Weighing the IT implications of implementing SDNs

Software-defined anything has myriad issues for data centers to consider before implementation

Software Defined Networks should make IT execs think about a lot of key factors before implementation.

Issues such as technology maturity, cost efficiencies, security implications, policy establishment and enforcement, interoperability and operational change weigh heavily on IT departments considering software-defined data centers. But perhaps the biggest consideration in software-defining your IT environment is, why would you do it?
Prove to me there’s a reason we should go do this, particularly if we already own all of the equipment and packets are flowing. We would need a compelling use case for it.
— Ron Sackman, chief network architect at Boeing

“We have to present a pretty convincing story of, why do you want to do this in the first place?” said Ron Sackman, chief network architect at Boeing, at the recent Software Defined Data Center Symposium in Santa Clara. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Prove to me there’s a reason we should go do this, particularly if we already own all of the equipment and packets are flowing. We would need a compelling use case for it.”

[WHERE IT’S ALL GOING: VMware adds networking, storage to its virtual data center stack]

And if that compelling use case is established, the next task is to get everyone onboard and comfortable with the notion of a software-defined IT environment.

“The willingness to accept abstraction is kind of a trade-off between control of people and hardware vs. control of software,” says Andy Brown, Group CTO at UBS, speaking on the same SDDC Symposium panel. “Most operations people will tell you they don’t trust software. So one of the things you have to do is win enough trust to get them to be able to adopt.”

Trust might start with assuring the IT department and its users that a software-defined network or data center is secure, at least as secure as the environment it is replacing or founded on. Boeing is looking at SDN from a security perspective trying to determine if it’s something it can objectively recommend to its internal users.

“If you look at it from a security perspective, the best security for a network environment is a good design of the network itself,” Sackman says. “Things like Layer 2 and Layer 3 VPNs backstop your network security, and they have not historically been a big cyberattack surface. So my concern is, are the capex and opex savings going to justify the risk that you’re taking by opening up a bigger cyberattack surface, something that hasn’t been a problem to this point?”

Another concern Sackman has is in the actual software development itself, especially if a significant amount of open source is used.

“What sort of assurance does someone have – particularly if this is open source software – that the software you’re integrating into your solution is going to be secure,” he asks. “How do you scan that? There’s a big development time security vector that doesn’t really exist at this point.”

Policy might be the key to ensuring security and other operational aspects in place pre-SDN/SDDC are not disrupted post implementation. Policy-based orchestration, automation and operational execution is touted as one of SDN’s chief benefits.

“I believe that policy will become the most important factor in the implementation of a software-defined data center because if you build it without policy, you’re pretty much giving up on the configuration strategy, the security strategy, the risk management strategy, that have served us so well in the siloed world of the last 20 years,” UBS’ Brown says.

Software Defined Data Center’s also promise to break down those silos through cross-function orchestration of the compute, storage, network and application elements in an IT shop. But that’s easier said than done, Brown notes – interoperability is not a guarantee in the software-defined world.

“Information protection and data obviously have to interoperate extremely carefully,” he says. The success of software defined workload management – aka, virtualization and cloud – in a way has created a set of children, not all of which can necessarily be implemented in parallel, but all of which are required to get to the end state of the software defined data center.

“Now when you think of all the other software abstraction we’re trying to introduce in parallel, someone’s going to cry uncle. So all of these things need to interoperate with each other.”

So are the purported capital and operational cost savings of implementing SDN/SDDCs worth the undertaking? Do those cost savings even exist?

Brown believes they exist in some areas and not in others.
We’ve got massive cost targets by the end of 2015 and if I were backing horses, my favorite horse would be software-defined storage rather than software-defined networks.
— Andy Brown

“There’s a huge amount of cost take-out in software-defined storage that isn’t necessarily there in SDN right now,” he said. “And the reason it’s not there in SDN is because people aren’t ripping out the expensive under network and replacing it with SDN. Software-defined storage probably has more legs than SDN because of the cost pressure. We’ve got massive cost targets by the end of 2015 and if I were backing horses, my favorite horse would be software-defined storage rather than software-defined networks.”

Sackman believes the overall savings are there in SDN/SDDCs but again, the security uncertainty may make those benefits not currently worth the risk.

“The capex and opex savings are very compelling, and there are particular use cases specifically for SDN that I think would be great if we could solve specific pain points and problems that we’re seeing,” he says. “But I think, in general, security is a big concern, particularly if you think about competitors co-existing as tenants in the same data center — if someone develops code that’s going to poke a hole in the L2 VPN in that data center and export data from Coke to Pepsi.

“We just won a proposal for a security operations center for a foreign government, and I’m thinking can we offer a better price point on our next proposal if we offer an SDN switch solution vs. a vendor switch solution? A few things would have to happen before we feel comfortable doing that. I’d want to hear a compelling story around maturity before we would propose it.”


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Why 15% of Americans still aren’t using the Internet

Most Americans who don’t use the Internet are ‘just not interested,’ a new report has found.

A new Pew report sheds light on the still-significant population of American adults – 15%, in fact – who don’t use the Internet.

Among those who remain offline, the most common reason given is that they’re “just not interested,” as cited by 21%. The next most common reason, cited by 13%, is a pretty good one – “I don’t have a computer.”

Pew says the main reason Americans don’t use the Internet is “relevance,” which the research firm defined as the sentiment behind those who are disinterested, think it’s a waste of time, are too busy or just don’t need or want to use the Internet. This accounted for 34% of the survey’s respondents.

A close second, however, was “usability,” which included those who cited difficulty learning the Internet for a variety of reasons and those who were worried about virus, spam and hackers. At 32% of the respondents, Pew says “this figure is considerably higher than in earlier surveys.”

RELATED: UN report highlights massive Internet gender gap

Price was the third-most cited reason. At 19%, it marked a drop from the 21% who claimed price kept them offline when the survey was conducted in 2010. However, just 11% cited price in 2007, as did 16% in 2009, suggesting that cost has become a more significant barrier to Internet adoption in the past four years.

Availability and access to the Internet was an obstacle for 7% of respondents, up slightly from 6% in 2010, but down substantially from the 18% who lacked access in 2009.

As usual, Pew provided demographics for its survey respondents, and they followed a trend that was made clear in earlier editions – older Americans, those with low income and/or poor education levels make up most of the offline population. Forty-four percent of respondents were 65 and older, and another 17% were aged 50 to 64. A combined 10% were aged 18 to 49, according to the report.

In terms of education, 41% had no high school diploma, compared to 22% of offline Americans who had just a high school diploma. Another 8% remained offline despite having completed “some college,” and 4% of respondents had earned at least one college degree.

The respondents largely belonged to lower-income levels, with 24% earning less than $30,000 per year and another 12% between $30,000 and $49,999. Just 4% of respondents earned more than $75,000 per year.

While 63% of respondents say they would need someone to help them if they wanted to go online, another 17% claim to know enough to use the Internet. Indeed, when Pew asked respondents if they would need assistance going online, 13% said they would not want to.
Another 55% of respondents backed up this claim, telling Pew that they have never asked a family member or friend to complete an online task or look something up on the Internet for them, although 44% said they have.

While the total number of American adults on the Internet is up from 78% as of Pew’s report in August 2011, the trends don’t appear to have changed for those in the demographics that have made up the offline population since Pew first began keeping track.

“Those who do not use the Internet often do not feel any need to try it, some are wary of the technology, and others are unhappy about what they hear about the online world,” a Pew report published in September 2000 concluded.
 


 

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Microsoft brings longer battery life, faster processors to Surface

Microsoft aims at corporate crowd with Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 overhaul

Microsoft today unveiled Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, the first major overhaul of its tablet/laptop lineup that now feature longer battery life and faster performance, both attractions for corporate customers.

The battery life of Surface Pro 2 has been boosted “so it lasts nearly a full workday” says Panos Panay, Microsoft vice president of Surface in the Surface blog. This is by virtue of a newer generation Intel Core i5 processor that improves battery life by 60%.

Augmented by Power Cover ($199.99) cordless use “lasts more than 10 hours,” he says. Power Cover is an accessory cover/keyboard that contains an extended battery that charges while the device is working or when it’s connected and the computer is turned off.
Microsoft Surface

A second accessory makes the device suitable for business deployment within a corporate site. Docking Station ($199.99) for Surface Pro includes Mini DisplayPort video output so the docked Surface Pro can use an external monitor. It also has an Ethernet port so it can connect to a wired LAN, as well as three USB 2.0 ports and one USB 3.0 port and 3.5mm audio in and out ports.

Surface Pro 2 runs the full version of Windows 8.1 that can handle both traditional Windows business apps and so-called Modern apps customized for touch and enabled by the Windows Runtime API surface.

The Surface Pro 2 has a two-position kickstand, making the angle at which it supports the screen more suitable for using it as a laptop on an actual lap. The original Surface Pro kickstand propped up the device at just one position that wasn’t better adjusted sitting on a desk.

Surface 2 is the upgraded version of Surface RT, the tablet based on an ARM processor and tricked out with its own, abbreviated version of Office. The most significant upgrade for businesses is the addition of Outlook RT, a version of the email, calendar and personal information manager application that comes with the full Office suite.

He claims Surface 2 is much faster than Surface RT and includes 72 graphics cores, a USB 3.0 port (up from USB 2) and double the Internet speed. The processor has been upgraded from an NVIDIA Tegra 3 to a Tegra 4, which boosts speed and prolongs battery life, Microsoft says.

It comes in a color other than black – a metallic hue that is the natural color of the magnesium it is made of.
surface

The device is also “slightly thinner and lighter”, though the blog doesn’t quantify that. It has a 3.5 megapixel front-facing camera, up from 1 megapixel in the Surface RT, and a 5 megapixel rear-facing camera, up from 1 megapixel. They’ve been tuned for low-light environments to improve the quality of video calling.

Both devices come with free Skype calling to landlines in 60 countries for one year and free Skype Wi-Fi services for one year at 2 million hotspots. They come with 200GB of free storage in SkyDrive for two years.

Both devices come with their respective upgraded versions Windows 8 – Windows RT 8.1 and Windows Pro 8.1.

The blog says the Touch keyboard/cover ($119.99) is more responsive and more rigid than the original. Touch is a flat, fuzzy device with a keyboard embossed on it that responds to finger tapping but the key areas don’t actually move. It’s been upgraded with backlit keys. It’s 2.75 mm thick, down from 3.25 mm.

Type Cover ($129.99) – which is a thin traditional keyboard in which each key depresses and clicks when tapped –has been modified to click more quietly and is more rigid than the original. The keys are backlit and has proximity sensors so the lights turn on as fingers approach the keyboard. Formerly it came only in black, but now it comes in three other colors, cyan, magenta and purple.

Other accessories include a car charger ($49.99), a Bluetooth mouse (69.99) and a wireless adapter ($59.99) for the Typing Covers so they don’t have to be attached to the tablets themselves.

Surface 2 comes in 32GB and 64GB models, and pricing starts at $449.

Surface Pro 2 comes in 64GB and 128GB models with 4GB of RAM and in a 256GB model with 8G of RAM. Pricing starts at $899.

Both Surface devices will be available for pre-order Sept. 24 online, Microsoft Stores and Best Buy. They can be bought Oct. 22, in Microsoft Stores, and select retail stores in 22 markets Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States on Oct. 22 and China (early November).


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Microsoft OS chief: One API to rule them all

Microsoft OS chief: One API to rule them all
Microsoft is pushing ahead with a unified Windows strategy

Microsoft is pursuing the ideal of OS platforms: a unified code base that runs from smartphones to servers, giving users a consistent experience across devices at home and at work, and developers a common tool set for building applications.

“We really should have one silicon interface for all of our devices. We should have one set of developer APIs on all of our devices,” said Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Operating Systems Engineering Group, during the company’s meeting with financial analysts on Thursday.

“And all of the apps we bring to end users should be available on all of our devices,” he added.

This is the ambitious goal Myerson’s team has been chasing since the Operating Systems Engineering Group was formed two months ago as part of a broad reorganization of the company.

At the time, CEO Steve Ballmer said that group would be in charge of “all our OS work for console, to mobile device, to PC, to back-end systems,” as well as of the OS “core cloud services.”

Myerson’s remarks on Thursday made it clear how challenging his group’s mission is.

In addition to the single developer tool set and application parity across devices, his team is working on “one core [cloud] service which is enabling all of our devices,” while at the same time providing a “tailored” experience for each device, from 3-inch phones to 60-inch TV sets.

“We want to facilitate the creation of a common, familiar experience across all of those devices, but fundamentally tailored and unique for each device,” Myerson said.

His team’s vision is “very clear” and they’re pursuing it with a sense of urgency, he added.

While the potential benefits to customers and developers sound compelling, the undertaking is technologically daunting and, according to some critics, conceptually flawed.

For example, Apple has a dual-OS strategy that has worked very well for it so far: the Mac OS for desktops and laptops, and iOS for phones and tablets.

Google also has gone down this route with ChromeOS for the Chromebook laptops and desktops and Android for tablets and smartphones, although some question if the line between the two OSes will blur in the future.

In addition, Microsoft currently has a mess on its hands with Windows 8. The tile-based, touch-optimized OS was supposed to propel Microsoft into a competitive position against Apple and Android vendors in the tablet market. Instead it stumbled out of the gate, hobbled by a general dislike for some of its key features by many consumers and IT pros. An update that addresses the main complaints, Windows 8.1, is due in mid-October.

And as Myerson’s team aims for the moon, down here on Earth Microsoft still has two main versions of Windows 8, a situation that has caused confusion among customers as well. There’s Windows 8 for x86 devices, an OS that can run legacy Windows 7 applications, and then there’s Windows RT, which can’t run those apps because it’s for devices that run on ARM chips.

Then there’s Windows Phone 8, which has also suffered from low adoption primarily because, as in the tablet market, Microsoft has a small share in smartphones. Its acquisition of Nokia’s smartphone business, which hasn’t closed, is part of its effort to turn that tide.

Also not helping matters is the lukewarm reception that the Microsoft-built and branded Surface tablets have received — both the Windows 8 and Windows RT models.

As would be expected, many developers have adopted a wait-and-see attitude toward Windows 8 while Microsoft sorts out the problems and starts concretely delivering on its unified OS plan.


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Microsoft working out kinks in Outlook.com’s IMAP implementation

The company rolled out IMAP support for the webmail service on Thursday

Getting Outlook.com to work with email client applications via IMAP is proving to be a challenge for some users of the Microsoft webmail service.

A variety of problems have been reported through comments in the blog post Microsoft published Thursday announcing the new IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) support in Outlook.com.

To their credit, Microsoft officials are clearly monitoring the feedback very closely, as evidenced by their frequent replies to the comments being posted.

“We’ve seen a handful of reports of users running into the error 9 so we’re looking into this with high priority,” wrote Ben Poon, an Outlook.com program manager with Microsoft, referring to a server timeout error some users are experiencing.

Another common complaint is that messages deleted using IMAP-compliant client applications remain on the Outlook.com Web interface.

The thread of comments, which is now nearing 80, also goes into questions and recommendations about specific configurations under certain scenarios and for particular OSes and email applications.

Matthew Cain, a Gartner analyst, said that scaling up IMAP support, particularly given the various ways IMAP can be interpreted by developers, can be difficult.

“Thorough testing at scale, and testing of all major permutations, is a requirement before any go-live action,” Cain said via email.

Microsoft declined to comment on the issues.

In its announcement Thursday, the company said that support for the IMAP email retrieval technology would expand the scope of client software and devices that can interact with Outlook.com.

“With today’s announcement, we now have a richer email experience across devices and apps, including those not using EAS (Exchange ActiveSync), such as Mac Mail and Thunderbird on a Mac,” wrote Microsoft official Steve Kafka in the blog post.

Outlook.com already worked with EAS, which allows it to be used with devices running the Windows Phone, iOS and Android mobile operating systems, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft was prompted to add IMAP support based on feedback from Outlook.com users who let the company know “loud and clear that this was important,” Kafka wrote.

The addition of IMAP also opens the door for third-party developers to create applications for Outlook.com or integrate existing applications with it.

Microsoft detailed in its blog post how several developers have already linked their applications and Web services with Outlook.com using IMAP.

One of them is TripIt, which can now detect emails with travel confirmations in Outlook.com inboxes and import them into a TripIt itinerary.

Outlook.com, first unveiled in mid-2012, has replaced Hotmail as the company’s webmail service. Microsoft describes Outlook.com as a total reinvention of webmail, from the user interface to the back-end platform. With Outlook.com, Microsoft expects to have a stronger competitor to Gmail and Yahoo Mail.

However, Outlook.com has been hampered by occasional technical problems, including an incident last month in which the product malfunctioned in various ways for several days, as well as a prolonged outage in March.


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Computer scientists take hats off to sports bookies

Carnegie Mellon researchers pore through Twitter feeds to understand NFL outcomes

Computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University say plowing through millions of tweets to gauge fan sentiment probably isn’t going to help you make a mint betting on NFL games, though doing this themselves has given them newfound respect for sports bookies.
NFL

The researchers, who will report the findings of a study of three years’ worth of Twitter posts at an upcoming analytics conference in Prague, were trying to figure out if crunching numbers based on the microblogging site’s content could make predicting football game outcomes any easier.

Their conclusion was that using machine learning tools to analyze the tweets (42 million a day during the 2012 season) wasn’t helpful with winning over/under bets or predicting straight game results, but was slightly helpful in picking against the spread (55% accurate). Why? Because bookmakers take into account things like fan sentiment in setting point spreads, and the CMU researchers were analyzing tweets based on volumes of hashtags about specific teams, plus looking for positive or negative words in such posts.

“One thing that surprised us is how hard setting the point spread is to do well,” said Christopher Dyer, assistant professor in CMU’s Language Technologies Institute, in a statement. “And the sports books are very, very good.”

It wouldn’t surprise the researchers if sports bookies are doing a little Twitter analyzation of their own.

However, they probably aren’t getting funding for their research like CMU, whose work on this has been backed by
the National Science Foundation and Sandia National Laboratories. Researchers in recent years have analyzed tweets for various reasons, from predicting elections to spotting disease hotspots.

 


 

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Buggy Microsoft update hamstrings Outlook 2013

Folder pane goes blank after stability and performance update Tuesday; Microsoft pulls update from Windows Update and WSUS

An Office 2013 non-security update, part of yesterday’s massive Patch Tuesday, blanks the folder pane in Outlook 2013, the suite’s email client, drawing complaints from customers on Microsoft’s support forum.

The update, identified as KB2817630, was meant to quash a several stability and performance bugs in a number of the suite’s components, including Excel, SharePoint Server and Lync; fix a problem that caused Office to freeze when a document was opened in the “Protected Mode” sandbox; and more.

Instead, it emptied Outlook 2013’s folder pane.

“I can’t view my list of e-mail accounts, folders, favorites, etc.,” said Trevor Sullivan in a message Tuesday that kicked off a long support thread.

Scores of others quickly chimed in to say the same had happened to them after applying the update on PCs running Windows 7 or Windows 8.

“Same problem on multiple fully-updated Windows 7 Enterprise Edition, Windows 8 Enterprise Edition and Windows 8.1 Enterprise Edition workstations … all with Office 2013 32-bit,” said “MiToZ” on the same thread.

Within minutes of Sullivan’s post, users reported that they’d gotten the folder pane view back after uninstalling KB2817630.

Microsoft was not available for comment late Tuesday, and it has not posted any information about the glitch on its various Office-related blogs. Nor have company representatives weighed in on the support discussion thread, as they sometimes do.

However, users said that the original update had been pulled from both Windows Update and Windows Server Update Services (WSUS). The former is the patch service aimed at consumers and very small businesses, while the latter is the Microsoft-provided patch delivery and management service used by most businesses. Others reported that they’d contacted their Premier Support representatives — a support plan available only to Microsoft’s largest customers — but had not been told when a fix would be available.

The gaffe is the latest in a series of embarrassments for Microsoft stemming from flawed updates. In August, the Redmond, Wash. company yanked an Exchange security update, saying it had not properly tested the patches. In April, Microsoft urged Windows 7 users to uninstall an update that crippled PCs with the notorious “Blue Screen of Death”; it re-released the update two weeks later.

A few users dealing with the empty folder pane bemoaned the trend.

“Yeah, another Microsoft Update Tuesday Blunder,” said “Triple Helix” on the long thread.

“Someone on [Microsoft’s] update testing team needs to get fired,” added “The Computer Butler.”

The flawed Office 2013 stability and performance update was issued yesterday alongside a 13-bulletin, 47-patch collection of security fixes that closed vulnerabilities in Windows, Internet Explorer, SharePoint, Word, Excel and Outlook.


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IT hiring: Your text resume is soooo last century

Goodbye, boring CV. Today’s tech resumes are tricked out with video, social and graphic elements.

Tim Ondrey has glimpsed the future of the job-search market, and it’s going multimedia.

Already, he has had one friend using a blog and a 30-second video to apply for a marketing job and another, an IT colleague, interviewing via Skype for a developer position.

Ondrey figures it’s just a matter of time before he — and everyone else — uses more than just an old-fashioned resume to land his next job.

“I’m kind of nervous about it, but we’re all going to be in that same boat, figuring out what works and what doesn’t,” says Ondrey, an active member of the SHARE user group. An applications report specialist at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Ondrey isn’t currently looking for a job, but, like a lot of his colleagues, he keeps an eye on the market.

What he’s seeing is that video, graphics and social media are becoming part of the job-search landscape. Recruiters and hiring managers say younger workers, who grew up online and use FaceTime more than landlines, are more apt to show off their assets via personal websites, blogs, videos, and online portfolios with embedded examples of current work and links to online communities in which they’re active.

It’s no coincidence that LinkedIn recently began encouraging its users to amp up their profiles with videos, illustrations, photography and presentations. And Toronto startup Vizualize.me has attracted 200,000 users to its tool, still in beta, that turns text-based resumes into online infographics.

“People are open to new formats, new ways of presenting credentials,” says John Reed, senior executive director of Robert Half Technology, an IT staffing firm based in Menlo Park, Calif. “People are trying to figure out how to stand out in the crowd, how to bring life to their profile and experience, and they’re using social media tools to do that.”

Reed says that neither he nor his colleagues have seen a lot of applicants submitting videos yet. When they do, they function more like cover letters than resumes. “The videos are ‘let me introduce myself before you look at my resume,'” Reed explains. “The companies look at it and say, ‘That’s cool, that’s an interesting twist, that makes the candidate stand out.'”

That’s the thinking at the Washington, D.C.-based staffing company Hire IT People LLC. Owner Dan Nandan says his firm is moving into videos as a way to showcase its IT talent.

“We felt they’d have a more powerful impact if a video resume was submitted” in addition to the traditional paper CV. “And it’s working,” he says, explaining that well-done videos presenting candidates’ skills and background “definitely make a big impact.”

Nandan recently worked with Neeraj Uppal, a technlology project manager who had made a video in which he talked about his background. The Hire IT People staff used the video to evaluate Uppal and were impressed enough to recommend him to a client company, which led to the conventional application process, with Uppal sending a text resume, then interviewing and getting the job, a contract position.

When technology project manager Neeraj Uppal was looking for a new job, he prepared a video preamble to his resume so companies could assess his presentation and communications skills. “That was definitely a first for me,” say Uppal, who credits the video with playing a part in helping him land his current contract position at a large bank.

“I don’t know if he was hired based [only] on the video, but it made an impression,” Nandan says. “It gets people’s attention. If I get 50 emails, and there’s one that says, ‘Please watch my video,’ I will watch the video first.”

Video can also function as a second chance for IT hopefuls whose resumes might otherwise be rejected by scanning software looking for specific keywords to quickly, if not always accurately, match qualifications with the position. Those same candidates might be able to hook a hiring manager’s interest with a well-crafted video pitch (see Video dos and don’ts for tips.)

Video interviews, pros and cons

Video is playing a larger part in the entire hiring process, not just as a resume accompaniment. For example, many companies now use Skype or other videoconferencing technologies for first-round interviews, rather than in-person meetings, to save time and money while still getting a sense of candidates’ interpersonal qualities.

Some companies also use videos, recorded by candidates responding to specific questions, as a screening tool. “That’s where I’ve seen a greater evolution on the video side, because the convenience factor is tremendous,” says Dan Pollock, senior vice president of the tech-staffing firm Modis.

Typically a hiring company comes up with five to 10 questions and passes these on to Modis. Candidates for a developer position, for example, might be asked about their responsibilities on a recent project, how they approached those responsibilities and how the project turned out.

Candidates typically travel into a Modis office to record these screening sessions — Pollock says this ensures good audio and visual quality — although some candidates do it from their own computers. A SaaS platform from HireVue allows Modis to set a time limit for each response (three minutes) and control the number of retakes (one).

Hiring managers can then view the videos at their convenience, using them to replace phone calls that they had used in the past to screen candidates. “It’s much more tailored to the position that they’re trying to fill,” Pollock says, adding that the videos also show hiring managers whether candidates know their stuff, can think on their feet and can communicate concisely.

Video dos and don’ts
If you plan to submit a video as part of a job application or online profile, or if you’ve been asked to take part in an interview via teleconferencing, here’s what you need to think about before you turn on that camera:

Keep it short. Hiring managers who don’t have time for multipage resumes won’t have time for lengthy videos or rambling responses either.
Pick a professional, quiet spot. Stay out of Starbucks. And your bedroom.

Have a solid or bland background. Check behind you for distracting artwork, offensive material and unkempt home offices. (Hiring managers say they have indeed seen all of those during video interviews.)

Maintain eye contact by sitting still and looking into the camera. You don’t want to fidget or multitask; such behavior wouldn’t fly in an in-person interview, so it won’t suit a video interview or presentation either.

Dress as you would for a face-to-face interview. (For those who need reminding, that means business attire suitable to the position and the company’s culture.)
Guard against interruptions. Shut off your phone. Give the dog a bone, and make sure no one comes knocking at the door.
Don’t forget to smile.

Others say video interviews — either live or pre-recorded — help by winnowing out candidates who might have Googled answers while on a phone interview, as well as those who lack interpersonal skills, which are of particular importance for IT professionals who interact with customers, executives, board members or the public.

On the other hand, some point to potential problems using video when screening candidates. Some employers wonder if it will open them up to claims of discrimination as they can more easily see traits (age or ethnicity, for example) that they shouldn’t use to eliminate candidates. Other tech industry watchers worry that video interviews could unfairly prioritize presentation skills for jobs that don’t necessarily require them. After all, coders don’t need to come off well on camera to do a bang-up job, the argument goes.

Reed says such concerns keep many companies from adopting video as part of their candidate search and screening process. “Companies don’t want to be susceptible to accusations,” he says. He points out that candidates, too, often hesitate to use these tools because they’re worried about where their videos will reside and for how long.
Resumes gain graphic, social flourishes

That said, video is nevertheless becoming more prevalent in the IT hiring process, just one of the multiple new formats and platforms that candidates are beginning to utilize for job searches. “The resume hasn’t changed in the past 40 years. It just feels like it’s time for it to evolve, and technology is at a place where it’s helping us evolve it,” Pollock says.

Pollock says he’s seeing candidates successfully use graphics to represent skill sets, responsibilities and accomplishments on or as a supplement to their text-based resumes. Some IT workers, particularly Web designers or UI and UX professionals, maintain online portfolios or submit links to their work.

Others, such as developers, point to their contributions to open-source communities like GitHub. And, of course, job shoppers ignore at their own peril the reach of LinkedIn and, to a lesser extent, other social media sites like Facebook, Google+ or even Instagram.

“[Hiring companies] want to see what people are doing within the tech community, the development space, are they contributing? So I encourage people to have a strong digital profile as well as a resume, and LinkedIn is the primary tool for a strong digital profile,” says Doug Schade, principal consultant in the software technology search division at Waltham, Mass.-based search firm WinterWyman.

Schade says savvy candidates know how to leverage social media to separate themselves from the pack. They don’t just paste their traditional resumes into their LinkedIn profiles but rather focus on showcasing themselves with links and presentations that highlight their skills and accomplishments.

“There is an opportunity to be more robust with one’s persona,” Schade says, “because social media is used by hiring managers to gain more intel, gain more insight.”

Web developer Avery Anderson gets that. Anderson, 27, graduated in 2008 from the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Mass., with a degree in mechanical engineering. She worked in the field for a year but decided it wasn’t the best fit.

Avery Anderson online portfolio

Software engineer Avery Anderson built a personal website, complete with this skills portfolio page, to highlight her tech talents and emphasize her involvement in the programming community.

Anderson did some contract work in robotics, and then in February 2010 she sought out a Web engineer position at an Internet start-up for wine aficionados called Second Glass. “Web development seemed like a huge opportunity, but I didn’t have a lot of experience, so I started with a personal website. It was like, ‘See, I can make website.’ That got me in the door,” says Anderson, who was hired right away.

When she left Second Glass in April 2012, Anderson turned to her website again, tweaking and updating it to reflect more of her skills and personality. She says her site, along with her LinkedIn profile and her account at the online developers’ site GitHub, got plenty of traffic; she estimates she was contacted by about 50 recruiters during her two-month job search, contacts that led to nearly 10 interviews — including some Skype sessions.

She landed a software engineer job with The Minerva Project, a startup that’s building an elite online university. Although she was introduced to the organization through a roommate, she says she knows the company checked her out online before she even walked in the door. “People Internet-stalk everyone before meeting in person,” she observes.

And even though she’s not looking for a new job now, she keeps up her personal website to have what she calls “a landing page” for people who want to know more about her and her work — a particularly important point as she tries to gain more experience, recognition and speaking engagements.

“It’s not just about what jobs you get. Every time you do things like that and work your way into the community more, you make yourself more valuable as an employable person, you build your reputation,” she says.

Ondrey, the Marist College applications report specialist, says he and his colleagues are getting that message, so they’re beefing up their online professional presence by posting or Tweeting articles they find interesting along with their own commentary. They’re updating their skill sets and responsibilities more frequently. And they’re adding videos — both their own and others that are relevant to their field of interest.

There is no replacement for face-to-face interviews, but video is a very powerful format.
Jennifer Taylor, Appirio

That fits with what’s happening at Appirio, a San Francisco-based cloud technology company with 650 employees globally.

“We have definitely seen more candidates modify their resumes to include links to their social media profiles,” says Jennifer Taylor, Appirio’s senior vice president of HR. Resumes now include Twitter handles and links to LinkedIn profiles and to blogs.

The process works both ways, Taylor says; she and her colleagues use social media to reach out to potential prospects. “Often we have found that it’s through a Twitter conversation that one of our employees will identify someone in the ecosystem who is contributing unique ideas or products. We use those as an opportunity to say, ‘Look at what this person is doing, we should start a conversation with this person,'” she says.

And while she says she hasn’t yet received a video resume, she and her hiring managers use video to promote the company to prospective employees as well as to interview candidates — something they do live using Skype, Google+ and occasionally GoToMeeting with video.

“We still believe that there is no replacement for face-to-face interviews, and we do make that a requirement before anyone is hired. But video is a very powerful format,” she says. “It makes information about our company as available as possible, and it gets people familiar with us. It creates some rapport right off the bat. The candidate feels like they’re getting to know us and vice versa.”


 

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Identifying performance bottlenecks on a .NET windows app. Part II Using Native Images with CAB, reviewing Fusion Logs

We left off on the previous post with a newer version of NHibernate and a different mapping that avoided the byte per byte comparison of our byte arrays, however our application start up was slower, about 20 seconds and showing some screens for the first time was taking 10 seconds, not acceptable.

The performance decrease was gone but the start up was not good enough.

We got our hands on ANTS profiler again to see what was going on whenever we invoked a screen for the first time:

CPU usage:

Jitted Bytes per second:


and IO Bytes Read:

 

From these images we deducted there was quiet some Just-In-Time compilation going on when the screen was loaded. How to solve that? Using Native Images for our assemblies in order to avoid JIT compilation, see this MSDN article for this.

All in all that was quite easy to narrow down, we used NGen, installed the native images and voila!, let’s profile again…

I wish it were that quick, we kept seeing JIT peaks :-O

Alright, let’s use some heavier artillery and see why it’s still JITting.

This is where we got our hands on Fusion logs. Fusion is the engine (DLL) in charge of loading and binding assemblies. The Fusion Log Viewer is the tool to see the logs for this DLL and troubleshoot loading problems. This tool is part of the SDK and can be downloaded from here. We aware that it’s a heavy download. In order to use this tool once the SDK is installed:

1. Open in Fuslogvw.exe in folder C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 8\SDK\v2.0\Bin
2. If it shows up any entry click on the list box click on Delete All.
3. Click on Settings and choose Log all binds to disk and check Enable custom log path
4. And in the Custom log path edit box type C:\FusionLog
5. In C: drive create a new folder and name it FusionLog
6. Now run the application and execute scenarios where we are seeing JIT-ing
7. Now when you browse to C:\FusionLog you would see couple of folders.

We were unable to install the SDK in our production clients, so we ended up doing a registry edit in order to collect the logs. If you don’t want to install the SDK, do the following:
1) Go to regedit
2) HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Fusion
3) Click on the right pane and new -> string value
4) Name it LogPath,click it in the value write C:\MyLog
5) Again right click the right pane
6) go for new DWord value,name it ForceLog
7) click it and give Value “1″
8) Then create a folder in C drive with the name MyLogs
9) Run the app and logs will be created

The logs are created as HTM files in the folder you decide. reviewing our logs we found out one of our main modules wasn’t loading from its native image although the native image was on the native image cache. Why?

Let’s give some more background information, we use CAB.

The Composite UI Block from Patterns and Practices had a main release on December 2005, there’s been other releases for WPF and the most recent Prism project, but apart from the Smart Client Factory addition, the CAB framework has stayed pretty much the same for Windows Forms.

CAB is known for its Module Loader Service and was highly welcomed by windows developers as a framework that allows loose coupling with it’s Event Publishing/Subscription mechanism, it’s Services module and its MVP implementation.

All that is very good for the developer and for maintainability but the performance is not the greatest if you have quite a few publications and subscriptions going on and if you have a few modules loaded at start up. There are quite a few posts regarding this on CodePlex’s CAB forum.

I could go on and on about the beauty of CAB and despite its performance issues, I do believe it offers more advantages than disadvantages to the windows developer. IMHO, being able to give modules to develop to different teams and being able to plug them into the application without any major compilations, only a configuration change is a big big plus, see these posts on CAB Module Loader Service (CAB Modules on Demand) and Dynamically Loading Modules in CAB)

The main reason for this module not loading from its native image is due to the Reflection mechanism currently used in CAB’s Module Loader Service:
(namespace Microsoft.Practices.CompositeUI.Services)
assembly = Assembly.LoadFrom(file.FullName);


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