Tuesday Aug 21, 2012

Worth the Money?

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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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Monday Jul 23, 2012

My First Impression of Oracle University's On Demand Training

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I live in abject fear of lectures. I spent 12 years in and old fashioned Catholic School, complete with full uniform and wooden paddles. The first 8 years were a futile attempt to civilize me. During the remaining four years, the main thing I learned was how to sleep with my eyes open. And college wasn't much better. I don't know how I finished. I'm not even sure I finished. Instead, give me a few scraps of metal, a blow torch, and let me figure it out.

So when the folks from Oracle University offered to let me take one of their On-Demand online courses, I raised an eyebrow. Me? Are you sure? Maybe you should talk to Sister Mary Shackles, my high school principal.

But I decided to give it a try. After all, I am now a contributing member of society. I can probably pay attention for a few minutes without screaming. Holy Moly was I surprised. Hold still whilst I elucidate ...

Oracle University's Transition to Oracle Solaris 11 On-Demand Training - Course Format

Eric Siglin, the instructor, looked like he could head-butt me into the next building. If he'd been my high school principal I might have done better. Mister Siglin, which is how I'll refer to him so I remain in his good graces, has a background in Oracle Database, Solaris, Linux, and Oracle's Database Machine. Not bad.

Once you register for the course, you land in a dashboard of sorts that has three parts:

Selectable course outline

This one's pretty straightfoward ... a list of the course segments, and you can jump back and forth between them.

High-def video screen

Mister Siglin has a wicked black Fu-Manchu/white beard combo. And in full screen mode the resolution is good enough to verify that it's not a fake. When he needs to show you a screen, Mister Siglin simply replaces the video with a shot of the screen, and sometimes shows up live in the right corner of the screen.

As with those superbike crash compilations videos that I enjoy watching so much on YouTube, you can expand the window to full screen.

Scrolling Text Window

Below the screen is a scrolling text window that highlights the words as Mr Siglin speaks them. Reminds me of the Sing-Along-With-Mitch programs on American TV. You can turn off this feature with the little red lock icon a the top right of the text box, though I can't imagine why.

This is too cool: if you want to go back and review a portion of the lecture, you can click on the text below the window, and the video rewinds to the part where the instructor, Mister Siglin, spoke that word. And it advances normally from there.

But wait! There's more. Enter a word into the search window, and the progress bar indicates where in the recording Mister Siglin has said that word. Click on the indicator, and the video rewinds to that spot. Along with the scrolling text, of course. Unless you're the kind of guy who turns off the cool scrolling text. You probably pay for your fast food with small coins, don't you?

Course Content

As cool as all those bells and whistles are, the best part is the content. Here's an example of Mister Siglin's introductory comments.

"We are assuming that you have some prior Solaris experience coming in here, because we're going to address what's new with Solaris. We're going to talk about the image packaging system. Now, the image packaging system reminds me an awful lot of what we have in the Linux environment. The automated installer, which is a replacement for Jumpstart...

"Plus, we're also going to come up with some ideas to help it make it easier for you to transition from Solaris 10 to Solaris 11...

"So we're going to look at managing the software packages in Solaris 11. And that's going to continue perhaps until tomorrow. That's one of the nice things about having a small group like this one, that makes our schedule a little more flexible. So then we're going to talk about enhancements to the installation process. We have a couple of different ways of looking at that, because the installer's been improved. We have several options. And then we're going to get into Solaris Zones. We're going to take a look at what is new with the Solaris Zones, new with networking, especially since we're dealing with a lot more virtualization. And then on the last day, we're going to get into storage enhancements. There are some major enhancements with ZFS, for example. We're going to address those. And then the security enhancements that are in this version of Solaris.

If you get a minute ...

In a couple of weeks I'll tell you what I think about what I've been learning. Till then, here's another motorcycle crash video. And, for those of you who have not surrendered the romance in your soul to the rigors of keeping an IT shop humming, here's another enthusiastic sing-a-long from Mitch.

- Rick

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Contributors:
Rick Ramsey
Kemer Thomson
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