Technology divide

A couple of articles surfaced in the last few days, which describe the tech operations of Obama and Romney campaigns. It’s hard to put a number on the advantage that Obama had on the tech side, but considering the relatively small margin of victory, it was probably not insignificant.

Narwal (Obama) - http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/11/when-the-nerds-go-marching-in/265325/?single_page=true

Orca (Romney) - http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2012/11/which-consultants-built-romneys-project-orca-none-of-them/


I think this is a great example of the advantage that tech can bring to any business, politics or anything else. It’s often hard to quantify in hard numbers and can be especially difficult for people in positions that are further removed from technology, but it works. And not only they had a “devops guy”, I have no doubt they ran their IT aligned with devops principles. If it was good enough for Obama’s campaign, then it’s probably good enough for others as well.




CERN & Puppet

A presentation from CERN during the PuppetConf. Some very interesting items in there:

  • I was somewhat surprised at how much diversity they have. I thought they ran what effectively is a grid compute network with identical nodes.
  • They operate at huge scale. It requires a completely different way of thinking about power and data and resource management.
  • “Evaluate solutions, identify functional gaps and challenge them” – a very succinct way to describe a core IT function.
  • I like the analogy of thinking of your machines as pets and cattle. You care for your pets, but you shoot your cattle if something is wrong. Your infrastructure should be made out of “cattle”.
  • Their tool chain (puppet/foreman/openstack/mcollective/bamboo/git) is accessible to anyone and they understand the value of active community.

The overview is here. If you want to skip the CERN background, the technical part of the talk starts at ~11:00 minutes. This follow up talk gets into more technical detail of their puppet use.


Where IT goes to die

I spent the better part of the last decade at different startups and web companies, but one of my recent consulting gigs led me to a Fortune 500 company. I’ve done work at large enterprises before, but I really did forget what it’s like and it amounted to a rather jarring experience. I’ve entered a deep and dark world of enterprise architecture, frameworks, meaningless acronyms and a cesspool of “enterprise” software where it seems to breed and reproduce uncontrollably. It’s a place with abstraction at every layer, except anywhere that’s relevant.

Sometimes I got a sense that I was warped in time at least 10 years back and that everyone around me was moving at different speed. To paraphrase a famous quote: “It’s not that they are lazy, it’s just that they don’t care”.

I do have to mention some caveats. These are purely observations on IT/Ops and I had barely any idea what was happening on the dev side (which is a problem in itself). I also didn’t have visibility into every part of the organization, so perhaps everything is wonderful in other areas, though I have my doubts.

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Enterprise IT adoption

This is hilarious and exactly how it goes in enterprise IT. Though I do think things are even worse. The paradigm in the past used to be that new technology trickled down from government/research to big vendors to enterprise and then to SMBs and consumers. This is entirely reversed now and not only from a consumer perspective. Startups and smaller companies is where innovation happens. The problem with (most) enterprises is not just the late adoption cycle. It’s the lack of culture and processes that can support innovation and rapid iteration.


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