Back in Las Vegas for HP Discover 2012

May 27th, 2012 at 9:39 PM  1 Comment

I will be back in Las Vegas for HP Discover this year.  The conference runs June 4th – 7th and I am really excited to jump in and get more information about the direction HP is going, especially when it comes to networking.  I went to InterOP a few weeks ago to learn more about HP Networking post the 3Com merger, but I didn’t get to spend as much time as I would have liked to learning about their new developments.  Since I was in Houston learning about HP Gen8 Servers I arrived Tuesday late evening so I missed the first full day of the show.

I last attended HP Discover (then called HP Tech Forum) back in 2010 and it was an awesome event.  This years show will features keynotes by IT thought leaders, the HP Discover Zone (what HP calls the expo floor), and 800+ business and technical sessions.

  • Go in-depth on Nonstop, HP-UX, OpenVMS, Storage. There will be 25+ Hands-on Labs available at the conference. Labs are longer than regular breakouts, so you have time to dive into the details.
  • See the complete ecosystem of HP and partner solutions for enterprise business, all in one place at the same time.
  • Get 5 free certification exams worth $875.

If you haven’t already signed up for HP Discover your time is running short.  It is one week from Monday!  I have been given the opportunity to extend a $300 discount if you use the promotion code “BLOG“.  Along with this discount, I also get entered into a contest to win a free trip to any HP event, as well as a couple of laptops.  So, if you sign up, not only do you get to go to HP Discover and hang out with cool people like me, but most importantly, you will also be helping me win a trip to another HP event!

All joking aside,  I hope to see you there.  I will be covering the event live via twitter and posting about what i find interesting.

:Shakes Fist at Citrix:

May 27th, 2012 at 2:59 PM  No Comments

It never fails.  Nice long relaxing weekend planned and what do I get?  Calls from users at work because of problems.  One of the problems was related to a change we made Friday afternoon (shame on us) but I was able to resolve that one remotely after 15 minutes of work.  The other one, was a bit more difficult.

The users were complaining about slowness with Internet Explorer.  First thought, of course, is problems with the T’s we have for Internet, but I was remoted in on those same lines and Solarwinds wasn’t reporting anything.  I thought back to anything we did recently but nothing stuck out.  IE8 was rolled out the beginning of April, patches were done the end of April, we upgraded Citrix to the newest “receiver” version two weeks ago and we just rolled out a new network drive using a GPO on Friday (I ruled this out as it was a simple batch file).  Since the problem was sporadic and because I was losing my guinea pigs since it was 9:00 PM and closing time I made a midnight run into the office.

After spending a couple hours looking into everything and loading up IE with no Addon’s (I LOVE this feature) I figured out it was an addon causing the issue.  I started going through and disabling one at a time until I got to a new one I hadn’t seen before, “CtxIEInterceptorBHO Class”.  Disable that one, BAM, IE is back to normal.  After doing some research on the web I found out that this is a new control Citrix put in the new Receiver install BUT it doesn’t do anything, yet.  I also found this post of someone else having the same issue.

Now, I am unsure why it took two weeks after we rolled the client out to pop up, or why it picked only a certain group of users to harass.  I also don’t understand why Citrix would add this in to their software if it does absolutely nothing. I am the type of person who loves to be on the edge of technology.  I deal with Android issues all the time because I am running Cyanogenmod on my Nexus S 4G, but that is MY choice and I do so knowing the risks.  I would not do the same with my users when problems like this not only ruin a good part of my long weekend, but also lowers productivity which turns into a loss of revenue.

I realize that bugs happen in all software, but this seems like a big miss.  Why would anyone include something that serves absolutely no purpose (yet) in your “stable” software download?

Cable Management fun with a Cisco 6509

May 23rd, 2012 at 11:35 AM  No Comments

Every company in my IT career I have walked into a jungle of cables with no documentation or labels.  I am starting to wonder if I will ever walk into a place where I don’t have to tear into everything and re-build from scratch.  I realize that IT staff is usually overworked, but there is no excuse for letting it get this out of hand.

I admit, in a fire I don’t always label/run everything the proper way, but I always make sure I go back (usually late hours of night/wee hours of the morning, I love my job!) and make sure it is done right.  I guess I should stop ranting and get back to the original subject of the post.  Afterall, those Lazy IT admins keep people like me out of the unemployment line.

Until my most recent position, I have never dealt with a large switch like the Cisco 6509 or 96 port patch panels (the maker of these patch panels, IMO, should be shot).  I am a big fan of what you can do with a good old fashioned 48 port switch, a Neatpatch and a 48 port patch panel.  I was stumped when I walked into the IDF for the first time and saw this.

It is Cousin It with a bad dye job!  You have to look close but you will find a Cisco 6509, 2x 96 port patch panels (other two are at the top) and 2x 24 Port Cisco 2970G switches.  I had no idea where to start, so I fired up Google.  The only thing that I could find for cable management for one of these beasts was the SMB-6509 from CE COM.  It looked great and had some awesome functionality. With no budget for the cleanup there was no way I was going to get approval for the $300 – $400 price tag and the other cable management I needed to finish the job (original estimate was around $2,000).  So I jumped on and started to look around.  I found some nice inexpensive items that looked like they would work for the IT guy with no budget.

Qty Description Cost (ea) Total
4 Black Box Cable Management D-Ring $2.00 $8.00
18 Siemon Cable Carriers $2.00 $36.00
4 Leviton 1U Cable Management Arm $35.00 $140.00
384 Belkin 3, 4 & 55 Foot Patch Cables $1.50 $576.00
Grand Total $760.00

I used the large Black Box Cable Rings for the top 96 port patch panels.  They held quite a bit of cable but they were a little flimsy.  I lined the Siemon Cable Carriers along the side of the Cisco 6509, one dedicated to each card.  If they were bigger, it would have helped tremendously.  I made sure I ran all of the copper from the right and just ran the power and the fiber (easily moveable) from the right.  This allows access without disconnecting any cables if I ever need to replace the fan card.  The 1U cable managers were used for the 48 port switches that have replaced the 4x 24 port switches at the bottom.

Enough about how I did it, here is the outcome.

I realize this isn’t the professional quality you were looking for.  I have some more velcro work to do and I need to add a couple more switches, but I don’t want to do any of that until we decide if this Cisco Catalyst 6500 series is staying in this IDF or being relocated.  At least it wasn’t a horror film like it started out as.  The CE COM Solution with a couple of neat patches would have been awesome, but not something that is in the cards right now.  For under $1,000 and many hours of work, I now have an area that is manageable, and documented.

For closing, I just want to leave you with one thought.  Just because you don’t get the solution you want (CE COM and Neatpatch in this situation) doesn’t mean you leave it broken.  With a little creativity, and lots of work you can make just about anything work.  Well, OK, maybe two thoughts.  Data running through 110 blocks?!


Insight Online: Where have you been all my life?

May 10th, 2012 at 11:10 AM  1 Comment

I am used to additional software and functionality for server management to cost money, especially when it comes in the form of a cloud hosted service.  I was surprised to hear at HP’s recent Gen8 Blogger Tech Tour that HP rolled out a free online version of the Insight software focused on making administrators duties less painful, take less time, and provide proactive support.  This new service is called HP Insight Online and can benefit everyone from the SMB, to the Enterprise and even VARs.  It is completely free to anyone who purchases a Proliant Gen8 server, because according to Doug Haskell, “You were a smart guy…you bought a Proliant!”.  After your server is out of contract, some functionality will be reduced, but you still have access to the base features of the product.

Privacy Concerns

The participation of Insight Online is opt-in, so it doesn’t automatically just start sending information from your servers to HP.  Insight Online has also been certified through the TRUSTed Cloud certification program to ensure sound data management practices.  In order to keep this certification HP has to work with TRUSTe to get re-certified annually and have to go through a strict listing of requirements for the program.


The interface of HP Insight Online is a breath of fresh air.  It goes along HP’s new design scheme where pages without a lot of text has a black background (which @mattvogt doesn’t like) but I think it was easy to read and to follow.  Very simplistic but it allows you to drill down on each server to gain more information. You can also add users to specific servers so they only have access to the servers that they need to manage.


Hardware Fails

It happens, even to the market leaders.  Hardware, especially the pieces that have moving parts, fail.  In the past, your monitoring system would send you an alert and you would investigate and then call support.  Then you would spend at least 30 minutes (if not hours, especially if they want logs) going through prompts and giving the technician the information.  Why can’t this be easier?  Well, with HP Insight Online it is.  If you opt in, your new Gen8 HP Proliant will communicate failures to your local CSM server that pushes the information out to HP (they are working on a direct connection for those instances where you do not have a CSM server).  It gathers the needed data, automatically opens up a ticket, emails you the information, and (depending on the problem) earmarks a shipment out to your location.  If you need to contact a technician about the issue, you already have an open case and HP has all of your information.

Not only will they detect problems, they can also detect trends with hardware failures.  If they see a lot of a specific type of hardware failing in mass they can cross check that hardware to see if it all came in on the same batch.  If they find a pattern they will automatically send out a replacement part to the clients that haven’t reported any issues before the part fails.

Warranty Tracking

This is a feature I am sure many HP fans will love.  In the same interface with your server status you can also see which service contracts you have and when they expire.  No more spreadsheets!  Something small, but it is a feature that is low overdue.

VAR Access

HP is very VAR friendly, and their Insight Online product is no different.  You can give your VAR permission to have a lot of the same information that you see in your portal.  They will see a similar interface but have all of their clients grouped in the main dash board.  This allows var’s to show their clients more valueadd as well as strengthen their relationship with the client.


You can tell HP put a lot of thought into this product before it was launched and went through the scenario’s from the system admins viewpoint.  This is a win-win for both the customer and HP.  The customer gets better service from HP and HP can take the information they get and use it to improve their products. This is one of the many solutions that came with Gen8 that is adding value to the Proliant line to differentiate the product from the competition of commodity based server providers.  I believe it is a welcome addition to any IT toolbox and will benefit you if you have 1 or 500 servers in your organization.

 Jeffrey Powers from Geekazine recorded the presentation by Jeff Carlat.  It is located below.

Disclaimer:  HP invited me to the Gen8 Blogger Tech Tour and paid for all accommodations while I was there.  I received some swag and a 32GB thumb drive but I was not required to blog anything good or bad about this trip.  My opinions are my own and cannot be bought.

HP Gen8: More then just a Pretty Face..plate

May 7th, 2012 at 3:07 PM  Comments Off on HP Gen8: More then just a Pretty Face..plate

Day 1 of the HP Gen8 Blogger Tech Tour is over and there was a lot of information I need to digest.  One thing is for sure, the face plate wasn’t the only major change that HP made to this generation of servers!  I will be going more in depth about some of this items but I wanted to quickly share what I thought was most important from the presentations and demos today.

Less Headache for the Customer

One of the biggest transformations was the focus on making things easier for the client and less time spent fixing the server when there is an issue.  When there is a hardware failure instead of your monitoring software notifying you, you investigate and then contact HP Support and answer questions/gather logs to send the server can (not a requirement, but the functionality is there) notify HP with all the pertinent information.  HP can already start processing the RMA for the failed part and getting your replacement into your hand.  This, to me is a must have.

Smarter Hardware

HP added “intelligence” to many components on the servers to allow each component to save logs about possible issues or operating conditions to each piece of hardware, instead of on each specific controller.  If a RAM chip starts failing, the Insight software doesn’t just show that the RAM slot has a bad chip but saves this information onto the RAM stick itself. This way if the stick is accidently placed in another machine it will show immediately as a failed chip instead of running and possibly causing problems.

This same functionality is also built into the new hard drives.  However, instead of just making the hardware “smart”, they also helped the end user from being dumb.   I have never pulled the wrong hard drive out of a working server, but I have pulled the wrong card out of a working PBX, and I am sure that is almost as fun (as in not).  This seems to happen a lot, afterall the majority of us are human and we make mistakes.  With Gen8 HP has put a “dummy” LED that gives the user a little reminder that bad things may happen if you pull this drive.  This to me is something small that makes a big impact.

HP has also re-designed the way the processesers are installed to the servers.  They even called it a “Smart Socket”.  This new socket allows for you to slip in a Intel CPU and install it without worrying about bending the pins on the system board.  This will not only help out for customer installed upgrades, but also with pins that get bent in the factory.

Firmware Upgrades

I am sure the majority of small to medium sized shops have probably never upgraded the firmware on their hardware.  When you are short staffed, don’t have the expertise and things are working properly you usually don’t want to mess with things.  This can cause problems down the road as well as security concerns.  With HP’s new Smart Update Manager, they make this a fairly pain free automated process.  It will download the updates, check dependencies, apply them in order and if one of them fails, roll back to the previous versions.  Instead of taking hours or even days to patch a few racks of servers, this can be done painlessly in minutes.

Mobile iLO

HP released a mobile iLO application back in Feburary for iOS/Android phones and tablets.  This brings iLO functionality to the mobile sysadmin.  Gone are the days of lugging that laptop bag with you everywhere and trying to find a corner and wifi to check on an alert you received from Solarwinds on one of your servers.  You can now perform these same duties from a very mobile friendly app and can be done on your portable tablet or phone.

I am looking forward to what HP has in store for us tomorrow.  We will be going more in depth with HP’s Automated monitoring and management, power and cooling ideas and also CloudSystem Matrix.

Disclaimer:  HP paid all expenses for my trip to Houston to experience the HP Gen8 Blogger Tech Tour.  I was not required in any way to write anything about the trip, good or bad.  I was given a reusable HP branded grocery store bag, a nice water bottle, a polo shirt and a Gen8 DL380 server (if you really think they gave me a server, then you must be drinking).  My opinions are my own and if I cannot be bought by a iPad2 I for sure can’t be bought by a re-usable grocery bag.

HP Gen8 Blogger Tech Tour: Onsite

May 7th, 2012 at 8:39 AM  Comments Off on HP Gen8 Blogger Tech Tour: Onsite

I am onsite at the HP Gen8 Tech Tour in Houston.  A small group of bloggers  and I will be spending two days with HP engineers talking about the Gen8 server platforms and the workings around it.  Follow on for some great information about the improvements HP has made to the platform like Smart Drives, Smart Memory, Insight Online and even the awesome looking faceplates.

If you want to see whats going on, check out My twitter or the #TechFieldDay Hashtag.  There will be a lot of great information posted today and tomorrow as well as lots of blog posts to come.

The New/Original Enterprise Cloud Provider

April 27th, 2012 at 8:46 AM  No Comments

With “The Cloud” exploding and companies jumping in two feet forward there are a lot of vendors trying to get a piece of the pie.  While I was at Cloud Connect this past February there were quite a few of these companies present trying to show off their product.  One thing I took away from this trip was every one of them, with the exception of one, compared themselves to Amazon (which wasn’t even present at the show).

SunGard provides enterprise class “Cloud” services to the medium to large enterprise space instead of to anyone who wips out a credit card.  They have been a pioneer in the DR space starting out almost 30 years ago and in my opinion has been working on what we now call “The Cloud” before the term became hip.  They are using VCE’s standard Vblock platform and only allow VMware hyper-visors (a fact that my friend @JohnObeto doesn’t like but understands) but that isn’t the driving factor to their success. No matter what hardware you put in place, it is only good as the people you have supporting it.  SunGard gets this and in my opinion is one of the reasons they have been so successful since 1983.

One thing is for sure, all of these entries into what we used to call managed service providers have changed the way we do business today. As Amazon has jumped out as the clear leader in this space, I believe SunGard will continue to be the enterprise Cloud choice for mission critical solutions.

Disclaimer:  While I was waiting in the SunGard booth for my appointment at Cloud Connect I picked up a scratch card that they gave to anyone stopping by the booth.  My friend received a Starbucks gift card but I only won an iPad2. This was not a bribe but rather a bunch of luck and it did not persuade me to write this article.  My opinions are my own and my integrity and posts can not be bought, not even with a new iPad3.

Stuff IT Guys Say

February 23rd, 2012 at 8:27 PM  2 Comments

I found this video on a Xerox blog post (disclaimer:  I am employed by a Xerox subsidiary) and had to repost it.  I am sure some of the people I have worked with (and currently work with) can relate to this video.


Google+ Available to Google Apps users!

October 27th, 2011 at 6:27 PM  No Comments

I am a big fan of Google Apps.  I use it for personal use and with most people’s Exchange mailbox size limits it is a good alternate (for some) to Outlook with PST files.  There has been many people waiting patiently (I was one of them) for this option since Google + has been released.  Google+ can now be accessed by members using Google Apps!  Google has laid out tips for the roll out, considerations for the real business users and of course wait everyone is waiting for, how to enable Google + for Apps users.

Not sure why you are still here reading.  Now that you have access, get to plusing!

C-Spire Wireless is getting the iPhone 4S

October 19th, 2011 at 9:49 AM  No Comments

C-Spire Wireless, the largest privately held wireless provider in the United States and until September of this year previously known as Cellular South, has announced that they will begin carrying the iPhone 4S, in CDMA form.

This brings the total count of providers in the US to four, and still leaves T-Mobile out in the waiting to be acquired by AT&T cold.

You can preorder the device on their website but as of yet it is not known when they’ll arrive.

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »