Blog
By Jonathan Merrill on 1/31/2014 11:28 AM

Like all things, Information Technology must do business with vendors to make IT go and volumes could be filled with horror stories when vendors came up short.  It never ceases to amaze me how sales people submarine an opportunity and walk away confused, even befuddled.  You just want to reach across the table and shake the guy, “Wake up, man!  Your blowing it”!  Doesn’t matter if your technology is better, sales people matter.  What is said, matters.  And what is actually done makes or breaks the relationship.  Here are three in particular.

Trust

My first example is a national encryption solution I looked at when examining two form factor authentication.  Their solution was solid, impressive, and price competitively.  It came down to client support.  They touted support for Android and iPhone with Windows phone will be supported in 90 days.  Why Windows phone?  Many on our executive team have Windows phones and prefer them (myself included).  The sales team said numerous times, “We will have Windows 8 support by 3rd quarter”.  Third quarter turned into fourth quarter, then 1st quarter, now 3rd quarter.  Almost a year later.

Think I trust these guys now?

How to fix:  If your going to make a commitment.  Stand by them.  If your going to miss it, get in front of it and talk to the customer.

Arrogance

My next example is well known printer company.  We looked at them when examining our printing standards in the enterprise.  At my behest, I brought them to the table as I feel strongly their technology is vastly superior on multiple fronts.  The sales guys strode into the room and sat down to have a conversation.  No deck.  Just “tell us what you want”.  How do we know what we want, you’re the sales guy.  The atmosphere in the room changed and became awkward.  The death blow was when the sales guys mentioned, “We do deals with thousands of printers, this would be on the low end of the scale.”  He meant it as quick and easy, but came across as “you are small and insignificant”.  Once the contracts were reviewed, sales guys stopped returning calls quickly and the sales processes collapsed.  Only at the 11th hour did we get a VP at the printer company to step in and correct the sales course.  But, too little to late.

This could have been avoided.  Now, these folks are seen as arrogant and not customer service focused.

How to fix:  Humility, humility, humility.  You know your product is awesome, but never sit on our laurels.  Arrogance kills more relationships than builds bridges.  Instead, educate us.  Sell us on why and how.  And sell us on why it’s simpler to do it your way.  Never depend on the product to sell itself.  Especially, if the product includes the human element.

Ethical

My last example is a wiring consultant we used to manage the wiring in a building, including bid spec for parts and materials, installers, and coordination of the project.  What started out looking good ended up in a kaleidoscope of bad behavior.  Here are a few examples:

  • Used the same price sheet from another client and passed it off as “new numbers”.
  • Changed the numbers.  Doesn’t matter why.
  • Made promises to wire manufacturers, distributors, and installers before the client selected.  “You are guaranteed to get this!”
  • Forced installers to “eat mistakes” the consultant made.  If it were once or twice, maybe.  But more than half a dozen times.
  • Tried to get distributors and installers the client chose “dismissed” from the job, in favor of consultant favored distributors and installers.
  • Was the cause of missing dates and milestones, due to lack of attention to detail and just sloppiness.  Then blamed others.

All the while touting the very high ethical standards, almost ad nauseam.  Now, many don’t know about the very real underbelly of the structured cable wire industry, possibly a future blog.  Nevertheless, this company gets a lot of work and I am shocked by the consistency inn bad behavior, starting from the top.

How to fix:  Consciously choose to do right.  Choose to be ethical.  If you want to change the industry, rise above it and be an agent of change.  Do no harm.  Be positive.  But, never compromise your values.  And provide amazing value.

\\ JMM

By Jonathan Merrill on 1/24/2014 4:34 PM

I am going to make a few controversial perceptions that is rooted in near 20 years of IT, but is all centered on how organizations treat creative thinkers and executers at various sized companies.

1.  Creativity isn’t as important as assimilation (Process widgets the same way, every time, or else!).

2.  We hire creativity, but want productivity.  (Produce more widgets faster!).

3.  The more creativity we hire, the less productivity we get.  (Widgets are stupid and here is why).

4.  Corporate culture is more important than creativity.  (Everyone gets the same widget, or else!)

Can you identify any of these points at your company?  How did we get like this?  How do we fix it?  Or should we?

\\ JMM

By Jonathan Merrill on 1/17/2014 9:21 AM

We are looking at changing up our printing platform and recently obtained a document with best practices for printers from a CEH.

Printer Threats

Printers face five main threats and vulnerabilities:

Document theft or snooping

- A person can simply walk over to a printer and pick up a document that belongs to someone else.

Unauthorized changes to settings

- If your printer settings and controls aren't secure, someone may mistakenly or intentionally alter and reroute print jobs, open saved copies of documents, or reset the printer to its factory defaults, thereby wiping out all of your settings.

Saved copies on the internal storage

- If your printer has an internal drive, it can store print jobs, scans, copies, and faxes. If someone steals the printer, or if you throw it out before properly erasing the data, someone might recover the saved documents.

Eavesdropping on network printer traffic

- Hackers can eavesdrop on the traffic on your network, and capture documents that you send from your computers to the printer.

Printer hacking via the network or Internet

- A person on your network can hack into a network-connected printer fairly easily, especially if it's an older model that lacks newer security features or isn't password-protected.

- Security flaws leave networked printers open to attack:

Trends

- According to InfoTrends, there are almost 30 million printers and multifunction devices in offices and homes throughout the U.S. and Western Europe, and most are connected to a network.  This means they are just as susceptible to malware and hacker attacks as PCs -but for a variety of reasons they are often overlooked by IT professionals and used without proper safeguards by employees.

- A recent Xerox-McAfee study revealed that more than half (54 percent) of employees say they don’t always follow their company’s IT security policies.

- Also, half (51 percent) of those employees whose workplace has a printer, copier or MFP say they’ve copied, scanned or printed confidential information at work.

- The study goes on to say that more than half (54 percent) think computers pose the biggest security threat to their company’s network compared to other IT devices, while only 6 percent say it is MFPs.  This small percentage is proof that employees simply do not realize their office MFPs really are true networked devices that behave the same way their PCs do – and have similar vulnerabilities. Pair these stats with the fact that the average organizational cost of a data breach is $5.5 Million and you have a pretty strong argument for taking this warning seriously.

- But I know what you’re thinking: none of those massive breaches are possible through an MFP, right?

- Just about anyone can launch full-scale attacks against a network and a company’s information assets through an MFP if its physical and electronic access points aren’t securely controlled and protected.  Those attacks can be as simple as someone picking up documents left in the MFP’s output tray, to malicious worms pulling sensitive documents off the network.

- Consider this example of hacking the network through an MFP: Today’s combination of mobile workers, cloud printing and the continuing penetration of Android-based personal devices make it possible for an attacker to create a malware app that infects the mobile device, opportunistically attaches itself to a cloud print job, gets downloaded to a networked MFP, and from there infects the entire enterprise network, completely bypassing firewall and intrusion detection controls. In this case, it’s complexity that creates the vulnerability.

- Significant difference between Printer MFPs and Copiers.  Printer MFPs tend to be more secure than Copiers due to how often printer firmware and drivers are updated to fix issues and security changes.  Copiers rarely address security issues once released to market.

Top 3 Reasons for Print Security Not Being Adopted (Research and analyst company Quocirca)

  • 92% - Low Priority
    71% - Unawareness of Benefits
    65% - Lack of Print Security Strategy

Mitigation Strategies

Physical Security for Your Printers

- Increasing the physical security of your printers can help prevent document theft or snooping, unauthorized access to stored documents, and misuse of the printer's ethernet or USB connections. Place printers strategically to balance ease of access and security. Putting them in a somewhat visible open area that is accessible to most the users may be a better idea than sticking them in a separate room or office where you can't monitor them as closely. In any case, consider designating separate printers for management and other sensitive departments and keep those machines secure from other employees.

- Also consider buying printers that require users to provide some form of identification (such as a PIN) before it prints.

- And don't neglect hard copies of documents. Shred sensitive papers when you no longer need them.

Password-Protecting Your Printers

- If you have a business- or enterprise-class printer, it probably has an administrator control panel of some sort that you can access through a Web browser, a screen on the printer itself, or your PC's command line. Most such printers will let you password-protect the control panel to prevent others from changing settings without your knowledge. Refer to your printer's documentation to learn how to do this.

Securing Printer Admin Traffic on the Network

- A password alone won't stop a determined hacker. The admin password may not be encrypted when you send it from your computer to the printer, which means that someone could intercept it and gain access to your printer's controls.

- To avoid this, use an encrypted connection when you access the admin control panel, if your printer or print server supports it. For instance, when accessing the interface via a Web browser, use an "https://" address (which uses SSL encryption) instead of a regular "http://" connection. If you need command-line access, use encrypted SSH instead of clear-text Telnet sessions. If your printer came with a printer management application, see whether it supports encrypted connections.

- For additional help in combating hacking, check your printer for ACL (Access Control List) support or for some other feature that lets you define who can use or administer it. Be careful not to open your printer's Web interface (or any other admin interface) to the Internet, to prevent people on the Internet from finding and trying to hack your printer. Your network firewall should provide enough protection and this shouldn't be an issue unless you explicitly configure it to open access to your printer. If your printer supports Internet Printing Protocol (IPP), FTP print jobs, or any other feature that lets people send it print jobs over the Internet, consider disabling the feature if you don't use it.

- If your printer or print server uses SNMP (a protocol for managing and monitoring devices on networks) to communicate (as HP's JetDirect products, for example, do), try changing the default SNMP community names to a strong password to help frustrate would-be password capturing, cracking, and additional hacking. And whenever possible, use SNMPv3, a newer version of SNMP that includes authentication and encryption for added security.

Securing Printer User Traffic on the Network

- To prevent users on the network from intercepting print jobs as they go to the printer, find out whether your printer or print server supports encrypted connections to and from the PCs on your network. Some printers do use SSL/TLS, IPsec, and other encryption methods.

- Check your printer's documentation and consult the vendor about whether your current equipment supports encryption or if you can purchase additional hardware or software to add such support.

Updating and Upgrading Your Printers

- Make sure that you keep your printer's firmware and drivers up-to-date. Often, updates add new or improved security features, patch known security holes, and fix other problems.

Discarding an Old Printer

- Before disposing of an old or broken printer, make sure that its internal hard drive (if it has one) isn't saving any documents. Check your printer's documentation or speak to its manufacturer to determine whether it has a drive--and if it does, to learn how to erase the data. If the you can easily remove the drive, you may be able to connect it to a PC and erase the data with special drive wiping programs that make the data completely unrecoverable.

VLAN Best Practices

These are some general guidelines in creating VLANs. A VLAN creates a boundary between devices, so the goal is to plan the boundaries that will improve network functionality and security.

  • Grouping devices by traffic patterns - Devices that communicate extensively between each other are good candidates to be grouped into a common VLAN.
  • Grouping devices for security - It is often a good practice to put servers and key infrastructure in their own VLAN, isolating them from the general broadcast traffic and enabling greater protection.
  • Grouping devices by traffic types - As discussed in this How To, VoIP quality is improved by isolating VoIP devices to their own VLAN. Other traffic types may also warrant their own VLAN. Traffic types include network management traffic, IP multicast traffic such as video, file and print services, email, Internet browsing, database access, shared network applications, and traffic generated by peer-to-peer applications.
  • Grouping devices geographically - In a network with limited trunking, it may be beneficial to combine the devices in each location into their own VLAN.

\\ JMM

By Jonathan Merrill on 1/10/2014 9:15 PM

Recently, two events converged which prompted this blog.  One, watching the movie “Jobs”, the docudrama of Steve Jobs.  Two, the importance of structured cabling and how difficult it has been trying to get an organization to realize it’s importance.  To me, structured cabling is an art and of the upmost importance to any network.  You can purchase the most exquisite computers and expensive networking gear, if your wiring is crap or done poorly, it is all for naught.  A sad lesson witnessed many times in my career.

So, when I watched this movie, I couldn’t help agree with many things Steve Jobs was quoted in saying.  Here are the top five quotes I took away…

5.  In your life you only get to do so many things and right now we’ve chosen to do this, so let’s make it great.

We do so much executing our daily duties.  And in doing so, contribute much.  Achieve much.  Can you say you do things as good as they could be?  How often can you say it’s as great as it can be?  Do you contribute to making things great or are you one of those who are fine with getting by.

Structured cabling can be great.  In fact, if done right, will lower your staff’s support costs, speed your resolution time, and empower your junior technical people, without the need for constant engineering support.  But to get there, it requires the importance of doing it great like craftsmanship, as-builts in each TR, TIA/ANSI color coding standards, and wiring it complete the first time.

4.  It has got to be something that you’re passionate about because otherwise you won’t have the perseverance to see it through.

Why it is so hard to find quality installs?  Why are there so many mediocre installations?  Why is it so hard for IT pros to make it great and actually do great?  In my opinion, it sometimes is lack of knowledge or ability, there is something to be said by being an informed and educated about these concepts.  However, more often it’s lack of passion.  You have to have a passion to do great.  Many of my colleagues do and achieve great.  These people I love to be around.  I enjoy their strength, their vision, and more importantly, their perseverance to do great every time.  You can’t argue against passion and perseverance.  I can point to many many many structured cabling jobs done at competitive pricing, impeccable craftsmanship, and a forward thinking design.  And the majority of the time, you’ll see a facilities or IT manager with a passion for doing it great.

Yet, when encountering a minimum compliant or poorly implemented structured cable, the majority of the time the people responsible have no sign of passion, much less perseverance.  And often, these people are fairly ignorant of what those possibilities could be.  A good number hide behind their legacy career.  “I’ve been doing this for 20 years…”  Really?  Then, why is it not great?

3.  I would rather gamble on our vision than make a ‘me, too’ product.

It constantly amazes me how bad structured cabling happens.  Having swam in the wire industry this last 8 years, I’ve realized a cold fact.  Bad structured cabling happens because most people do it the way they did it at their last company.  Instead of doing it in amazing ways, it’ll be done the way it has been by them.  And if you happened to work at places that embrace mediocre ideas, all that gets done is perpetuating the mediocre.

When I approached structured cable at Texas Health Partners, we immediately discounted how it had always been done elsewhere.  We didn’t care for the traditional “me too” approaches that the hospital architects and consultants were pushing on us.  We wanted to actually change how do we things, driving support costs down, and putting a system in place that would be sustainable for years!  We not only achieved that, but crushed our estimates on how much money we saved doing it.  I’ve learned over and over that doing things great often doesn’t include “me, too” approaches.

2.  We’ve got to make the small things unforgettable.

So many companies sew a culture of overlooking details focusing on getting things done by certain dates, often citing just getting it done and going back later to fix it.  This idea scales up in information technology shops the bigger the company gets and it’s just frustrating to witness.  Jobs focused on every single detail from phone buttons and ear buds to the iPhone box’s look and feel.  Wow!  Jobs understood how doing things great actually not just drives customer experience satisfaction, but lowers support costs as attention to details equate usually ensures a higher quality standard thus less likely to break or fail.

That is why I am a nut about products like NeatPatch.  It’s horizontal wire management.  But in practice, it’s awesome and is a major benefit.  That is why I insist on keeping the vertical wire channels between racks wired minimally.  And use Velcro ties instead of zip ties.  At Telsource Corporation, we often heard of engineers injuring themselves on zip-tie cuts from the sharp end of plastic where the excess was snipped.  Zip ties can’t be reused and that plastic is sharp!  Velcro in most cases can be reused and doesn’t cut or nick anything.

1.  Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently…they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.

Probably the most prolific statement in the movie.  Those people, who I consider my friends and professionals, who routinely run afoul of doing things the way they’ve been done for 20 years, agonizingly moving the often unappreciative IT organization forward, and general challenging the status quo in which the existing ideas clearly hasn’t been working for the organization.  Those people who often show spirited love and care for their life long commitment to technology, expressing their poetry and art by often challenging and promoting excitement with their diversity.  That there are some people who see the genius in our work.

And letting them flourish often produces amazing results.

\\ JMM

By Jonathan Merrill on 12/27/2013 4:47 PM

I wrote an email to a peer today when the topic was broached purchasing a tool allowing our end users to manager their own folder permissions.  I took some nuggets out and would like to share those here.

On its face, I am leery of allowing end users the ability to self-govern themselves on those items that require audit.  IT Governance has mandated we turn on auditing.  Further, our security team is tasked with ensuring these permissions are correctly placed.  Our role should be architecting the security infrastructure to make this an easy task as historically, your right, it’s been a beating to maintain.  But keep in mind, most of this was due to lack of ownership, not technology.  We have significantly since then.  Our processes and approaches have come a long way, which much thought leadership behind it.

That said, I’ve been pushing for an org-chart based AD security model with granularity provided at the “position” level, inheriting the permissions needed.  In other words, if you do security right, all you need to do is assign the correct groups to the resource once and just ensure those users are added to the correct group (users into local, local into global, etc.) so the user has everything they need.

I’ve been doing enterprise IT for most of my 18 year career.  Ten of those years in IT leadership.  While “self-service” wins hearts and minds, I’ve seen it fail over and over.  Everything from Exchange distribution groups, to SharePoint content management or Intranet content, even BYOD.  End users will initially embrace these concepts, but inevitably abandon them as their own focus is not on IT.  And then what?  The problem resurfaces again with IT being blamed in the process and asked for a solution.  The Lean Six Sigma in me says… what a waste!  And I’ve been frustrated having endured this over and over.

In my opinion, technology doesn’t solve these problems.  Thought leadership, vision, and governance principles do.

Thus, I have recommended we focus our energy on educating, not just our customers, our peers.  How do we ensure we don’t fall into the same mess as before?  We educate the various groups we interface with (helpdesk, system support, software support, etc.).  We get people on board with our vision.  We include people in the strategic discussion.  We challenge the status quo with facts and wisdom.  Instead of holding their hand dragging them along, we sell them on the whys and bring them along as peers.  We educate them not by cool technologies, but by our vision of a simpler more productive focused network infrastructure, where instead of audit and security being the focus, our end users and business productivity is the focus.  Of course, not forgetting about audit and security in the process.

Bringing it back to the topic at hand, instead of a tool, I recommend our future efforts are spent educating the security team on how we do things, ensuring they understand how we want to do file permissions, etc., so we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.  I grant you, this is a far greater challenge to achieve.  Although, if successful, will yield far greater results than buying and deploying a tool.

\\ JMM

By Jonathan Merrill on 12/24/2013 11:59 AM

Personally, I don’t put much stake into "industry” predictions and hate to add to the pile, but my team asked me to put together a few predictions for 2014 based on my pulse on the technologies we love.  Here is my list:

10.  Cisco will continue to flounder in 2014.  Although many industry observers have asked for the CEO’s and board to “reboot” the company, Cisco continues to be everything to everyone, buying up companies because it has lost it’s sharp cutting innovation and engineering people.  My colleagues agree that there continues to be compelling challengers like Juniper and Force10 and Cisco market share is slowly eroding and Cisco leadership sells a different story.

9. Cisco VoIP will continue to be market leader, continue to stymie customers will complicated licensing, frustrate IT as Cisco’s technologies are not getting simpler to support, increasing TAC call volume.  The Cisco phone is still, in my opinion, the best phone on the market.  Avaya’s strategies and others will continue to flounder in befuddlement against Cisco and Microsoft Lync.

8.  Palo Alto technologies will continue to steal Cisco’s market share, which Cisco plays catch-up with SecureX.  Are there any other real “next generation” firewalls out there?  Maybe Sonic Wall?  2014 sees no real progress on this front as Cisco diehards continue to put their bets on Cisco ASA, even though it’s been proven 1000% to be ineffective against next-gen technologies.

7.  Microsoft will continue to flounder in 2014 in the OS space.  Thankfully Ballmer is out, but there has been significant damage done with Windows 8.  Most of it really nonsensical.  If Microsoft had only made Metro UI a choice versus forcing it on people, we’d be having a much different conversation right now.  Nevertheless, 8.1 does little to quell the outraged hordes and only “techy” people will embrace it, further pushing neophytes to Apple technologies (Thanks, Microsoft!)

6.  Tablets will continue to gain market share, but little impact will be made to incorporate them earnestly in the enterprise.  Not one company at Dell World said they were building any Windows 8 apps.  On the healthcare side, only niche players are still supporting Windows 8, although some progress is being made, 2014 won’t see anything significant.  Windows “RT” will also still hang around annoying IT people.

5.  NSA’s shenanigans will continue to push cloud technologies abroad, as our nation’s trust level continues to plummet overseas.  InfoSec watchers will start seeing interesting security products.  Although I go to as many security conferences as I can, what really can be taken away from these are people are more educated now about technology than ever, thus an “in-your-face” paranoia from Information Security, making it much more harder to work remote or access data remotely than necessary.  Spying is spying, no matter if it is China or the US government.  But so what, paranoia is here to stay and actually getting work done is scarified in the process.

4.  iPhone will dominate the cell market and finally spell the end to Blackberry.  Incredible how anyone could honestly invest in this company’s survival and not be on any mental health medication.  I know Blackberry was awesome and I too loved my phone when I had it.  But, can someone please put a fork in this company and move on?  The market has spoken!  Apple is the new blackberry.  (Yay?)

3.  Apple desktops continue to slowly penetrate the enterprise.  Heck, iPads and phones are here.  Senior leaders routinely ask for Apple laptops now, 2014 will see more acceptance in this space, which will increase IT’s headaches supporting both platforms.  I’ve blogged about this before and typically shops that run both have interesting compatibility problems no one on the business side cares about (ie, it’s an IT problem, have them fix it).

2.  I will actually purchase an Apple laptop in 2014.  I just watched the movie “Jobs” and the unreleased interview with Steve Jobs and maybe it’s the fumes or the subliminal commands, but sometime this next year I will put away the trusty Dell E6410 laptop and try a Mac laptop.  Pretty heady stuff, but my fears of Microsoft not actually being able to extricate their cranium from their posterior puts challengers in a real place to compete.  Might be time to bone up on Apple.  Who knows… We might actually see Apple OS on something other than Apple hardware… (not in 2014, I guarantee that…)

1.  Brace yourself:  It’s not one damn thing after another… it’s the same damn thing over and over, and 2014 will be no different.  Sorry folks, I really don’t see any lightning flashes in the sky, any new technology that is up and rising that is exciting me.  In fact, 2014 will look a lot like 2013 in terms of IT technology, IT innovation, and IT leadership.

\\ JMM

By Jonathan Merrill on 12/20/2013 10:11 PM

The Director of Datacenter Architecture, John Thomas, sent me this gem email this past week, his intent is commenting on some of our engineers and how not present they are at meetings.  We all know those types, the skaters who attend the meetings and participate marginally, often don’t have information, not prepared, and easily distractible nose deep into their smartphone.

Let me share an except from his email:

Over the past few years I have entered into a number of debates with peers and other senior managers about the term 'presence'.  It is almost always in the context of promotion or performance conversations about managers.   He/she has or lacks 'presence'.  The debate usually ensues when I try to tease out what they mean by this term 'presence'.  Very often the person using the term does not want any part of breaking down what it means.  I think as managers we MUST break it down and understand it in order to give feedback when the aspects of 'presence' are displayed or not by our team members and to be able to guide our folks in the right direction.

A few weeks ago I was asked to do a 'leadership' segment at a town hall meeting of the technology Executive Directors.  Nothing specific, just to fill a time gap by discussing leadership.  "You're good at that stuff…you'll think of something" kind of thing.  I decided to take the 'presence' thing to the group.

I started with "How many of you have heard the term 'That person has presence' used when evaluating your people?".   Almost everyone raised their hand.   Then I said, "How many of you know what 'presence' is?".   Every person raised their hand.   When I asked, "Who can tell me specific behaviors that people with 'presence' demonstrate?" only a few hands stayed up.

I ran about getting bits a pieces from people in the room until we had an image of what the room felt 'presence' means (and we were running out of time).   It was fun and I still have people send me email telling me they watch the video of the session and learned a lot. 

Here's what we came up with:

The perception of the extent to which a person has "Presence" is in the eye of the beholder.  It is indeed an aggregation of a number of proactive behaviors.  The room felt that some include:

- Being at meetings on time and prepared
- Being the person at a meeting that delivers a summary at the end when one is lacking (even if not their meeting).
- Being the person that politely brings meetings back to their stated objective.
- Being the one to focus and calm a group during events.
- Being the person who stays in the solution domain when others are all highlighting problems.
- Can "step away" and evaluate the big picture - even if it may mean being critical of themselves or their team.
- Demonstrates attentiveness in public: Posture, keeping up with the group,  not being distracted (No CrackBerry when people are talking in a group).
- Especially alert on conference calls and follows along.
- Operates effectively in meetings and can enter into debate professionally.   Does not always have to rely on back channel communications to accomplish problems.
- Acknowledges others, smiles, says thank you and remembers names.
- Remembers important details about colleagues.
- Demonstrates competence - is briefed and prepared for meetings and can get down to details when required - knows their stuff.

Like I said - we had fun with this and every now and then, someone stops me to ask about it.

- Source uncited (although the wisdom is undeniable)

\\ JMM

By Jonathan Merrill on 12/18/2013 9:59 PM

Recently watched the movie, “Fifth Estate”, a film about the famed Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.  I found the movie fairly enjoyable, but while watching this film, one line caught me by surprise as fairly insightful:

“It takes two things to change the world. You'd be surprised how many people have ideas. But commitment, true commitment, that's the hard one. It requires sacrifice.” – Quote from Julian Assange, Fifth Estate Movie

Why this quote strikes me so is this is a routine problem visionary leaders often run into.  Resistance kills many ideas, no matter the merit or legitimacy.  In fact, Assange runs into resistance even from his peers when evangelizing the merits of his WikiLeaks website from fellow hackers.

In my own perspective, many of my own approaches and solutions to problems aren’t particularly extraordinary.  Most are not even original.  I freely admit most of how I manage IT has been cherry picked from other companies.  In fact, I recently told a group of peers the root of my IT philosophies were actually born from my time at Citibank, my first real IT job in an enterprise environment.  At the time, not a bastion of best practices and quality IT.  However, I learned a lot about what not to do.  And gained a healthy respect for the most important part of IT often forgotten by leadership:  your customers.

But, yet again, the biggest issue I encounter over and over is IT leadership’s lack of commitment.  The chief reason most initiatives and ideas fail.  Simple things like adopting standards and methodologies on how to fundamentally run IT receive considerable resistance.

I would agree with the the film’s assertion.  Ideas fail when leaders don’t truly commit because they often don’t feel like they should have to sacrifice anything.  How many times have you seen ideas and philosophies fall flat because of lack of commitment?  Ask yourself how many sacrifices leaders like Jack Welsh or Steve Jobs made to grow and mature those organizations?  Reflect on people you admire.

How committed where they?

\\ JMM

By Jonathan Merrill on 12/13/2013 10:45 PM

These shots came from Thursday and Friday as we walked to and fro the convention center…

10 Minutes Till Show Time…

Think there are enough media seats?  We learned our lesson and picked closer seats.  And the presentation you see in orange was indeed fascinating to watch.

Using Dell’s FlexCache on any Dell Storage = 5 Million IOPS!

Pretty cool… Was trying to see what tool they used to pull that stat…

An Interview With Elon Musk and Michael Dell

Surprisingly not the most eloquent speaker, but definitely very impressive nevertheless.

There Is A Lot To Love In This Cabinet…

This Dell cabinet is stocked with Force-10 data center switches, SonicWall firewalls, Dell’s KACE management servers, Dell’s blade enclosure with the EqualLogic SAN Blade, and a Compellent SMB SAN.

Many components here showcase Dell’s approach to the modern full service information technology approach, encompassing desktops and server management.

”Feels like home…”

Another closer view of the cabinet, showing the network gear.

”Just plug in the Internet and go…”

 

Introducing The New Dell Touch Projector

Took a couple of pictures of this technology and unfortunately, this was the best shot…

Basically, you can use this projector as a whiteboard and allows for video conferencing.  Developed for schools, but has any practical business application.

 

Dell Bean Bag Chairs?  Sweet!

In Summary

Two days worth of conference, 6 break out sessions, a good lunch, and multiple conversations with people who either were long time goers or brand new to Dell World, I did feel it was time well spent.  I never saw so many international attendees and was amazed to see how Dell technology was being used in various verticals.

In all, I felt the conference fell short of my expectations.  The break out sessions I had attended lacked any real technical depth and basically were glorified salesgasms.  After being pitched on what Dell could do, I would routinely ask, “So basically, contact our account rep to get deeper engagement, yes?”  “Ah, yes, sir…”

After Friday’s break outs, we ended up heading out before the closing ceremonies, fairly discouraged.  The only swag I took home was a Sprint water bottle.

Ok… I will admit my mood was a tad sullied as I didn’t get much sleep the night before (both nights actually) due to the loud nature of the hotel we stayed in.  I have no idea what went on downstairs, but it literally sounded like a riot broke out each night and lasted till 2am in the morning.  I MAY have been a tad cranky Thursday and Friday… And certainty wasn’t very tolerant of speakers with difficult to understand accents and presenters who regurgitated content right from the Dell website.

In the end, I did have fun.  And Dell definitely has it together on so many fronts.  I would still recommend

\\ JMM

By Jonathan Merrill on 12/11/2013 10:55 PM

There are few events during the year I go and one I look forward to is Dell World.  Although, I’ve not gone to every single one, I do go.  To me, the event represents much more than a “sales” event, although that venue does exist.  I spend time there to keep in tune with what is happening in the Dell trenches that surprise me.  An opportunity to see what’s happening in the education and energy verticals, how Dell technologies are being used in those spaces and, of course, the new tech for 2014.

Today, Dell World launched today to a rocking concert kickoff featuring Camp Freddy and featured performers such as Slash from Guns and Roses, Mark McGrath from Sugar Ray, and others.

Everything sounded fantastic, but unfortunately, here was my vantage point of the action:

Well… Beggars can’t be too picky…

Nevertheless, very appreciative of Santander Consumer USA allowing me to attend and I’m planning to attend some fairly strategic sessions this go, which I feel have particular relevance to our organization’s goals.  My agenda is:

  • Accelerating your business results with rapid deployment of SaaS and on-premise enterprise applications (using Dell tools)
  • Efficiency, effectiveness, productivity: Dell Connected Security in action
  • Supporting the new experience demands in the enterprise with the latest business clients (BYOD & COPE (corporate owned, personally enabled))
  • It’s all about protecting the data (identity and access management)
  • Dell on Dell IT best practice sharing: Redefining client management in the enterprise
  • Building security, manageability, and reliability into the endpoint

Quite a bit of focus on the client-space.  Frankly, the last 10 years of my career has been focused solely on servers and enterprise architecture from a hosting and servicing perspective.  This year, I am focusing on a greater challenge which many organizations suffer through, an issue that still exists in healthcare as I left, and one that banking seems to be realizing is also equally difficult to maintain and control: the client end point.

Something my peers are learning quickly is you can have the best server environment, fastest servers, most robust applications, if your client experience is crap, you’ve built the proverbial house of cards.

More to come.

\\ JMM

JMM

Father, Leader, Mentor,
Educator, Evangelist,
Problem Solver, Visionary,
Strategist, Architect,
and Technology Professional

 

       

 

       


"The views and opinions expressed in articles, publications, and in any comments located on this website are those of mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers."
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