Tuesday Aug 21, 2012

Worth the Money?


Learning a new technology really is the modern equivalent of doing the Ulysees thing in Homer's Odyssey. If you're the person who has to actually deploy the darned thing. And keep it running.

First, you have to wade through the marketing designed to mesmerize your boss ...

The eData Cloud-Optimized Storage Environment solution increases the adaptability of scalable business continuity while protecting infrastructure integrity optimized for the demands of reliability, availability, and security expressly designed for the unique requirements of the data center while enhanced for today's particular, unique, and demanding enterprise challenges. In a heterogenous computing environment.

So you shake your head vigorously in the hope that most of those words will fall out your ears, and go to the documentation, which is wicked, wicked useful. Once once you have a good idea of what you want to do. But frustrating as hell when you're not sure what you're supposed to be doing. Or why.

The technical articles that OTN publishes help a lot, but they don't give you the complete picture, do they? You wind up knowing how to do some really cool things, but not having a clue how to do others. Or worse: not knowing if there are other things you need to know.

So you go to the forums. And ask a question. OTN's forums are pretty good, but even in our forums you might not get an answer. And you might develop a lasting relationship with somebody born in San Quentin Prison who dedicates himself to stalking you for the rest of his life for wasting 18 seconds of his precious time.

We're all used to this, and repeat it hundreds of times throughout the year.

But wouldn't it be nice to learn something the easy way? Just once? Have somebody who really knows what they're talking about give us the complete picture? First at the high level so we get to see all the pieces and finally understand what it is we're dealing with. That alone is almost priceless. But also in full detail, so we know how to actually install, deploy, manage, and update a technology. From end to end. Because we've done it ourselves. More than once.

For me, that would be Christmas in August. The catch for most sysadmins nowadays is that there just isn't enough time to take a class. You can't get away from the office long enough without the place burning down. Which is why Oracle University came up with its on-demand format. Here's one example:

On Demand Training: Transition to Oracle Solaris 11

Like the average sysadmin, I have little to no free time during my work week. So I can't sign up for a week-long class. And even if I did, I wouldn't pay attention half the time because I'd be answering emails, IM's, and phone calls. So this on-demand format really works for me. Plus, the content is really good. An example of how the instructor sets the context for the new installation tools in Oracle Solaris 11, with just a few words:

"Now, speaking of Solaris installations, we have essentially three different ways that we can install this. We have the automated installer. Now, the automated installer is the replacement for JumpStart. The idea here is we're installing across the network. We have a manifest that lists what component should get installed. We have client profiles that say OK, these are the clients that should get the software.

"Then we have a couple of different interactive installation options. We have a LiveCD. Now, LiveCD is designed for the desktop environment. It has a GUI environment. So for those of you that are dealing with installations that are going to happen on a desktop or notebook computers, generally, you're going to do a LiveCD installation of that. Then we have the text installer. That's typically what you're probably used to in server deployments where it's a text-based interface where you're answering the questions to install the operating system so that you're not having to worry about the resources of a graphical environment."

If you're wondering why I'm blogging about this course on OTN Garage (again), it's simple: I'm taking the course right now, in between my other work, and I'm freakin' loving it! In my case, Oracle is paying for it. But after decades of trying to learn this technology on my own --with access to Oracle's engineers, mind you-- even if Oracle didn't pay for it, I'd be awfully tempted to stop buying motorcycles and pay for it myself. Just for the peace of mind. For the relief of being certain that I know what I'm talking about.

If the link above doesn't work for you, try this one.

- Rick

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Wednesday Aug 01, 2012

Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean…

KeyholeWhile I’m a passionate computer user–recognized within my family and circle of friends as a reigning (or at least old) geek–I spend at least as much time warning people to be careful as I do showing them the cool things they can do with their computers. I’m shocked at the widespread complacency over computer and network security and privacy: we should all be afraid. Very afraid. I only need remind you of recent security breaches with LinkedIn and Dropbox!

I have been in the business of publishing systems best practices for over a decade: security has been a keystone topic all those years. The good news is that high levels of security can be achieved: you just have to be smart about it. With a few exceptions, security isn’t something we actually sell, because it is dominated by relatively unglamorous concepts, processes, and practices, not extra hardware and software.

Because of this, security experts often find themselves trying to teach really fundamental (and after-the-fact, obvious) concepts. For example, in building a secure environment, you want to make sure your platform fulfills four important points:

  • It must be able to prevent or minimize the damage caused from both accidental and malicious actions. This is referred to as survivability.
  • It provides a layered set of defenses exist so that secure operations continue even after a vulnerability or the failure of a single security control. This is referred to as defense in depth.
  • It provides only those services that are absolutely necessary to the function or user. This is referred to as least privilege.
  • It is critical to be able to detect and report a breach. This is referred to as accountability.

We just posted an important article, written by three security experts I have worked with for a long time: Best Practices for Securely Deploying the SPARC SuperCluster T4–4. In building a solution that will survive a world of sophisticated cyber-criminals, it is more important than ever to pick the correct hardware and software platform. This article gives you a crash course in the things to consider, and explanation of the special features of the SPARC SuperCluster T4–4 that will make your job of creating a secure environment easier, and (most importantly) how to go about putting things together.

This is a big and important topic. Once you have digested this “Reader’s Digest” article, I’m confident that you’ll want to look at the references listed at the end. Now is the time to get smart about security.



Logan Rosenstein
and members of the OTN community


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