Archive for April, 2005

Bumping into cool Agile tools

Friday, April 29th, 2005

Currently, I am on one of those really standard tasks in a migration process: Software Intake.

My role in this is writing application installation instructions for the helpdesk (or for packaging), whereafter these instructions are tested and then approved by the key-user.

Now generally, I considder this rather boring an tedious work, however, you get to be exposed to a very large array of different software, which I do find usefull. I often learn a lot about what kind of software is out there during this kind of project. Would not want to do it for longer than a month or so though.

Anyhow.. one of the applications that passed my desk yesterday was Junit. (Homepage, Sourceforge)

Now, not being a developer at all, and not knowing the first thing about Java really, I had no idea what this thing was, or how to write an instruction for it. But I quickly realized that this little tool was representative of some of the better stuff I have been exposed to over the last year..

Junit is of course a Unit Test tool, used to test small bits of code at a time.

From Wikipedia:
computer programming, a unit test is a method of testing the correctness of a particular module of source code.

The idea is to write test cases for every non-trivial function or method in the module so that each test case is separate from the others if possible.

The unit testing concept is part of the Extreme Programming method of software engineering. Various unit testing frameworks, based on a design by Kent Beck, have come to be known as xUnit testing frameworks and are available for many programming languages and development platforms. Unit testing is the building block to test driven development (TDD). Extreme Programming and most other methods use unit tests to perform black box testing.

Note that the Extreme Programming community has renamed unit tests to “programmer tests”.

Now it was only recently that I was introduced to some of these Agile methodologies like Extreme Programming and Scrum, and I got rather enthousiastic about it all.. as enthousiastic as a non-developer can get about such things I suppose.

But you have to understand, that my opinion of how IT in general is practiced here in the Netherlands, is not very high, and a symptom of this is this ‘disconnect’ between what I understand to be best-practices and what I have read about them online, opposite the fact that the average admin or dev in the Netherlands (that I have met) often wont even have heard of any of this kind of stuff, let alone follow any of it.
(Arrogance alert: Remember, this is my own perception, and I may be wrong. But the more Dutch companies I am exposed to, the more I get this feeling; – that there is an overwhealming lack of awareness of people in IT, of the larger IT community, and what is happening in that space. And thus, the more convinced I become that people like me are the exception in this ‘awareness’, and not the rule)

Therefor, you can possibly imagine my delight to see some evidence of developers within a Dutch company actually being connected with the bigger picture, in that they are not only familiar with concepts such as Agile methods, but are actually going out and finding the tools to make it work for them.

Datacenter Move post 2

Monday, April 25th, 2005


So it turns out, we are gonna move all the servers to 1 location. Expect a new rack diagram soonish 😉

I hate politics.

Moving it all to 1 place is both a blessing and a curse. Naturally, its logistically easier for us. But it also means we are facing potential power and airco issues at the single location.

Moving to the 1 location was a political desicion, and not made with the best of technical considerations in mind.

On top of that, the big Citrix migration project, that we are depending on being finished by the time we move the bulk of our servers, is looking less and less likely to complete on time.

This means, in short we will be moving a lot more servers and equipment we are currently scoped for. I would very much like to prepare for the worst case, but politics are getting in the way again.

For example, I originally planned to move at least 1 IBM Bladecenter along with our NAS to the new location. These are needed to support the Citrix farm, in case the Prague project doesnt finish in time.

IMG_0909 The Bladecenters

However the project steering group told us this was not in scope, as the Prague project have indicated they would be finished, even though everyone knows they will never make it.

The reasoning is mostly to do with money. Moving the Blacecenter and the NAS, would place a power burden on the new TCR, that would require a more powerfull generator. These are fucking expensive.

So if the Prague move project -claims– they will finish end of May, then why spend thousands of euro’s on a new generator that wont be needed.

Well, because, dear project stearing group, the Prague migration project -wont– be finished on time, and guess what, your gonna have to buy it anyway, so lets by it now and give ourselves some breathing room.

I dont really care about the politics. All I know, is that when push comes to shove, its gonna be US that do all the hard work.

I dont understand this insistance to stand on principle, with all the risks associated with that. Why not play it safe, we are talking about all the Benelux operations of the company that are at stake if we dont mitigate some of these risks.

I cant understand their thinking at all, it seems insanely risky and dangerous to me.

To make things even more silly, there is now talk of at least one of the WMS’s (warehouse management systems) that the Prague project was supposedly gonna migrate we are going to have to move.

The only reason is that, apparently, they are starting to see they wont make it in time.

IMG_0617 The Alpha server running one of our many WMS’

The really funny thing, is that that particular WMS runs ons an Alpha box, with a similair power requirement to the Blade Center.. taking the serverroom over the powerlimit too! Whahah!

Anyway, back to the technology

The new HP servers and racks + options arrived, and the last week has been spent building it all up.

This is me at one of the 3 sexy HP TFT7210R 1U console options.

Cables are still messy, its al temporary till our network guys can put in the new core. Some of that will be happening tonight!

I labeled all the servers, and set up the ILO cards with the advanced licences, and gave them static IP adreses in a new management VLAN we created.

Currently we are on a temporary switch, and only room enough to hook up 4 servers at at time. Should be better after tonight when they bring the new core online.

I spent the last 2 days documenting stuff, deviding the licences, and trying to install the OS on these machines remotely, using ILO.

This didn’t go according to plan. At all.

I posted about this on the new Ars Technica forum “the Server room”

From my thread “ad-hoc Remote Windows installation stategies using ILO”

We have set up a number of servers in a remote location. They are all HP DL360 G5’s with advanced ILO licenses.

Now this works great, but when I tried to remotely install, I run into problems.

I can mount an ISO of the SmartStart CD, and it boots as it should, its a little slow loading of course, but I can get through all the config steps.
But at the screen where the SmartStart says it is copying files to server, it often hangs, or at least, takes forever.
On the rare occasion it gets past this, it wont, for some reason, recognize the Windows OS installer ISO image.

Now both problems might be related to latency, or to a limitation in the way the ISO files are being mounted through the ILO.

Perhaps what I am doing is not supported (I know it isn’t with IBM), but I have not found anything in the Smartstart or ILO documentation that says I cannot do Windows OS install remotely.

So, if I cant figure out why this isn’t working, I am going to have to build some alternative way of remotely installing Windows. Probably via a distribution share, and network boot media like BartPE or something similar.

I don’t have any commercial product available for OS imaging, unfortunately. And don’t have the timescale to purchase these either.

Nor can I use a PXE boot option at this time, because of network limitations. And even then, i dont have time to set up RIS.

What are the kind of solutions you employ for remote OS provisioning?

Well I have gotten a number of responces so far, none of them very helpfull. By best bet is that latency us causing the issues, but I dont have any hardware at location just yet, that I can set up as a distribution point.

I will elaborate on the way I want to use ILO in a sperate post. I have yet to figure out the best way to deal with this.

In the meantime, tomorrow, I will be going to the location and starting the OS installs manually. That at least is a sure way of getting them installed.

Oh, finally, want to see why we need to move in the first place?

This is through the window, the office next to ours.

See the cable tray that was previously in the ceiling? The one marked with the red/white tape?

Thats all the copper and fiber of the current datacenter going through there. I am scared shitless they are gonna damage them while they strip the building.

Got the MSPress PKI book

Friday, April 22nd, 2005

It was funny. I had already picked up the Microsoft Windows Server(TM) 2003 PKI and Certificate Security from MSPress before I went to that session yesterday, and had already gone though the first chapter or so. Nice cross-media info-soaking, and relevant to my next MCSA module, 70-299.

I should make a new photocraph of my book case. (old one)  There is a whole lote more blue in there now