Me vs Technology (spoiler: I win)

Yesterday Connections 6 shipped and although I was in meetings all day my goal for last night was to get everything downloaded and in place on a VM and have that VM built with a configured and hardened OS.  That was the plan.  I thought it might be fun to share my 4pm – 4am battle against technology and maybe it will help someone else.  It might also explain all the “other” work that tends to take up my time before I  ever get to the actual stuff I’m meant to be installing.

All my servers are hosted in a data centre and mostly I run ESXi boxes with multiple servers on them. I have 5 current ESXi boxes. So first things first, create a new virtual machine on a box with capacity so I can download the software.  All of this is done from a Windows VM on my Mac which connects to Turtle’s data centre

Vsphere lets me create the machine then gives me VMRC disconnected when I try and open a console.  After some checking I realise it’s the older ESXi boxes that are throwing that error for every VM and only since I upgraded to Windows 10.  If I can’t open a console on the VM I can’t do anything so I search the internet for various random advice which included

  • Disable anti virus
  • Remove Vsphere
  • Install latest Vsphere (which keeps being overwritten with an older one each time I connect to an older machine)
  • Uninstall VMware Converter (which I had forgotten was even there) – that required me booting into safe mode in my VM which only worked if I used msconfig to get it to restart in safe mode
  • Downgrade Windows
  • Create a new clean desktop VM to install Vsphere into

This is a bigger problem than just this install because I also can’t manage any of my servers on those boxes.  I rarely connect to them via the console so I don’t know how long it’s been like that but it can’t stay like that.

Several hours later.. still no luck. Vsphere lets me do everything to a virual machine except open a console.  I could use another ESXi box but I’m being stubborn at this point. I want to use this box

Then I find reference to VGC – Virtual Guest Console  https://labs.vmware.com/flings/vgc.  Created in VMWare labs in 2010 and still in “beta” it does one thing I need which is open a console.  So now I have VSphere where I can create and manage the instances and the VGC to open a console I’m ready to install and OS.

But which OS?  The host boxes have ISOs on them I already use but those are Windows 2012 R2 and RHEL 6.4.  I want either Windows 2016 or RHEL 7.1  Again I could use Windows 2012 but #stubborn.

I download Windows 2016 to my Mac and it’s over 5GB.  That’s going to take a few hours to upload to the datastore and I’m optimistically thinking I don’t have a few hours to waste.  So Plan B is that I take an existing RHEL 6.4 ISO and use that to install then upgrade it to 7.1 in place since you can now do that with Redhat if you’re moving from the latest 6.x to 7.x.  Top tip – it would have been quicker to upload Windows 2016.

I start building the new VM using RHEL 6.4 and eventually I get to the point where I can tell it to get all updates and off it goes.  It’s now 1am and it’s showing 19/1934 updates.  So.. I go to bed taking my iPad with me and leaving my laptop downstairs.  Once I’m in bed I can use Jump on the iPad to connect to my laptop which is on the same network and Terminus and the VPN on the iPad to open a putty session to the data centre.  The 6.4 updates finish and now I need to get it to 7.1  First thing I need to do is download 7.1 directly to that new VM which I can do easily because I installed a browser so I download the 3GB ISO directly to the VM which only takes 3 minutes and I’m ready to install.

Except not quite.  Redhat requires to you run their pre upgrade utility before doing an inplace upgrade.  In fact the upgrade won’t even run until you run pre-upgrade.  So I do that and as expected it fails a bunch of stuff that I don’t care about because this is a new machine and I’m not using anything yet so I’m not bothered if something stops working.  Except the upgrade still won’t run because it spots I failed the pre upgrade test.  That’s where “redhat-upgrade-tool -f” comes in.  Around 4am I left that running and got some sleep.

Incidentally this is a great document on upgrading but I think you may need a login to read it https://access.redhat.com/solutions/637583

At 7am I found it completed at RHEL 7.1 and then ran one more update to make sure everything was on the latest patches,  added the GUI and configured the firewall.

I’m NOW ready to download Connections 6

A Few Things From Connections 6 System Requirements

Connections 6 is due to be released on Friday but yesterday we had the announcement and the system requirements.  I took a look at them here and there’s a few things to be aware of if you’re an existing Connections customer

Operating Systems

  • Windows 2012 R2 and 2016 are both supported as server platforms but that’s it
    *Connections Content Manager isn’t supported on Windows 2016
  • Linux OS is SLES 12 or RHEL 7 so if you will almost certainly need to upgrade your OS if you’re already on Linux
  • Only 64bit OS are supported for servers
  • Installation Manager remains at 1.8.5 / 6 which can be upgraded in place if necessary
  • WebSphere Application Server is 8.5.5.10 which again can be upgraded in place if necessary
  • DB2 requires 11.1 minimum
  • SQL Server 2016 only
  • IBM HTTP Server 8.5.5 fixpack 10 required
  • Tivoli Directory Integrator 7.1.1 fixpack 6 is a minimum requirement and can be upgraded in place
  • Sametime integration requires Sametime 9.0.1 for chat and meetings

 

So those are the highlights that jumped out at me but the installation documentation isn’t out yet so I’ll find out more on Friday hopefully.  Start your engines…….

 

 

Session from InterConnect – IoT In The Enterprise

Firstly I’d like to thank Chris Miller from Connectria who wrote and submitted the original abstract then kindly let me have the session when he had a scheduling conflict.  Any issues or problems with the content are down to me not Chris so please don’t hold him responsible 🙂

The original abstract was

Enabling Internet of Things (IoT) so your employees and your customers can have a simplified experience with new services and products sounds exciting. In this session, we will dig into the top ten risks that come with the IoT experience. Due to the rapidly evolving nature of IoT and associated threats, there are risks in allowing access to your enterprise resources. Custom firmware, embedded operating systems and wi-fi connectivity of IoT devices offer many possible areas for exploits and misuse. Come explore current security offerings and get a first look at best practices. Walk away with an immediate checklist to benefit your enterprise as it deploys and offers IoT access.

There are several aspects to IoT in the Enterprise which are important to the world of collaborative working

  1. IoT devices generate a huge amount of data. That data has to be analysed and actioned.  In a presentation at InterConnect IBM made the point that 80% of data analysts’ time is spent on cleanup and scrubbing not analysis.  Although we have had access to big data for many years, most companies simply haven’t gotten their heads around how to work with it.  That’s going to become more and more critical as IoT devices start to appear in companies.
  2. Security is a huge issue with IoT devices that are still primarily designed for consumer use.  Most devices still transfer data over HTTP (even authentication data) and security has not been a priority.  The introduction of blockchain technologies such as the one IBM has developed is the best chance for having secure IoT devices but we’re not there yet.
  3. IoT is really the beginning of Industry 4.0 with 3.0 being “the internet” 2.0 being “the conveyor belt” and 1.0 being “steampower”.  Consider that your company is on the precipice of the beginning of the internet. You’ve heard of it, you wonder where it’s going to take you, you might be considering something called email.  Well IoT is going to change your business and give you the same kind of opportunities to leap ahead of your competitors as the Internet did.  This isn’t something you can choose to ignore.
  4. The technology might not yet be there but now is the time to consider how you would change your business processes if you could access any data and use it in any way.  Again, consider the changes in processes pre Internet and now.
  5. Being able to analyse data , redesign business processes on the fly and take action is all in the DNA of those of us who have worked for years in the ICS community.
    Data Analysis = WATSON
    Business Process Action = WATSON APIs

I will be presenting (hopefully with Chris) on this at Engage in Antwerp on May 9th. You can register for that here

Fidgets.. taps fingers.. waits for the pinkish hue..

Connections 6 including customisable communities and Orient Me – the first component of Connections Pink is due today.

Or this week.

Or in the next two weeks.

Or very soon at least.

Usually I’m not that desperate to be first in line but I am currently writing a presentation about integrating Verse on Premise with Connections and I really really want to write it using a new Connections 6 install….

C’MON!!!

My InterConnect & Where To Now

The post is purely my opinion.  It comes from love for my ICS community and excitement about what the future offers.  Your opinion may differ 🙂

InterConnect isn’t quite over, there’s still tomorrow but I feel confident I can write this blog now and I want to share it whilst the ideas are still bouncing around my head. At least some of the ideas. I don’t want to write pages here and I could.

A bit of background.  I went to Orlando as part of the ICS (IBM Collaboration Solution) conference for over 20 years and this year I went to Connect in San Francisco.  Then 4 weeks later three of us flew from London to Las Vegas to attend Interconnect.

I didn’t expect InterConnect to be anything like Connect.  Looking at the website and sessions it was clear this was on a very different scale. The number I heard was 20k people at InterConnect which was held at the Mandalay Bay convention centre.  Much as I enjoy Connect I remember the Lotuspheres of the mid 90s when the numbers of people were overwhelming, when there were more sessions to see than I could possibly fit in, when I would wander the showfloor for an entire afternoon just absorbing what was happening in the industry.  If I’m honest that feeling of excitement, or leaving the conference with my head bursting with things to learn had been missing the past few years.

I will say I left Connect this year more excited by the technology than I have been in years but it didn’t have the energy – the feeling of rushing along at the head of technological innovation and change that I remember from its heyday.  I have missed that.

What did I want from  InterConnect ?

I wanted to be inspired.  And maybe a bit overwhelmed.  I wanted my brain to spark with ideas.

I got all of that.

The first thing to realise is that sessions at InterConnect almost exclusively do not teach you how to do things, no how to write code or how to install or maintain things.  The sessions (IMO) are more intended to show you what can be done, what’s happening with different divisions of IBM and technologies.  Oh, and no-one knows who ICS is or cares about email or Domino or Collaboration.  I didn’t see , speak or hear about any of the ICS products all week.  So this isn’t about “our” technology directly and that’s fine – I know about that and there are many many great user groups every year I can attend for free that have sessions telling me “how’.   I will leave InterConnect having learnt about technologies and parts of IBM I had no idea existed and with a plan to go learn more.

None of those things move me away from ICS in fact I couldn’t help thinking how well our ICS community would understand and be able to bring value to these technologies.  I would see sessions on NoSQL and wish Mark Myers were there or on Blockchain and security and wish Andrew Pollack was there so I’d have someone to talk to about it, on data analysis and even storage.  I attended 6 sessions on Monday alone and not once, not once, was I bored. I could sit here right now and write abstracts for friends I know are amazing presenters on technologies that not only belong at InterConnect/WOW but that our community has a unique perspective on.  A best practices track at InterConnect is missing and we would rock that.

There’s also the issue of perspective. The ICS community in my opinion has closed in on itself in many ways, has become insular and narrow focused but being at InterConnect you can’t help see how small that world is compared to the rest of IBM. It’s just waiting for us to arrive and bring our skills, expertise and understanding of customers and collaboration. If you have left ICS to go work with other technologies in the past 5 years, those technologies are there at InterConnect/WOW and you don’t have to choose, you can combine existing knowledge with new knowledge in a way that I think is unique to those coming from a collaborative software background.

So where to now?  Well I can tell you that I’ll be at the next InterConnect (possibly World of Watson) and from discussions I had and heard this week, it’s unlikely Connect will be repeated as a standalone conference.  The general consensus is that Connect will be “rolled” into a large IBM Vegas based conference but possibly as a standalone pocket conference at its own hotel and with its own agenda just running alongside and with access to the larger conference.

I hate that idea.

HATE it 🙂

If it’s not clear from this long blog, I got so much out of InterConnect which gave me a chance to learn and hear about new things. I spent 4 hrs wandering the Concourse (show floor) talking to vendors, getting demos and visiting labs. So what would happen if ICS and all the ICS sessions were at say Caesers with InterConnect or WOW and only the keynotes at the Mandalay.

I’d never go to the Mandalay.  I’d miss all the InterConnect sessions.  And so would you.

If you have never been to Vegas it’s hard to understand scale but I averaged 7.5 miles walking a day just from my room at the Mandalay and around the conference centre.  It was only 4 mins from my room to the main reception but the size is Dolphin  + Swan.  Getting from Caesers to the front door of the Mandalay is at least 1.5miles. You could walk it or get in the queue for a taxi – either way you aren’t doing it to go to one session. Especially if all your friends are hanging out in the lobby or a bar at Caesers.

I think my ICS friends integrating into the existing InterConnect or WOW conference at the same location as everyone else could not only reinvigorate the community but save it.  

Don’t let IBM isolate ICS, let’s have a best practices “how to” track in Vegas at the Mandalay Bay and bring your skills, smarts and enthusiasm to a wider audience.

 

 

 

 

Watson Work Services – Connect Review #4

I know it’s a bit late in the day but I have a couple more things I want to talk about post Connect and with preparations for Interconnect and trying to tie up work before I go away – well these got pushed back.

Watson Work Services, what is it?  WWS (not sure if anyone else is using that acronym but let’s go with it) is not a product, it’s a platform. It is designed to connect to Watson’s APIs and leverage those for language, search, and data. The results can then be fed back to your application and used to trigger actions.  If you’ve seen Watson Workspace (formerly known as “Toscana”) then you might know that it is underpinned by Watson Work Services.   I stole this screenshot from Marc Pagnier’s presentation which I think explains the role WWS is intended to play.

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 23.37.37

So why is this good news? Well most of us have heard of IBM’s Watson efforts and understand some of the things Watson can do but for the majority the idea of accessing Watson’s APIs or applying its intelligence to our data appeared out of reach. I mean it’s not like you’re going to install Watson on site.  WWS gives any size company or even single developer access to those Watson APIs without installing anything on site and without investing a lot of money.  In fact WWS works within Bluemix and so your application, whether on premises or in the cloud, can call a query to WWS to feed it data and get results back you can then store and act on.  The cost is calculated in pennies each time you run a WWS query so , as an application designer, that is entirely within your control.   With that model you can easily and quickly experiment with integrating cognitive logic and intelligent behaviour into your applications.

To get started with WWS go to https://developer.watsonwork.ibm.com and to access example applications visit http://github.com/watsonwork . To stimulate  your creative brain here’s another screenshot I stole that shows some of Watson’s APIs and you can find out more about what they can do here Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 23.53.36

For a start we already have several ideas for our customers who generate a lot of data and would benefit from integrating  intelligent analysis and action triggers into their applications.

 

 

Benefits and Risks of a Single Identity

Below is my presentation from IBM Connect 2017.  I have added some speaker notes to the slides so if you were there in person, this looks slightly different but I wanted to offer some clarity to a few of the pages that were heavy with graphics.  If you were at Connect and saw this presentation I hope you found it useful.

I will next be presenting on the Internet Of Things in the Enterprise @ InterConnect in Las Vegas on March 22nd so a new topic for me and one I hope you’ll find interesting.  Personally I’m nervous – new location, new audience, new topic 🙂