Current Rants

Oh no – MFA went down again. It’s time to wake up.

It happened again: Microsoft Azure Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) went down. About a week ago, an MFA outage affected thousands of Azure and Office 365 users who were unable to access their accounts after they could no longer use their mobile device to deliver a required second layer of authentication to login. People complained for hours about how their services became inaccessible, how they couldn’t perform their normal day to day operations due to the outage – prohibiting them from doing their jobs. I say same on you, Microsoft, for putting your customers in this situation.

But also shame on you, Microsoft customers (and by extension IT service providers), for not being smarter about your reliance on MFA. Technology downtime should never impact the business in such a major way.

I can hear the outrage already:

“Wait, what? Some nerve you have, blaming US for an outage of a cloud service. We pay good money for something that is supposed to have 99.9% uptime!”

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Why the whole ‘Product X is dead’ story doesn’t make sense!

Ah, almost on a predictable cadence you will see the ‘Product X is dead, long live Product Y’ think piece. And to be completely honest, it is entertaining; you will see Microsoft experts and community leaders discuss and argue about which product to use and why.

To give just a few examples, in 2011 when Office 365 was officially launched, we had the discussion that Cloud technology would make On-Premises obsolete. And let’s not forget the end of email! A few years later when Microsoft acquired Yammer for $1.2B, those same people said that Yammer was going to completely eradicate email, both On-Premises and Cloud. Today we are having a similar discussion stating that Microsoft Teams succeeds where Yammer failed within the ecosystem.

And you know what? There are still On-Premises mail servers running Exchange so even 8 years after the launch of Office 365, the very first statement predicting that On-Premises email would be dead hasn’t even become a reality yet.

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What Can’t You Do?

Today, for the umpteenth time, I had a someone in all seriousness ask “What can’t you do?” or “What can’t your product do?” I absolutely hate this question, not because it isn’t somewhat valid, but because it is completely open-ended. I immediately get frustrated and want to reply with “Well, it can’t whip up a milkshake. It can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound. It can’t fix politics. It can’t make julienne fries. It can’t solve world peace. In general, it can’t fix stupid.”

So let me take a second to break down this extremely nebulous question “What can’t you do?” into a few of the ways this can be interpreted:

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Keeping Up With the Cloudashians, Episode 1: Cloud Services & Rapid Change Releases

Cloud services have been encouraging businesses to “jump on the band wagon” for last decade or so. Microsoft, Dropbox, Google and even Box have proven that the cloud is a good direction to move towards to enhance business and increase productivity and overall efficiency. The assumption was that by moving to cloud services, resources within the businesses would have more time to focus on other projects – the cloud services would essentially run by themselves completely or with little oversight and maintenance.  If valid and successful, it would mean that the businesses would see positive ROI in record time which equals more money. However, it is not as simple as that nor is it realistic. Business technology the has completely changed and since it’s the foundation of how the business runs and what supports the day to day processes, end users and their culture has to change, too.

Rapid Change

Recently, Microsoft introduced the term and theory of “Evergreen,” which essentially means that there will be new features and functionality continually being released in what I call “Rapid Release.”

What businesses and users are realizing in this scenario is their supporting business technology is changing so frequently, that these releases also more frequently contain bugs, process failures, deprecations in addition to new features/functionality. Microsoft is not the only cloud services provider that has implemented this type of “Evergreen” or “Rapid Release” methodology. In fact, I am starting to notice it is more the norm and not the exception to the rule.

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Keeping Up With the Cloudashians, Episode 2: Staying On Top of Rapidly Changing Services

This is a continuation of “Episode 1: Cloud Services & Rapid Change Releases”

Google, Microsoft and other Cloud Service providers usually implement some type of an Admin Panel or Dashboard that does provide ways to stay up to date on the latest updates, changes, etc.  Problem is, how often are those accessed? Typically, most people only open them when there is an outage or an issue that can only be resolved from that location. Another issue is that there can be a TON of changes listed, and normally there are multiple individuals responsible for different areas of the technology. In addition, there are blogs, Facebook groups, Forums, Teams, and many other platforms available, all in an effort to assist with keeping up.

The reality is that it is impossible for individuals who are in consulting, small IT departments or who work for large enterprise businesses to keep up. Community events are there to help as well however, after a 40 – 60-hour work week not many are excited to attend a community event. Work/life balance is already suffering so given the choice, quality time with family will almost win. Is this an issue?  Yes, it is – not because of the choice to spend time with family but because there has to be a choice at all.

Work/life balance should be the attainable goal, not vaporware. In other words, there is NO possible way to have any kind of work/life balance if key software and services are changing weekly. It may be easier for the individuals who focus on just one specific area, but if you are over an entire platform, keeping up with the rate of change is just not possible. On a daily basis, as I am talking to a client or a prospective client and showing them the new ins-and-outs, I find something that worked a day or two ago during a different client meeting that no longer works, has been moved, or is simply gone.

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Did we forget about cloud security – or is that we just don’t care anymore?

Let’s be honest here: cloud vendors have been pushing businesses forward for the last decade. Box, Dropbox, Google, Microsoft… they have proven that implementing cloud services is good for business. It allows us to focus on the things that really matter: making our businesses better, more efficient, and more streamlined, with the ultimate goal of making more money. But these new technologies didn’t just change the way business is done; the technology supporting and protecting the business has changed as well.

Think about it for a moment. Before cloud services, when everything was stored on premises, organizations were responsible for everything regarding security and access. It was simple, clear, and the responsibilities were well-defined. If you needed remote access, you needed a VPN or a reverse proxy. Firewalls were maintained. Devices were managed with the right software, anti-viruses installed on desktops and laptops, we used strong passwords and multifactor authentication and an arsenal of other security-related software. A number of actions were taken with one thing in mind: keep our data safe, make sure everything is protected.

And then it all changed!

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The Low Bar of Software

At almost age 60, some of my workmates call me a curmudgeon; I’d prefer to think of myself as grumpy skeptical. For context, I’ve been in the software business for almost 25+ years now and what I just can’t quite wrap my head around is the software expectation levels clients have. You’re like, “OK grandpa, put your jitterbug down and tell me what the hell THAT means!”

Before I head there, some perspective: I’m a Midwest guy with Midwest principals. If you live here, you know what I mean. You shake a hand or say that’s what you’re going to do; you do it, simple as that – nothing crazy. And we’re quite reasonable, we’ll even give you a pass even if you can’t “quite” do it yet as long as we’re both comfortable you’ll deliver in the end (and you do).

However, in the software biz… not so much.

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Be a Champion of Inclusion in Technology

I do like the word “champion” – I mean who doesn’t?

A person who fights or argues for a cause or on behalf of someone else

or someone surpassing all rivals, especially in our beloved sports.

The thing is, is that I believe in my heart that every day when each of you gets out of bed, that:

We are the champions, my friend.

So, all of us are always in good company.

When I get asked about why I “champion” diversity, inclusion, social justice, and women’s issues, the answer is simple – for me, it’s about investing in our humanity, our empathy and seeing how each of us can be the best versions of ourselves every day. If I can shed some light or connect with just one person on these issues, I’ve done my job. I believe it is what I’m supposed to do while I’m here on this big beautiful blue spinning sphere. And I am learning every day.

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What is OneDrive, exactly?

So, what actually is this thing? A storage repository? A smart collaboration environment? A sync tool? Depending on who you ask, it can be everything… or nothing.

OneDrive is… it’s not that easy. Cloud storage, some say. Intelligent implementation of storage in SharePoint Online with synchronization to various devices, with the ability to access the stored data on-  and offline, to share this data with others and to work together on documents. Say the others. And both are right.

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Plane Peeves

Like many folks in software, I do a shit ton of traveling – not exactly sure what that equates to in the metric system…  My plane peeves:

  • Why in the Lord’s name are the airline speaker announcements at like 140 decibels? Is it really necessary to have it be that loud? I’m fairly confident that even deaf people could comprehend them simply by the level of cabin vibration they create.
  • People who take 15 minutes to put their luggage away and don’t seem to give a crap about/notice the 40 people behind them… I call them “Me-anderthals.”
  • People who bring a picnic on the plane; how nice that mom made you a tuna sandwich.
  • Guys only: You’re allotted time in the airplane bathroom is 60 seconds, not 60 minutes…
  • No matter how many times they attempt to bend the laws of physics, they just can’t understand why their golf-cart sized bag doesn’t fit in the overhead compartment.
  • The person who complains about the food or drinks like we’re at a 4-star restaurant. We’re in a freaking aluminum tube, going 550 MPH, with internet, breathable air, and cushy seat – stop bitching!
  • When it’s their turn to de-board, now begin to organize their stuff. What, you didn’t realize we landed?
  • Why do they tell us, “In case of an emergency, put your mask on first”. Ummm yea, I think damn near everyone on the plane was already planning on doing that.