A single glass of pain – IT management tools


The title of this post more accurately reflects the state of play with many current IT management tools. Below, I cover my main gripes with the tools that IT engineers try to squeeze for usefulness every day.

My cup floweth over

Firstly, I am disappointed that the WordPress spell checker does not include archaic English and is trying to change floweth to flowerpot.

Now, have a think about how long you have worked in IT. Now think about how you manage your estate today compared to how you did it when you started out. Sure, there may be improvements you can point out but how many of those are based on budget increases or moving to a new company, for example?

I’ve been in the industry for 10+ years (I will only ever change this figure from this point onwards for each 5 years, then when I hit 100 years, increments will be in 25’s) and I can honestly say that IT management tools have progressed at a rate that frustrates me.

I will concede that virtualisation has brought improvements with the associated toolset, but not in line with the complexity that the technology has brought with it. I remember working on a contract back in 2002 (when the servers were all bare metal) that used a Computer Associates product that allowed me to monitor a national IT estate of over 400 sites with 10000+ users and multiple data centres, deploy patches and desktop/server applications. However, the software suite was composed of several different applications all under the same badge and utilised different back end databases. They had no common interface to them. Several other tools were used to fill in some gaps. Anything that couldn’t be done with the software got scripted.

Fast forward 13 years and I’m not sure the tools we use as an industry have made 13 years worth of progress. OK, so some tools can abstract the layers beneath e.g. Microsoft VMM can now manage VMware and Hyper-V, but if these hypervisors sit on Cisco’s UCS for example, or indeed any other vendor, you have another tool for managing the hardware, a different GUI for managing backups, monitoring to any real level of usefulness will usually require a number of tools (that may or may not be available in the same GUI, with a uniform feel) that quite often come with a hefty price tag if you don’t want to spend all of your remaining life getting the thing installed, configured and maintained.

You still end up having to script the things that all these tools still fail to deliver on. What is the root of the problem? I blame the vendors. Until they start agreeing on and offering standards based management interfaces for applications to be built on, we will always have a mix and match requirement to improve our operational visibility and control.


The year is 2015 and the ecosystem is still a fragmented mess. The single pane of glass model appears to still be way over the horizon.

There are some great management tools out there, don’t get me wrong. The fact is however, that there is nothing that comes even close to being a single pane of glass that we can use to manage our estate, end to end.

I implore vendors to start standing next to each other, bang heads a few times and start working together to create the tools that will allow us, the customers, to spend less time fire fighting and flicking from one tool to another and add real value for our customers.

Till the next time.

TV shows need to fire their IT consultants


It’s the pet hate of any self-respecting geek. Technology referenced on a TV show or film that at best is misinformed, at worst blatantly disregards any sense of reality. If you are reading this post, I would be willing to bet you are familiar with that blank look you get from a friend or family member when you try to explain that .342 in an IP address is “wrong, just wrong”.

Bit of fun

Below are some videos that, whilst hilarious in isolation, are enough to prevent me watching a full episode.

In video 1, we see two of the leads from NCIS carefully coordinating key presses on a keyboard to try and thwart a pesky hacker.


Video 2 shows some amazingly agile DevOps skillz to entrap what is possibly the same skilled hacker from NCIS (yes, I deliberately wrote that to increase the comment count on this post, even if they are hateful).


Video 3 is my favourite. I haven’t seen the episode itself so when I saw this the first time, I thought it was a mash up of two different clips. Alas, no. So sit back and enjoy the virtual magic mushrooms.


This has been a slight deviation from my usual post, but I hope you enjoy the clips. There are dozens more out there so I may well return to this theme again. I just need to upgrade my blog to IPv7.2b in order to support the new encrypted video codecs.

Till the next time.

Top IT podcasts


I thought it would be valuable to some readers if I collated a list of the top IT podcasts in one place and gave a brief description of each of them. Who am I kidding? This list will also be helpful to me as I get older and start forgetting more and more things. Some of these shows were new to me so I went on a marathon session before reviewing.


  • Packet Pushers – this was the first networking podcast I started listening to and its still my favourite. It is hosted by Greg Ferro and Ethan Banks, both who have been in the industry long enough to know a thing or two. Topics cover protocols, hardware, design, security, certification, a little bit of SDN, etc. There have been a few attempts at other podcast streams under the Packet Pushers banner. The Priority Queue is used to deep dive on niche topics and Healthy Paranoia is an excellent security focused podcast hosted by Michele Chubirka. There was a Wrath of the Data Center show that was based around the CCIE Data Center certification hosted by Tony Bourke but it withered away after only a couple of shows. There is a growing blogger community too and also a forum. PP has further presence on IRC, Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Apart from the mostly great content, the thing that really works for me is how Ethan and Greg compliment each other so well. Add in Michele’s insane approach to introducing her show and in depth knowledge and it adds up to a fun learning experience. Expect a new show about once a week
  • No Strings Attached – love wireless? Then look no further. Hosts include Sam Clements, Jennifer Huber, Blake Krone and George Stefanick. The show is relatively new, hitting the airwaves in January 2012. This is obviously a more specialised show than some of the others but, already at show 19, they are still producing great content at about a show every 2-3 weeks. Topics include hardware from different vendors, software and the ever evolving 802.11 standards
  • Class C Block – this is the newest of the shows listed here, only producing it’s first show in September 2012. Since then the hosts, CJ Infantino and Matthew Stone, have produced a show roughly every 2-3 weeks, although it has sadly ground to a halt. Topics cover IPv6, studying, design, and MPLS. Give them your support by getting over there and having a listen and if you like, drop them a comment. There is nothing like positive feedback and high consumption figures to motivate more content. I found this podcast quite refreshing for the most part. You can sense the guys wanting to learn themselves as much as feed back to the community. Just a shame it ran out of steam
  • Risky Business – another more specialised and award winning show, this time focusing on security. This is the longest running show featured here having been born in February 2007 and produces a show every 1-2 weeks. Don’t feel overawed by the 200+ shows, go back up to six months and start from there, dipping in to any older shows that take your fancy
  • Social Engineer.org – a resource rich website, it focuses on what is for me, the most intriguing aspect to Information Security. The show itself started in October 2009 and is produced about once a month. Topics have included pretexting, NLP, penetration testing and Kevin Mitnick. The main host, Chris Hadnagy is excellent and he has a number of  supporting panelists, such as Dave Kennedy, who all offer something different to make this one of my favourites. The quality of the guests always impresses
  • Arrested DevOps – This is one of my favourite more recent podcasts with a good line up of industry folk and content. The show notes are always top notch with full transcriptions too. Some of the topics include hiring in IT and dealing with failure


Have I missed your favourite? If so, add it in the comments below with a brief synopsis as I have above. Try at least a couple from each of those listed above and let the hosts know what you think.

Till the next time.