The shortage of skilled employees, are we making it worse?

We still have a serious problem in ICT. Even in this second decade of the 21st century. While the entire industry has been buzzing with IT-Business alignment for many, many years now, I often notice that we have not gotten very far. For one the divide between business & IT is an artificial disconnect. This artifact does exist, but we’ve created it, and all we need to do is stop doing that. No one is giving this much attention to the struggling relations of business with the HRM or the finance departments.

In contradiction of what we might expect, while this artifact is detrimental to the success & profitability of IT, it is not taken seriously enough. Sure the business absolutely needs to define what they need. But in an ever more rapidly changing technology world they do not have the knowledge needed to do that. So we need bridge builders, people with the skills to translate technology used in IT into competitive solutions and highly efficient & profitable systems. It takes a special breed & some serious skills to act on opportunities and see them materialize with the help of IT solutions. It also takes a whole lot of common sense. The latter often seems to be lacking. Why does this happen?

This is not just about business and not just about technology. It’s something in between. As a result it’s often seen as not that critical and this leads to staffing these functions with the wrong skillsets. At best they are populated by people who want to get into the IT sector but don’t like technology that much. This is enforced by all those campaigns to make IT more sexy and attractive to the new generations who associate IT with nerds. It’s beyond me why we’d want to attract people who think so superficially but hey, that’s just me. But aren’t we building our own future nightmare this way? At worst it is used to get people in better pay grades. The functions might very well mandate better pay due to its complexity and the required skill set but this only holds true if you get the right people in those functions. Whatever the reason, this is a major pain point. Why?

The neglect of these bridging functions lets people without the necessary skillsets take responsibility for decisions they are incapable of making. Their knowledge of the technical matters is not up to that task and business wise they’re often in the same boat. So now we have a bunch of people who have way too little understanding of what IT and business is and what they themselves should achieve in that bridging role. Oh great, so fundamentally critical decisions are being made by the unqualified. People who lack skills, experience and context will fall back to methodologies & theories. They use them as cook books. Unfortunately reading and using a cookbook doesn’t make any one a chef. And these are the roles where we need chefs’ people. In reality there is a giant gap between reality and all the theories, methodologies & real or perceived knowledge on how IT can be better aligned with the business and be run more successfully and profitably.

I can only conclude that allowing this to happen means that the functions that are supposed to be bridge that cap is not taken seriously enough. For all the lip service to these efforts it cannot be for lack of acknowledgement of the pain points. But the solution often seems more of what doesn’t work, thereby eroding any credibility of the bridging functions. This is costing us dearly and it will only get worse if we don’t stop this madness. There is of cause the fact that projects become more and more expensive with all the * architects, * analysts & * officers. On top of that the complexity keeps rising and we don’t seem to be very good at managing that. Ask any engineer what the worst enemy in any project is and you’ll get uncontrolled and unmanageable complexity as an answer. But even worse, you are faced with the fact that best people in the business, bridge and technical positions eventually leave. Tired & worn out by the environment that doesn’t value them as they don’t understand their true contribution and skill set.

This means that even today IT retreats into its technical areas of expertise and the business doesn’t learn what IT is & can do. If we don’t get better at bridging that gap we are doomed to keep failing at ever higher costs and you’ll lose ever more valuable employees. The only difference will be we’ll have more parties than IT and business to point our fingers at as the ones to blame.

Upgrading Hyper-V Cluster Nodes to Windows Server 2012 (Beta) – Part 1

This is a multipart series based on some lab test & work I did.

  1. Part 1 Upgrading Hyper-V Cluster Nodes to Windows Server 2012 (Beta) – Part 1
  2. Part 2 Upgrading Hyper-V Cluster Nodes to Windows Server 2012 (Beta) – Part 2
  3. Part 3 Upgrading Hyper-V Cluster Nodes to Windows 8 (Beta) – Part 3

After I got back from the MVP Summit 2012 in Bellevue/Redmond I could wait to start playing with a Windows 8 Hyper-V cluster so I decided to upgrade my Windows 2008 R2 cluster nodes to Windows 8. That means evicting them on by one, upgrading them and adding them to a new Windows 8 cluster. As we can build a one node cluster this can be done a node at the time. This isn’t a fail proof definite “How To”, I’m just sharing what I did.

Evicting a node

Before evicting a node make sure all virtual machines are running on the other node(s). As you can see the cluster warrior has 2 nodes, crusader & saracen (I was listening to some Saxon heavy metal at the time I built that lab setup). We evacuated node saracen prior to evicting it.


Evict the node & confirm when asked.



When this is done all storage is off line to the node evicted from the cluster. No need to worry about that.

Upgrade that node to Windows 8

To anyone having installed/upgraded to Windows 2008 R2 this should all be a very recognizable experience. Being lazy, I left the iSCSI initiator configuration in there with the Hyper-V & failover cluster roles installed during the upgrade. Now for production environments I like to build my nodes from scratch to have an exactly known, new and clean installation base. But for my test lab at home I wanted to get it done as fast as possible. If only the days had more hours …For extra safety you can pull the plug (or disable the switch ports) on your iSCSI or FC connections and make sure no storage is presented to the node during the upgrade process. Now please do mind is use Intel server grade NIC adaptors for which Windows 8 beta has drivers. Your situation may vary so I can’t guarantee the 7 year old FC HBA in your lab server will just work, OK!?

So run setup.exe from the Windows 8 (Beta) ISO you extracted to a folder on the server or  from the (bootable) USB you created with the downloaded ISO.



The Windows Setup installer will start.

04 run setup


Click on “Install now” to proceed and start the setup process.



Select to “Go online to get the latest updates for Setup (Recommended)”



So it looks for updates on line.



It didn’t find any but that’s OK.



Select the installation you want. I went with for Server with a GUI as I want screen shots. But as I wrote in the blog post Windows 8 Server With GUI, Minimal Server Interface & Server Core Lesson with the Desktop Experience Feature you can turn it into a Server Core Installation and back again now. So no regrets with any choice you make here, which is a nice improvement that can save us a lot of time.


Accept the EULA



We opt to upgrade (in production I go for a clean install)



I get notified that I have to remove PerfectDisk. I had an evaluation copy of Raxco PerfectDisk installed I used to do some testing with redirected CSV traffic and defragmentation (see Some Feedback On How to defrag a Hyper-V R2 Cluster Shared Volume).



So the upgrade was cancelled.



I uninstalled PerfectDisk but still it was a no go. I  had to remove all traces of it in the registry & files systems that the uninstall left or the upgrade just wouldn’t start. But after that it worked.



That means we can kick of the upgrade! It all looks very familiar Smile It takes a couple of reboots and some patience. But all in all it’s a fast process.





After this step it takes a couple of reboots and some patience. But all in all it’s a fast process. After some reboots and a screen that goes dark in between those …we get our restyled beta fish.




And voila we’re where we need to be … Smile



After the upgrade process I ran into one error. The GUI for Failover Clustering would not start. The solution if found for that was simply to remove that role and add it again. That did the trick.



So this was a description of the first steps to transition a  Windows 2008 R2 SP1 cluster to a  Windows 8 (Beta) Cluster. As seen we evict the nodes one by one to upgrade them or do a clean install. In the latter case you’ll need to do the iSCSI initiator configuration again,  install the Failover Cluster role and in the case of a Hyper-V cluster the Hyper-V role. The nodes can than be added to a new Windows 8 cluster, starting out with a one node cluster. More on that in the second part of this blog post.

Windows 8 Hyper-V Improved Integration Services Setup

In Windows 8 Beta there is a nice and functional improvement in Hyper-V Manager when you want to install or upgrade the Integration Services. It shows you what version (if any) is installed and if an upgrade is needed or not. Until now it just “mentioned” that “a previous” (no version, could be the latest one) were installed and happily let you reinstall them needed or not. Begs the questions how does this all deal with “corrupted” integration services if such a thing exists. I, personally, have never seen it. Uninstall/reinstall I guess when you come across it as I don’t know of a forced/repair install option.

Walkthrough of The Improved Integration Services Setup

In the Virtual Machine console navigate to Action and select “Insert Integration Services Setup Disk”


In the Virtual Machine console you’ll see that inserting the integration services disk succeeded.


Like before, if the setup process doesn’t start automatically just navigate to the DVD and kick start it yourself.



As you can see below it now shows what version (if any) of the integration services is already installed and asks you if you want to update. In the example below you can see it has the Windows 2008 R2 SP1 version of the integration services. This is as expected as this machine (a W2K3R2SP2 guest) was imported from a Hyper-V cluster running that Windows 2008 R2 SP1.

Integration Comopnents


You click OK and the installation process for the integration services will start.




When the installation is done you’ll be notified that the virtual machines needs to restart.



The server will reboot and if you then try to install the integration services again it will notify you that it has already the correct version of the integration tools running.




If you hit an error in the Beta of Windows 8 Hyper-V I advise two things I have experienced myself in the labs.

  1. Make sure you have enough disk space. I had one test server that had only a few MB left on the C partition and that bit me Smile
  2. Make sure you do it after a clean reboot. Just to make sure you have no pending hardware detection/installs lingering around. I experienced this one on a Windows 2003 R2 SP2 guest. Error code 1618, yup that means Another installation is already in progress.


Our Visit To The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

I have had the distinct pleasure of visiting the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle during my stay in Bellevue for the MVP Summit. Some of my colleagues and I were invited to tour the data center & discuss some of the challenges they have to deal with and the solutions they’ve found for those.

I cannot go into any details about our visit but I can convey that the technology needs of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are being met by a professional crew at all levels of the IT infrastructure stack. On top of that they have invested in a state of the art data center that is purpose build and that really shows in the quality & details. It was also interesting to meet some of our American counter parts. We’ve learned that some of our challenges are the same and that some are very different. For one they have to deal with making their infrastructure earthquake proof and I saw some nifty technology to protect SAN storage racks against such an event. This is something we never have to deal with in our neck of the woods.

In correspondence with their mission to create a better world for all people in order to live better lives they have created a very pleasant work environment that takes care of both the needs of the foundation and its employees. The campus is modern, built to last and designed to minimize it’s environmental impact. It lies in the shadow of the Space Needle and it is brand new (2011).


A view of the campus.


It lies in the shadow of the Space Needle in Seattle.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the IT team of the foundation for the invitation and the opportunity to visit. It was an experience to remember and we’ve left with a better understanding of their IT needs in regard to supporting the foundation’s mission.


MVPs Kerstin Rachfahl, Aidan Finn, Didier Van Hoye, Hans Vredevoort & Carsten Rachfahl during their visit.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the mission of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation I suggest you visit their website. You can also find an animated video showing the new campus & more information here and this link takes you to a pdf brochure about the campus.

I’m very happy to see that the Gates family has invested so much of their wealth in helping to improve lives all over the planet and can only suggest we all do our part, where we can and when we can.