Cloud and failure

Despite all the cloud talk and where I live, it is like the cloud mecca, for enterprises it is still quite new and many are just starting to think about it. A hard lesson that many of us learn (and partly how we amass our scars) is to design for failures. For those, who run things in their enterprises data center, are quite spoilt I think. Failures are rare, and if machines or state goes down, moving to another one isn’t really a big deal (of course it is a little more complex, and not to say, there isn’t any down time, or business loss, etc.).

When thinking about a cloud migration (hybrid or otherwise) – a key rule is that you are guaranteed to have failures – at many aspects, and those cannot be exceptional conditions, but rather the normal design and expected behavior. As a result, you app/services/API/whatever needs to be designed for failure. And not only how your loosely couple your architecture to be able to handle these situations, but also, how the response isn’t a binary (yay, or a fancy 404); but rather a degraded experience, where your app/service/API/whatever still performs albeit in a deprecated mode.

Things that can throw one off, and is food for thought (not exhaustive, or on any particular order):

  • Managing state (when failures is guaranteed)
  • Latency – cloud is fast, but slower than your internal data center; you know – physics. 🙂 How are your REST API’s handling latency, and are they degrading performance?
  • “Chatiness” – how talkative, are your things on the wire? And how big is the payload?
  • Rollback, or fall forward?
  • Lossy transfers (if data structure sizes are large)
  • DevOps – mashing up of Developers, and Operations (what some call SRE) – you own the stuff you build, and, responsible for it.
  • AutoScale – most think this is to scale up, but it also means to scale down when resources are not needed.
  • Physical deployments – Regional deployment vs. global ones – there isn’t a right or wrong answer, it frankly depends on the service and what you are trying to do. Personally, I would lean towards regional first.
  • Production deployment strategies – various ways to skin a cat and no one is right or wrong per se (except, please don’t do a basic deployment) – that is suicide. I am use to A/B testing, but also what is now called Blue/Green deployment. Read up more here. And of course use some kind of a deployment window (that works for your business) – this allows you and your team to watch what is going on, and take corrective actions if required.
  • Automate everything you can; yes its not free, but you recoup that investment pretty quick; and will still have hair on the scalp!
  • Instrument – if you can’t measure it, you can’t fix it.

Again, not an exhaustive list, but rather meant to get one thinking. There are also some inherent assumptions – e.g. automation and production deployment suggests, there is some automated testing in place; and a CI/CD strategy and supporting tools.

Bottom line – when it comes to cloud (or any other distributed architecture), the best way to avoid failure is to fail constantly!

From managers to leaders

Recently, a few of us went through a workshop where one of the ‘homework’ was to score oneself, on the following 7 aspects – some of these are attributes that allows one to grow from being (hopefully) good managers to great leaders.

In most enterprises, as one grows in their career, managers need to acquire new capabilities – and quickly. What they have, in terms of skills and capabilities and got her or him to this place, won’t be enough for the next step – as the scope and complexity increases it can leave executives underwhelmed. At the core, new executives need support on these seven dimensions that will help them make this transition.

    • Specialist to generalist – Understand the mental models, tools, and terms used in key business functions and develop templates for evaluating the leaders of those functions.
    • Analyst to Integrator – Integrate the collective knowledge of cross-functional teams and make appropriate trade-offs to solve complex organizational problems.
    • Tactician to Strategist – Shift fluidly between the details and the larger picture, perceive important patterns in complex environments, and anticipate and influence the reactions of key external players.
    • Bricklayer to Architect – Understand how to analyze and design organizational systems so that strategy, structure, operating models, and skill bases fit together effectively and efficiently, and harness this understanding to make needed organizational changes.
    • Problem Solver to Agenda Setter – Define the problems the organization should focus on, and spot issues that don’t fall neatly into any one function but are still important.
    • Warrior to Diplomat – Proactively shape the environment in which the business operates by influencing key external constituencies, including the government, NGOs, the media, and investors.
    • Supporting Cast Member to Lead Role – Exhibit the right behaviors as a role model for the organization and learn to communicate with and inspire large groups of people both directly and, increasingly, indirectly.

I was surprised on how few people talk about this. These come from an awesome HBR article called How Managers become Leaders, which if you haven’t read, I would highly recommend.

So, what can one do? The suggestions outlined are not rocket science, but something to think about. And fundamentally not that much different on how the armed forces trains new officers.

  • Give potential leaders:
    • Experience on cross-functional projects
    • An international assignment
    • Exposure to a broad range of business situations – accelerated growth, sustaining success, realignment, turnaround.
  • When a high potentials’ leadership promise becomes evident give them:
    • A position on a senior management team
    • Experience with external stakeholders
    • An assignment as chief of staff for an experienced enterprise leader
    • An appointment to lead an acquisition integration or a substantial restructuring
  • Just before their first leadership promotion:
    • Send them to an executive program that addresses capabilities like – organizational design, business process improvement, and transition management.
  • When promoted, place new enterprise leaders in business units:
    • That are small, distinct, and thriving
    • And are staffed with an experienced and assertive team that they can learn from.

Hierarchy of Digital distractions

At a recent internal meeting, we were discussing productivity and the various levels of distractions that one has these days. Did you know that there is a hierarchy of digital distractions (see image below). No wonder, in todays connected, and agile world, for some people why it is so difficult to get any actual work done (that is not to suggest that they are not busy of course).

At this meeting, analogy of the distraction was coined as the “monkey” – the monkey that each of us has on our shoulder and the constant attention it demands – I.e. the distraction. And we all know we cannot control this monkey and bottle it up. The idea isn’t to try and bottle it up, which will rattle it more trying to get out and demand more attention – but rather let it out in a controlled manner for some time – similar to how one would take a dog out for a walk (of course different outcomes) Smile.

So instead of avoiding distractions, which might be very difficult for some folks, the idea is to let it out in a controlled manner – so the monkey is entertained and happy. This will help concentrate on the rest of the times and enable one to be more productive. And the science behind is how our brains gets the same effect as with drugs, and the ‘pleasure’ effects – it is both fascinating and scary.

Chart showing in a pyramid the various types of digital distractions

Chaos

Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, and reboot.
Order shall return.

#haiku #GeekyHaiku

Humans and threading

We,  humans, are multi-threaded by design and can do many things in parallel –  with two exceptions I think. The only two blocking function we have to deal with are sneezing and farting. During these times, all current activity must be suspended for the duration. And of course it can be pretty annoying (or depending on the function, embarrassing).

So next time you check in some code, think about it –  is this smelly and sneezy (yep, that’s a word, now) or have I done the right thing?

Parenting – Thought of the day

The legacy all parents should give to their children is an insurance policy in happiness; but the premiums must be paid today during their upbringing.

Thought of the day

You think Life is the mystery; Life is but the rapture of flight – Allama Iqbal

Anything is possible!

How inspirational is this! I get goose bumps just seeing it. Awesome. If you put your mind to it, anything is possible.

 

RIP Nikhil – my dear dear friend

kaleidoscopic!
not those here-and-now colours
but in memory

cloudy sky is filled
full of black twiggy branches
a large crow shoots past

picket fence and trees
standing tall like sentinels
like sad sentinels

comes-on quietly
so benign the sensation
so bloody empty!

this revelation
times at last you think you know
shrug! alas you don’t

fleeting memory
self-flagellation head-shake
another one lost

again and again
scene full of twiggy branches
black crow descending

🙁 😥

Lessons from the Internet

Lessons from the Internet – If you never learn how to fail, you will never learn to scale!

Landfill Harmonic movie

Who cares what it smells like, it’s what it sounds like that matters. See the first 54 seconds, and then you will be hooked.

10 things extraordinary bosses give employees

Got a really good read from Jerome, fellow Avanade colleague – ten extraordinary things bosses give their employees. Not surprisingly, good bosses care about getting important things done. And exceptional bosses care about their people.

  1.  Autonomy and independence
  2. Clear expectation
  3. Meaningful objectives
  4. The true sense of purpose
  5. Opportunities to provide significant input
  6. A real sense of connection
  7. Reliable consistency
  8. Private criticism
  9. Public praise
  10. The chance for meaningful future

More details here.

Google Logic

I came across this very interesting article in the guardian called “Google logic: why Google does the things it does the way it does“. This is a fascinating insight and a lot of it makes sense to me. What was also interesting to understand a little more on how the mindset is very different from the other corporates and technology leaders out there. Especially interesting the self-righteous view one perceives that Google has of themselves. It is a little long, but worth a read.

Broke my Microsoft Surface Pro device!

I am probably the only guy on the planet who broke his Surface Pro device! 😳 So much so that the screen shattered – so much for Gorilla glass and all that!

I was starting out on a 4 week long trip and the Surface slipped and fell at the airport when taking it out for the X-Ray machine. It fell on one corner and the screen shattered. With small pieces of glass everywhere on it, it was not usable. However it did work when I switched it on a week later. Here are a few photos that show the extend of the damage and the fact that it was still working post that!

Surface Pro 1 Surface Pro 4 Surface Pro 3 Surface Pro 2

Thought of the day

Whilst the following was said in the context of mobile ad-hoc network (MANETs) I believe it can hold of many situations that life throws at us.

Efficiency and quality are of equal importance!! Both come from experience, not from study. Study as you go, don’t assume that you’re ready for the real world because you studied first.

—Jon Davis

Realisation of the Day

A common mistake people make when designing a computer system completely fool proof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools 🙂

Is technology making us less human?

Guardian story Social networking under fresh attack as tide of cyber-scepticism sweeps US where a number of academics have done studies which conclude that Twitter and Facebook don’t connect people, but on the contrary they isolate them from reality got me thinking about this and wonder if Technology is making us less human!

MIT professor Sherry Turkle’s new book Alone Together (which seems interesting and is something I have not had the bandwidth to check out), is leading an attack on the information age. It does seem to agree with the recent articles like Is Google making us Stupid? I don’t quite understand Facebook (even though I have been more on it recently); my views on Facebook are quite well known, especially in the context of privacy and security. If I talk to a friend who could be in Delhi or San Francisco, I don’t feel as connected having a dialogue with him or her over Facebook as I do when talking on the phone, IM or even email. Often people thing just because they have posted something on Facebook, that is the end of it – it almost seems at times, I am too lazy and can’t be bothered, so will post a message and get it over with – or as they say in Punjabi – “syapa mukao”. 🙂

In a related note, but a little different context I do think the vast information available to us is making us more stupid and we are forgetting the ability to learn, grasp, understand and appreciate the basics and fundamentals. When something is a quick Bing or Google away it makes us all very complacent. It also means that for us sitting down and reading something which is more than a few paragraphs is getting very difficult. I know I can also see this happening first hand. And I notice it every day at work – especially as the newer and younger generation joins the workforce; things that I would take for granted or appreciate does not seem to be the same. Of course and sites like LMBTFY and LMGTFY don’t help.

I was quite stuck by this paragraph from the article Is Google Making Us Stupid?

The process of adapting to new intellectual technologies is reflected in the changing metaphors we use to explain ourselves to ourselves. When the mechanical clock arrived, people began thinking of their brains as operating “like clockwork.” Today, in the age of software, we have come to think of them as operating “like computers.” But the changes, neuroscience tells us, go much deeper than metaphor. Thanks to our brain’s plasticity, the adaptation occurs also at a biological level.

I think it would be good for me to get a copy of Alone Together and then maybe post something back (feel free to comment below if you have read the book and got any feedback). Of course I do see the irony in the fact a geek like me talking about possibly to using less Technology.

What Baby App?

Any suggestions for any a good iPhone App for tracking Baby feeds, sleeping, pumping, etc. that the wife can use?

Below is a list of what I was able to find online; some of these on reading the reviews seem better than others but no one specifically stood out. Anyone with real world experience?

As of now, we are leaning towards Total Baby.