Friday, October 21, 2016

When The Cloud is Down

Monday through Thursday, I leave the house well before dawn to make the 60 mile drive to my office. It's a quick and quiet drive, as long as I'm in the car by 5:45am. If you live outside of the Baltimore / Washington, D.C. region, you're probably thinking, "what in the holy hell are you doing driving 60 miles before the sun rises?" But my fellow DMV peeps certainly understand, and are likely nodding along with this declaration.

Friday, though, is different. I'm working from home, and my commute is shortened to about 30' as I shuffle to my desk and log in to start my day. A lurched, plaid caffeine addict inhabits the workspace, and like so many of you, I begin my day on Twitter.

Lately, I'm interested in the US general election (because I'm still hopeful we won't elect a raging narcissist puppet), so I scroll through political and press tweets about the latest debate debacles. I lol at #NastyWoman and #BadHombres, then get a sinking feeling that the center in American, possibly global, politics has been stolen by fanatics on both sides of the aisle.

So I move on to tech Twitter. The Nutanix IPO has me interested in that company again, although I'm still struggling to reconcile my admiration for their technology with my dislike for much of their corporate marketing. And their simmering beef with VMW evokes feelings of confusion and hopelessness, not unlike those emotions evinced by political observers this year. Is it ok to admire both Nutanix and VMware? Based on tweets from employees of both companies, you'd think the answer is no.

Fanatics and zealots, you're one or the other.

Is there an emoji for the utter lack of emotion due to shock?
Put that one here.
These Friday routines are sacred rites, accompanied by several large cups of coffee from a vendor's mug. Wake up, Twitter. Coffee, Twitter. Throughout the workday, Twitter. I didn't realize the extent to which I'm dependent on Twitter as a micro distraction until... it was down.

Twitter was down this morning, and it took about 10 minutes to accept that it wasn't a local problem.

Reflexively, and without thought, I attempted to share my frustration with the outage... on Twitter. "Oh, yeah," I thought, and, in quiet defeat, closed the Twitter client.

So what do I do? I don't use Facebook. I deleted Instagram from my phone again just last night because, well, I guess because I really don't like social media after all. And I'm decidedly too old for any of that Snapchat, WhatsApp, KiK, whatever-the-fuck-else social media apps are out there today. So when Twitter isn't an option, there is no option. It's vendor lock-in at a personal level.

Down Cloud

Clouds go up, clouds go down, such is the nature of technology. The most reliable system in the world can't meet 100%, no matter how loud the customers and CIOs scream. We all know this, and we're all happy to live in uptime denial nonetheless. "The free service I use extensively is down for a few minutes? UNBELIEVABLE CALL THE POLICE I'M DYING," we say. Or at least we think it.

To make things worse, one of the SaaS solutions we use at work, xMatters, also went offline this morning. And when xMatters isn't healthy, many of the system-generated alerts from various monitoring solutions do not get delivered. Of course, this is a paid service, so there's slightly less guilt involved.

Today is a much needed reminder that all services, on-prem, hybrid, cloud, shadow, you name it, are subject to failure. Moving your applications or services to another platform, or vendor, or solution, will never solve your problems, unless you are willing to honestly assess the faults in your own applications.

Where ever your apps go, there they are.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Moon Car

I love my car.

The black Volvo S40 that I lovingly refer to as "The Legend" joined our family eleven years ago. After we drove it home for the first time, the odometer displayed a dozen or so miles, which measured the distance from the dealership to our home. A pristine, beautiful, Swedish (well, kinda, with the exception of FoMoCo's under-the-hood meddling) thing. Flawless. Lustrous. Immaculate. All those tight adjectives applied, for The Legend was born in the summer of 2005.

Fast forward to 2016, and The Legend is still with us. But all of those youthful descriptors have been voided, the victims of time, weather, circumstance, and use. From a distance, it's the same small sedan as it ever was. But get closer, and you'll see what it's become.

The Legend is a mechanically functioning ghost of its former self. The radio works, but not the CD changer. Some speakers work, most do not. The power seat is powerless, stoic in its semi-reclined pose. (Luckily, it froze in an agreeable position for me.) The ceiling upholstery droops and sags, which is why I fired a few dozen staples upwards to delay the inevitable. And yesterday, after years of protracted wilting, the ceiling upholstery was unceremoniously ripped from the interior by your humble correspondent in a moment of clarity and/or rage. The trunk lid's light melted years ago. Don't ask. The glove compartment lock is broken, which created a time capsule of the late 2000s that will never be opened. Melted hard candies add muted color to an otherwise dreary gray back seat. The air conditioning taunts the car's occupants by secretly replacing cooled air with humid, warm air. Combined with a leaking moon roof, the devious AC creates a mobile rainforest in the interior of The Legend, an environment which is ideal for insects and certain fungal organisms that pose respiratory hazards for, well, humans.

Oh, and sometimes water shoots out of the floor vents.

Sic Transit Gloria

For a brief moment yesterday, I was ready to get rid of this car. The ensuing cascade of emotion started with anger, evolved into curiosity and excitement, morphed into resentment and disbelief, and finally settled for resignation. Kinda like this (warning, bad words ahead):

Fuck this car.
Ooo, it's time for a new car!
Fuck this, I don't want a new car.
It's fine. It's fine. I'll deal with it. It's fine.
Fuck it.

The Legend's glory faded long ago. The odometer currently indicates that the Legend has logged enough miles to get to the moon (at least when the moon is at its closest to the Earth, which is 225,623 miles). The Legend is the Moon Car. And it's got the Heritage Club emblems to prove it.


The problem with this car is that it's still working. It starts up every morning when I need to go to work. It starts up every evening when I want to go home. It doesn't complain. It just keeps running. Its primary function, transport, is reliably satisfied at every opportunity. Secondary functions, originally as reliable, are now just visiting, temporal pleasantries. But to say goodbye to this car now would be like burying your thirteen year-old cat while he still enjoys long naps in the summer sunshine. It's a grotesque thought that should make you recoil, not quicken your pulse with anticipation.

And so, The Legend lives on. Uncountable miles await ahead, laid out on familiar and unfamiliar roads. It keeps running. It keeps running. It keeps running.