Fianna Fail Hosting Outside Of Ireland

After our beloved (smell the sarcasm there?) leading government party decided to increases taxes last year the likes of Biffo and Brainless Lenihan called on us to be patriotic and not shop in Northern Ireland where we weren’t being ripped off.  So people like me who saved 30% on my recent camera bag purchase or those saving 50% on their food shopping are “Un-Irish” and hate our country eh?

The Irish times reported that Fianna Fáil’s new website is hosted in the USA.  What??? The party in government that’s telling us to buy in Ireland is spending a reported €12,000 a year outside of Europe while there are a number of perfectly capable 100% native hosting companies in Ireland.  Wouldn’t that be unpatriotic considering the above call by Brainless?  Is Biffo talking out of his backside?

Anyone who continues to excuse these people deserves everything they get.  I just wish they’d take the Greens (I’ve no time for a taxation party with no real solutions to offer) and Fianna Fail with them off to some God-forsaken island off the west coast and stay there while the rest of us try to bail ourselves out of the mess that Bertie and Biffo put us in.

Biffo and Brainless could look to Microsoft Ireland down in Sandyford for inspiration.  They’re actually doing a lot to help native Irish business get off the ground and running.  It sure beats saying one thing, doing another and looking after your buddies in the corrupt banking system.

If You Hit It Hard Enough

*Another rant – sorry!*

I grew up in rural Ireland, in a bog to be precise.  My secondary (junior high & high) school was 4 miles away so I used to get a minibus to and from every morning and evening.  It used to do two runs and I was usually on the second run after school.  That left us with an hour to kill every afternoon.  A few of us sometimes would go to the local pool hall to hang out.  One of the lads didn’t understand the concept of tactics.  He just used to strike the cue ball as hard as possible every single time.  We used to joke that his motto for life was “if you hit it hard enough then it’ll be alright”, e.g. if you crashed your car at 100MPH you’ll probably bounce to safety rather than dying at 60MPH.

Some people apply the same strategy to using a phone.  They call up with their caller ID turned off.  I’m in a meeting and can’t answer.  Instead of them leaving a voice mail (which they’re auto prompted to do) they “hit it harder” and call again.  I again reject the call because I’m still in a meeting.  They still don’t leave a voice mail.

Hello?!?!  You’ll actually get to talk to me if you (a) use caller ID and stop trying to hide and (b) leave a clear voicemail with your name, your number and explain why your calling.

HP Creating 500 jobs in Ireland

This news broke last week while I was working the TechDays events in Cork and Galway.  I was speaking to someone in HP afterwards and I was told that these would not be the “high skilled/high tech” jobs that politicians and lazy journalists cling to.  Instead, they are call centre jobs.  Ask any graduate the job they least want to do and it’s call centre work.  It’s not what they planned as their career choice – in fact, if they had a time travelling machine they’d probably change their college course if they knew they’d end up answering the phone after 4 years of college education.

But it is at least some bright spot of good news in a brutal economy.  For you non-Irish readers, we’re having a double economic disaster.  There is the global economic thing and there is also our own local meltdown too.  I heard 12% being mentioned as our unemployment rate at the moment on the TV this morning.

I’m left wondering what this call centre will be doing for HP.  Anyone who has dealt with HP’s India-based call centre has complained immediately afterwards.  HP has failed to get it right over there.  Strange because MS seems to have done a good job.  9 out of 10 times I deal with PSS in India I’m happy.  Maybe it’s a company attitude.  Of course, having a phone line that doesn’t crackle and where the volume of the phone line is decent too will help.  With any luck, HP will move their enterprise H/W support for EMEA to Ireland.

Dear Irish Government: Please Join Us In the 21st Century

[RANT WARNING]

I heard on the radio that one of our ministers, Martin Cullen (the dude responsible for buying the disastrous E-Voting machines that we’re paying to store because they can be neither used nor sold) was in a near helicopter accident.  You see, Martin wanted to travel 190KM (around 120 miles) from his native Waterford to Killarney to hang out with some bigwigs at a mini conference.  He didn’t want to drive because he wanted to attend a meeting in Dublin afterwards.

The Irish Aer Corps (our budget air force) provided the helicopter.  Our Aer Corps flies turboprop planes and very often the choppers are grounded because of the lack of spares to certify them.  It appears that when the chopper was in the vicinity of Killarney with our *insert sarcasm here* beloved minister and his secretary on board a door fell off!  The pilot managed to make an emergency landing without the minister falling out.  *insert more sarcasm here* What a relief!

Note: I have the greatest respect for our military.  On a very limited budget, equipment and with little fanfare or pay, they put their lives on the line for our nation while serving in peace keeping action in very dangerous places.  They don’t get the headlines or praise they deserve when they are involved in action.

Today we were told that unemployment in the Republic of Ireland has hit 10%, it will likely hit 500,000 by the end of the year (population of 5.9 million according to Wikipedia), the budget deficit is growing by billions and that there will be an emergency budget to raise taxes after a recent one in October.

Also in the papers today was the bill to the tax payer so Martin Cullen could have his little chopper flight: €8,000.  We already pay for this guy to have an S class Mercedes and a police driver.  And this is just Cullen.  Mary Harney has been doing this a lot, e.g. her trip to the beautician in Florida (“one miracle, please!”), her trip to the Superbowl last year (for cancer research?!?!?), etc.

What’s really getting me is that these guys have a “let them eat cake” attitude.  We saw how in the USA there was uproar in the press when the big 3 auto CEO’s flew on private jets to The Hill to beg for a tax payer bailout.  Why isn’t that happening here?

Cullen said that he needed to get to Dublin to have a meeting with another minister so he couldn’t drive.  What is this, 1930?

Please join us in the 21st century.  You can easily have a secure conversation using the myriad of technologies that are available right now with people who are even on different continents.  Let me introduce you to Unified Communications.  You can chat via instant message, phone and do video chats.  You can even interact with applications!  What’s more, all it costs you is an internet connection because you probably already have the licensing.  Imagine: no more expense to us tax payers when you need to talk to someone when physical presence isn’t important.  Wouldn’t that be more efficient?  Heck, I can even introduce you to an Irish company that specialises in this stuff.  If it’s good enough for private business then it must be good enough for a cowboy operation like the Irish government?

I’m begging someone in MS to make this sale.  I know you’d love to 🙂  MS is the only one in Ireland trying to help the small business.  Imagine if they were to also stop this waste by the Irish Government?  I think I’d have to write in Paul Rellis for a vote in the next election!!

[/END RANT WARNING]

Hmm, MS Ireland as our government?  It could be worse.  They are regularly selected as one of (if not the) best companies to work for in Ireland.  Employees seem happy there.  They get cheap X-Boxes and games in the company store.  My only concern would be that they might convert the outside lane on motorways and dual carriage ways into "Software Assurance only commuter lanes" 😉

VDI And How It Will Affect IT

I just read this:

“The increasing move to a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) could result in the disappearance of traditional 2nd line IT support  and force 3rd line teams … to embrace an increasingly customer-centric environment”.

I spoke about VDI last night and the impact it would have on IT.  I agree that VDI will have an impact but I’m not sure I agree that we’ll see 3rd line IT becoming more customer facing.  If you’re in 3rd line you do have a role to play when calls get escalated but I think we’ll see less IT involvement with the desktop and less of 3rd line interacting with the customer.

If we do things right then we’re trying to take IT out of the equation.  We’re that “delaying” factor in the business getting on with things.  That’s why I like SharePoint.  We can delegate admin rights to business (site and/or data) owners so they can decide who has what access.  Gone is the hassle with file shares where IT is left to decide who has what access (and we’re the worst people for that) or to try get someone to fill in paperwork (or InfoPath forms).

Take some like App-V on VDI.  You can automatically deploy new VM’s to new users.  Users sign in and go to a portal to request non-standard software.  The budget owner (non-IT) says “yay” or “nay” and the user gets their software.  If something breaks in the s/w the usual 1st line is called in.

I really think we’ll see users interacting with IT even less.  When they do have a problem they’ll deal with that 1st line.  The 2nd line probably be merged into the 1st line and have less work to do thanks to the automation.  I don’t see the 3rd line doing anything more than it was.

But this is all assuming people adopt automation.  I had to leave an interesting discussion on that subject last night to catch the last train home.  Ireland is pretty weird because IT automation just has not taken off here.  Some businesses deploy the software but never get much further than that.  I’ve seen systems like Unicenter and SMS just gather dust, wasting away while IT departments struggle with the problems that the systems would fix.  I suspect part of it is down to training, part of it is down to lack of interest by individuals and a good deal down to how the business undervalues IT and hires unsuitable skills for advanced engineering.

Management Lie and Everyone Is Replaceable – Oh, And Intel Ireland Lays Off Up To 300

Despite reassurances last month from directors, Intel Ireland announced that it will make between 200 and 300 people redundant.  They came out in the press last month and bare-faced said that this wouldn’t happen.  I wonder how long it takes a behemoth like Intel to decide to lay people off and which ones to select?  A month?  Two months?  More?  You can make up your own mind if Intel management lied or not.

I’ve been made redundant 3 times since 1996.  I’ve learned to smell when it’s coming.  I’ve even managed to avoid it by moving on before the axe started swinging.  In 2001 I was even being talked to about a promotion and a pay rise while the same managers were putting me on a list to cut.  I’ve learned that:

  • If business is down
  • If budgets disappear
  • If phrases like “tightening belts” are said

… all start happening then it’s time to get the CV/resume updated and out there.  Even if you’ve been in a company 10 or 20 years you shouldn’t bank on a redundancy package that’ll pay of your mortgage.  Those days are long gone.  Expect the statutory compensation package if you’re not a banker resigning because of a scandal.

Why do managers lie?  They need you to keep working so that the business can keep money coming in.  They’ll already have prepared your P45 (pink slip for tax) and reassure you.

That leads me on to the next point.  You might be thinking “they can’t get rid of me because I’m do critical stuff and the business needs me”.  I’m sorry to say, everyone is replaceable.  Business people do not value IT in general (not always true but usually true).  I’ve been that critical employee.  I designed and managed a network for an international finance company.  I knew it inside and out.  No one else came close.  We used bleeding edge technology to leverage automation, e.g. 3 of us managed ran 170+ servers.  The directors decided to swing the axe and all senior IT people went, to be replaced by some foreign contractors.  The other 2 in my team went a couple of months later.  Those contractors were to move everything abroad but 3 years later nothing has happened.  They hadn’t a clue.  In fact, I know that despite many efforts the business never really got to grips with the level of tech that we had deployed.  They spent a fortune on contractors and consultants.  They would have been better to keep us on and run things.  It’s not like we didn’t do an ace job.  We did and we were ahead of the business in offering solutions to anticipate the changes of strategy. 

The lesson here?  Non-IT people often see IT as an annoying cost centre, a plaything for geeks or worse, a step above the receptionist.  They often don’t appreciate that we build the foundations that can at least facilitate the business and if done right can make the business more efficient and competitive.

Did Intel do any of these?  I’m not saying that at all.  Like I’ve already said: you can make up your own mind.  Am I cynical?  Am I paranoid?  Funny story … a buddy who I’ve worked with and been made redundant with twice before once said I was paranoid.  The first time, I had already cleared my desk and packed my bag before we were given the news.  The second time, I’d already figured it out 2 weeks before hand.  He doesn’t think that anymore.

GWB got it wrong so here’s the right version: Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.

Microsoft’s Department For Renaming Things

Apologies in advance, the weekend is nearly here and my brain is shutting down.

Every 2 to 3 years we have the opportunity to have a big ol’ belly laugh at Microsoft as they come up with new names for old things.  You can’t have Software-as-a-Service; it’s got to be Software+Services (yeah they’ll give you an explanation why but come on!).  The world had heard of VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) and then MS comes out with VECD (Vista EntersomethingortotherI’mfalling asleeptypingthis).  Strangely, there’s a VDI Connection Broker in Windows Server 2008 R2.  I wonder if they’ll call it VECDCB or would that be W7ECDCB?  Then there’s Windows NT Workstation -> Windows 2000 Professional – Windows XP (the eXPerience) all the way down to Windows Vista.  Vista?  Yeap, lots of people claimed to have a new outlook on Windows after that one.  Bad joke … I know.  I like Vista for the most part but it was too much change for most businesses and end users with too little benefit.  Now they’ve sort of reversed course and we have Windows 7.  That’ll be followed by something like Windows Visão 🙂

There’s one well known speaker who has joked about a department of people living under a stairs or in a basement in Redmond whose only job is to come up with new names.  Once we’ve gotten used to a name *BANG* it’s changed.

I’ve been working a lot with a Windows Server 2008 cluster over the last 4 or 5 months.  To ben honest, it was so easy that I could set it up and manage it after seeing a few demos.  I didn’t need to read any documentation.  I was perusing the web and then I noticed something.  The quorum disk is no longer referred to as a "quorum" by MS any more.  Huh!?  When you use the Windows Failover Cluster (there we go again!) MMC you will manage your witness disk by accessing "Configure Cluster Quorum Settings".

We’ve heard over the last 24 hours that MS are letting some people go, some of which are in Ireland.  I hope it’s none of the good folks I’ve worked with over the last few years.  I really hope MS aims at the department for renaming things and takes aim at them.

HP’s 9 Data Centre Trends in 2009

HP’s community blog has a post on what they think will be hot in 2009.

  1. Power: We all got stung by the increased power costs in 2008.  As usual, when oil went up, power costs immediately went up.  When oil costs came down, power costs stayed up.  Unfortunately, that’s the trend for the ongoing future.  We need to get more out of every watt we consume.  In Ireland we saw a little bit of marketing efforts about IT power consumption last year.  I think power consumption will become a decision making factor in 2009.  I know in 2008 we were doing that, we went with one model of Cisco switch over another because of it.  We went with blade servers because of it.  And we deployed machine virtualisation because of it.
  2. TCO: "Total Cost of Ownership" is one of those annoying consulting phrases from the mid-nineties.  It’s back.  Things like cloud computing and software-as-a-service have brought TCO back into play.  We’re re-thinking about the need to own and manage a server(s) because we need an accounting system.  Why build a power station in your back yard when you just want to turn on a light in the kitchen?
  3. Capacity Planning: Money is tight and those people who are deploying systems want to deploy them right, first time.  They don’t want a machine that’s over-spec’ed or a solution that needs to be re-engineered because it’s not up to scratch.  Microsoft has made some efforts with System Center Capacity Planner.  I recently mentioned the volume sizing tool for DPM 2007.  You should have a look at my posts for Hyper-V on RAM sizing and LUN sizing too.  Beware of dealing with service providers where you only get to talk to salesmen.  There’s absolutely zero capacity planning going on when you deal with them.
  4. Packaged Infrastructure: I think HP are selling things like pre-built blades/storage/clusters here.  I’ll agree with it.  Buying in a pre-built solution is much easier than buying servers from A, racks from B and storage from C, only to find incompatibilities, missing components and engineers saying "they’re responsible for that, not us".  Again, you might want to look at managed server hosting where all of this is taken care of for you.
  5. Unified is hot: Welcome back to the mid-nineties 🙂  Back then we used to hear about things like CA Unicenter as being the unified solution for managing an IT infrastructure.  I consulted on that stuff and it was good, as long as you loved patching … every week and on every machine starting directly after installing the software to get core functionality working *exhausting*.  People got burned and along came open source.  Then the point solution was the buzz.  We’re back again at unified solutions.  We have HP servers, SAN fabric and storage and it definitely works out better than a jumble.  The integration makes us flexible …. fungible even (thanks Dave for that word!).  We have integrated management thanks to Microsoft System Center, e.g. health and performance from OpsMgr and virtualisation from VMM.  That’s all tied together using Active Directory.  For h/w management I have one interface.  For everything else, I have System Center.
  6. Performance per sq ft, per dollar per watt is HOT.  Moore’s Law is NOT:  Agreed.  For 90% of servers, a single 4 core CPU is more than enough.  We’re all about getting more from less now.  For load balanced servers we can get more out of running fewer machines with x64 operating systems.  We can consolidate servers using virtualisation.  Space and power are expensive so we want to cut those costs.  Even now when we don’t have money, we can probably justify the cost of a virtualisation project by the reductions in space and power.
  7. DAS is hot, SAN is not:  Yes and No.  There’s two ways to look at this.  If you know that you have limited and predictable storage requirements then DAS is the way to go.  However, if you need large scale or unlimited growth storage then SAN is the only choice.  I’ve looked at the cost per GB of DAS VS SAN.  DAS for small amounts is cheaper for the purchase but more expensive per GB than SAN as time goes by.  DAS also eliminates server flexibility.
  8. Virtual infrastructure is HOT.  Virtual machines are NOT: 100% agreed.  I think I read somewhere that Gartner said that the real challenge with virtualisation is the management of it.  With virtualisation everything becomes intangible.  Virtual machines are files on a disk.  Virtual networks are settings in software.  This is why we went with Hyper-V.  Virtual Machine Manager 2008 gives fantastic centralised management.  It ties in with OpsMgr 2007 SP1 to give us top-bottom and cradle-grave management of the entire network, regardless of whether I’m dealing with virtual machines, virtual networks, physical machines, services, applications, hardware, storage or physical networking.
  9. Dynamic Core Utilisation: The days of one application – one processor are over.  Virtualisation has made sure of that.  Are you one of those people who has a dedicated anti-virus server, a dedicated WSUS server, etc?  You should have a look at virtualisation now.  MS is planning some really cool improvements with Core Parking to take this to the next level so that unused loads don’t consume resources.  VMware does a nice job with VI3 too.

The Internet Is Doomed?

As you may know, the Internet exists purely because of the pornography industry *tongue in cheek*.  They’re the folks who drove multimedia, the ever increasing demand for bandwidth and push cash flow across the net.  There may actually be some grains of truth in this!

It turns out that the global recession has hit that industry where it hurts … the bank account.  I just saw on Sky News that Larry Flynt (played by Woody Harrelson in the movie) is seeking a $5 billion bailout from Congress in the USA. 

What will happen to the Internet if it’s driving force goes to the wall?  🙂  Eircom will finally have an excuse for being slow about rolling out upgrades.

Dell Transferring 1900 Jobs From Ireland To Poland

I’ve talked about this before on my blog.  In fact, I’ve been telling people this would happen since 2001 when I learned about Dell recruiting for staff to work in a new huge plant in eastern Europe.  Last year we heard rumours about Dell trying to sell their Limerick manufacturing plant.  And in the last few weeks we heard Dell corporate was having meetings about the subject of laying off 2000 Irish employees.  Of course, we had all the usual nice reaffirming promises from the government.

This morning, Dell Limerick called their staff to meetings.  In the last few minutes we heard that 1900 staff are being laid off.  Their jobs are being transferred to a plant in Lodz, Poland.  The transition will run between April and November of this year.  Dell said in a statement:

"Dell will migrate all production of computer systems for customers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) from Limerick to its Polish facility and third-party manufacturing partners over the next year.

Dell’s employees in Limerick will continue to coordinate EMEA manufacturing, logistics and supply chain activities across a range of functions including product development, engineering, procurement and logistics.  The company’s Global Innovation Solutions Centre and EMEA Command Centre will remain in Limerick. Dell continues its significant sales, marketing and support activities in Cherrywood, Dublin".

On the news yesterday we heard that in Limerick and the area, 15 people’s jobs rely on each job in Dell.  That’s a 1-15 impact.  1900 people just lost their jobs.  That’s 28,500 who will be affected if you believe that ratio.

I honestly don’t blame Dell or Poland for this.  I would safely bet that a huge percentage of their staff in Ireland are actually Polish.  Why hire Polish people in Ireland when you can hire them in Poland?  You pay them less, they have a relatively better standard of living and they’re happier being with friends and family.  Also, it’s easier and cheaper to ship packages across continental Europe from Poland via road/train than it is via lorry/ferry/lorry from Ireland.

Who do I blame?  Our government.  The cost of living in Ireland rocketed out of control over the last 12 years.  This has been driven by taxation, bending to the will of the construction/finance industries and costs associated with booming levels of wasteful administration and projects in the civil and public services, for example:

  • We have 2 health departments.
  • The PPARS project which is a 12+ years long SAP deployment that still doesn’t work.
  • E-Voting where every IT person in the country said the system was unusable and the machines have been in expensive  environmentally controlled storage ever since.
  • A ridiculous E-Ticketing system project that has cost over 30 million so far and it’s still only a concept.  Strangely, cities like Munich and Amsterdam have the same thing with a strip of paper and no computers.
  • Increasing public transport costs so they now cost more than using a car and paying for parking.
  • Increasing VAT (sales tax) recently when every other country has cut it to restart their economies.  Northern Ireland did well out that as seen by the 3+ our traffic jams around Newry caused by cars from the Republic.

We all know that the 3 major causes of inflation in this country have been government, housing and greedy distributors.  Want proof of the latter?  Price any electronics item in Ireland and deduct tax.  Travel up north (also on our island and subject to the same shipping costs) and compare the price.  To be fair, use a conversion rate of 1-0.70 to use sterling/euro conversion rates from before Sterling’s instability.  You’ll see that it’s much cheaper to live up North, heck anywhere!

The job scene for IT people in Ireland isn’t as good as it was.  Now there are 1900 more people on the market.  They may be manufacturing or junior IT staff but the effect of them job hunting will ripple up the chain.  I’m sure that our Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) will be on the news within the hour promising studies, retraining, etc.  Well she can go get stuffed with the rest of her waster buddies in the cabinet.

My sympathies go out to the people and families affected by today’s news.