Microsoft to introduce the New Shiny Windows

Devoted readers of Agnostic, I write today to implore you to set your powershell scripts to Signed, get your Windows Key + R trigger fingers ready, and prep your forests and domains for a functional upgrade because today ladies and gentlemen, today, we get a new Windows. 

Ahhh yeah.

There’s some excitement in Microsoft Country again.

No one knows what it’ll be called. Windows 9 is the front-runner, but late-breaking rumors say big MS could throw us for a loop too and name it Windows TH (Threshold?!?! the pundits echo) or just plain old Windows.

It's always a good day when a new Windows is detailed
It’s always a good day when a new Windows is detailed

I say they should name it Windows TNS: Windows The New Shiny. Because among the rumors I’ve enjoyed hearing most is the one Microsoft may offer a sort of Windows 365 subscription for fanbois like me, a continuously morphing and changing OS, just like my O365 experience has been. New Shiny Windows every month…well maybe I’d tell ConfigMan to delay updates for a week or so, just to shake the bugs loose. But still. A subscription OS would be great.

But that’s a long-shot and probably not a very strong selling point for today’s event, which is, as everyone has noted, focused entirely on enterprise computing.

You see, Microsoft is trying desperately to court Enterprise IT people, to bring us back into the fold, targeting this entire event today at IT people like me who were aghast & horrified two years ago when they first installed Windows 8 in a VM.

“No. No. To get to start screen, hover your mouse in the lower corner. The lower corner, not the charms bar.There it is. Click that. Ahh shit, you missed it. Try again.” was how the conversation went throughout IT departments in ‘Merica.

As I’ve written before, the experience of Windows 8 & Server 2012 was so shocking and painful, it sent me running and crying into the Mac OS X camp, and then into ChromeBook fantasyland.

But I got over it. I overcame, and I figured out how to move all that nonsense touch stuff away when Windows 8.1/Server 2012 R2 debuted about a year ago.

Apparently other IT pros haven’t, and are still sticking to Windows 7 as if it’s the greatest thing since Active Directory. Thus today’s event.

To them I say: get with the program, or get left behind. Windows 8 did suck, but 8.1 & 2012 R2 were fine recoveries. If you decided to punt on learning about Windows 8.1/2012 R2, you missed a whole bunch of incredible advancements that are only going to improve with Windows TNS. Have fun catching up on this:

  • Baked in Hyper-V. Free on Windows 8.1 Pro and up. A virtual lab on every desktop.
  • Tiered Storage Spaces in Windows server 2012 R2: yet another software abstraction framework, but for your storage! You missed out on this too!
  • An awesome networking stack, totally rewritten: Native support for teaming, network function virtualizations, Layer 3 routing protocols via PowerShell…oh my. I’d hate to be you stuck with a Server 2008 R2 box, running your old tired batch files, your dated vbs scripts and ipconfig. You missed out on some incredible advancements

And the great thing is that all this is going to get better, I think (hope). True, we won’t be learning about Windows Server today (Aidan Finn reckons that + nextgen System Center will be next month) but there will be lots of detail about our next Enterprise desktop product, by which you can bet people like me will make inferences for the next server product.

Things are looking up in Microsoft Country. We’ve a ten year head start on Trustworthy Computing (ShellShock couldn’t have had better timing for MS), a highly-modular & secure OS, a mature cloud stack, a SaaS offering second to-none (O365) and now, today, a new Windows OS.

Good times.

2014 is the Year the Application broke free

It’s only September but I feel like 2014 is the year the Application broke free -was liberated if you will- from the infrastructure beneath it.

“What?!? That’s crazy talk,” the two of you who read this say in response.

Maybe, but consider this.

Untitled pictureDocker is huge and growing in popularity. As the drip-drip of my Enterprise RSS feed attests, interest in Docker has been growing steadily all year long; at times it seems there’s more Docker hype than even SDN hype. People seem as excited about Docker as they were about x86 virtualization, way back in the day. It’s real and it’s something.

But what is it?

The Infrastructurist in me cries a little bit to admit this, but it’s about time the Application was unyoked from the OS, the spindles, the network and the compute beneath it. And that’s what Docker does.

You see, Docker positions itself as a “container” (shipping metaphors abound in this space, which is just great) for your apps; once safely ensconsed in a container, your app, or more properly your entire application supply chain, can be moved from platform to platform with virtually no configuration changes, downtime, or dependency on your infrastructure guy.

That’s right baby. If you’re a Linux guy, no more fiddling around with Ubuntu VMs, BSD jails, standing up dev VMs or any of that nonsense. Docker takes your Ruby/Java/Objective C application, your backend MySQL DB or your NoSQL MongoDB, and your Android / IOS app, containerizes it, and lets you run it on just about anything capable of issuing a ping command. It makes it super-simple to go from dev to test to production, and it’s all free and made of wholesome open source stuff.

Neat bit of tech, wouldn’t you say?

Little boxes, full of apps, little boxes full of streaming apps!
Little boxes, full of apps, little boxes full of streaming apps!

In the Microsoft kingdom, I was doing similar things with App-V about two years ago. App-V is similar in concept to Docker, though admittedly App-V was never built to allow cross-platform application migration, and it’s not as all-encompassing as Docker. Yet, one can’t help but draw comparisons.

App-V is, how shall we say, a bit less elegant. Simple to install and build-out, but a bit clumsy in execution, App-V works by more or less capturing what an application does to an underlying Windows system. Por ejemplo: take your average ordinary WIndows executable (I’ll pick Spotify, as that’s what came up first in Task Manager).

To virtualize Spotify, all one has to do (after standing up a an App-V VM) is tell App-V to capture all the things spotify_installer.exe  does to a Windows system. Once finished, you signal to App-V that it should build a virtualized app for Spotify, and then, voila! You can “stream” the Spotify app -plus all the registry bits ‘n bobs it changed, the dll libraries it created/modified, and all that stuff- down to your Windows clients, where it will have zero interaction with potentially hostile local registry entries or dlls.

Two years ago, this was hot stuff and I was gung-ho on Application Virtualization to the point where I was thinking server virtualization wasn’t long for this world. Who wants to virtualize an OS when you can simply virtualize & delivery the application?

Sadly, App-V seems to have been placed on the “Neglect” shelf at Microsoft. It’s still around (still running on Silverlight too), but you don’t hear about it much anymore. I want to use it, but I can’t commit.

Microsoft’s taking a different approach to de-coupling the app from its OS, it seems to me: Universal binaries. At least that was the pre-Satya Nadella thinking, but it’s very close to realization. Saddle on up next to your favorite Visual Studio developer and ask him to show you how it works: you can build one codebase and compile it for multiple platforms. It’s almost to the point where you do a “Save As IOS App” then a “Save as Android App” and, of course,  “Save as Windows app.” Awesome!

One could argue this is the ultimate app endgame…universal binaries that run on any OS would seem to be a more elegant solution than even Docker’s portability.

And then there’s Google. In the last two weeks, Google has announced that some Android applications can now run on ChromeOS. Sharp devs took very little time to expand the library of Android apps you can run and touch on a standard Chromebook.

Then they took it a step further- some devs have gotten Android apps to run on Chrome within Windows, a feat of software engineering so amazing, I think it deserves one of the same fancy nicknames Google used to employ in its financial engineering efforts (“a reverse double starbuck” comes to mind).

This is an exciting space, way more exciting and real than SDN, I’d reckon. Whether you want to virtualize your application by containerizing its infrastructure, building a binary that runs on everything, or going full Trojan Horse with Browser-as-a-Platform strategy, there’s real movement and change afoot.

And it’s all aimed at making computing more agnostic, if you’ll forgive the self-referential plug.

Forget infrastructure…How long until we stop talking about Operating Systems at all?

Favorite IT metaphors, sayings & aphorisms

In my Linkedin Profile, I write that I’m a fan of “elaborate IT Metaphors” yet, in a very literal way, I’ve never actually written a list of my favorites.

Listing out my favorite IT metaphors, sayings, aphorisms and such is risky. Too much pithiness, and I risk not being taken seriously. Too much cynicism and no one wants to talk to you.

And yet I must take that risk, because if you’re a practitioner of the IT arts as I am, then you’re used to engaging in these sorts of thoughtful/silly/humorous reflections.

Some of the metaphors/thoughts below are funny. Some are so terrible I’m embarassed to write them. Others are good, but could be better. There’s no real organization to them, but I hope you find them useful nonetheless.

Enough. On with the metaphors, sayings & aphorisms!

Metaphor,Meaning[attr style=”width:200px” class=”someclass”],Origin/Notes
Dark side of the moon, Waiting for a host or device to reply to pings after reload/reboot, NASA obviously
Eat our own dogfood, Applying same policies/tech/experience to IT that apply to users, Not sure but heard on TWiT
DNS is like a phonebook, Computers speak in numbers humans speak in words, My own metaphor to explain DNS problems
Fat finger, A stupid mistake in perhaps an otherwise solid plan (eg IP address keyed incorrectly), Former boss/Homer Simpson?
Go FQDN or Go Home, Admonishment to correct lazy IT tendency to code/build with IP addresses rather than FQDN, My own
Garbage in Garbage Out, You get out of a system that which you put in, Unknown but s/he was brilliant
This ____ is like a princess, A server or service that is high-profile/important but prone to failure and drama without constant attention, My own
Cadillac Solution, A high-priced solution to a problem that may require only ingenuity/dilligence, My own but really…Cadillac…I’m so old
The Sun Never Sets on Infrastructure, A reference to the 24/7 nature of Infrastructure stack demand by way of the British Empire, I used this metaphor extensively in last job
Infrastructure is Roads/Applications are cars/Users are drivers, Reference to the classic split in IT departments, Former colleague
Two Houses Both Alike in Dignity, Another reference to AppDev & Infrastructure divide in IT, My own liberal abuse of Shakespeare’s opening line in R&J
Child Partition/Parent Partition, Reference to me and my son in light of Hypervisor technology, My own
Supervisor Module, Reference to wife-as-Sup7203B Linecard in 650xE chassis switch, The packets flow where she tells them to flow

Code is poetry, There is something more to technology than just making things work, Google but adapted by me for scripting and configs

Going full Fibonacci, The joy & euphoria inherent in a well-designed subnetting plan wherein octets are harmonized & everything just fits, My own abuse of the famed Fibonacci Sequence which honestly has nothing to do with IP subnetting and more to do with Dan Brown. Also applies to MAC address pools because encoding your MAC address pools is fun

Dystopian IT, A poor but descriptive term to describe dysfunctional IT departments, My own I think

When I was a Child I thought as a Child, How I defend poor technical decisions that haunt me years later, A (perhaps blasphemous) homage to St. Paul

There are three ____ and the greatest of these is ____, Another St. Paul reference, Useful in IT Purchasing decisions

IT White Whale, Highly technical problems I haven’t solved yet and obsess over, Borrowed from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick


Ballad of the Converged IT Guy

The inestimable Greg Ferro once said that what’s needed in modern IT are men & women whose skillsets are shaped like a capital “T.”

“You’ve got to have broad experience and familiarity with various technologies, see? That’s the wide part at the top of the T. And then you’ve got to be deep on some things in your portfolio. Maybe it’s storage, or WAN or who the hell knows?. That’s the leg of the T. Right?”

Right you are Greg.

I’m paraphrasing of course, but Ferro’s description of good IT Guys (or Gals) appeals to me because it more or less describes my career in IT: I’ve touched lots of tech and gone deep in a few things.

I have breadth and depth in my portfolio, in other words. Yay me and yay for confirmation bias!

Unfortunately for me, this reality -while good in Greg’s eyes perhaps- usually results in me being labeled with the contemptible catch-all “IT Generalist.”

“You’re sort of an IT Generalist,” the recruiter says. “Is that fair?”


“Yes. I’m a systems guy, but really, an IT Generalist works too,” I reply.

This is how I reluctantly describe myself to others and even on the About the Author Page.

But I hate that term, “Generalist…” it’s too prosaic, too generic, too….general. I want it banished and replaced, and I don’t want to be known as an IT Generalist.

So what to replace it with? Re-writing the About the Author page with “Hi, I’m Jeff Wilson, a T-shaped IT Guy” doesn’t exactly inspire confidence and might make the reader question my sanity. Systems Engineer is nice, but doesn’t hint at my rudimentary skills at herding packets with DSCP values intact across a WAN, does it?

What I need -no, what we Generalists need!- is some sizzle for our T-shaped career story boards. We need to make IT Generalism seem sexy, without using that lame g word. What we need is a way to converge all our skills -broad and deep- into one smart, market-aware, cloud-hip, fully-qualified and routable term that…

hey wait a second.


Converged IT Guy.

That’s it.

Contains Silicon Valley buzzword? Check.

Easy to remember? Check.

Clever, and only with a little bit of smart-ass spunk? Check.

Descriptive? Not really, but better than Generalist.


I’m a Converged IT Guy. And this is my ballad.

Ballad of the Converged IT Guy

 I’ve touched lots of tech, from VoIP to SQL,

the LAMP stack & PowerShell

I don’t fear multicast or spanning tree

I once wrote a Valentine’s to LACP 

Yay though, I’m a Converged IT Guy

Block, file, object, LUNs and Vols, NFS,

but wack-wack filesharings the best
seen every file extension from east to west
Kilo, Mega, Giga,Tera 
I dedupe, replicate and compress

Yay though, I’m a Converged IT Guy

Gone deep on storage and virtualization

but change out the tapes from time to time

From Voice and an analog PBX

to Layer 4 Load Balancing and Cisco’s FEX

Yay though, I’m a Converged IT Guy


Waterfall, Agile and now DevOps

Declarative, Imperative

Concatenate, quiesce, compile

Yay Though, I’m a Converged IT Guy

Lo, the whiteboard is my kryptonite

and IT Siloes are my enemy

Yay Though, I’m a Converged IT Guy