2018-04-30

To Be a 10x Engineer, or Not to Be

I am sure you are all familiar with those select few in your company who supposedly have super powers or hidden technological gifts.

Yes, I mean those co-workers who know exactly how to fix the most esoteric issues that no one has come across, ever. Perhaps you share a cubicle with the guy who’s able to conceive of breakthroughs time after time after time. Or maybe you were hired the same month as the woman who can code like no one has coded before, and it’s like reading poetry — smooth, with meaning, and plays on your most inner emotions. Or you’re the manager who hired the weird dude that sits in the basement, who can be woken up at 2:43 am on a Sunday morning after partying endless hours the night before, and still be able to drone off the precise sequence of events that you need in order to prevent your production NoSQL database from exploding … because someone forgot to run maintenance.

Continue reading the rest of the article

2018-04-09

Time for a New Chapter - Hello CyberArk!


A bit of history

After 13 years at Cisco - I have decided to challenge myself and embark on a new adventure.

I first would like to express my gratitude to those who have helped me grow over the years.

Starting out 13 years I was part of the helpdesk at a company called NDS (who was acquired by Cisco about 5 years ago), Supporting users over the phone, servicing desktops and laptops.

From there I moved to the systems group and managing Active Directory and assumed additional responsibilities.  Over the years I architected and deployed one of the largest VMware deployments in Israel, and continued to grow with the technologies within the company, grow professionally to where I am today.

The people I have had the honor to work with over the years, are the greatest resource I will take with me for the future and the one I will miss the most. The crazy projects we pulled off, the outrageous ones that sometimes did not - these are things that I will always cherish.

From every experience over the years, I have learned something new, and it has allowed me to grow. For that I am eternally thankful.

Why am I leaving Cisco?

13 years is a long time to stay at one company and it is time for a change, time for bigger challenge. Cisco has allowed me to grow immensely, pivot to new technologies over the years and play with stuff day in and day out. Leaving was a hard decision, because change is a scary thing, scary for me, scary for anyone. I know the people, I know the company, I know the ropes.

In spite of all this - I needed a change, an opportunity to explore new technologies, new areas of interest


change-948016_1280

Hello CyberArk!

Starting from Monday, April 16th, I will be assume the position of DevOps & Cloud Architect at CyberArk.    I am really excited to start this new journey.

CyberArk is the only security company laser-focused on striking down targeted cyber threats, those that make their way inside to attack the heart of the enterprise. Dedicated to stopping attacks before they stop business, CyberArk is trusted by the world’s leading companies — including more than 50% of the Fortune 100 — to protect their highest-value information assets, infrastructure and applications.

I will continue to be involved in AWS, branching out in to additional cloud providers as well, and focused on allowing CyberArk to expand their offerings to allow their customers the choice of running a best of breed solution in the location of their choice, and some new and innovative ways of securing their organization and resources in the cloud as well.

(I know that I have neglected this blog for a good part of a year (for a number of reasons) - something that I am going to rectify starting next week)

I am so excited, and hyped to start this new chapter !!!

2018-01-30

5 #AWS Certifications in 237 days

Today I completed my 5th AWS Certification. Something which I had hoped to complete before the end of 2017, but life got in the way.

I started working dabbling with Screenshot at Jan 29 20-48-24AWS a while ago - signed up for a free account at way back in the end of 2014 and started to play with it, but not too much.

It was  not until the beginning of 2017 that I really went in full force. When I declared my goals for Q1 2017 one of them was to work on AWS.  I am happy to say that I have accomplished this goal - this is what I do all day, every day.

So during the past year I decided to also pursue the AWS certification track, mostly to prove to myself that I could, but also to learn more about AWS, Their products and solutions

Here is my journey.

Solutions Architect - Associate

This was the first one I did. It took me almost six months since starting to use AWS to feel comfortable with my knowledge to go for the exam.

I used the A Cloud Guru course - which was great for this certification, Just the right amount of content - of course you need to know what you were doing in AWS (at least a little bit). Iwent over the lessons, did the quizzes, took the practice exam on the AWS certification site (and failed). I read the whitepapers (yes – all of the suggested whitepapers). I read the FAQ's for SNS, SQS, S3, EC2. Whatever I did not feel comfortable with – I went over in the actual AWS console – and learned how to use it.

Trying to remember all the options is not realistic – but you will be able to eliminate the really stupid options that are in the test.
 
Taking a test on a new technology is always scary - this was as well.

80 minutes. 60 questions.

Read the questions properly – even if you are not sure – there are some really obvious answers that blatantly incorrect – so that will help you eliminate the noise from the question.

This is an entry level exam - which expects you to understand that AWS concepts - and some cases - how to use them.

SysOps Administrator - Associate

Two weeks later. I sat the next exam.The amount of overlap with the previous exam is astounding. Again I used the A Cloud Guru course - but here I skimmed over the videos - as they were repetitive from the previous exam. There was a bit more emphasis on the Cloudwatch and logging aspect of the certification - but nothing too deep.

80 Minutes. less

Onwards and upwards.

Solutions Architect - Professional

Everything I had heard and read about this exam was the same - it is a beast. Damn, bloody hard. Not only do you need to have to understand the AWS services, how they work and when you should use them - but more importantly - you have to know when they will not be a good fit for the particular scenario.

It took me almost 6 weeks to prepare for this one.

The A Cloud Guru course was a waste of time. Not enough depth – the quizzes and practice questions are superficial – and it is mostly a re-hash of the previous Sysops Associate and Solutions Architect Associate – with maybe two-three lectures added in. I went through the whole thing until I realized that it was not enough.
 
I took a practice test available from AWS (everyone that passes a previous exam gets a free voucher – I found it a good practice (40 questions – with a time limit) although the questions on the practice exam were MUCH harder than the real thing and I failed the practice exam.
 
I received recommendations to do the CSA-Pro course from Linuxacademy.com – first 7 days are free – and then $29 / month – I used the subscription for one month to go through the whole course.
 
The lecturer on the course – speaks SO slowly – that it can be really annoying – but luckily – you can speed up the lectures to x1.5 which makes it a lot better. The course is long – the walkthroughs are excellent! And the labs are also really good and give you some hands on with the features discussed - if you have not used them before. They have a good practice exam – 3 hours 80 questions – you can take it multiple times – but the pool of questions or almost exactly the same.
 
The most important part of this is the option to practice sitting on your butt for 3 hours concentrating on the exam – it is crucial to prepare yourself mentally for an ordeal – this is one of biggest challenges in the exam.
 
The blueprint says you have to be an architect with at least 1-2 years experience on AWS (well we all know that we have not more than 6-8 months)
 
The test is a different level completely from the associate exam. A lot more detail. The questions are scenarios about how you combine multiple products within AWS and create a robust/cost effective/quick solution for each scenario. Not only do you need to know what each product can do – but more importantly – you need to know what each CANNOT do. The answers are similar enough to cause problems and you need to pay attention to the details.

So a little bit about the exam.
 
170 minutes (yes almost 3 hours)
77 questions
 
I went through all the questions within about 140 minutes.The two biggest hurdles in the (IMHO) are time and being able to concentrate for almost 3 hours straight.You do not have a lot of time to spend on each question (just above 2 minutes per questions) and some of them are long. So you have to be able to read the question – filter out the nonsense and noise in each question (and there is enough of it) and zoom in on what they are looking to find.
 
Most questions had at least 1-2 answers that I could disqualify off the bat – which makes it easier to focus on the ones left.
 
There were 3-4 questions where I had absolutely no idea what the correct answers were. I chose one of the answers and marked it so I could return to it later. If there were questions where I was uncertain between two of the choices – I marked them down as well – and jotted down on the paper provided by the testing center – which were my possibilities. Most questions were to choose a single answer – there were a few choose X answers in the test as well – but not many.
 
For the last 30 minutes – I went back to the questions I had marked as "no idea" – re-read them – and made an educated guess by eliminating the obvious wrong answers.The rest of the question that I marked as not sure about – re-checked the options I marked down – and confirmed my best choice.
Questions that I was sure I knew the answer to – I did not even go over.
 
I finished my review with 1 minute to spare… (169 minutes)

All in all – a fair but difficult exam – gruesome but fair… Glad to be past it

And then I went on a summer vacation with the family. Time to clear my head, chill and forget about AWS for a while.

Developer - Associate

I was a bit scared about this one - I must say. I am not a developer. Never have aspired to be. I dabble in code and can write a script with the best of them - but a development centric certification - I did not look forward to.

I used the A Cloud Guru course here. There was a lot of overlap with the previous 3 exams, but akso a lot of new stuff that I was not acquainted with - such as Cloudformation, DynamoDB, RDS, Elastic BeanStalk and such.

The exam was not difficult - it is an entry level exam.

Then came the Jewish Holidays, Re:Invent and the first 3 chapters of my book The Cloud Walkabout.

DevOps Engineer - Professional

I must have re-scheduled this exam at least 6 times, really six times - because I felt I was not ready.

As a professional level certification - I was expecting hell like the Solutions Architect. Expecting that you have to know things in detail - a lot more detail than the Associate exam (and I was right).

The A Cloud Guru course was again to shallow. There are things in the blueprint that I do not use in my daily work, some of them - I have never even touched before, and I found the content to be too shallow, not deep enough for what I was expecting to see in a Pro exam.

The Linux Academy course was much better, again the instructor was a bit too slow for my taste (super speed helps though) and the practice exam was quite good, although 70% of the questions on my exam - i had never seen before.

You need to know how a developmentp pipeline works - I mean really works, blue/green deployments, rolling upgrades, CloudWatch, AutoScaling in and out, CloudFormation, Elastic Beanstalk, OpsWorks are some of the in-depth topics you need to know.

The exam was not completely scenario based - but more about technical details on some of the products. It is 80 questions in 3 hours - so you have to manage your time - but nowhere close to the pressure on the Solutions Architect - Professional exam.

And lo and behold…

My Closing Thoughts

  1. There is a lot of information that is really outdated in the AWS exams, all the new shiny stuff, like Lambda, ECS, Kubernetes etc. is not there - maybe a small reference here and there - but no real knowledge of the new stuff. There is stuff in there - that no-one or hardly anyone uses.
  2. I have learned a huge amount over these last 6 months, both by reading , listening watching videos, and lectures and by doing - mostly by doing than anything else.
  3. These are not paper certs, you cannot pass with only reading or going over braindumps or cheatsheets. You need to actually use the products, understand how they work, and where they fit in the overall picture.
  4. I did not take a single AWS course - I learned everything on my own. I have always been a self learner and prefer to play with the tech myself that spend the money on an official course.
  5. The cost of the certification exams is not cheap, in total $1,050 for the 5 exams (PRO exams are $300 a pop) and luckily I had the costs covered by my employer - which made it easier - but also more pressure to pass - ROI you know.

What’s next - I don’t know.. Specialty exams (Networking, Big Data, Security)? Perhaps - I am not sure.

I do know that there are not many people that have the AWS Professional certifications in Israel, and I am pretty sure that I can count the the number of people in Israel with all 5 on one or two hands.

If you are looking to prove your knowledge and expertise in AWS - then go for it. It is possible - it takes time, commitment and support from your surroundings, but it can be done.

I am proud of my achievement and hope this post will give you the motivation to go out and learn something new.

As always, feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below.

2018-01-27

Kubernetes Is Not the Silver Bullet

Does the following sound familiar to you?

The industry latches on to a new technology and everyone falls under its spell, a spell that makes them think this latest technology will solve any and all of the problems we have suffered from in the past.


The Evolution of Illusion
I experienced this phenomenon when our IT department first discovered blades. It would solve all our problems, everyone said, cabling, cooling, power, and real estate. And, at first, that seemed true; that is until it brought with it a whole new set of problems, such as insufficient bandwidth, network contention, and congestion.

Then came virtualization and VMware. Better utilization! Faster time to delivery! Consolidation! But… we soon was revealed a whole new set of problems, like insufficient disk throughput, greater blast radius when a single server goes down, not to mention VM sprawl and increased licensing costs.

Read the rest of the blog at the source..

2018-01-25

The #AWS PowerShell Docker Container

I cannot believe it is over 3 years since I created the openstack-git-env container. At the time I was really frustrated at how hard it was to get started with setting up an environment  to start contributing to OpenStack.

Well I have now moved on - focused primarily on AWS - and I have a good amount of PowerShell experience under my belt - but since I moved off a Windows laptop 3 years ago - I hardly use PowerShell anymore. Which is a shame.

Luckily Microsoft have released a version of PowerShell that will work on Mac and Linux - so I can start getting back on the horse.

I looked at the instructions for setting up PowerShell command for AWS - which led me to the AWS documentation page. But the missing link there - is how do you install PowerShell on your Mac/Linux machine - there is no documentation there. This is complicated ands error prone.

So I was thinking - there must be a container already available for PowerShell - it can’t be that everyone goes through the hoops of installing everything locally.

And lo and behold - there is one - https://hub.docker.com/r/microsoft/powershell/

So I built on top of this - the AWS PowerShell container.

All you need to do is set an alias on you machine, add a script that will launch the container - and Bob’s your uncle - you are ready to go.

All the information is located on the repository.

Screenshot at Jan 25 08-59-05

Please let me know if you think this is useful - and if there are any improvements your would like to see.

The code is on Github - feel free to contribute or raise any issues when/if you find them.