Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Harpooning the whale

One data set, two locations - each with an EMC VNXe array. Big giant file sets. How do engineers in the US and Mexico share 3D models quickly and seamlessly? We receive engineering drawings and models from our customers. We comb through the files extracting bill-of-materials information, critical dimensions and other vital attributes. A single product may have dozens of associated files totaling several hundred megabytes. Open the main assembly and a significant number of associated files may also be opened. So how can engineers connected only by VPN work on the same filesets quickly and seamlessly, just as if they were sitting in the same room? That's the first problem.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

No longer having to eat our own dogfood

There is a silver lining to all this. Back in April we decided to switch our US cell carrier from Sprint to AT&T. Sprint's Mexico roaming options were not optimal, so after looking at competing bids we signed up with the Death Star. We also decided to deploy iPads to our US team at the same time, having reviewed several Android tablets during the previous year. That brought up the question of which smartphone to deploy alongside the iPads.

Our operations director brought up a good point. The ability to operate phone and tablet in the same way and to be able to share programs between the two devices would, for most of our users, be a plus. It was hard to argue with that, despite my affinity for Android. So in the spirit of "eating our own dog food" - running the same platform your customers run - I too became an iSheep. To his credit, my sysadmin refused.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


"Hey John, got a minute?"

My mornings are usually busy. Look at my email, review open help tickets and yesterday's closures. Look over the logs and checklists. Swap tapes, take a quick glance over the equipment in the server room. Review my open to-dos. That morning I was getting ready to head down to our maquila facility, so I was cramming a lot of activity into a short window of time. But I like to be helpful, so I got up from my desk and followed the CFO into our president's office.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Servers in the closet

Well, here it is. Our "efficiency" server closet:

Our new server rack

Quite a change from our previous, spacious custom-deluxe server room.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

May I Exchange this for another, please?

We detoured briefly into a live ERP implementation. It's moving forward, hiccups and all. Many of our users are beginning to understand the power of our new system. With great power comes great responsiblity - er, I mean major configuration pain. So we're learning the ins-and-outs of QAD.

I started this journey with the intent of simplifying our IT infrastructure by reducing cost and complexity while adding features. So I'm going to save the new ERP explanation for later. I think I remember telling you that I really don't like Exchange. So let's get back to that. 2002 through 2007 were major growth years for our business. We moved into a larger facility. We updated, upgrade and expanded our IT infrastructure. Our user population was growing faster than we could keep up. I had me, a sysadmin, a project specialist and a contract programmer. And I was still working late nights!

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Belly of the Beast, Part 4

I promise to tell you how we got here, but not today. I'm a bit tired.

It's always a gratifying point in any IT project when a critical mass of users has turned the corner and begun investing themselves in their new system. I think we're at that point today. There are still some unsolved bugs, some missing data, some processes to nail down.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Belly of the Beast, Part 3

Data is here. No migration is without anomalies, so I have some hunting to do - missing records, missing fields. But the real excitement, as always, is with our users.

Change is exciting. New ERP system, new capabilities, information at our fingertips. Why am I always reminded of the 1980s IBM / Charlie Chaplin commercials? Information management never looked so easy!

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Belly of the Beast, Part 2

Vantage data + QAD schema, will it blend?

This is the time when all those silly data entry errors come home to roost. In our case, fourteen years worth. The majority of the last 96 hours has been scrubbing and rationalizing the Vantage data into a format that can be imported into QAD.

As I write, the data import tool is running. So far, only 19 errors ...