Guest Blogger Ken Donoghue in response to Joel Spolsky

My friend Ken wrote a response to Joel Spolsky’s post, “Five Ways.” But then he discovered the blog did not allow comments.
Ergo, I am posting his comment for him on my blog, because he has some pretty interesting stuff to say. You can contact Ken on twitter @kendonoghue

Ken Said:
A server is just one part of an infrastructure, but an important one that can head off many of the unfortunate events you describe. You covered a lot of territory, so bear with me. Assume that your business critical application (or several virtual apps) is running on a true fault-tolerant server. Everything is redundant, down to the power cords. It’s the equivalent of two physical x86 servers running as a single logical server. Any standard RH Linux or Windows app (one license for the OS and application) runs without having to think about every conceivable problem that might occur and writing failover scripts for it. A single application runs on “both sides” of the server. Transient error!

The application continues to run as the server rides through it. Component failure! The server identifies the problem and attempts to restart the offending part. If it can’t, the server takes that “side” offline while the application continues to run and your sys admin continues to sleep. The server calls into the customer service center and gets a human who diagnoses the issue down to the component level. Ninety-five percent of the time, the problem can be fixed remotely. When it can’t, the a replacement part ships out for next-day delivery. The application is still running and the sys admin is still sleeping, unless the server is configured to issue alerts, or the service center is instructed to call. Regardless, she/he doesn’t have to do anything. The replacement part arrives the next day and is hot-swapped for the failed component. And, we’re still running, no downtime, no data loss, no failover.

The system automatically resyncs and “both sides” are again running in lockstep. Admittedly, even at six nines (32 seconds/ year) downtime is a remote possibility. If that happens, you restart the application on one half of the server, retaining the crash state on the other side so that root-cause can be determined so as not to repeat another time. Who can afford this? It’s not commodity server pricing, but at $15K to $60K, these servers are pretty affordable, especially for business-critical applications. Industry standard fault tolerant servers like this have been around for a decade. No slight intended, but the free “Fault Tolerance for Dummies” covers this and more in entertaining detail. I’m with Stratus Technologies, and I approve this message . Hope it is helpful.

The Best Christmas Ever

I just adopted two rescue Cockers from the New England All Breed Rescue. A litter of puppies was born into a shelter in MO and needed homes fast. Josh and I adopted 8-week-old Lucy and Clara (the two without homes at the time) via Petfinder.org….or maybe it was Adoptapet.com

Anyway, the woman from the shelter had told us that Clara and Lucy would be on a truck that does a huge loop starting in OH and moving through MO and AR, all the way down to TN, over to MD, up through PA, NJ, CT and finally up to NH. Because of the snowstorm, our babies and their caravan were stuck in TN due to the storm. We were so worried! But the representative from Alpha Dog Transport assured us that our loves were receiving extra attention and care, and their crates were kept at 75 degrees with plenty of food and water.

The drop off spot that we were closest to was the Hudson, NH WalMart (yes, the drop off places were Cracker Barrels and Wal Marts and Raymour Flanagan parking lots.) Anyway, Josh and I started our trek up to get our puppies Sunday through the storm, excited beyond belief. When we got to the WalMart, we were an hour and a half early, and the voicemail said the truck was running an hour late. Josh and I figured that though we aren’t your typical WalMart customers…..or even close…..we could probably kill some time in the pet department and daring each other to try on trucker hats with beer slogans on them. Ahem.

While we were in WalMart we heard other people talking about getting their dogs- turns out another couple had the same idea! We thought, what a coincidence! They were adopting 10 and a 12-year-old golden retrievers. (It takes such special people to adopt older dogs, God bless them.) Anyway, we chatted, then went outside to wait in the car.

In piling snow, we drove to the back of the parking lot near the sand pile to wait. And then we noticed we weren’t the only people waiting in their cars. We counted 3…then 5…soon 12 and 17 and then 22 cars and still counting, all filled with people waiting with blankets and children and carrying cases, with coffee mugs and leashes and the exact same expressions on their faces that our beloved pets have when we leave them in the car on an errand.

So….was it a flying kennel? Perhaps a ark? Did Santa really exist, and was he going to bring us all bundles of joy on this snowy Sunday morning? I actually looked up, half expecting to see the Jolly Old Elf coming down from the sky, with 8 jingling mutts pulling a sleigh.

But then there it was! A hugely long, fully-enclosed horse trailer-type thing, driven by three guys in a giant pickup. Our babies! Safe from the storm!

We all lined up and gave them the names of our adopted dogs: out came poodles and lab mixes, Shepard puppies, a Great Pyrenees and a Boston Terrier. The two golden retrievers, white with age, were led into their new parent’s arms. The good men would deliver 90 dogs to their new families this Christmas, and they said they make their important journey every week.

And then it was our turn. “You have the cutest puppies in the bunch,” said the driver, “and the loudest.” Out came Lucy and Clara, shivering and whining against the 22-degree cold. A giant “Awww” went through the crowd before I stuffed them under my sweater to keep them warm.

Our new babies made it back to Boston, and are happy, healthy, and love their big sister Alice, a rescued mini Rex rabbit. We feel so blessed to have gotten them, and I wanted to share the tale with all of you.

cold clara

Aversion to the Phone

One of my least favorite things to do in the entire world is to check my voice mail. I have hated it since I got my phone January 14th, 2000, when I turned 16, got a cell, and was suddenly responsible for all material coming into the phone. I never liked talking on the phone. None of my friends like talking on the phone. In fact, no one in my GENERATION likes talking on the phone.

Here comes the paradox. While in J-school (graduate school for journalism) I found I was expected to call people. Email interviews did not count, and any quote or fact obtained from email had to be clarified in the article. Words taken from email were somehow fake, like juice from concentrate.

Having the deep respect for news that I do, I value knowing reporters had a conversation; a responsive question-and-answer session. I like knowing the reporter interacted with sources. I value knowing my reporters aren’t emailing the policemen for the report, and instead, head off to the the scene themselves.

But here I am pondering, sitting at my desk and dreading the list of phone calls I have to make (I’m procrastinating, can you tell?). I am wondering: are words written in cyberspace any less poignant than spoken in person or over the phone? Would a tweet be more meaningful printed on paper? Is a blog rant worth less than a letter? Is a Facebook wall post less considerate than a phone call? And where do texts fit in? Skype? IM?

You see, as more media mediums become available, I find people both harder and easier to reach. I claim that if a person can’t be stalked on Google, they aren’t worth finding. But is tweeting someone the same as “connecting” with them? Who is worth reaching, what is “real” and is there a value hierarchy to communication mediums?