What are your New Year’s Resolutions?

I don’t know about you, but I like setting New Year’s resolutions.  I like setting goals for myself and reflecting back on how I did on those goals.  Not all goals can be accomplished, but looking back and knowing that at least I accomplished something through the year proves to me that I can keep learning and growing as a person.  Setting goals gives me a plan for the new coming year.

Reflection

The year 2017 brought a lot of good change for me.  I sought out to learn more about Amazon AWS.  I knew nothing about it and felt that this was an area I needed to dig deeper into so I could at the very least, understand the new list of acronyms and have a basic understanding.  I signed up for acloug.guru and bought all of the associate classes.  I not only learned more about AWS as a whole, I passed my AWS Solutions Architect Associate certification, but I also started my first blog!  I’ve always wanted to start a blog, but I didn’t have the courage.  The thought of putting my opinions out there for others to judge, frightened me.  At the end of the SAA exam with acloud.guru you have a working blog.  Figured, I got over one hump time to get past my fear.  So, I started this blog.

In October, a community member had the idea of hash tagging the month to #Blogtober and having a mini-contest for members to write five articles for the month. I was able to reach this goal and as of today I’ve written 18 posts since June.  Because of my blogging, I was on a podcast called The Tech Village.  The hosts, Yadin Porter de Leon and Lauren Malhoit, saw a blog I wrote about changing careers and asked me to be on to talk about my experience.  Again, something that I’ve only dreamed about doing.  Probably because of that judging thing once again.  I was flattered and honored.  It was a great experience and I’m happy I said yes.

In November I was asked to join the Burwood Group as an IT consultant.  My entire career, I’ve worked in IT operations and felt like the next progression in my career was consulting.  I’ve been on the job for about six weeks, and one of the biggest adjustments is the talk about how I’m now seen as an asset that can generate revenue.  Being in IT operations, I’ve always been seen as the guy to keep the systems running so others can make the money. So physicians and clinicians can see patients, for engineers to send drawings to the shop floor, or for the sales staff to access CRM.

Setting the Bar

 

The year 2017 brought me a lot of change, and I want to keep building off that change in year 2018.  Putting myself and ideas out for more people to read, has introduced me to a lot of interesting people.  Some of which I hope I can meet or possibly even work with one day.  I’ve submitted for the 2018 vExpert program and I hope I can check that off the list, but go outside of this circle and venture into other communities.  There are a lot of people that are part of multiple communities / camps and I would like to be one of those people and apply for another community certifications.

Working at a partner, I will need to step up my certification game.  I see lots of tests in my future.  In years past, I’ve always made sure I took at least one certification exam.  This year, it will be more like five or more if I had to put a number too it.  I want to complete all AWS solutions exams and start looking at some of the more advanced certs either from AWS or VMware.

To build off the community certification program, I want submit for at least one public speaking event either for a user group or a conference.  If that doesn’t work out do another podcast or host a web series.  I want to continue pushing myself with these softer skills.

Lastly, containers and orchestration.  I’ve heard about Kubernetes and Docker at conferences and on podcasts.  I never saw these technologies in the wild, until recently.  I feel like this is the next wave of disruptive technologies and I need to have a better understanding of the nuts and bolts.

Thoughts…

Dang! 2017 was darn busy, and 2018 is going to be even busier.  I have to admit though, I had a lot of fun pushing myself and getting out of my own way.  I’ve had some very rewarding conversations with people that I wouldn’t have had, if I didn’t put my thoughts and opinions out there for others to judge.  I can’t wait to come back to this article and see how many items I’ve checked off and how many new people I’ll meet!

Change Can Be Good

I haven’t written anything in almost twenty days.  I’m finding writing is almost therapeutic. It’s a way for me to sit down, focus, and organize my thoughts, both technical thoughts and random opinions.  Over these last three weeks I’ve had a lot of different thoughts go through my head.  I started a new job this past week and the emotional roller coaster started many months before then.

Location

I worked at the same organization for ten years.  In today’s world, that feels unique because a lot of professionals in the tech industry job hop.  I follow a lot of different tech enthusiasts and some of these techies live in many parts of the country, but not a lot live in the mid-West.  Those that work on either coast seem to change positions often, at least more than me since following them on social media. I think one reason is there are so many opportunities in these areas. Of the Fortune 500 companies, 55 are located in New York and 53 are located in California. The average size of a Fortune 500 company is 52,000. Professionals can either grow inside of each organization or jump ship if things are not working out.

Fear

I stayed where I was at for a number of reasons.  I was learning technology and growing a passion for specific areas in tech.  The organization was allowing me to grow into these technologies and push them further into the business.  I was working with great individuals that I would classify as some of my closest friends.  Fear was another reason.  Fear of getting out of my comfort zone and fear of finding other options. My community is small and there aren’t a lot of choices in the area which means you need to either move or be content.  I love where I live, but I don’t like being content.  Content to me feels like giving up.  I watch too many movies to know that we have only one life and we need to maximize our life experiences to the fullest.

Technology introduced me to other people outside of my business, my community, and allowed me to have a common ground to introduce myself and talk with these community leaders.  But, I had a hard time keeping in contact. Thus, the introduction of Twitter.  Twitter allowed me to expand my network and listen to other’s stories. To hear that it’s OK to think about your career and to not settle.

Change

Change is good. It’s what allows businesses to adjust, it allows kids to develop, and allows adults to  transform into the person they want to be. Change is also scary. It’s human nature to fall into a routine and be comfortable with that routine. We know what to expect in our routines.  Do you take the same roads when going to work? Try taking a different route or taking the long way and see what happens.  Taking a different way makes us more aware of our surroundings. We don’t drift into thought as easily because it’s new and we need to be on alert.

I started to feel this same way in my day to day job responsibilities. Things were becoming easy and almost predictable. I wanted to change things up. I’ve been thinking about a solutions architect position for sometime. To be able to design and build a solution based off of a businesses needs. After talking with people, reading books, and listening to blogs the next step was joining a partner. I feel a partner offers greater change and gives you access to businesses looking for assistance and opportunities to build solutions.

Thoughts

I’m very excited to join a partner, but also anxious. This isn’t going to be the same road I’ve traveled my entire career. I’m ready to be on alert and begin a new adventure. I want to learn a new style of business, but keep in the thick of technology.  My passion for technology has taken me this far, now it’s time to start focusing more on my softer skills and “being comfortable with being uncomfortable”.

I tried to the find the quote, but was unsuccessful. The idea was to say YES to everything. When was the last time you said yes to a decision but later regretted it? If anything, you hear people saying No to a decision and later wishing they hadn’t. Keep learning, keep growing, keep trying new things…and take a different way home tomorrow 🙂

How to create WordPress in AWS

I’ve enjoyed the self challenge of creating a blog a week, especially for Blogtober. This will be my fifth blog. If you don’t know what Blogtober is, it’s a community driven challenge to produce five articles in the month of October. I’ve struggled with this last one. I don’t know if it’s the extra added pressure, or if it’s because I have a deadline. In all, it’s been fun to have the extra community help pushing me with a side of peer pressure. Some great content has been produced, and others have published more than the five articles required.

I enjoy expanding my boundaries and meeting challenges. I feel blogging has helped me meet more people, but also has helped me get real hands on experience with AWS. I started by taking the self passed classes by acloud.guru. Before ever taking the class, I kept procrastinating on creating a blog. I didn’t know, with acloud.guru, the end project would be standing up a fully functional WordPress site.

I want others to expand their boundaries, but to gain the experience of working inside of some kind of cloud platform. The public cloud is not going away and it’s a new tool systems administrators should start experimenting with. My goal for this last #Blogtober blog will be to show others how to standup their own WordPress site.

Create an Account

Sometimes the hardest part turns out to be the easiest. In order to gain access to the one year free of AWS, you need to create an account. To get started all you need an email address, phone, and a credit card. I’m not going to show you how to do this step because it’s a simple process that follows other free sign ups. If you need extra help, here‘s a link to get you started. Here’s also the link to create you free AWS Account.

Getting Started with Identity and Access Management (IAM)

This topic is serious. An entire blog can be written on this topic and still not cover everything. I’m sorry to say, I will not be covering this area in much detail. My purpose is to help you get a blog up and running as quickly as possible. The one takeaway from IAM is configure Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). That phone you used previously, make sure that’s your personal device and tie it to the root account. I use the Google Authenticator to get into my account. If you want to read about your options with MFA, read here.

If you build it they will come

Now that we have created our root account and have protected with two-factor, now let’s create that WordPress site. After you’ve logged in, AWS will dump into the services page. Go ahead and look around. There are a lot of services AWS provides. The one we want to focus in on is EC2 which is under the Compute Service.

Once in the EC2 Dashboard, click on the Launch Instance button. It’s hard to miss, it’s the big blue one in the middle.

When I was taking the acloud.guru class, they had us create the site entirely by hand. When you’re learning the fundamentals, this is a great way to learn new material. Not today. Speed is our focus. On the left hand side, under Quick Start, select AWS Marketplace. The AWS Marketplace is where you can sell or buy software that runs on AWS! If you look through the catalog there’s a lot being offered from well known vendors like Cisco, Splunk, and Palo Alto.

Search for WordPress. Look for the AMI that has “WordPress Certified by Bitnami“. Click on Select on the right.

Step 1: Choose an Amazon Machine Instance (AMI)
The charges associated with the AMI are if you go outside of the T2.micro instance. I found an article by Amazon that says if you’re on the free tier you will not be charged. When I stood up this AMI, I have not seen a charge to my account even though I had it up for less than hour. So, watch your charges after you stand up this AMI.

Scroll to the bottom and click Continue.

Step 2: Choose an Instance type
Please be sure to select t2.micro and it says Fee Tier Eligible. Click on Next: Configure Instance Details.

Step 3: Configure Instance Defaults
Keep all the defaults at this point. Click Next: Add Storage.

Step 4: Add Storage
Keep the storage default at 10GB and using a General Purpose SSD (GP2). Click Next: Add Tags.

Step 5: Add Tags
Put in a tag. I put in Name and WordPress demo for the Key:Value. Click Next: Configure Security Group.

Step 6: Configure Security Group
You can use other security groups if you have them, but I’m assuming you don’t. Plus, remember speed. Keep all the defaults. The biggest three items that need to be opened are ports 22 (SSH), 80 (HTTP), and 443 (HTTPS). Click Review and Launch

Step 7: Review Instance Launch
Review the instance and if everything looks good, click on Launch.

Select an existing key pay or create a new key pair
This last step creates a key value pair so you can SSH into your instance if needed. When you’re manually configuring AWS AMIs, this is always a last step. Make sure you keep track of your private keys! Click Launch Instances

Give you newly created instance a few minutes to initialize. It took mine about three minutes to go from Initializing to running. To view the instance click on Instances under Instances in the EC2 dashboard.

Once the image is running, find the public IP address. Highlight the instance and below in the Description tab you will see the public IP address AWS has given the instance. Open up a web browser and hit the IP. If all went well, you will see your new blog!

It is a default configured WordPress site. If you want to modify the look or add plugins you’ll need the admin account and password. If you go back to your AWS EC2 instances, highlight the instance, and select Actions>Instance Settings>Get System Log.

Scroll near the bottom and look for the text that says:
############################################
#   Setting Bitnami Application password to ‘1234ABCD’ #
############################################
This is the password to get admin rights into the WordPress site.

 

Go to http:\\public-ip\admin. Put in user and the password from above.

Final Thoughts

Once the site is up and running, you might want to go out and register a domain name. No one wants to type in a public IP address. Once you have registered and pointed DNS to your public IP, you can now start producing content and join with community. See you at next year’s #Blogtober.

Know how to code

To be success in this new age of enterprise infrastructure, every systems administrator needs to be able to write code and be able to read other people’s code. It’s a skill us admins need to be developing.

The Start to My Software Development

When I went to college, I did not study computer science. I studied what was called Industrial Technology. Today, it’s called Computer Systems Technology. It was a great major for people who liked working with their hands, but didn’t want to code all day. This major exposed me to switching and routing, circuit boards, C++, Java, and Windows infrastructure. I even had some exposure to 3D graphics. It was great because I got to learn about infrastructure and the fundamentals to software development. The major exposed me to everything that I needed to start my career in IT infrastructure.

Taking Skills and Beyond

I was able to take these skills with me to my first job where I added real life experiences. I learned about VPNs, firewalls, and SANs. I used the background from my major and what I had learned in C++ and applied it to PHP and MySQL to develop an in house web ticketing system. I remember coding everything from scratch. I even wrote all the HTML tags by hand in notepad. The self torture was so I could learn the syntax. I was teaching myself a new language. I of course didn’t see it that way as I was developing, but I was teaching myself the basics.

As I started to get past some of the basic syntax, I started to use other editors beyond basic notepad. Once I had a good foundation under my feet I started to Google how to run specific functions and ran across snippets of PHP code written by others. I used these examples to enhance the code I had written and learned how to better write PHP. I expanded my Google searches from single bits of code, to searching for full versions of software written in PHP/MySQL. If an install didn’t go well, I had acquired the skills to open configuration files and modify them to fit my needs.

Applying Skills to Infrastructure

I’m using the same sets of skills that I used for PHP for today’s infrastructure. I’ve chosen a language, PowerShell, and I’m Googling how to perform specific operations. I’ve started exploring Github and what it has to offer. I’ve looked at a couple of different projects to fill gaps instead of writing the code from scratch. I’ve had a few instances where I’ve had to open the bits and change them to apply to my environment. The biggest difference from when I was modifying PHP to now PowerShell, is the reach of my changes. When I was changing code in PHP it was for a single service or server for the business. When I make infrastructure changes with code, I can modify all services on all servers for the business.

I went to the Indy VMUG UserCon in August and there were two keynote sessions. One from Eric Wright who introduced the crowd to Docker and gave a demo of the benefits of containers. He talked about automation and getting familiar with the syntax. The majority of what he was showing us was…code. The second keynote was by Josh Atwell. He too was talking about automation and to use existing tools inside of vSphere like Host Profiles and tags to automate daily tasks. He went outside of this siloed application and talked about other tools like orchestrators and configuration management. Once again, step outside of a system, it comes down to being able to write code.

Final Thoughts

It’s amazing how everything repeats itself. I first started in IT back in the mid 2000’s. I spent a good chunk of it learning the foundation of IT, but I also learned how to develop code. I learned how to download open source software and configure it for my environment.  The same skills I learned then have helped me today. Now I can go to one central location where a lot of people are contributing and download the software. I need to know how to change configuration files or open an editor to change settings. You don’t have to be a full time developer, but knowing how to write some basic code and the ability to read code will help all system administrators today and beyond.

#Blogtober 3 – Free Stuff


Who doesn’t like free stuff? You could say I’ve been known to not let the purse strings loose very often. When it comes to technology, why should I? There’s a lot of great software out there that enterprise vendors offer for free. Well…nothing is truly free right? Some of the vendors may require you to sign up, which means giving them your contact information.

I tried to put together a list of different technologies that I have used in the past, or seen others on social media recommend. Most of the software listed can be downloaded with submitting your contact information. I know there’s a debate at times about home labs moving to the cloud, but how would you be able to play around with all this free stuff if you don’t have the equipment?

I’ve been reading @vmiss33 book, “How to become and IT architect” and in the books she’s organized IT architecture into eight different categories. I tried to organize my list according to those categories. There is some overlap. My criteria was I wanted software that was easily downloadable and had a long trial period of 90 days or greater. I get busy and time slips away and I need longer trials, 30 days doesn’t cut it. Please take a look and let me know what you think.

CategoryLinksDetails
Server and ComputeNutanix CECommunity Edition of Nutanx. Requires community login.
Nexenta CECommunity Edition of Nexenta. Requires login
Virtualization and Virtual MachinesVMUG AdvantageThis one is an exception. It costs $200 but you get access to 13 different VMware products. To see listing, click here
Amazon AWS Free TierGain exposure to AWS services like EC2, S3, others for 1 year free. Click here
Oracle VM VirtualboxType II hypervsior. You can download and use on host OS like Windows or Linux.
NetworkKemp LoadMaster FreeFree network load balancer that's limited to 20Mbps throughput.
GNS3 Network EmulatorUsed to emulate network devices and to create topologies. Account is required.
WANemWAN emulator to control WAN experience. Great for testing apps over WAN connection. Open Source = Free
StorageEMC ScaleIO FreeSoftware defined storage that can be installed on a range of hpervisors. This software is free for unlimited time, without capacity restrictions. Registration is required.
HPE StoreVirtual VSA 1TBInstall on any server by any vendor. Turns server capacity into shared storage array, up to 1 TB. Good for 3 years. Registration required.
NetApp ONTAP SimNetApp ONTAP simulator. Only available for customers and partners.
XpenologyTurns any old computer into a Synology DS3615 model. Great OS to create an iSCSI target. Images are based on the GNU Open Source license. Free and no limits.
ApplicationsSpiceworksFreeware that's used for help desk, network inventory, monitoring and troubleshooting. Amazing what this product can do.
OpVizor FreeGreat tool to get introduced to Slack and OpBot. Use to monitor and manage VMs in vSphere.
RVToolsTool used to display information about your VMware environments. Supports a range of hosts and vCenters. Free to download.
uberAgentAgent to gather information about user performance in physical world as well as VDI environments. Fully functional, but displays splash screen at logon.
ControlUp Login SimulatorSimulate how a user logs into a Citrix environment. Logins can be repeated. Free to use. Need contact information.
VMware OS OptimizerVMware Fling to optimize operating system. Free to download.
Backup and RecoveryVeeam FreeFree for in a pinch instance to backup, restore VM. Used in VMware and Hyper-V envrionments.
Business Continuity and Disaster RecoverySpiceworksFreeware that's used for help desk, network inventory, monitoring and troubleshooting. Amazing what this product can do.
TurbonomicVirtual Health Monitor is a free virtualization monitoring and reporting tool fro VMware, Hyper-V, RHEV, and XenServer. Free and unlimited. Need to register.
PRTG 100Monitor network, devices, and applications for free. Limited up to 100 devices. No software restrictions.
SecuritypfSense CEFree, open source stateful packet filtering firewall and router.
Sophos XG Home EditionAnti-virus and anti-malware that's free for home use license. You will need to register.
Avast Machine LearningSolid anti-virus with machine learning behavior monitoring. Free to use.
BitdefenderCloud base AV. Free to use.

If you have software that you enjoy and want to share, I will be more than happy to update my list.