I recieved an email from AWS today inviting me to sit a new Beta exam for the AWS Solution Architect Associate certification.
Due to the rapidly evolving nature of cloud based services the current exam tests knowledge that was valid and correct a number of years ago, and is not necessarily correct in AWS today. A great example is ‘How long does it take to retrieve data from Glacier storage?’ – the answer expected in the current exam is 3-5 hours.
The answer in 2017 would be: Is your glacier retrieval request standard (3-5 hours), bulk (5-12 hours) or expedited (1-5 minutes, yes minutes!!!)
So an update is due to the exam soon, which is a good thing. The email states “new exam featuring questions that reflect new and updated AWS features, services, and best practices”.
However I suspect the new exam is due early 2018 – as the email states that any exam results for those who sit this new beta would be available in 3 months!!!
Good luck for those studying. You can access my old Associate level notes in my AWS bucket here – which I did update in January 2017 as I was preparing for my Professional Exam.
Billed as an event where the future direction of Microsoft (and its partner network) would head in the next 3-5 years I thought it worth heading to London for the ‘Technical’ Day. It was a 2 day event but day 1 on Tue 1st November 2016 was billed as ‘Business Day’, so of course I booked in for the geek chic on the 2nd Nov.
It was a well organised event at the Excel centre, smooth check-in & badge print out and well staffed. A little crowded outside the single escalator everyone was trying to use straight after lunch to get up to Levels 1 through to 3, which is where the breakout session were held in various meeting/seminar rooms. You are suposed to use the ‘Future Encoded’ app to set a schedule and browse the timetable/sessions – the app was pretty rubbish, it kept showing me day 1 (no way to change it) and didn’t work properly until day 2 actually arrived. Without the app you are stuck – no printed copies just dashboard screens outside each meeting/seminar room with the schedule for the remainder of that day for that room only.
You had the chance to explore the Expo area on Level 0 prior to the main AM keynote session. As well as the Bloodhound SSC they had a DeLorean, a RR engine and a HoloLens ‘VR’ area. It was lablled VR, silly really when MS themselves do not consider it Virtual but Mixed Reality – MR.
The main stage was occupied by Andrew Spooner from MS as the host, the hall was 2 thirds full (in contrast at closing keynote it was less than half). We had Joseph Sirosh (MS VP, via Amazon in 2013) talk about data, AI/Machine Learning – not all that great. Next Katja Hoffman talked about Project Malmo, an AI project and the progress her team has made. For me Chris Messina was the standout, his stuff on bots was interesting and has inspired me to look further especially into the social aspects of combining a chat interface (Messenger, WhatsApp) with service/retail opportunities.
Abe Davis (PhD researcher) claimed the work his group were doing – extracting sound/music via just silent video (using the movement of plants/objects in reaction to sound) – was for nice, rosy beneficial purposes. For me it was purely surveillance, surveillance, surveillance. To be able to (eventually) video someone from 100m away, then use the slow-motion capture video of vibrations to their coffee cup to extract local speech was very impressive, but i see no real commercial application except spying!
I will say if the onscreen subtitles are in fact real time and using MS tech then that was impressive, some forgivable errors but generally very responsive and in tandem with speakers!
Lunch – I had prepared and had some with me. The queues were too long, we only had 45 minutes. Plenty of eating places however and much quieter later on.
I decided to hedge my bets as I could only choose 1 of 20-25 sessions in each time slot. First I went to the ‘IDENTITY DRIVEN SECURITY & CYBER CRIME PROTECTION” (Dan Noakes, Zane Freame) expectig something useful. Instead I was hit by a (rather poor) sales pitch for MS’s Enterprise Mobility & Security (EMS) offering now based in the Cloud (the Azure one!). The big demo was where an end user with a ubqiquitious device (e.g. iPad) was accessing Office365 email to read a sensitive corporate message, the take away was supposed to be ‘protection’ of said email by Ctrl+V, then Ctrl+P into say Twitter, or Facebook. So they tried to paste a sentence from the email into twitter and it would not allow a paste. Awesome! NOT. I immediately thought of 3 ways my own non-IT literate wife would use to bypass that, which in order of difficulty are
- Re-type the entire sentence
- Screenshot the email and send as JPG
- Use your smartphone to snap your ‘iPad’ screen & simply share wherever you wish
Of course there are many more ways (print to PDF anyone?). I had now hopes pinned on my next session “FULL CLOUD MIGRATION & ACTIVE/ACTIVE HYBRID CLOUD” (Carl Holt). It was hosted by Kemp Technology who then proceeded to spend the next 45 minutes telling my why I should buy their ‘load balancing’ solution over anyone elses (e.g. Brocade, F5). These are called Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs). I didn’t learn anything about Cloud Migration that was technical or really meaningful, it was a pure sales pitch and how we are faster, better and more efficient.
Then came the session hosted by one of the 3 highest tier sponsor partners ‘Risual’, titled ‘DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION, THE RISUAL WAY‘ (Brian Cain, John Pittaway). Now hoping to get some insight to see how they actually did transform someone from slow/robust IT to fast Digital IT I should have known I would be disappointed. No technical information provided, this session was perfect for Day 1 ‘ the Business day’ and talked more about business processes leading to digital rather than any deep technical information.
The closing keynote was 2 things – Hololens and 3D printing.
Roger Walkden talked about Hololens from the MS world view, real life applications on how processes, services, efficiencies could be realised. All commercial dev, asking the crowd to go and create content for Hololens.
Avi Reichental (external speaker) then had the bulk of the keynote and talked a lot about 3D printing, especially on improvement both in terms of complexity and scale. Also cost reduction too. There were some nice videos of very promising use cases (cheap fabricated housing, medical enhancements) but as usual the reality is that commercial drivers would be more important for driving innovation in 3D printing than social ones. I see this picked up more by the Defence/Aerospace industry than anyone else.
Overall closing keynotes were OK but longer than needed with a cry out for both for those still in attendance to ‘go out, innovate, do stuff and help us sells lots of this Hololens stuff’.
I didn’t stay for drinks/networking, there was really no point. I walked through the Expo and only spoke to people for those orgs that interested me in terms of my current role & future direction. The Lenovo iBook was a neat concept, but don’t see mass market appeal, MS only had 2 Hololens headsets so the queue times were silly, and there wasn’t much else. Overall, I won’t be attending a free event like this one again, I suppose my expectation was more TechEd than Sales 101, so for me best avoided in future and maybe consider a paid event in the future in the vein of VMworld.
It does however make me think what Fujitsu Forum (held in Munich and Tokyo) is like in comparison.
So, I predicted at the beginning of this month that Saudi will announce Eid al-Fitr as Wednesday 6th July and therefore completing 30 fasts for Ramadan (for those who started on a Monday).
For once, it completely aligns with astronomical data regarding the visibility of the new moon (hilaal). Today, Monday 4th July, it will not be possible to sight the new moon from any of the Islamic countries in the Middle East, north Africa or Asian sub-continent. So you will be completing 30 fasts and Eid al-Fitr will be on Wed 6th July for you
Please see tomorrows (evening of Tuesday 5th July) chart below, it shows clear new moon visibility in much of the Middle East, northern Africa, parts India, south east Asia and the whole Americas. If you started on a Tuesday in any of these regions, you will complete 29 fasts only and do Eid al-Fitr on Wed 6th July.
Now let’s talk about the UK, strictly speaking the chart above shows no local sighting is possible in much of Europe including the UK. No sighting at all. Therefore depending on how your local mosque or community make the decision the following might apply.
1. If based on sighting from NEAREST Muslim country (any North African country), your Eid al-Fitr is Wed 6th July. Whether you started on Monday (30 fasts) or Tuesday (29 fasts)
2. If based on GLOBAL sighting, the same principle and date as 1 above applies
3. If based upon a LOCAL sighting then strictly speaking the new moon is NOT visible on Tuesday 5th July (but will be on Wed 6th July, see chart at end). This is where it gets interesting…IF you started on Monday then you will have completed 30 fasts on Tuesday 5th July and therefore MUST do Eid al-Fitr the next day. You simply cannot keep 31 fasts. Only for those who started Tuesday would Eid al-Fitr on Thursday 7th July be valid – to me this validates the position of local sighting and my previous blog post on the start of Ramadan 2016.
To summarise, both Wednesday 6th July and Thursday 7th July 2016 are valid dates for Eid al-Fitr in the UK, strictly speaking neither is wholly right or wholly wrong. What does matter is how you came to the decision and that you stick to this principle all the time.
The sticking matter of the unification of start of Ramadan and dates for Eid in the UK are primarily based upon the differing (yet valid in most cases) decision making mechanism that is used. Don’t expect all mosques & communities to agree and for there to be a unified date going forward – this is unlikely to happen. One of the issues is the Umm al-Qura calendar.
Good luck, God bless and Eid Mubarak where you are.
In a future post I will attempt to demystify the lunar cycle and hopefully increase people’s understanding of this issue.
As usual confusion as to when Ramadan begins this year is abound. IT really does surprise me as to how a LOT of people cannot get their heads around basic astronomy and continue to ignore facts – oft blaming those using facts of being ignorant themselves.
Islam uses a Lunar calendar. From one new moon until the next is called a Lunar month and is usually 29.5 (29 and a half) days. So please understand clearly that a Lunar month doesn’t fit nicely into the category of exactly 29 or exactly 30 days, it is squarely in between.
Getting to the point. Sighting of the new moon (‘hilal’) for the beginning of any Lunar/Islamic month is NOT a religious matter. It is a scientific one. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, the month preceding is called Shabaan.
So when does Shabaan end and Ramadan start?
Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said: “Observe fast on sighting it (the new moon) and break (fast) on sighting it (the new moon), but if the sky is cloudy for you, then complete the number (of 30).” Sahih Muslim; Hadith No 2379a
So the Islamic tradition is to attempt to observe the new moon yourself on the 29th of Shabaan, failing that because 1) it is not there to observe or 2) your view is obscured (cloudy evening/night) you are to complete 30 days of Shabaan and begin the 1st of Ramadan straight after. Hence why I stated that the observation of the moon is a purely scientific matter.
Was the new moon even visible?
Let’s get some visibility FACTS for the UK. For the evening of Sunday 5th June 2016 – was the new moon actually there to be seen?
The chart above clearly shows that it was NOT visible from the UK. In fact, it wasn’t visible from ANY of the traditional Islamic countries in the Middle East, Asian Subcontinent and eastern Asia. So it would be impossible to report a sighting from anywhere in Saudi Arabia, therefore you should be completing 30 days of Shabaan and starting 1st of Ramadan on Tuesday 6th June 2016. However interesting to note is that it WAS visible from the continent of South America, and possibly visible from the far West of Africa using an optical aid (i.e. not with just your eyes).
Now lets look at the chart of Monday 6th June 2016:
Now the new moon is clearly visible from the entire world, for the first time for this new moon it includes the whole of Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. So tonight it should be easy to spot the new moon BUT it is also the 30th day of Shabaan – so you would start Ramadan on Tuesday 7th June 2016 anyway!!! You don’t need to go out and find the new moon.
Just to validate this further with scientific fact:
So why are there so many announcements for 1st of Ramadan for today, Monday 6th of June when very clearly scientifically is WRONG. There are 2 possible reasons
1. Someone somewhere follows the principal of Global Sighting and accepts a sighting from South America (Sao Paulo in Brazil?) as valid for them in Europe, Africa, Asia or the Middle East. This position is actually valid but not many people follow it.
2. Someone saw something and mistook it for the new moon e.g. Venus, Saturn, a satellite or other object in space. Yes, this has actually happened before. But it is 2016. An age of science, of HD and 4K cameras, of advanced astronomy and astrophysics, advanced photographic capability. Yet not ONE single institution or government that declared Ramadan for today Monday 6th June 2016 has provided an iota of photographic or direct evidence. Not one. Says something doesn’t it?
Well onto reason 3. I did say 2 possible reasons, I know! But reason 3 is my conspiracy theory (sort of). A while ago Saudi Arabia adopted a standard calculated (yes calculated, NOT observed) Lunar calendar. This calendar goes by the name of the Umm al-Qura calendar, it contains key Lunar dates for the next 10+ years. Here it is in all its glory:
My personal belief is that there is a single-minded decision to stick to these dates as much as possible, regardless of observation/visibility of the new moon. Why? Simply because of the headache of having to update many dependent systems both Financial and IT related which interact with global systems using the solar calendar. The headache is immense in having to do this every few months, but no excuse really.
Chaos in the UK
OK, so the Saudis make a decision to fit in with their calendar requirements. So why the big argument in the UK about the start of Ramadan repeated each year? Well the primary reason is the number of Saudi funded mosques in this country, adherents who never question the decision made, never seemingly ask for any proof and refuse to debate claiming it is a religious matter for higher authorities when clearly is purely a scientific matter. Is it that hard to ask for photographic proof from the religious ministers?
In fact the Director (no less) of the Astronomical Observatory at Majmaah University, Abdullah Al-Khudairi, actually claimed the day before (Saturday 4th June 2016) that the new moon will appear the next day for “20 minutes after sunset”. How on earth did he know this, and then if this was fact why not announce 1st of Ramadan as Monday 5th June 2016? Did they capture any photographic evidence on the Sunday to share with the world? See where this gets totally confusing. Here is the article as proof:
Anyway a cool new site (WebSurf 2) for technical data can be found here:
Interestingly, it contains a section on Islamic Prayer Times as well as the Crescent Moon Visibility which is the important factor in selecting the 1st of Ramadan for the Islamic Year. I salute the organisation providing this information.
Some more reading: http://www.moonsighting.com/soomu-hadith.html
A positive attempt by Wifaq ul Ulama to unite on moon sighting issues in UK: https://docs.google.com/viewerng/viewer?url=http://www.wifaqululama.co.uk/images/pdf/Unified.pdf
And a very interesting and highly relevant approach to calculating Fajr time in Birmingham, UK: OpenFajr which has been accepted by Birmingham Central Mosque.
More about Umm ul-Qura: http://www.staff.science.uu.nl/~gent0113/islam/ummalqura.htm
Good Luck, God Bless and Ramadan Mubarak – whenever you decide to do it!
To be very clear: Whether you start on Monday or Tuesday – both dates are acceptable and neither is wrong!
Official Microsoft support for DirSync (x64, single forest) and Azure AD sync (multiple forests) ends within a year on April 13th 2017.
The information was only sent by email last week and not everyone will be aware and the only official Microsoft statement I can find is linked below:
Of course end of support does not mean your sync tool of choice will stop functioning – it will happily continue to function, but an upgrade will be needed to ensure it remains in support from next year onward.
So get your upgrade boots on and get Azure AD Connect working which is the replacement for any of the previous sync tools and was released in 2015, the link above has further links for an in-place or swing upgrade – whatever floats your boat (in reality choose the method that suits your organisation, also test it first in non-Production!!!)
Azure AD Connect essentially replaces any of the following you might still be running:
- Azure AD Sync
- Azure AD Connector
- FIM 2012 R2
So seriously consider upgrading this side of Christmas, and not next Easter. You have been informed!
The latest buzzword in virtualization, yet for me the technology it describes is old hat (in the I.T. world old hat isn’t all that long ago). Let me explain…traditionally a ‘converged’ system is simply a combination of 2 (or more) great bits of technology with very different roles combined into one. An example of a converged system is VCE, where I still think of it as the ‘V’Mware, ‘C’isco and ‘E’MC alliance:
- VMware – provides the virtualization function
- Cisco – provides the network and server layer (with a little help from Intel!)
- EMC – experts in storage, so you can guess what they provide!
[With Intels contribution it should really be called ‘ViCE’ 😉 ]
Together that means a joined up system, a VBlock, that you simply deploy then use as a converged compute system. Want more performance? Then add more CPU or RAM or Storage…
…and that is where Hypercovergence differs. Instead of isolated blocks of converged compute you have ‘blocks’ that can work together and scale out, want more performance? Add another block to an existing one via a network cable and BOOM! You have more power. Add 10 blocks. Or 50!
Why did I say it was ‘old hat’ I hear you ask? Well, that’s exactly the way MongoDB works, it scales out in pretty much the same way. When your databases reach a certain size and you need more oooomph, traditionally you would need to migrate the workload to a beefier machine. What if there was a better way, one perhaps that could make use of some of the spare CPU cycles available in an existing machine or one that allowed a redundant piece of kit become useful again? I’ll explain with pictures:
Poor chap, a lowly P75 system crunching away at that data. Need to urgently number crunch the number of stars in the universe and the probability % of habitable planets? Well you need more ooooomph, so scale out like thus which MongoDB has been doing for years (since 2007 while VMwares bitter rival Nutanix first released their Virtual Compute Platform in Q4 2011) :
OH look at that, my Xeon buddies have joined in the game. Now with all that Quad core Hyperthreading with a bit of clever sharding on the MongoDB config you’ll be finished calculating in no time.
So that’s what Hyperconvergence is pretty much. The ability to add more by simply using Ethernet. No need for messy transitions or complicated integration paths and reams of consulting days. Buy it, plug it in, switch it on, use it.
Of course Hyperconvergence is a little more than my simplistic analogy, it’s changing the landscape for virtualization and storage. Previously you would need to integrate 4 or 5 vendor offerings to get your virtual compute platform running. Now you don’t have to. Buy just one (very expensive) hyperconverged box and spin up 100’s of workload VMs to do your grunt work. Potentially you can reduce significantly the number of racks of servers you have, and power/storage costs anywhere between 20 to 80%. Impressive stuff
The following are ones to watch:
Nutanix – possibly more famous for rowing with VMware
SimpliVity – simple isn’t it! Get a free ‘For Dummies’ book here
PernixData – just like The Flash, these guys are fast
I wonder what NetApp are thinking right now…?
Probably enjoying the ever growing spat between VMware and Nutanix, my buddy Chuck started it all with this > 10 reasons why vmware is leading hyperconvergence
[This a guest blog post from my colleague & dear friend, Rauf]
Understanding why Online Security is important
I could dive into the usual do’s and don’ts of security but within 5 minutes most of you would have switched off or started to think about what to watch on YouTube so let’s try a different approach.
How many of you have a front door? Pretty much all of you, in fact some of you will have more than one if you live in flats or apartment complexes. You wouldn’t leave your front door open and expose yourself and your family to an increased level of risk now would you?
So what about your mobile assets? Many of you drive cars and again, you wouldn’t leave your nice expensive car unlocked, or even your beaten up little runabout for that matter if it had your SatNav, your laptop, phone etc. in it, would you?
These attitudes to our own and our family’s personal safety are not in built into us at birth. For many of our grandparents security was not as big a priority as it is for us. We’ve all heard, even if anecdotally, that there was a time when people used to leave their doors open and unlocked. I’m
sure there are still places in the world like that but they are the exception and are becoming rarer every day. The world has changed, dramatically, as we move more and more of our lives online we are creating a wealth of personal capital there as well. We are still learning that we need locks in our digital world in the same way as our physical.
For those of us who have been there since the early days of the internet it was a time of freedom and exploration, but those days are gone and there are many people and organisations out there who are ready, willing and eager to take and exploit our personal information. We have not yet realised the value of our digital lives and possessions and they do have a value. Data is constantly being traded by companies and organisations (both legitimate and not) around the world. That data is not a bunch of abstract ones and zeros, it’s information about you and I, when we were born, are we married, where we shop, etc. We don’t realise how valuable this information is in much the same way we don’t realise how valuable our TV’s and laptops are until we lose them or have to insure them.
Obviously some information is more important but have we really thought about how important all our information is. We would not walk around with our bank account number inked on our arm or leave the key to our safety deposit box lying around on our desk at work. They may not be enough to let some-one walk away with our life savings but why take the risk, yet we do the online equivalent every day, sometimes every single time we go online. We leave digital trails whenever we wonder through the internet, we give websites permission to track our movements, scripts run and gather information from our computers malware potentially lurks on any unfamiliar website (and sometimes on the familiar ones). For the most part we are unaware of these things happening in the background.
But how many of us run up to date anti-virus, and anti-spyware?
How many of us protect our browsers where we spend most of our online time?
Let me leave you with this thought, our online security is every bit as important as our physical security and increasingly more so. If your car was stolen you can replace it fairly quickly, if your identity is stolen and your credit record trashed it could take you years to rebuild it.
It wouldn’t be fair to encourage you to improve your online security without providing a few links to some tools to help you do that. There are many anti-virus applications out there, some free, some commercial. In some countries the larger banks will provide their online users with free anti-virus so worth checking.
There are fewer anti-spyware apps and even less programs that provide complete protection, this is an area where a little research and preparation can pay dividends in the long run.
In no particular order you can try the following (these are not personal recommendations, just a few of the more well known applications that you may wish to try out). Remember that some applications may not play nice with each other, for example running 2 anti-virus programs can cause problems and will make your computer run much slower.
‘Skype for Business‘ is here. After Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype 4 years ago this month they have been (slowly) integrating it with their own live communications offering Lync (previously ‘Live Communications Server’) as well as with their Outlook online mail client and with the upcoming Windows 10 (watch those EU legal hawks circle around this one, much like IE integration with Windows this may be deemed to be abusing a monopoly too against the likes of Google Hangouts etc.)
I only noticed it while downloading some ISOs via my technet subscription, so bye bye Lync and hello Skype.
The end user client will look more like Skype as it will take on some of the blue branding elements. Although administrators on either on-premise or Office 365 can change the skin to match the previous Lync client thereby reducing end user chaos during any transition.
Here’s the l(y)nc for more info:
I’ll probably run a lab migration and a blog post will hopefully follow.