December 2005

Good Evening my friends –

I am starting to catch up on some past stories and posts from before my trip to Seattle for training. Before I left for Boston, some very good friends of mine and I flew to Catalina Island for the day. While I realize that the flight was in all the way in November, I did get some great photos so I thought I would share with everyone.

My Friends
John, Beth and Robert

For those of you not from around San Diego, Santa Catalina Island is located about 70 miles from Montgomery Airport and is home to The Airport in the Sky.

Located on the Los Angeles Sectional Aeronautical Chart, Catalina Island has a tremendous amout of things to do. Personally I feel that the best way to visit Catalina is by plane, followed by a bus ride to Avalon Bay, a wonderful little town of about 4000 people on Catalina Island.

We departed Montgomery Airport in the morning. After getting a weather briefing, pre-flighting 8148F and picking up a Class B departure, we were on our way. Flight time was about 35 minutes not counting taxi and runup. We flew out at 6,500MSL pretty much direct to KAVX.

Enroute to KAVX
Enroute to Catalina Island


I hope that everyone that reads this had a happy, safe and wonderful Christmas Holiday!!

Wow – its amazing that yet another Christmas has come and gone. I have been so busy that I have not been able to update my website with any new posts. I finished up training at F5 (more on that in a later article I think) and came back to sunny San Diego just in time to help move our Project Management department to another building.

The company I work for – American Internet Services is growing very fast and as a result we had to free up more space to expand the data center. All-in-all, the move went quite well. Myself and one of my engineers Greg configured and deployed two Cisco 1410 Wireless Bridges between the two facilities. Since they are only 1/4 mile apart, we are getting great performance. The 1410s run 802.11a in the 5Ghz spectrum and there was not much else there, so we are seeing great overall performance.

Since we only have a handful of people at the new location, we dropped that onto a Cisco 3560 with 802.11af (better known as Power over Ethernet). On the data center side, we hook to a Cisco 6509 and we have an instant wireless WAN.

Christmas itself was very nice. My sister Johanna and my neice Naomi came out for three days and we went to Sea World . We were joined by my next door neighbor’s 11 year old son Eric. Everyone had a great time. Stay tuned for some pictures and a followup story on that trip.

We had our company Christmas party at the Ruben H. Fleet Science Center and had a great turnout. We did some fun things this year with baby photos, trivia questions, a white elephant gift exchange and a lot more. Afterwards, it was time for a 4-day weekend!!

Unfortunately I ended up sick and didn’t do too much or wander too far from my house. I did spend a couple of hours with various friends, but spent a LOT of time in bed, sleeping, drinking orange juice, eating fruit and hoping I would feel much better than I had been feeling. I read three more books (Whiteout by Ken Follett, Death Row by William Bernhardt, and The Big Bad Wolf by James Patterson). I am finishing a forth called Scarecrow by Matther Reilly. I will sit down and post book reviews for each book when I have some time.

The other thing that I did was catch up on all my DVR recordings that I had been missing out on. I record CSI, Law & Order, Cold Case, Missing and Wanted along with a few others. Since I am never home when they air, the DVR is a great tool.

Well – Laundry calls. I do have some updates – several more Cirrus SR22 flights to post stories on, book reviews and some pictures of Sea World…so please check back soon and see if I have posted anything of interest to anyone.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

Goodevening Everyone –

Well, I made it home safe and sound from Boston where I was attending a Global Knowledge course on BGP. I currently have a CCNP and a CCDP, looking to add a CCIP. I am doing this not because I collect certifications, but because there are a lot of people in the world pretending to know what they are doing, costing their customers and clients lots of money and in the end, many times they do not know what they are doing. In our business, reputation is everything, so I want to make sure that when we design and deploy a solution for our customers, it works the way it was intended. Since we are a Cisco house, most of the design I do is based around Cisco equipment.

I like Cisco for a lot of reasons, maybe one of the biggest is that 80% of the internet world also uses Cisco. Since I am pretty certain a lot of these people are smarter than I am when it comes to this type of thing, I figured it was a safe bet 15 years ago when I started in the internet business. I have had no regrets. When I do have problems, there is a mass amount of imformation available on the net and via different mailing lists, that it boggles the mind sometimes. And if I can’t find answers there, then I call the Cisco TAC and they help out. I have tried Juniper and had serious issues with their hardware before returning it (an M20), and I have customers that have tried every kind of different hardware and they too, often times, go back to Cisco. Its not becuase I feel that Cisco doesn’t have problems, but there is such a wealth of information and people that use Cisco, that finding answers is very easy.

Anyway, we have just completed our Wireless Certification and are soon to have Premier status with Cisco, we are shooting for our Routing and Switching and Voice certifications in the next few months. All of these require me to learn different things that what I use in the day-to-day operations of a data center. Personally I am shooting to take my CCIE lab test sometime in 2006 or early 2007. Its a large task, but one I feel is worth going after.

So I had a great time while I was in Boston, got caught in the big snowstorm that caused major airport closures and flight delays you would not believe. I will be posting some of the pictures from the snowstorm when I get a chance to cut them from 5 megapixels to something more reasonable :-)

F5 6400

Tomorrow myself and one of my engineers fly to Seattle, Washington to recertify on the new F5 version 9 code. We use F5 load balancers to manage all of the load balancing traffic for our customers. Since the list of our customers utilizing our load balancers include Rush, Oprah, Dr. Phil, Tony Robbins and more it was extremely important to me that we know the software inside and out. We are currently SE certified on the 4.6 version of the F5 BIGIP software, and now its time to move on to the 9.2 version of BIGIP. Since I am never a fan of major.0 or major.1 revision software… we choose to wait until v9.2 came out. We actually have a customer running 9.2 and they like it.

The other reason we want to upgrade is that we sell the hardware and most of the time our customers opt to have us configure the hardware for them and provide them some training on how to manage the equipment and the best way to deploy new servers. So its time to upgrade our load balancers, but first, we have to upgrade our knowledge, deploy the new software on our two test F5 load balancers, make sure there are no catches or surprises and then do a one unit at a time upgrade. We run full active/passive failover pairs, so we can do all of this without impacting our customers at all.

So its been a very busy month so far – we have completed our Cisco required wireless tests (three of them) and gained our Wireless Specialization, I have completed a one week BGP class in Boston, weathered a major snow storm without missing my flight, and now we are heading to Seattle after a much needed break in sunny San Diego to thaw out before heading tot he rain!!

I will be happy to get back from Seattle and enjoy Christmas. And YES, I do have a Christmas tree this year, but that is a story for another night…

Good Night

Backup To Disk Now Cover

Anyone looking to decrease the insanity of their backup systems should get ahold of this book and read it! I run a data center in S. California and we are constantly struggling with the massive amount of backup space we continue to chew up. We operate a good sized multi head robotic tape backup system designed around LTO tape units with fiber gig connection between our main tape unit library and most of the servers that we back up.

We are using a very well rated, expensive and very well known tape backup software that everyone has heard of today. One of the major issues is that we run backup all the time. By that I mean that we are running all tape units 24 hours per day, 7 days per week to keep up with all of our backup requirements.

We can continue to grow utilizing the system we currently have in place, of that there is no doubt. It has never failed us, but it has its drawbacks. One of the drawbacks is the need for tape media. Tape does not have an unlimited life span, it has to be replaced…..sometimes at the worst possible moment it would seem. Second, if a client deletes something off of one of our web servers and he needs it back, we have to shut down the entire backup system, load which ever tape library is needed, spool his data back off of the tape, reload the tape libraries and restart he backup job, making sure everything goes smoothly. Sometimes, you recover files you have been asked to recover, only to find out that the customer needed different files ! Needless to say, I am always on the prowl for new and better ways of doing things.

With that in mind, a very good friend of mine tells me about a book he is writing about backing up to hard drives utilizing software called “Backup for Workgroups” as opposed to tape media. At first, I listened to what he had to say, but in the back of my mind, I kept thinking….hard drives..? That sure sounds expensive! But Bill and I have been friends for almost 15 years, and when he suggested that if I looked at the overall cost of a tape infrastructure and more importantly – engineering time and time for systemwide backups, I may find that it would be cheaper in the long run to backup to hard drives instead of disks, that is what I did.

So as a proof of concept, Bill and I sat down and designed a 10TB backup system utilizing 500GB SATA hard drives in a RAID 6 configuration. After looking at all the costs including hardware, software licensing, design, testing and deployment, I was amazed to see what the cost was. I was amazed because it was a lot less than what I was expecting to see!

Next, Bill and I spent quite a bit of time discussing data center specific applications and how we could use the backup software his book talks about in our specific environment including Linux, Windows 2000, Windows XP and Solaris. While “Backup for Workgroups” does not have specific clients for Linux and Solaris, we did conceive a great workaround using SAMBA . We have (for years) ran windows spacific data warehousing projects on Linux boxes running SAMBA. Generally becuase we don’t have to get additional windows licensing, and also because it solves a lot of problems, mostly on the performance side of the house – in the end, a Linux box running SAMBA does a far better job as a windows file server than Windows 2000 or XP does. Now before we spark a religions debate, I am a firm believer in using Windows for what Windows does well and using Linux for what Linux does well. In this case, we found Linux and SAMBA to do a far better job warehousing our Windows based accounting application than Windows could do.

Since Bill had written a book on the subject, I got my hands on a copy and read it. Its a fantastic book, written at a level that allows someone not familiar with the software or the concepts to easily understand both, but more importantly, it enpowers them to make informed decisions when it comes to their backup situation.

Since I have a facility in LA, one of the things I was interested in was offisite replication as well as using the software to backup customer’s equipment as a service. I suggested that Bill look at VMWare and I understand he is working on testing the deployment of “Backup for Workgroups” under a VMWare server running under Linux. Each “server” would be a different customer, guaranteeing total privacy and security of customer’s data.

Overall, I think Bill did a fantastic job with his book and getting his knowledge across to the readers. If you are having problems with your backups, I highly recommend getting a copy of Bill’s book from his website or from Amazon. You will not regret it!

AA Logo

I decided to fly east for some Cisco classes and the class that I wanted and the time I wanted to take it directed me to Boston, MA. I have always wanted to visit Boston, have some tea and enjoy the Atlantic. So I climbed aboard an American Airlines 757 in sunny San Diego this morning at 7:30am ready to start an eastward adventure. What an adventure !!

We were sitting at the gate waiting to be pushed back when the Captain announced that there was a problem with a battery charger and that maintenance had to come take a look, so please be patient and we would be on our way soon. Maintenance did, in fact, get us out of the gate and on our way down the taxiway, however, whatever circuit breaker they reset had a mind of its own so it was back to the terminal we went.

We soon found out that the battery charger had to be replaced, and that AA did not have one in stock, they were going to ask other airlines if they had one in stock. Shockingly, no one did, so a charger had to be flown in from LAX.

While we waited, the captain and first officer were kind enough to grant tours of the flight deck. Since I love to fly, I spent time talking to both the captain and the first officer about the 757 and aviation in general. I learned that AA (and maybe other airlines) does not require their pilots to do any autoland stuff expect to recertify and that its really upto the pilots to determine the type (hand flown or coupled) approaches they want to fly. I also learned that it requires three autopilots to manage the autolanding of the 757 – safety being the prime concern I imagine.

Overall, the experience was not too bad, AA did well by keeping everyone up to date every step of the way, letting us hit Starbucks while we waited, and generally did their best to make a bad situation better.

We ended up wheels up almost 4 hours late, but it was a smooth flight, a great landing, and overall, not a bad trip. I however was not catching a connecting flight, so those weary travelers that end up in Boston overnight due to missed connections may have a different story. :-)

So tomorrow (Sunday) I am off site seeing, having gotten here a day early so I could see some sites of Boston before starting class for my CCIP on Monday. Its almost 11:00pm here and I am not even tired, having fell asleep on the flight over (not a good idea afterall)! Well, I think I will finish the book I started reading this morning – The Broker by John Grisham – not too bad so far.