Angry tennis professionals and tax avoiding celebs

A bad day on Sunday for David Nalbadian when he managed to get himself disqualified from a winning position in the final of the Aegon Championship’s final at Queen’s club. After being given the run around he lost his temper and kicked out at advertising boarding at the side of the court. Unfortunately for him, the boards were around the feet of one of the officials who took the full force of the kick and ended up with a bleeding leg!

(Is it me, or has the championship lost that certain something by switching for the red branding of Stella Artois to the blue of Aegon? Somehow the blue doesn’t seem so ‘summery’).

It’s definitely been a bad week for Jimmy Carr who got the wrong sort of publicity when his accountants ‘tax avoidance’ method was brought into the spotlight by David Cameron! While you have to question the morals of the scheme, at the end of the day Jimmy and his accountants were working within the UK tax laws and that the government should perhaps put more effort into tightening the rules than speaking out about individuals – I notice how quiet they are when it comes to massive corporations, (or more popular Conservative supporting celebs), dodging the same levels of tax the rest of us pay. I doubt there’s many of us who wouldn’t use whatever options were available to pay a little less tax, (though you have to admit a millionaire getting away with paying just 1% tax is a bit much!). It did produce a great ‘8 Out of 10 Cats’ show though.

A bad week for the Citrix Team as well

And a bad day for us in the office on Wednesday when we ran into inexplicable service issues in the XenApp farm. The worst case scenario of any IT problem – in consistent behaviour. We had performance problems, connectivity problems, all sorts of event log errors yet on other servers absolutely no problems at all.

As is often the case when there’s no apparent pattern to what’s going on all areas of the service and supporting infrastructure need investigation. And that highlights the major problem faced with modern day large scale IT support – when shared infrastructure services are supported by separate teams and even separate companies.

When I first moved into a ‘proper’ IT support job in the summer of 1999 the IT team was tiny. There were two of us on the ‘WinTel’ side of things, two staff manning the help desk, one guy carrying out site visits while everyone else in the team were looking after various Unix based corporate systems. In those days as well as doing desktop support we had responsibly for all the Windows servers and anything that went on them – SQL, Exchange, IIS based software, etc. In retrospect I can see we had a very ‘flexible’ approach to support and system administration – if something broke we fixed it, if it needed updating we did it. There was no ITIL, no change process, no test or development environments to validate things – everyone just got on with whatever was needed to provide the best level of support we could.

Nowadays the IT infrastructures have grown so large and systems become so complex that specialist teams exist for each area separately. Often these teams report into different management layers and some of these services could be outsourced to a separate company entirely.

The problem with this is that often the big picture is missed. Rather than viewing the entire service offering, the separate components are viewed in isolation. So when you have a problem such as we did this week, you’ll generally find that each team confidently report that their bit is ok. You then face an uphill battle to identify where the problem effecting your service is. Made infinitely harder as you’ll not have any access to the tools you really need to identify the fault.

It’s really critical that the managers responsible for these component services are brought together and understand the bigger picture – the overall service you’re collectively delivering. In 1999 that was far easier – not because we had a much smaller infrastructure to look after. Not because we had a more relaxed approach to making system changes. But because we had overall responsibility and access to all the systems integrating to deliver the service. And for the one or two areas we didn’t, we had the colleagues sitting alongside us always available to help.

Fortunately this week we were able to work with colleagues to identify the cause but I have no doubt that investigations would have been much smoother and faster if we didn’t have to liaise with third parties and other support teams who’s viewpoint was focussed narrowly on just ‘their bit’.

PowerShell progress

I’ve always been lazy with scripting – I can generally find something online to do what I need, or close enough that some minor customisation will do the trick. I’m also fortunate to work with some vbs whizz’s who can come up with a script to do pretty much anything we need at a moments notice. However with XenApp 6.5 on our horizon and it’s use of PowerShell its about time I pull my finger out and start to learn scripting. I’ve managed to pick up a bit this week and even managed to extract data from Active Directory as well as uncovering how to write the results not only into a csv file but Excel no less!

I’ll post some examples later (as well as links to the blogs and sites that have been very helpful).

England march on

On the upside – amazingly England finished top of their Euro 2012 group beating Ukraine 1-0 on Tuesday. Against all expectations one draw and two wins was more than enough to finish top of the group thereby avoiding Spain in the first knockout round. So it’s a quarter-final against the Italians tomorrow night. A win there and next up the Germans – who thrashed Greece 4-2 (flattering to the Greeks) last night. Can’t help feeling we have one, maybe two at most games left to go in this years tournament.