integration of IBM POWER9 Systems and IBM FlashSystem 900 using NVMe-over-Fabrics InfiniBand. This combination of technologies is ideally suited to run cognitive solutions such as IBM PowerAI Vision, which can ingest massive amounts of data while simultaneously completing real time inferencing (object detection).
Whether it is streams of data, transactional data, or batch processes, a consistent requirement is the lowest possible latency. Among the leading all flash storage vendors, IBM with its FlashSystem 900, has stuck to its mission delivering low latency all flash arrays. Along comes NVMe-oF, which is, at its core, about getting rid of latency.
How do you take an already low latency protocol, like InfiniBand or Fibre Channel, and make it faster? Replace SCSI with NVMe and enable NVMe from server to fabric to storage array.
The FlashSystem 900 has been shipping with InfiniBand using SRP (SCSI over RDMA) for many years. In the technology preview, the very same InfiniBand adapter, based on the Mellanox chip set, is instead used to support the OpenFabrics driver distribution and NVMe-oF InfiniBand.
While the demonstration last December used Infiniband, this is not the only transport. NVMe-OF can also be used with Ethernet, either using Internet Wide Area RDMA (iWARP) or RDMA over Converged Ethernet (RoCE). NVMe-OF over Fibre Channel is often referred to as FC-NVMe, and can drive NVMe over FCP or FCoE. Even though iWARP, RoCE and FCoE are all Ethernet-based, NVME-OF RDMA on the first two is different than FC-NVMe over FCoE.
Why not just drive NVMe commands over standard TCP/IP? The NVMe standards board is actually investigating this, but probably won't have anything until next year in 2019.
This week, IBM will be at the [Cisco Live!] event in Barcelona, Spain, talking about this new 9132T switch, as well as all of our VersaStack solutions! I won't be there, obviously, since I am in New York City, but if you are there, please send me photos! Barcelona is a wonderful city!
I hope everyone had a festive and restful winter break! I sure did!
(FCC Disclosure: I work for IBM. IBM is in our 17-day "quiet period" before it announces full-year and 4Q results on January 18. Therefore, I picked today's topic that has nothing to do with storage products, recent client wins, or financials.)
It's January, so I thought I would discuss [New Year's resolutions], a tradition in United States in which a person resolves to change an undesired trait or behavior, to accomplish a personal goal, or otherwise improve their life. Early Romans made promises to their god Janus, for whom the month of January is named.
Sadly, most of us are unsuccesful. This is often because the resolutions were unrealistic, people failed to measure and track their progress, or simply lost interest midyear.
From my own experience, most resolutions can be lumped into four major categories:
Get healthy: Eat better, lose weight, exercise more, sit less, quit smoking
Get organized: Stop procrastinating, pay off debt, de-clutter, switch to a better job, reduce stress
Become social: Spend more time with friends and family, meet new people, travel, volunteer for charity
Learn new skills: Learn a new language, take up a new hobby, learn to paint or create arts and crafts
A technique I use to develop presentations might help people keep New Year's Resolutions. The technique called [SCIPAB®], created by Mandel Communications, is an elegantly simple, six-step method for starting important conversations or create [Effective Presentations]. Since Resolutions are basically "conversations with yourself", let's give it a try!
Situation: "Oh No! The boss's daughter, Nell Fenwick, is tied to the railroad tracks!"
Complication: A train approaches!
Implication: If nobody does anything soon, she will die
Position: "I, Dudley Do-Right, will save her!"
Untie her from the tracks and set her free
Arrest the villain, Snidely Whiplash
Benefit: Nell lives! "Dudley Do-Right, you are my hero!"
Let's see how we can use this approach on different categories of resolutions. To get healthy, we might use:
Situation: "Oh No! My latest doctor visit indicates that my numbers are too high!"
(AMA Disclosure: I am not a doctor. This is not medical advice. Here numbers could represent any appropriate health measurement of your BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, liver enzymes, or blood sugar, for example.)
Complication: I am not getting any younger.
Implication: I am at risk of heart disease, cancer, or other health issue. This situation will not go away on its own.
Position: I need to change my lifestyle to get healthy
Set appointment to see my doctor
Follow doctor's recommendations for diet, medication and exercise
Schedule follow-up appointments to measure and track progress
Benefit: My health measurements will return to normal range.
Rather than resolving to "Eat less and exercise more", the above approach is more focused on the end result, rather than intermediate actions, and therefore has a better chance of success, getting your health within normal range.
Let's try another one. To get better organized, we might use:
Situation: "Sigh! All of my projects are over budget and behind schedule, my desk is a mess, I forget important thoughts and ideas, and I am always late to meetings."
Complication: I just got assigned to lead project XYZ.
Implication: If I am not better organized, I could lose my job.
Position: I need to change my work routine to get organized.
Read David Allen's book and learn his system for "Getting Things Done" [GTD], or one of the many variants, like [GSD] or [ZTD].
Decide on where to write down and keep track of my thoughts, tasks and projects, either on paper like a notebook or [Hipster PDA], or an online mobile account like [Evernote] or [Google Keep]. Chose something that will be within arms reach 24 hours a day.
Work with project managers to track and measure progress of project XYZ.
Benefit: Project XYZ will be completed on schedule, within budget. I might even get a bonus, raise, or promotion!
I could go on, but you get the idea.
In his WSJ article [Blame it on the Brain], Jonah Lehrer cautions against trying to change too many habits all at once. If you have multiple resolutions, try to focus on establishing new habits for one resolution for a month or two, before starting the next one. Prioritize what is most important.
The study surveyed 5,676 leaders from various industries, education, and government agencies responsible for workforce development and labor/workforce policy. This was a truly global survey, with respondents from North and South America, the Nordics, Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia.
A gloomy picture for the future
The survey paints a gloomy picture for the future. The majority of industry executives struggle to keep their workforce skills current, in light of rapidly changing technological advancements.
Only 55 percent of the respondents felt the current education system, from grade school up to university, were adequate to ensure lifelong learning and skills development. Most blamed inadequate investment from private industry in addressing these issues.
Any problem can be solved if (a) everyone agrees what the problem is, and (b) everyone feels it is high enough priority to solve. The study found there was a disparity of what the problem is, what the priorities are, and who should solve it.
In the book Class Counts: Education, Inequality, and the Shrinking Middle Class, the author Allan Ornstein argues ".. the debate centers on whether the government should take a backseat or manage the economy, whether a free market should prevail or whether we should redefine or tinker with market forces..."
Which workplace skills are in short supply?
Can we at least agree on which workplace skills are in short supply?
Not surprisingly, Industry leaders ranked the top three skills required:
Technical core capabilities for Science, Technology Engineering and Math [STEM]
Basic computer and software/application skills
Fundamental core capabilities around reading, writing and arithmetic (often called [the three Rs])
These are all "hard skills", referring to the knowledge, skills and competencies to perform specific tasks. Nearly 75 percent of corporate training budgets are focused on hard skills.
Government leaders, on the other hand, especially those that are responsible for labor/workforce policy, ranked the top three skills:
Ability to communicate effectively in a business context
Willingness to be flexible, agile and adaptable to change
Ability to work effectively in team environments
These would all be classified as "soft skills", referring to the people skills, social skills, communication and emotional intelligence to effectively navigate the environment and work well with others.
In fact, these government leaders felt that STEM, computer skills and "the three Rs" ranked the lowest requirements in their priority.
"Unless managers have forgotten everything they learned in Econ 101, they should recognize that one way to fill a vacancy is to offer qualified job seekers a compelling reason to take the job. Higher pay, better benefits, and more accommodating work hours are usually good reasons for job applicants to prefer one employment offer over another."
"... the long-hours pandemic is a symptom of the tech and design sectors' badge-of-honor-martyr-complex. ... part of the reason that women can't have it all is that American business has grown this time-macho culture, a relentless competition to work harder, stay later, pull more all-nighters, ... the classic 40-hour work week have trained us to measure our labor by the number of hours we log,... However, this mindset is dead wrong when applied to today's professionals. The value ... isn't the time they spend, but the value they create through their knowledge."
IT jobs require creativity and focus. In a feature article titled [Why you should work 4 hours a day, according to science], Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, looks at the work habits of highly accomplished creative people through history and finds that they all shared a passion for their work, a terrific ambition to succeed, and an almost superhuman capacity to focus.
Yet when you look closely at their daily lives, they only spent a few hours a day doing what we would recognize as their most important work. The rest of the time, they were hiking mountains, taking naps, going on walks with friends, or just sitting and thinking.
Encouraging more students to develop the skills early
While we all agree that employers should raise salaries, offer better benefits, and fix their morally-corrupt culture of working too many hours, that only addresses part of the problem, the demand half of the equation. We also need to get kids to learn the hard and soft skills needed at an early age.
Do students have what it takes to work in the IT industry? John Rampton lists the [15 Characteristics of a Good Programmer]. Most are soft skills, with my favorites being: Laziness, Impatience and Hubris.
In his book Why Good People Can't Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It, Peter Cappelli advises corporations to take a more proactive role:
"... a huge part of the so-called skills gap actually springs from weak employer efforts to promote internal training for either current employees or future hires ... It makes no sense for the employers, as consumers of skills, to remain an arm's-length distance from the schools that produce those skills..."
The major stakeholders, from industry to education to government, should partner together. For example, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system will be the first in the United States to [require all students to take computer science] in high school, starting with the class graduating in 2020. Grants and training are being provided by IT industry giants like Google and Microsoft.
IBM is also doing its part with [a new education paradigm], called Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools [P-TECH]. Normal high school is typically four years (grades 9 to 12), but P-TECH is a system of innovative public schools spanning grades 9 to 14 that bring together the best elements of high school, college, and career. The additional two years (grades 13 and 14) of community college can help teach the soft and hard skills needed for particular jobs in IT.
After the six years, students graduate with a no-cost associates degree in applied science, engineering, computers and related disciplines, along with the skills and knowledge they need to continue their studies or step easily into well paying, high potential jobs in the IT arena for multiple industries.
The paradigm has grown from one school in 2011 to 60 schools by September 2016, with over 300 large and small companies affiliated with P-TECH schools serving thousands of students.
So the future may not be as gloomy as predicted. Problems can be addressed if everyone works together to solve them. In the mean time, I will be taking the rest of the year off for long-overdue vacation. Perhaps I will go hike mountains and take naps, as Alex suggests above.
It's official. We have changed our name! The Worldwide IBM Systems Executive Briefing Centers (EBC) are now being called the Worldwide IBM Systems Client Experience Centers!
I joined the Tucson EBC team in 2007. For the past 10 years, I have been running design workshops, consulting with clients and architecting solutions.
Why the name change? The term "Executive Briefing Center" implies one-way communication with [death by PowerPoint], which can be ineffective in today's dynamic and collaborative work environments.
Client expectations for two-way communications have given rise to immersive and interactive engagements where clients not only learn about IBM's solution offerings, they experience them.
Through hybrid briefing/workshop engagements, demonstrations, and active promotion of our ISV Ecosystem partners, we take clients on a journey where they envision utilizing our technology and solutions to achieve desired business outcomes. The new Client Experience Center moniker more accurately represents the work we do and the value we provide.
(Note: I realize that the new acronym for the Client Experience Center (CEC) is the same as the Central Electronic Complex (CEC) used in both storage and server products. I can assure you that the executives that decided to rename the centers had not chose this to be funny! Consider it a mere coincidence.)
Of course, changing the name is not cheap. We will have to update all of our websites, and order new signage, new water bottles, new coasters, new embroidered shirts, and new business cards, just to name a few!
The weather in Tucson is awesome these next few months, so come on down! Can't travel? We can come visit you, or do it over the phone via webinar.
Our Worldwide IBM Systems Client Experience Centers are located in:
Last Friday, I helped students learn about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). This was the annual [2017 Arizona STEM Adventure] event in Tucson, Arizona. Once again, Pima Community College Northwest Campus provided the venue.
The event hosted 1,200 students, ranging from fourth to eighth grades. Buses collected them from ten different school districts in the area. Home-schooled, private-schooled and charter-schooled children participated as well.
There were three dozen exhibits, some were indoors, and others in tents outside. The weather was delightful for November.
IBM's exhibit used a simple bicycle wheel to demonstrate the properties of a [gyroscope]. A gyroscope is a spinning wheel that maintains its angular momentum. This can be useful for both measuring forces that try to affect it, as well as counteract those forces.
We had the kids stand on a rotating platform, holding the bicycle wheel with both hands. A volunteer would spin the wheel. If the kid leaned the wheel left or right, the platform would spin to counteract the force. (The effect can be accomplished while sitting on a swivel chair. See [Exploratorium] for an example.)
Gyroscopes are used in everything from airplanes to submarines to help with navigation, keeps space-based telescopes like the Hubble pointed in the right direction, helps to dig tunnels straight, and for [Steadicam] filming for Hollywood movies and [IBM Client Center videos!
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
"The state has warmed about two degrees (F) in the last century. Throughout the southwestern United States, heat waves are becoming more common, and snow is melting earlier in spring. In the coming decades, changing the climate is likely to decrease the flow of water in the Colorado River, threaten the health of livestock, increase the frequency and intensity of wildfires, and convert some rangelands to desert." (Source: [What Climate Change means for Arizona])
Their robots stole the show! This one pictured here was remote controlled. Another one was able to pick up and throw basketballs.
(This is not my first exposure to FIRST. See my 2009 blog post [Helping Young Students] on how I helped fourth graders learn C programming language by building robots with LEGO Mindstorms.)
The team draws students from the five high schools of the Vail school district. I drive by one of these, the Vail Academy and High School, on the way to IBM Client Experience Center. This is not just for boys, about one third of the team are girls!
The students do the design of each robot, do the welding, even do the C++ programming, and participate in competitions!
Lunch and Logistics
With all the focus on science and technology exhibits, it is easy to forget all the work done behind the scenes. An [Eventbase] website was used to help us direct all of the students, teachers and volunteers to the right place.
Since we had enough volunteers for the IBM exhibit, I chose instead to be a "general volunteer" and was assigned the task of collecting and distributing lunches. For some schools, the students brought their own lunches on the bus, these were collected when they got off the bus, and distributed to them when it was their time to eat. For other schools, their staff packed lunches for each student.
We staggered the distribution into five groups, with color coded labels, starting from 10:30am, every 20 minutes, to 11:50am. The volunteers themselves did not eat until 1:30pm. We were provided pulled pork sandwiches from [Mama's Hawaiian BBQ], a local favorite!
This was a great day! There are plenty of problems that need to be solved in our world, and a shortage of scientists and engineers to solve them. Encouraging kids to pursue these careers is a good step forward.