The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a good reminder that all organizations should consider practice and execution of their contingency plans. In this most recent case, the [Deepwater Horizon] oil platform had an explosion on April 20, resulting in oil spewing out at an estimated 19,000 barrels per day. While some bloggers have argued that BP failed to plan, and therefore planned to fail, I found that hard to believe. How can a billion-dollar multinational company not have contingency plans?
The truth is, BP did have plans. Karen Dalton Beninato of New Orleans' City Voices discusses BP's Gulf of Mexico Regional Oil Spill Response Plan (OSRP) in her article [BP's Spill Plan: What they knew and when they knew it]. A [redacted 90-page version of the OSRP] is available on their website. The plan indicates that it may be 30 days from the time a deep offshore leak reaches the shoreline, giving OSRP participants plenty of time to take action.
(Having former politicians [blame environmentalists] for this crisis does not help much either. At least the deep shore rigs give you 30 days to react to a leak before the oil gets to the shoreline. Having oil rigs closer to shore will just shorten this time to react. Allowing onshore oil rigs does not mean oil companies would discontinue their deep offshore operations. There are thousands of oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Extracting oil in the beautiful Alaska National Wildlife Reserve [ANWR] might be safer, it does not eliminate the threat entirely, and any leak there would be damaging to the local plant and animals in the same manner.)
So perhaps the current crisis was not the result of a lack of planning, but inadequate practice and execution. The same is true for IT Business Continuity / Disaster Recovery (BC/DR) plans. In all cases, there are four critical parts:
If you have not tested out your IT department's BC/DR plans. Perhaps its time to dust off your copy, review it, and schedule some time for practice.
My how time flies. This week marks my 24th anniversary working here at IBM. This would have escaped me completely, had I not gotten an email reminding me that it was time to get a new laptop. IBM manages these on a four-year depreciation schedule, and I received my current laptop back in June 2006, on my 20th anniversary.
When I first started at IBM, I was a developer on DFHSM for the MVS operating system, now called DFSMShsm on the z/OS operating system. We all had 3270 [dumb terminals], large cathode ray tubes affectionately known as "green screens", and all of our files were stored centrally on the mainframe. When Personal Computers (PC) were first deployed, I was assigned the job of deciding who got them when. We were getting 120 machines, in five batches of 24 systems each, spaced out over the next two years. I was assigned the job of recommending who should get a PC during the first batch, the second batch, and so on. I was concerned that everyone would want to be part of the first batch, so I put out a survey, asking questions on how familiar they were with personal computers, whether they owned one at home, were familiar with DOS or OS/2, and so on.
It was actually my last question that helped make the decision process easy:
How soon do you want a Personal Computer to replace your existing 3270 terminal?
I had five options, and roughly 24 respondents checked each one, making my job extremely easy. Ironically, once the early adopters of the first batch discovered that these PC could be used for more than just 3270 terminal emulation, many of the others wanted theirs sooner.
Back then, IBM employees resented any form of change. Many took their new PC, configured it to be a full-screen 3270 emulation screen, and continued to work much as they had before. My mentor, Jerry Pence, would print out his mails, and file the printed emails into hanging file folders in his desk credenza. He did not trust saving them on the mainframe, so he was certainly not going to trust storing them on his new PC. One employee used his PC as a door stop, claiming he will continue to use his 3270 terminal until they take it away from him.
Moving forward to 2006, I was one of the first in my building to get a ThinkPad T60. It was so new that many of the accessories were not yet available. It had Windows XP on a single-core 32-bit processor, 1GB RAM, and a huge 80GB disk drive. The built-in 1GbE Ethernet went unused for a while, as we had 16 Mbps Token Ring network.
I was the marketing strategist for IBM System Storage back then, and needed all this excess power and capacity to handle all my graphic-intense applications, like GIMP and Second Life.
Over the past four years, I made a few slight improvements. I partitioned the hard drive to dual-boot between Windows and Linux, and created a separate partition for my data that could be accessed from either OS. I increased the memory to 2GB and replaced the disk with a drive holding 120GB capacity.
A few years ago, IBM surprised us by deciding to support Windows, Linux and Mac OS computers. But actually it made a lot of sense. IBM's world-renown global services manages the help-desk support of over 500 other companies in addition to the 400,000 employees within IBM, so they already had to know how to handle these other operating systems. Now we can choose whichever we feel makes us more productive. Happy employees are more productive, of course. IBM's vision is that almost everything you need to do would be supported on all three OS platforms:
The irony here is that the world is switching back to thin clients, with data stored centrally. The popularity of Web 2.0 helped this along. People are using Google Docs or Microsoft OfficeOnline to eliminate having to store anything locally on their machines. This vision positions IBM employees well for emerging cloud-based offerings.
Sadly, we are not quite completely off Windows. Some of our Lotus Notes databases use Windows-only APIs to access our Siebel databases. I have encountered PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets that just don't render correctly in Lotus Symphony. And finally, some of our web-based applications work only in Internet Explorer! We use the outdated IE6 corporate-wide, which is enough reason to switch over to Firefox, Chrome or Opera browsers. I have to put special tags on my blog posts to suppress YouTube and other embedded objects that aren't supported on IE6.
So, this leaves me with two options: Get a Mac and run Windows on the side as a guest operating system, or get a ThinkPad to run Windows or Windows/Linux. I've opted for the latter, and put in my order for a ThinkPad 410 with a dual-core 64-bit i5 Intel processor, VT-capable to provide hardware-assistance for virtualization, 4GB of RAM, and a huge 320GB drive. It will come installed with Windows XP as one big C: drive, so it will be up to me to re-partition it into a Windows/Linux dual-boot and/or Windows and Linux running as guest OS machine.
(Full disclosure to make the FTC happy: This is not an endorsement for Microsoft or against Apple products. I have an Apple Mac Mini at home, as well as Windows and Linux machines. IBM and Apple have a business relationship, and IBM manufactures technology inside some of Apple's products. I own shares of Apple stock, I have friends and family that work for Microsoft that occasionally send me Microsoft-logo items, and I work for IBM.)
I have until the end of June to receive my new laptop, re-partition, re-install all my programs, reconfigure all my settings, and transfer over my data so that I can send my old ThinkPad T60 back. IBM will probably refurbish it and send it off to a deserving child in Africa.
If you have an old PC or laptop, please consider donating it to a child, school or charity in your area. To help out a deserving child in Africa or elsewhere, consider contributing to the [One Laptop Per Child] organization.
technorati tags: , Anniversary, DFHSM, MVS, DFSMShsm, z/OS, dumb terminals, cathode ray tube, personal computer, DOS, OS/2, ThinkPad, cloud computing, Web20, Windows, Linux, MacOS, Apple, Microsoft, OLPC
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Well, it's Tuesday, and you all know what that means... IBM announcements!
This week, IBM announced the IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center for Disk Midrange Edition, affectionately referred to as "MRE". This is basically TPC for Disk but with two key differences:
A fresh new blogger on the scene, Anthony Vandewerdt (IBM), covers [10 things I like about the IBM DS3500], saving me the trouble.
For more information on Tivoli Storage Productivity Center for Disk Midrange Edition, see the IBM [Announcement Letter].
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Continuing my rant from Monday's post [Time for a New Laptop], I got my new laptop Wednesday afternoon. I was hoping the transition would be quick, but that was not the case. Here were my initial steps prior to connecting my two laptops together for the big file transfer:
The next step involved a cross-over Ethernet cable, which I don't have. So that will have to wait until Thursday morning.
Continuing my saga regarding my [New Laptop], I managed on [Wednesday afternoon] to prepare my machine with separate partitions for programs and data. I was hoping to wrap things up on day 2 (Thursday), but nothing went smoothly.
Just before leaving late Wednesday evening, I thought I would try running the "Migration Assistant" overnight by connecting the two laptops with a REGULAR Ethernet cable. The instructions indicated that in "most" cases, two laptops can be connected using a regular "patch cord" cable. These are the kind everyone has, the connects their laptop to the wall socket for wired connection to the corporate intranet, or their personal computers to their LAN hubs at home. Unfortunately, the connection was not recognized, so I suspected that this was one of the exceptions not covered.
(There are two types of Ethernet cables. The ["patch cord"] connects computers to switches. The ["crossover" cable] connects like devices, such as computers to computers, or switches to switches. Four years ago, I used a crossover cable to transfer my files over, and assumed that I would need one this time as well.)
Thursday morning, I borrowed a crossover cable from a coworker. It was bright pink and only about 18 inches long, just enough to have the two laptops side by side. If the pink crossover cable were any shorter, the two laptops would be back to back. I kept the old workstation in the docking station, which allowed it to remain connected to my big flat screen, mouse, keyboard and use the docking stations RJ45 to connect to the corporate intranet. That left the RJ45 on the left side of the old system to connect via crossover cable to the new system. But that didn't work, of course, because the docking station overrides the side port, so we had to completely "undock" and go native laptop to laptop.
Restarting the Migration Assistant, I unplug the corporate intranet cable from the old laptop, put one end of the pink cable into each Ethernet port of each laptop. On the new system, Migration Assistant asks to setup a password and provides an IP address like 169.254.aa.bb with a netmask of 255.255.0.0 and I am supposed to type this IP address over on the old system for it to reach out and connect. It still didn't connect. We tried a different pink crossover cable, no luck. My colleague Harley brought over his favorite "red" crossover cable, that he has used successfully many times, but still didn't work. The helpful diagnostic advice was to disable all firewall programs from one or both systems.
I disabled Symantec Client Firewall on both systems. Still not working. I even tried booting both systems up in "safe" mode, using MSCONFIG to set the reboot mode as "safe with networking" as the key option. Still not working. At this point, I was afraid that I would have to use the alternate approach, which was to connect both systems to our corporate 100 Mbps system, which would be painfully slow. I only have one active LAN cable in my office, so the second computer would have to sit outside in the lobby.
Looking at the IP address on the old system, it was 9.11.xx.yy, assigned by our corporate DHCP, so not even in the same subnet of the new computer. So, I created profiles on ThinkVantage Access Connections on both systems, with 192.168.0.yy netmask 255.255.255.0 on the old system, and 192.168.0.bb on the new system. This worked, and a connection between the two systems was finally recognized.
Since I had 23GB of system files and programs on my old C: drive, and 80GB of data on my old D: drive, I didn't think I would run out of space on my new 40GB C: drive and 245GB D: drive, but it did! The Migration Assistant wanted to my D:\Documents on my new C: drive and refused to continue. I had to turn off D:\Documents from the list so that it could continue, processing only the programs and system settings on C: drive. It took 61 minutes to scan 23GB on my C: drive, identify 12,900 files to move, representing 794MB of data. Seriously? Less than 1GB of data moved!
It then scanned all of the programs I had on my old system, and decided that there were none that needed to be moved or installed on the new system. The closing instructions explained there might be a few programs that need to be manually installed, and some data that needed to be transferred manually.
Given the performance of Migration Assistant, I decided to just setup a direct Network Mapping of the new D: drive as Y: on my old system, and just drag and drop my entire folder over. Even at 1000 Mbps, this still took the rest of the day. I also backed up C:\Program Files using [System Rescue CD] to my external USB drive, and restored as D:\prog-files, just in case. In retrospect, I realize it would have been faster just to have dumped my D: drive to my USB drive, and restore it on the new system.
I'll leave the process of re-installing missing programs for Friday.
Continuing my saga for my [New Laptop], let's recap my progress so far:
So now, Friday (day 3), I get to install any applications that were not part of the pre-installed image. Thankfully, I had planned ahead and figured out the 134 different applications that I had on my old system. I printed out a copy of my spreadsheet, and used it as a checklist to systematically go through the list. For each one, I determined one of the following:
The planning paid off. I was able to confirm or install all of my applications today and have a fully working Windows XP system partition. I celebrated by taking another backup.
Continuing my saga for my [New Laptop], I have gotten all my programs operational, and now it is a good time to re-evaluate how I organize my data. You can read my previous posts on this series: [Day 1], [Day 2], [Day 3].
I started my career at IBM developing mainframe software. The naming convention was simple, you had 44 character dataset names (DSN), which can be divided into qualifiers separated by periods. Each qualifier could be up to 8 characters long. The first qualifier was called the "high level qualifier" (HLQ) and the last one was the "low level qualifier" (LLQ). Standard naming conventions helped with ownership and security (RACF), catalog management, policy-based management (DFSMS), and data format identification. For example:
In the first case, we see that the HLQ is "PROD" for production, the application is PAYROLL and this file holds job control language (JCL). The LLQ often identified the file type. The second can be a version for testing a newer version of this application. The third represents user data, in which case my userid PEARSON would have my own written TEST JCL. I have seen successful naming conventions with 3, 4, 5 and even 6 qualifiers. The full dataset name remains the same, even if it is moved from one disk to another, or migrated to tape.
(We had to help one client who had all their files with single qualifier names, no more than 8 characters long, all in the Master Catalog (root directory). They wanted to implement RACF and DFSMS, and needed help converting all of their file names and related JCL to a 4-qualifer naming convention. It took seven months to make this transformation, but the client was quite pleased with the end result.)
While the mainframe has a restrictive approach to naming files, the operating systems on personal computers provide practically unlimited choices. File systems like NTFS or EXT3 support filenames as long as 254 characters, and pathnames up to 32,000 characters. The problem is that when you move a file from one disk to another, or even from one directory structure to another, the pathname will change. If you rely on the pathname to provide critical information about the meaning or purpose of a file, that could get lost when moving the files around.
I found several websites that offered organization advice. On The Happiness Project blog, Gretchen Rubin [busts 11 myths] about organization. On Zenhabits blog, Leo Babauta offers [18 De-cluttering tips]. Peter Walsh's [Tip No. 185] suggests using nouns to describe each folder. Granted these are about physical objects in your home or office, but some of the concepts can apply to digital objects on your disk drive.
Other websites were specific to organizing digital files on your personal computer. On her Lifehacker blog, Gina Trapani shows her approach to [Organizing "My Documents"]. Chanel Wood offers her [How to organize your computer and still remember where you put everything], based on a simple alphabetic system. Microsoft offers [9 tips to organize files better]. Most of the advice was common sense, but this one, from Peter Walsh's [Tip No. 190], I found amusing:
"Use the computer’s sorting function. Put “AAA” (or a space) in front of the names of the most-used folders and “ZZZ” (or a bullet) in front of the least-used ones, so the former float to the top of an alphabetical list and the latter go to the bottom."
Personally, I hate spaces anywhere in directory and file names, and the thought of putting a space at the front of one to make it float to the top is even worse. Rather than resorting to naming folders with AAA or ZZZ, why not just limit the total number of files or directories so they are all visible on the screen. I often sort by date to access my most frequently-accessed or most
Of all the suggestions I found, Peter Walsh's "Use Nouns" seemed to be the most useful. Wikipedia has a fascinating article on [Biological Classification]. Certainly, if all living things can be put into classifications with only seven levels, we should not need more than seven levels of file system directory structure either! So, this is how I decided to organize my files on my new Thinkad T410:
I'll give this new re-organization a try. Since I have to take a fresh backup to Tivoli Storage Manager anyways, now is the best time to re-organize the directory structure and update my dsm.opt options file.
Continuing my saga for my [New Laptop], I have gotten all my programs operational, transferred and organized all my data, and now ready for testing. You can read my previous posts on this series: [Day 1], [Day 2], [Day 3], [Day 4].
At this point, you might be thinking, "Testing? Just use your laptop already, deal with problems as you find them!" In my case, I need to sign off that the new laptop meets my needs, and then send back my previous laptop, wiped clean of all passwords and data. I have until the end of June to do this.
The value of testing is to avoid problems later, perhaps an inconvenient time such as a business trip or client briefing. It is better to work out any issues while I am still in the office, connected to the internal IBM intranet on a high-speed wired connection. Also, I plan to do a Physical-to-Virtual (P-to-V) conversion of my Windows XP C: drive to run as a virtual guest OS on Linux, so I want to make sure the image is in working order before the conversion. That said, here is what my testing encountered.
With the testing done, I am ready to go wipe my old system of all passwords and data!
Confused about what storage solutions you need? IBM now has a [Storage Evaluation Tool] that you can use to find out about IBM's latest products, solutions and offerings.
The tool will is customized for different industries, job roles, and challenge areas. Give it a try!
Congratulations to my colleague and close friend, Harley Puckett, who celebrated his 25th anniversary of service here at IBM. This is known internally as joining the "Quarter Century Club" or QCC. This is not just a figure of speech, the members of this club hold get-togethers and barbeques throughout the year.
Here is Harley welcoming Ken Hannigan and others he worked with back in Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) software development.
Our manager, Bill Terry, presenting Harley with a plaque.
By the time I got to the cake, it was half gone!