Over the last few years, I have worked with a service provider on what to an outsider would sound very similar. The organization's processes, applications, and information had been distributed throughout the company on an ad hoc and project basis, resulting in an irrational de facto architecture that contributed inefficiency to practically every activity. For any organization, addressing these systemic issues will always be a work in progress. Although my case differs in scale by more than a factor of 100, I think the lessons I've taken may apply for you as well.
1 - Dysfunction is not a product of the technical situation. It is a product of management. Thus, it can only be addressed by management. For you, this means you have the opportunity to lead the organization to the right outcome, and you will have to get management support to get folks to change their processes. It looks like this: a) Identify the outcomes the org is looking for. Not "FAQs on the same server," but "Knowledge Management - Processes and technology to get and KEEP key company information accessible when necessary and secure." b) Obtain management support on the outcome. c) Explain the steps and costs needed - technical and non-technical. Management must ensure that new knowledge lands in the right place and people to go to the right place for the info. d) Implement - the technology and the culture changes e) Evaluate.
2 - What you are doing is not unique to your organization. Practically every firm has this problem in varying degrees. Go scan through the book "Faster Cheaper Better" by Michael Hammer to see an articulation of the issue at a very high level - not specific to knowledge management.
3 - There are frameworks that help guide the architecture process. Have a look at TOGAF. These are model driven, and frankly, they are very hard to consume and live by. Nevertheless, the point of these is roughly the same. When the problem is too large, divide and conquer. Model the organization and subject matter by dividing it into its parts. Prioritize, strategize, etc. Having the model enables you to ensure that solutions at the micro level are in harmony with those at the macro, etc. TM Forum does this for telecoms.
4 - Since the most important part of the job is getting buy in from management and those having to live through the culture change, your soft skills are more important than the tech skills.
All this might look like killing an ant with a sledgehammer. I suggest that you take a little time glance through material on how this is done at large scale and apply whatever seems pertinent.
This thread already has great posts in it. I'm an amateur who has recently done a good bit of research and made some purchases.
Prior to this 2011, I usually kept a small point-and-shoot around for a few years at a time. Each one took some great photos, and plenty of throw aways. That was until I had a chance to use a friend's Nikon D40, an older 6MP DSLR. I discovered with it that I had far more control, especially over focus and depth of field. All of the sudden, I could put the subject into focus quickly, and I found I was getting better results. From this experience, I went on a research binge and ended up making two purchases soon after. I bought a Canon ELPH SD4000 IS, a Point-and-Shoot that works well in low light, for my girlfriend. I got a Nikon D3100, an entry level DSLR. Here is a quick list of what I learned.
1 - The world is full of great cameras. A good photographer can make great work with most or all of them, and the best camera can't make up for a poor photographer.
2 - The DSLR world is as much about lenses as camera bodies. Canon and Nikon seem to be the two that most folks are religious about, and both have their mutually-incompatible lens styles. Every dollar toward one lens style gets you further invested in that family of lenses. It's not a bad thing, but you'll want to school up if you go the DSLR route. Have a sense for how the UIs work, the lens options (including compatibility with cameras), the relative prices, etc.
3 - Despite my Nikon D3100 having 14MP and all around "better specs" in most regards, I have little practical benefit to having my DSLR vs. the one borrowed. I get the joy of having more control with both, and I know I can shoot photos that could be printed to be somewhat larger. Scaling images down, my photos might be slightly more forgiving than those of the D40. In truth, if I were taking the same photos with either, I would have the same keepers.
4 - DSLRs carry a stigma in crowds. Carrying a point-and-shoot, you can take your pictures and put them away. Pulling out a DSLR means everyone around knows they're on camera.
5 - The Canon SD4000 IS does the best of job of no-flash low-light shots of any point and shoot I have seen. It does better than my DSLR with stock lens due to having a lower aperture. If your shots are mainly of people indoors at their homes, in restaurants, at clubs, or in other night settings, pulling out a DSLR will not only inspire poses or turned backs, but will probably require more tuning. I am not endorsing this camera as the best at this, but only that I was satisfied that I matched the camera to the kinds of shots that would be taken. I would have been less happy with a general purpose point and shoot.
6 - I have no experience with the "DSLR-like" cameras in the mid range, except that very good photographers I know downsize to these to have a camera that they can take with them anywhere.
7 - Borrow a camera if you can. I was very happy that I did.
Once you know what you'll use it for and what it is that encourages you, you'll be in a better position to figure out what camera will fit you.
A follow up to some comments on this approach.
On zeroing out your drive or partition:
If you zero out a drive, whatever you use to get bootstrapping started (traditionally MBR), describing the extents of your volumes (partition table), and your filesystems themselves will not write over most of those zeros. So whether you do it to the whole drive (say..
On the use of DD at the drive or volume level:
- You can back up whole drives, but you must restore to something at least the size of the original drive. Plus, you will lose any additional space when you restore to a larger drive. You may be able to add additional volumes with your partition tool or resize what you have, but you begin to erode the value of this approach.
- You can image the volumes/partitions, but you'll have to ensure that the partition table describing the extent of the partition does so the same way, with the same size.
- The most important thing about either approach is that you have a strong understanding of what is and isn't getting imaged when you use the DD tool.
The craziest thing I have done with this method:
(Circa 2003, I think)
I had 3 PATA drives set up as a Linux RAID 5. Two of the drives relied on the same cable and drive controller.. some of you already know what will go wrong here.. The cable or controller failed, and I had a failed RAID 5 volume that would be risky to rebuild. And it had important files.
The three RAIDed drives were
Using a 250G drive, I created 3 partitions
A couple of lessons -
1 - There is no difference between the block device identified as the drive and those identified as partitions on the drive. They are differentiated based on their use by the OS.
2 - Don't be dumb like me. Follow best practices with RAIDs, backups, and protecting your data.
dd is your primary tool.
zero out your drive so that when you compress it, you get a very small image.
dd if=/dev/zero of=[drive]
Install and configure your OS onto [drive]
dd if=/dev/[drive] | gzip -c > zipped_drive_image.bin.gz
gzcat zipped_drive_image.bin.gz | dd of=[drive]
I may be a bit rusty, so the commands may need slight work. I've definitely used this method though, and it has worked well.
The lesson I take from this is that the local retail is doomed unless we figure out how to address the online tax advantage.
Borders is a high profile example of a brick and morter shop that can't compete in an environment where its primary competition has an unnatural advantage. Amazon doesn't pay sales tax. Sure, it had some missteps along the way, like having Amazon run its web sites. But if Borders can't compete, do you think Mom and Pop retailers will? This impacts not or future local retailing environment, but local employment, too. Sure, online stores can be more efficient, but even a local preference for local retail won't compensate for a 5-10% price penalty.
Check out http://dns.comcast.net/dns-ip-addresses2.php
It's a Comcast site that provides its customers with the Opt-out DNS Servers in case they don't want the DNS Redirect functionality.
...but going after service providers may be a bit shortsighted.
Access providers and service providers were once one and the same. Telephony, Video, and other services were used as justification to build out the access network. Internet running over coax or twisted pair are innovations that came about after a substantial investment was made. Find a major US access provider that did not originate as a service provider. Over the 2000's, service providers that didn't control access networks came to compete the services offered by those access providers. With the migration of nearly every kind of service to IP, the same access/service providers find themselves with the burden of having their access networks pseudo-nationalized by proponents of net neutrality, while at the same time having fierce competition to their service offerings by unregulated over the top players. The same companies are required to meet regulatory requirements for providing 911, CALEA, and increasing rates from content providers, while their unregulated over-the-top competition merely faces the technical challenge of optimizing the service delivery path and funding lobbyists to support continued regulation of access.
Although many feel strongly that internet access is a utility, and should be regulated as something people should have a right to have, we should understand that the costs to bring this access to homes is very high. Access to bandwidth 4-8 times that of a T1 at about 1/10th the cost is a bargain, and the only way the math works is through oversubscription and the sale of bundled services.
With Internet access/service providers on the defensive on all fronts - access, telephony service, video service, and internet value-adds (email, etc) - it should be no surprise that these companies see other revenue streams, either in adjacent markets, content provider ownership, or new models (pay-per-byte).
The bizarre irony of all of it is that darlings of the tech world, Google, Apple, and Adobe, are working very hard to lock consumers into their own channels. Google, using an ad-supported model, churns out services at a feverish pace, but only to wrap you into the services and intermediate all other service providers and their customers. Apple, enforcing strict control over their environments in an attempt to channel consumers into a high-margin Apple world. Adobe, working to be the content deliverer for "any screen" by providing the "one platform" with Flash and Air. Each works to lock users and developers into their sticky feature sets, happy that Joe User's hard feelings are directed at the service provider. They take some heat, but is it commensurate to the potential threat to consumer choice?
Whatever the outcomes are for access/service providers, there will be a platform and privacy fight for you waiting when the dust clears.
Rest assured, service providers are planning for v6. You're right that *having* to change will ultimately force the issue. Service and access providers face some hurdles that take time to work out.
1 - Carrier equipment isn't ready. Not all v6 support is created equal. The provider-side equipment must have support for hardware-accelerated packet forwarding. Many devices, like the CMTSs that cable companies use, make v6 support in software and max out their CPU long before reaching an acceptable throughput rate. Combine this with the fact that traditional channelized and circuit switched services (TV and Phone) are being transitioned to IP, and you see that replacement of major back end components will be required. $$$
2 - Customer premise equipment (CPE) isn't ready. Go find a SOHO router that has v6 support. Even when you find one, can you expect the next guy to pay the premium for the product? The home router vendors (i'm speculating) see supporting v6 as a move that would prevent them from selling another router in the future. Why sell one thing when you could sell two? They will wait until the last minute. Other standards, such as DOCSIS 3 and Packetcable 2.0, aren't fully implemented in traditional carrier-provided CPE.
3 - Providers are in the position of needing to replace CPE in every household to support IPv6. The same providers are looking at doing the same for the transition to IP Video, IP telephony, service mobility, etc. Given that each visit to the home costs $50-100, plus the cost of the equipment, it makes a lot of sense to get as many problems as possible solved with the fewest customer interactions and parts purchased. Imagine that the CPE costs $400 and the home visit costs $100. For just a million customers, it would cost $500M to do the change. Be glad the providers are doing this carefully, these numbers are too large to be absorbed quickly without changing your bill.
4 - NATing customers is an option, but it can break services. Ironially, the services it breaks are some of the ones the carriers provide. SIP-based telephony and video generally rely on UDP for signaling, as do the RTP carriers of media. Providers are getting pressure to support more consumer devices, and when they do, they have less control of the packet flows. Quality Assurance and interoperability testing becomes less and less viable. Proxies and NAT may be an option, but they are bad options. Carriers know this, and it means even more money to maintain service parity alongside meeting today's customer expectations of using the devices of their choice. It simply isn't all HTTP.
5 - There are some problems that we are only just seeing. When your provider applies a
Acknowledging your assertion that we have collectively had enough time, I think we have much of the hard work done. Now some of the other players and business interests need to get their part done. It won't be too-little, too-late. It will be just-enough,at-the-11th-hour (once it gets painful).
I believe there may be at least one loophole. RFC 2549 describes a method for applying QOS in a way the FCC may have no right to regulate.
This might be a good target for sarcastic comments, but I wonder if there isn't a more worthwhile line of thinking.
Do we put folks into prison to protect those who are outside, or is it merely punitive? Knowing that many are going to come out at some point, doesn't it make sense to prepare the convicted for living a normal life? The story seems to highlight the question for me of whether we would rather "punish" or "correct" those whose trajectories seem to favor harm to society. What do you say to a person who chooses the side that, despite the hardships that come with it, is the one he understands?
Over the last twelve years, I've worked in a variety of computing roles, from very early in the support process to "architecture" roles, as well as some software development roles. During that time, I have bemoaned my bad timing as a "late to the game", especially during the dot com bust. But the provided me with a smaller, more diverse set of opportunities that have ultimately led to better perspective and a more attractive resume. I finished the college degree that I started before the bust while I consulted for small businesses. During that time I acted as an 'IT Guy' while also pursuing problem solving opportunities that only a programmer could complete. I'll not trouble you with more, except to give you some bullet-form advice.
- Expect continuous learning, and be willing to do it on your off time.
- Differentiate yourself somehow. While having a perspective on a broad range of topics, be deep in some.
- Look to small-to-medium sized businesses, and don't be afraid of the approach. Play the numbers, 10 might not want you, but the 11th might.
I can't stress this enough. The small and medium sized companies can't always afford services from the Oracles and IBMs of the world. They are stuck buying off-the-shelf solutions that half fit their needs. Your niche, if you choose to take it, is the guy who can provide higher-end solutions for lower-end prices. They can spend 2-10k on you, but the licensing for software alone can eliminate the complex off-the-shelf products. The custom solutions are for your resume, the low-end pay will get you by, and in the long run, you'll have seen the entrepreneurial side of things. Also, understand that these companies are often run by individual owners who can make the decision without a committee or HR department. You play to their own feelings of value-for-the-dollar. Example: a customer of mine needed custom reports that his vendor wouldn't provide him. I reverse-engineered the database and built the reports. Build trust - I said it would take 2 weeks, it took 3. Charge for 2, comp one. I was first pick for the next service.
- Don't expect long-term employment right now, but make try to make the short-term work noteworthy.
- Value certifications, especially the college degree. Shrug off the naysayers. In easy job markets, they don't mean much, but in hard ones, they are what keeps you "in the running" against your competition. Accrue these any way you can.
- Know IP. IPv4, IPv6. Simply being able to subnet puts you in a higher tier. Do it.
- Get an idea of what's ahead. Convergence is a big deal. If you have free time, learn to build apps for iPhone, Android, etc. This is going to be a huge area with lots of opportunity. If you can build these inexpensively, there are companies that will pay for them. "I can build you a working app for $10k" looks like a great deal for many companies.
- Forget the discouraging responses to this thread. The truth is that competent technology folks are NOT everywhere. Be a good one and you'll have no problem, at least in the next economic cycle.
Best of luck!