Tuesday 8 December 2015

A year in the cloud with IBM (part 2)

Yesterday I left you wondering well.. what next?

Now to start with we were not an on-prem connections user before we moved to the cloud. The majority of users licenses we obtained were for all-singing all dancing everything with bells on, with only 1% mail only (and a little bit of FILEage).

So were did people start with all the added extras?

Meetings, Files and Docs were the first out of the blocks.

Meetings got off to a good start then stumbled not because of anything intrinsically wrong but google decided that Chrome was not going to support Java and that put the kibosh on the plugin, rendering a good 25% of the user base with their default browser set to something that gives the cheerful but rather annoying message "Your Browser Is Not Currently Supported" while changing to another browser is not the end of the world it is when you, as a user, have invested time and energy getting the browser you are currently one working just the way you want it. However prior to this we have a fixed number of Goto Meetings which came with its own set of problems and a fairly heavy price tag. Whereas Meetings was built in to the lic cost and did not require a promise in triplicate in blood that the meeting was important to the gods of facilities. A quick trip to Maplins and a few USB headsets later (for lending to people) and meetings is being used daily. We are looking at the Audio-bridge add-on to start in the new year to give dial-in facilities and I have to say I am quite impressed with the costs that I am being quoted.

Files and Docs meant that all of a sudden those large CAD designs and 1,000,000 page image heavy powerpoints could now be shuffled around the plants and offices without the need for IT to host them on a web or ftp server somewhere and arrange logons.
.... but ....
"Where were the folders?" was the first plaintive yell , followed soon after by "We want our folders!"
To begin with I thought this was a far enough comment to make, years and years of sticking things in deeply nested folder trees that made sense at the time they were created was the happy place most users lived in. It took some time for both me and them to realize that the fastest way to find things was using TAGS and DESCRIPTIONS. Once you build up the metadata that surrounds the file in such a way that gives them context, then folders are not that important, nice to have but not vital. Indeed once they got their feet under them and discovered that not only TAGS and DESCRIPTIONS but the collaborative comments all joined together to give the object a lot more context than a folder tree and a stupidly long file name. [go on admit it you too have created a file that has a name like Estimated_ROI_On_Project_SMCD90a2105_Draft_For_Review_Novemeber.xlsx] A bit of forethought meant that life without folders was not so bad. Nested folders are coming soon but in the interim people have learned and are learning that they are not the only paradigm for successful file management.

Docs were slower to take off yet they are now becoming the de facto method for creating the normal day to day docs that are the bread and butter of a manufacturing company. They no longer exist on 30 or 40 inboxes, 30 or 40 hard drives or in a myriad of USB drives all in varying states of being out of date. Now they are in FILES or Communities being worked on, the versions being tracked and comments full of what used to happen in emails.

Where docs is not useful is the power user the Dashboard King and Pivot Table Prince, however they have settled in nicely with the PC Connector and Sync plugins (and mobile app).They are are now merrily obscuring shortcomings and up-selling success in a myriad of multi-hued  yet meaningless graphs and gauges all syncing nicely up and down the cloud, leaving a neat trail of versions behind them for those cursed with the mind of an auditor.

I had to have a bit of think about the whole Connections "thing" and it occurred to me that
unless you are some pale spotty youth, you will have at least some level of professional expertise, even the keep-in-the-dark-well-away-from-customers people like me. We’ve all got a certain unique set of skills, knowledge and experience that make us an asset to our organization. I have to say I have been lobbying to get Bog Snorkeling, dressing up as Spiderman and Dandering long distances recognized as assets with, i have to say, limited success but I am ever hopeful.

So there I was sitting at my desk between cups of coffee when a beam of sunlight came through the window and suddenly all was clear, I was having a damascene moment and all before 11am!

It occurred to me that there where questions ... what are we really doing with these assets? Are we like the Squirrels of Westeros hoarding away your nuts because "winter is coming:... ?. Are we saving all that goodness for ourselves? Are we using our expertise to further our own careers without ever  considering how it might help others? I know it sounds a little odd, but expertise is a powerful gift that deserves to be shared. It’s yours, and yes; you earned it. But why keep all that wisdom to yourself? Why not send it out into the world to be free and lift others to new heights as well?

Then someone mentioned it as time for a bacon butty and a 5 shot extra sweet espresso and I lost my train of thought and when I returned to my desk I was left with the difficult task of how do i persuade the user base that "Sharing is good .. let's share"

But more of that in part 3

Monday 7 December 2015

A year in the cloud with IBM (Part 1)

So ... it is very nearly a year since my last post and what a year it has been!

I have been a busy boy!

I and my team of admins have moved the entire European and Asian workforce from our on-prem Domino servers to the IBM Smartcloud servers. We elected to have a Hybrid environment keep our many and varied apps on a couple of on-prem servers and shift mail totally to the IBM cloud servers (What used to be called IBM Smartcloud). We also elected, thanks to the IBM UK's account team, to make the majority of our users "Full"  users provisioned with the complete menu of interesting stuff that the cloud offers: Mail (Verse), Meetings, Chat, Connections, Traveler and Archive Essentials.

Now I could say that the migration and provisioning of our users was a smooth and fault free experience, but I can't. We ran up against some issues where provisioning was fraught with problems that reduced the migration to a crawl. These problems have since been addressed and from early March this year we have had no problems at all.

The on-boarding tools when we started did not really suit what we needed to do. While I would have preferred to leave the old mail files in place as archives where they could access and manage their old mail as normal, starting the users with empty mail files in the cloud this was considered by the users community to be a "non runner". Neither did we want to migrate nearly a petabytes of old mail to the servers so we reached a compromise and moved 8-12 weeks of mail and calendar data from the live mail file to the cloud leaving the old mail file as a local replica on the workspace as an archive. (Apart that is from accountants, what is it about accountants that they need every mail they every received since 1995? *sigh*) So in the absence of a free-tool (I was on a very tight budget) that would do what I need. I wrote a set of agents that would move :
  • Folders
  • Rules
  • Profiles
  • Mail
  • Calendar 
  • Todo
By date to the cloud.

This worked really quite well apart from a few gotchas the main one of these being Google Meeting Invites, not all of them just the ones that have "Never" as a "repeats ends" attribute. This, I discovered, creates a 10 year repeat notes calendar entry if the user accepts it. So that daily conference call had 1000's of dates in the calendar doc. That needed some serious tweaking!

We had a milestone date of April 1st to get the Asian and European workforce migrated and with the help of our long suffering on-boarding team and the local support folks in IBM Dublin, (who can now swear almost as well as me) we managed to get the last planned user migrated on the 4th April, which all in all was  excellent. The problems we did have were 99% invisible to the users, all they saw was my team coming around warning them they would be moved sometime in the next 24 hours and they were.

Having moved the users' mail to the cloud, we started consolidating data onto what will become our on-prem App Servers, most of these had been doubling as mail servers and suddenly with no mail running they started to preform much better.

The old QUICKR server was a bit of a problem. The quickr environment was very stable and just sat in the corner and ran year after year, every now and then needing more disk space and a fixpack. Once again we had a what to do with the data? Quite a few of the places where there purely for historical purposed so they were put on the "Whenever" low priority list. We focused on the places currently in fairly constant use and created a connections community for each place.

Quickr Files were dead easy. 
1. Set up a Quickr Connector on my PC to the place, copied the files to a local directory
2. Piped a DIR to a text file
3. Set up a wee PHP server on my PC using XAMPP
4. Using PHP read the file from 2, checked for duplicate file names (the cloud don't like duplicates)

5. Used the POST /files/{auth}/cmis/repository/{repositoryId}/folderc/snx:files API to upload the file
6.Then use the API to TAG the file with the old folder structure name

Job Done. 
Quickr Docs were more problematic and required a placebot to dump the docs to text files and then uploaded using the WIKI Post API.

Once a community had been populated I added the Quickr place managers to the community and showed them how to work it, once they had cried about the lack of folder nesting and saw how fast TAGs can be searched for, they sucked up their tears and got on with it and have been using their communities in anger for some months.

One thing became clear very quickly, the lack of a Mail-In function was a bit of a bollox to the quickr place managers. I have something in test that allows an on-prem mail in DB that has an agent that detaches any attachments and takes the mime text and posts to a given community as FILES and a BLOG entry with a link to the FILE (if any). The BLOG post is posted as cloud user call "AVX Auto-Post" and the original sender internet address becomes a mention pre-pended to the body and the subject (minus the FWD and RE) prefixes becomes the subject of the Blog.

We will be using the same process to post updates from the "internet of things-that-go-beep" on the shop floor to post to communities of engineers and manufacturing managers, so they can be notified promptly about issues and discuss it in the cosy shared confines of a community rather than in 101 emails. We have done a POC and got a rather nice "Wooo! that's good" which always does the soul good.

The other thing that has been tiring but fun is introducing my users to Connections, but that is enough for now. I tell you all about that in the next post

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