Monday Feb 28, 2005

CEC Final Morning

Monday morning was the final half-day of the Sun Customer Engineering Conference. We rounded out this morning with two breakout sessions and some time chatting with Scott McNealy. The breakouts I made this morning were particularly good. I started with Liane Praza giving a talk about SMF for Administrators. SMF is one of the particularly powerful new sets of features in Solaris 10 and Liane gave a great presentation on how all the pieces fit together. I can see a lot of promise for ISVs integrating their application software with SMF for higher levels of availability. One question that came to mind is "what sort of applications would be well served by having their own custom delegated restarter?" One possible area I thought of would be telco network applications. These sorts of apps often require special processing and go to great lengths to provide very high levels of reliability. Maybe having a delegated restarter based on the particular types of transactions, these core network apps could provide even higher levels of reliability. My second breakout was another view of server consolidation, this one being a session on lessons learned through an internal project to move internal applications to consoldiated environments using zones. One thing that comes out over and over is that no matter the server consolidation approach being used, planning and operational maturity are the key components to a successful deployment. One interesting comment from this session is that the group doing the deployment felt like they could make better progress and show positive ROI more quickly by approaching things in small, achievable chunks - 20-30 apps at a time, rather than a huge enterprise-wide analysis and deployment. We finished out the morning with a presentation by Scott McNealy, with a pretty good question and answer session. Like Jonathan's, Scott's talk is always a highlight of this event. I believe that the senior executives at Sun really value the contribution, and understand the significance of the contribution, of the technology organizations in the field. All in all, this was a great event. I'm definately heading home with a big list of things to try to work on in my _copious spare time._ There are so many gems hidden down in Solaris that deserve attention so that I can share them with my customers. It's sort of like the guy who works at the hardware store. He has to know from his own experience the basics of what he sells, but he also has to know from study and listening to other customers what all of the other mysterious and arcane items he might have in stock do and how to use them. Now, time to move to meeting two - OS Ambassadors for most of the rest of the week. That's always an exciting meeting. But for both of these, you end up tired! As invigorated as I always am after the meetings, I am also glad to get home!

Sunday Feb 27, 2005

CEC Day 2

Day Two of the CEC is Sunday, 2/27. Like other days, we begin with general sessions, but I missed the early ones. I "cut class" and went to church at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church. Great service and I am glad that I went. More about that later. Finally got to the CEC in time to hear Andy Bechtolsheim and John Fowler's general session about where Sun is going with Opteron servers. David Yen, EVP of Sun's Scalable Systems Group, explained how CMT works and where Sun is going with our upcoming CMT systems. Right after lunch, I had the second round of my BART presentation. Pretty good turnout, I think. Probably about 35 people. BART is one of those little gems in Solaris that people overlook. After my talk, I caught several good talks this afternoon. First one was on the new way that Sun will distribute updates for Solaris 10. This looks to be a real improvement over the current tools and practices. The second talk was on metering and accounting resource usage for utility computing, aka in this case chargeback. The key here is extended accounting and its ability to report usage by task, project, or zone. Exacct is something that I have been intending to look more closely at for a while. Now, I think it's time to do that. Third talk was about the Fault Manager in Solaris 10 given by Mike Shapiro. The more I look at FMA and hear the plans for this, the more impressive this technology is. One more half day tomorrow morning, finishing up with a visit with Scott McNealy. Last year at CEC, Scott (like Jonathan this year) was very open with us. I'm looking forward to that. But, CEC is only the first part of the week for me. Tuesday to Thursday, the OS Ambassadors, a group of roughly 50 Solaris specialists worldwide , will meet or a short mini-conference. We are taking advantage of the fact that most of us are in town for CEC to catch up for a few days. So, looks like a busy week, too.

CEC Day 1

Each day at the CEC start with general session, presentations from the leaders and executives at Sun. This gives all of us the opportunity to hear what is the execs are saying to customers and what they are up to. This morning, we started out with our hosts, Dr. Jim Baty, CTO of the Client Solutions organization, and Hal Stern, CTO of Client Network Services. Next up, Bob MacRitchie, Executive VP of Global Sales, and Marissa Peterson, EVP for Client Network Services, gave us an update on the state of the union from their vantage point. The highlight of the morning was a very open and candid question and answer session with Jonathan Schwartz. Someone wrote in a blog not to long ago, and I aplogize for forgetting the author, that one of the really great things about being at Sun is the freedom to speak your mind and ask the tough questions up and down the line. The group of folks here at the CEC are the engineers who are with customers every day, who see the ultimate effects of decisions made at the top levels of the company. And this group is anything but shy. Jonathan gave us a very brief talk about where he sees Sun, what the company's priorities are, and where we are going. Then, in a move not many company presidents would do, he opened the floor to an hour of honest question and answer in a room filled with 3000 opinionated engineers. Jonathan met every question head on. He didn't dodge or discount anyone's opinion. In fact, he often amplified the feelings expresses, saying that he had hear that same issue from other people, from other customers. And he validated people's feelings, letting us know that he has had many of the same frustrations as we in the field face. He talked honestly about what has gone into many difficult decisions over the last few years. He talked honestly about where we and our produces have been and where we are going. I've been at Sun for a long time, and it's things like this that keep me here and keep me excited and optimistic about being at Sun. I'm as opinionated as the next guy, and I have my own ideas about what's good and bad at Sun, but when our top executives talk to us honestly, it really makes me glad to be here. Break Out Sessions The big problem at the CEC is the fact that there are so many sessions that look like they will be really good and so little time. You have to pick and choose carefully. You have to move quickly and be aggressive to get into the most exciting talks. I tried to get into the talk on Sun's new Update Manager, the new mechanism for delivering patches and system updates. But every seat, every spot along the wall was filled and another dozen people were crowded around the door trying to hear the talk. I guess I have to get the slides for that on. I got to hear Claire Giordano talk about Open Solaris and all that we are doing there. This is a talk I have heard before, but I find it valuable to hear the conversation around Open Solaris. After all in the open source world, it often is as much about the conversation as it is about the source. As soon as Claire's talk was over, the doors burst open and hundreds of folks rushed in to try to get seats. Turns out the next presentation in that room was Andy Bechtolsheim, Sun badge number 1. Everyone wants to hear what he is up to. Next up was Grand Holland and Ed Turner, a couple of local Atlanta guys, talking about a project they have been working on called Service Configuration and Deployment Engine. This is a pretty cool effort to glue together packages and processes in the deployment and management of services and servers. I mostly wanted to see this since I've loaned a rack of gear in the Atlanta lab to Grant's team and I've wondered what they are doing. It's always fun to hear these guys. Grant is so wicked smart, and someone always asks a question that sets him to thinking of a whole new set of opportunities, that it's always a good show. The last talk I saw on Saturday was about the Solaris on x86 boot process. Like many sessions, this was packed. Everyone knows all about how SPARC systems boot, but many of us are just becoming familiar with the ins and outs of BIOS and x86 boot process. For the last session of the day, it was time for me to give my talk on BART. I had a pretty good crowd, but certainly not SRO. BART is the basic audit & reporting tool in Solaris 10. It's a simple tool that allows you to detect any changed files on a system. Pretty full day for sure.

Saturday Feb 26, 2005

Customer Engineering Conference - Day 0

Arrived in San Francisco early in the day on Friday for CEC2005. This first day (well, zeroth day) of the CEC is really just to get folks here, get reacquainted with folks you've not seen in a while. We had a short session on "The State of the Union" where each of the organizations involved in the CEC had a chance to meet with its leadership and get an update on what's going on. For my group, Client Solutions, this was particularly interesting, being a new organization this year. At the last Network Computing launch event and Analyst Conference, Chris Ostertag, Sr. VP for Client Solutions, introduced this organization to the analyst community. CSO is the result of bringing together the field-based presales engineering team with the professional services delivery team. This is a pretty major and far-raching undertaking. So, for the CSO State of the Union, each of the heads of the various disciplines gave a brief update on and make sure it matches the voice coming from the trenches. Spent the rest of the evening at the Welcome reception, reconnecting with folks. The best part of a big, worldwide event like this is getting to network with people that you don't often see, otherwise. Seems like everyone I talked to is finding huge interest from their customers in Solaris 10. Lots of us who work in that space are moving from spending our time introducing Solaris 10 to doing more in-depth engagements to talk about how exactly a customer might move forward with a consolidation effort using zones, or might use DTrace to optimize an application, or might take advantage of the Service Management Facility for better application management on their systems. Rounded out the day with a bit of planning for the rest of the weekend. Sessions kick of for real at 8:00 AM on Saturday morning. There are hundreds of breakout sessions given by my peers. One of the good things about the new Client Solutions organization is that new job roles help focus which sessions will be most useful. I'm now focused on Solaris and smaller servers. While I still think big servers are cool, I can skip those and narrow my focus a little. Even so, there are still far more sessions than I can attend. Luckily, I think we are recording sessions so I can catch them later on. At the very least, I can get the slides. My tentative list of topics that I want to see today has been narrowed down to: \* Volume Server Performance Analysis \* OpenSolaris \* Sun's New Update Manager \* Compliance - Technical view of Lifecycle Management \* Reducing Service time with the Diagnistic Boot CD \* A Basic Introduction to Reliable Computing \* New & Upcoming Server Hardware \* DTrace - This is Clive King and Jon Haslam. Definately don't want to miss it! \* The Solaris x86 boot process \* Transitioning NIS to LDAP and Issues \* Performance monitory for Solaris on SPARC, Solaris on X86, and Linux \* Solaris 10 Service Management Facility \* Trusted Solaris - Simple, Powerful Security \* BART - Basic Audit Reporting Tool \* Report on Sun's internal POC with Zones and Solaris 10 From that big list, I think I get to pick 5 if I want to stay the whole session. More on what I see later.

Saturday Feb 19, 2005

Customer Engineering Conference 2005

CEC 2005Sun's annual CEC conference is coming up next weekend. A couple thousand Sun engineers from around the world will get together in San Francisco for this event. This is the main event for Sun engineers from the field to share what we are doing, what we have learned, what works well, neat tricks of the trade, etc. Engineers who work in service, in sales, and in delivery all present at the CEC. A number of us will be blogging from the CEC about the papers we see, what we learn, etc. I'll try to give an account of all I see. I hope that Clive King and Jon Haslam are presenting on DTrace again. They were hands down the best talk I saw last year. These guys get nearly as excited about DTrace as Bryan does! I'll be presenting on \*BART, the Basic Audit Reporting Tool\*. BART allows you to detect changes in groups of files and filesystems over time. One obvious (and intended) use is to alert the administrator to any unintended changes to key files, whether malicious or not. So, watch this space for new reports coming from the conference.

Sunday Jan 16, 2005

Team Meeting in Newark This Week

I'm part of the Solaris x86 and Volume Server practice within US Client Solutions. You might have seem some of the other folks talking about CSO in their posts. This is a new organization this year designed to bring together the technical folks in the field responsible for both pre-sales and delivery of solutions. This team is made up of about 25 folks spread across the US. I've been part of distributed groups before, but never a national group like this. I've probably met less than half of my co-workers so far. This coming week, we will all get together at the Sun campus in Newark, CA for the first time. I'm looking forward to finally putting a face to the voices from our team calls. It's funny. For every change like this new team and organization, there are always pluses and minuses. It's good to be part of a team focused around such cool technology as Solaris. But moving to a nationwide team rather than a local team does seem to force some extra effort to build a team out of a bunch of dispersed folks. This is one of those cases, I think, that this will work, though. We've got the coolest product going as our focus. I think the only downside here is that it's going to take more than the 25 of us to handle all of the projects that our customers will come up with.

Wednesday Jan 12, 2005

How did you get here?

Several other folks have commented on their tracking of the Blog Referers. I guess it's maybe a little conceited to see all the ways that folks come upon your page, but it is great fun! My trouble is I don't seem to be around at the right time to check it at the end of the day. I'm wondering if there is a way with Roller that we can access the logs for more than a single day, whether on the page or through some other means? Anyone know?

Tuesday Oct 26, 2004

Solaris Boy on Tour



Here at Sun, engineers in the field - pre-sales, professional services, even some support services - have specialty programs called Ambassadors.  I've been an OS Ambassador for about 10 years.  Every time a new Solaris release comes around, we get extra busy.  This year, I'm spending a huge amount of time as "Solaris Boy", giving presentations and workshops around the South on Solaris.  The last few weeks, I've talked in Birmingham, Memphis, Knoxville, Atlanta (lots of times), Redmond WA.  I'm planning a swing through Florida soon.

Seems like everyone wants to hear about Solaris.   Solaris Containers always gets the biggest share of the excitement.  It certainly is cool.  And simple.  Zones let you isolate your workloads for whatever reason you might have.  You might want to delegate administration, restrict access to parts of the system, share the system between different organizations.  You choose. 

But, in a world where there are so many things in life that are over-sold and under-delivered, it seems like parts of Solaris are under-sold and over-delivered.  That is, they are extremely powerful, but often overlooked.  Little things that make your life easier.  Like RBAC, or User Rights Management as it's called in Solaris 10.  RBAC is like sudo on steroids.  Give out root capabilities on a very restricted basis to whomever needs it, but don't give out root password.  Combine it with Solaris audit capability to track who does what.  In these days of Sarbanes-Oxley, this is a big deal.  No extra add-on products, just regular old Solaris.

And you don;'t have to look far to find more examples. 

By the way, I am sure others have mentioned this already, but there is a nice, free, web-based training class from SunEd on New Features in the Solaris 10 Operating System. This is cool!  SunEd training prior to the release of the OS.  There's also a 5-day instructor-led class on Solaris 10 system administration and a 2-day DTrace class. 

Sign up early and often!
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