Some Projects for 2012

Rather than posting some sort of “2011 in review” article where I talk about how many visitors the site had or how many RSS subscribers there are, I thought I’d instead focus on the upcoming year and some of the projects in which I’ll be involved. By describing some of the projects that I’m undertaking this year in 2012, that gives you—the readers—a rough idea of some of the types of content that will likely appear in the coming year.

Here are some of my 2012 projects (some of these I’ve already tweeted about):

  1. I’m going to learn to script in Perl. Many people have asked why Perl and why not Python or Ruby or something else. Honestly, I don’t have a really good answer for you. I tried (unsuccessfully) to teach myself Perl a couple of years ago, so I still have the O’Reilly Learning Perl book. Rather than spending money to learn some other scripting language, it seemed reasonable to revisit Perl again and just leverage the resources I already have. You might see a few Perl-related posts here and there as I work through Learning Perl, but I’ll try not to bore you with elementary stuff.

  2. I’m going to learn German. Same scenario here—many people have asked why German and why not Spanish or French. I do have an answer this time: I seem to be spending a fair amount of time in Vienna, so German seemed to make sense. I also have a series of customer meetings planned in Germany in the first quarter of this year. Plus, German is completely new and different than anything I’ve learned before, and I wanted to challenge myself to learn and think in new ways. It’s unlikely that this will find its way into any blog posts, but you never know…

  3. I’m going to become much more familiar with the Xen hypervisor. I haven’t yet decided if I’ll focus strictly on the open source version of Xen or Citrix XenServer; I’m open to suggestions there. No, this doesn’t mean that I’m abandoning VMware or anything like that; I just want to expand my knowledge. You can’t simply discount Xen; after all, Amazon EC2 is built on Xen. Along with this dive into Xen, I’ll also be looking very closely at Open vSwitch and OpenStack. I’d expect that a great deal of this education will eventually end up in various blog posts here.

  4. I’m going to pursue my CCNP. I “re-achieved” CCNA last year, and this year I’m pursuing my CCNP. As with Xen, I’m confident that the learning curve required to move closer to (or even achieve) CCNP will result in a number of related blog posts on various networking technologies or concepts.

I do have a few other projects planned for this upcoming year, but I’m not quite ready to discuss those publicly yet. At least one of these other projects will be something new that I haven’t done before. Stretching myself and my skills/experience in new directions is a bit of a theme this year.

If you have any tips/tricks/advice to share on any of these upcoming projects, or if there are specific things related to these projects that you’d like to see blogged about here, please let me know in the comments. Thanks, and I hope that 2012 is going to be as exciting for you as it will be for me!

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  1. Heinz Bastian’s avatar

    Awaiting your first blog post in German ;-)
    Frohes neues Jahr!

  2. Geoff Arnold’s avatar

    Hmmm. You seem to be missing some opportunities for synergy. If you’re going to dive into OpenStack, you really should consider looking at Python rather than Perl. And as for hypervisors, you should probably look at KVM first. One of the easiest ways to explore OpenStack, and hack in some new features, is to put together a one-box deployment (check out the Ubuntu-based live demo), and it’s pretty much impossible to do that with Xen.

  3. Sean’s avatar

    Happy New Year Scott and best of luck with your projects! One of my projects in 2012 is to finish my EMC Proven Professional Certifcations. I look forward to reading how you get along.

  4. martin’s avatar

    I taught myself perl years ago, it took a while but was well worth it. Perl’s capabilities are really pretty amazing compared to normal shell scripting.

  5. Scott’s avatar

    Hi Scott,

    As you shift from knob turning on specific technology to a broader system oriented outlook (which it sounds like you may be doing), having the tools to look at and analyze a broad range of performance issues will be helpful.

    One good reason for Perl is here http://www.amazon.com/Analyzing-Computer-System-Performance-Perl/dp/3642225829/

    Written by Dr Neil Gunther. His blog is here http://perfdynamics.blogspot.com/

    Here’s the note when he got the A.A. Michelson Award in 2008.
    http://perfdynamics.blogspot.com/2008/12/gunther-receives-aa-michelson-award.html

    I’d also spend time with Raj Jain’s http://www.amazon.com/Art-Computer-Systems-Performance-Analysis/dp/0471503363/

  6. Michaelcade1’s avatar

    Hi Scott, sounds like an interesting year. I have a few things I want to get done and one will be following your progress I have my Netapp NCIE to renew before March, there is also a new VMware view 5 exam that can be done without any training. So would be nice to get that where possible.

    Then also want to start a blog of my experiences on the front line when implementing virtualisation solutions.

    And also to get more followers on twitter to raise the profile of the blog. Shameless plug twitter account is michaelcade1. I already follow you Scott :)

  7. Paul Richards’s avatar

    Geoff beat me to it with regards to OpenStack and Python. One thing that has helped me tremendously with learning Python is attending the Python user groups in my area. Perl has quite a few, especially in Denver. Check out Denver.pm and also search meetup.com for some user groups focused on Perl.

    Good luck with all of your 2012 projects. I’m looking forward to reading some great posts!

    Paul

  8. James’s avatar

    Scott,
    As Geoff said, you’d be much better off looking at KVM instead.

    The open source community has almost entirely moved away from Xen and onto KVM. As time goes on, you’ll find more and more Xen deployments get migrated over to KVM. It’s clear that the community overall has chosen KVM as their hypervisor.

  9. John’s avatar

    There is a lot of talk about KVM but still step behind Xen in several areas.

    Large deployments keep on using Xen and just silently upgrading to 4.x versions which is real good from several points.

    A lot of people saw Xen last time in 3.1/3.2 version but current status on Xen is different story.

    Due to different architecture Xen has bigger network througput and doing great under big stress. KVM has slightly better disk operations but there is work on it.

    Xen is fully part of Kernel since several versions and its being supported with current distros. RHEL/CentOS has wide custom repos providing Xen with excellent support.

    XenServer is popular alternative to vmware and its often to see at SMB deployments whre is clear benefit of live migration and management in free version.

    KVM is missing its own small hypervisor only distro yet.

    Last but not least Xen is hypervisor type 1 and KVM is type 2.

  10. slowe’s avatar

    All, thanks for your comments. I appreciate the suggestions for synergy (i.e., KVM instead of Xen, Python instead of Perl). Life is a continual journey of learning and growth—I’m pretty committed to this path for now, but you’ve given me good information for where I should go next. :-)

  11. Peter Phaal’s avatar

    I would recommend XenServer or Xen Cloud Platform (XCP) if you want to go open source. Both are very easy to install and include Open vSwitch as the default vSwitch.

    In Technology Short Take #17 you mentioned an interest in learning about sFlow – Open vSwitch has sFlow support.

  12. slowe’s avatar

    Peter, thanks for the suggestions. I’ve downloaded XenServer 6.0 and I’m starting with that—just need to locate some useful hardware on which to run it (running it as a VM is only partially useful). I also noted the sFlow support in Open vSwitch as well, so I could make progress on multiple fronts.

  13. Peter Phaal’s avatar

    I have a couple of HP ProLiant MicroServers and a Synology NAS in my test lab. They are quiet, low power and inexpensive. I have found that Hyper-V, ESXi, ProxMox VE, XCP and XenServer install on the MicroServers without a hitch (no special drivers needed etc). Each server had 4 disk bays so you can easily install a different hypervisor on each disk and reboot to switch hypervisors. I would recommend the Intel NC360T PCIe Dual Port Gigabit NIC if you want to expand the number of ports on each server – again this card is supported by all the hypervisors.

    The servers aren’t very powerful, so you can only run 4-6 small VMs per server, but if you are primarily interested in playing around with configurations and testing software then it works well. Two boxes is nice if you want to experiment with server pools and live migration. A Vyatta VM is a good way to add routing/VPN functionality.

  14. Daniel Longhi’s avatar

    Hello Scott,
    I strongly suggest you to learn and master Regular Expressions along with the programming language of choice.

    Mastering Regular Expressions by Jeffrey E F Friedl appears to be the holy grail on the subject.

    From the Book Description:
    “… Regular expressions allow you to code complex and subtle text processing that you never imagined could be automated. Regular expressions can save you time and aggravation. They can be used to craft elegant solutions to a wide range of problems. Once you’ve mastered regular expressions, they’ll become an invaluable part of your toolkit. You will wonder how you ever got by without them.”

  15. JR’s avatar

    Interesting blog post Scott, but I have a few questions for you…

    Learning all the above is time consuming. What are your strategies to learning two languages, a new hypervisor / virtualisation platform and a multi-exam certification in a year? That’s a lot of reading and hands on experience required.

    Do you block evenings of time to do this? And if so, how do you balance this with family life? How do you choose what to do first on your list?

  16. slowe’s avatar

    JR, those are excellent questions. First, I’ll admit that this list might be a bit ambitious. That being said, if we don’t push ourselves, how will we grow? I believe it’s important to set stretch goals.

    With regard to strategies and plans, I generally set aside time each evening to work on one of these goals. One night I’ll work on Perl; another night I’ll work on German. I’m also weaving German into the rest of my day by using a “flash card”-style app to learn vocabulary terms. In fact, I’ll probably go so far as to go through my house and attach labels with the German name on it to everyday objects. Silly, I know, but I’ve heard it can be effective.

    On the Xen and CCNP side, I use GNS3 to provide router simulation, and I believe that my prior Linux and virtualization experience will help make learning Xen a bit easier than someone who isn’t familiar with virtualization at all. I could be wrong—time will tell.

    Balancing this with my day job and my role as a father/husband is accomplished by setting aside dedicated times to spend with my family, and getting them involved in some cases. For example, I occasionally ask my kids to quiz me on my German; that gets them involved in the process and helps them learn a little as well.

    Thanks for your comment!

  17. Manuel Mely’s avatar

    Hi Scott,

    I wish you good luck in your new goals for 2012. We are sharing two of them, since one year ago i started to learn german as well, and also have plans to revisit xen and kvm virtualization based solutions after a long time using VMware. There are no plans as well to abandon VMware. :)

    Good luck distributing the time!

    Greetings from Cuba

  18. slowe’s avatar

    Manuel, thanks for your comment. Any suggested sources of information on Xen and KVM (especially Xen, since I’m trying to tackle that one first)? Would certainly appreciate any pointers you might be willing to share.

  19. JR’s avatar

    Hi Scott

    At the risk of invoking thread-necromancy, how are your 2012 projects panning out? At the half way point through the year, it would be interesting to get an update on what progress you’ve made.

    I too have a list of things I would like to learn, but I’m not particularly good at switching between multiple projects and prefer to dive into one single subject at a time. Problem is, family life is demanding (but very rewarding!) and getting time to shut myself away and study is a challenge.

    Thanks!

  20. slowe’s avatar

    JR, that’s a fair question. I’ve been working on a project update over the last couple of weeks, so look for that here soon.