About Me

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TsooRad is a blog for John Weber. John is a Skype for Business MVP (2015-2018) - before that, a Lync Server MVP (2010-2014). My day job is titled "Technical Lead, MS UC" - I work with an awesome group of people at CDW, LLC. I’ve been at this gig in one fashion or another since 1988 - starting with desktops (remember Z-248’s?) and now I am in Portland, Oregon. I focus on collaboration and infrastructure. This means Exchange of all flavors, Skype, LCS/OCS/Lync, Windows, business process, and learning new stuff. I have a variety of interests - some of which may rear their ugly head in this forum. I have a variety of certifications dating back to Novell CNE and working up through the Microsoft MCP stack to MCITP multiple times. FWIW, I am on my third career - ex-USMC, retired US Army. I have a fancy MBA. One of these days, I intend to start teaching. The opinions expressed on this blog are mine and mine alone.

2017/09/12

What Vacation Taught me


I took vacation this year; a formal thing with travel, schedule coordination, planned activities, and days full of interacting with others. Sounds pretty much like work, with the minor exception that this was all family-focused, with my SO being the only arbiter of success. The other differences were the realization that HughesNet has some serious speed constraints, and that I had to stand in just the right spot in the driveway or there was no cell service.

I thought that Virginia on the main corridor between the state capital and the population center on the coast would have had at least nominal cell coverage. But no. Minimal access to internet and cell service. Both restrictions were perfect for me as the whole point to a vacation is to change pace, viewpoint, and take the load off, right?

Too bad for me that my ki does not work that way.

What happened is that my spare brain cell kicked in and started doing the random thought comparison thing. If this has not happened to you before, it is very annoying. In this case, I was watching some sci-fi show about time and travel, another show about fighting the bad guys before they got bad and not getting the task done as promised (hence the protagonist being railed on by his boss). Yes, I was flipping channels.

The random thought comparison thing comes in when all that gets contrasted with my real life. Note that I did not ask for this to occur, it just does. My SO is used to me going blank and starting to drool; coworkers know to stay away. My children just run.

So here are the world-shaking insights that banged into me in those exacerbating moments. Time, fight the fight that needs fighting, under promise and over deliver, “what is the other guys’ perspective”, and my personal need to re-focus.

Time: it is the one thing the we all possess, and once spent, we cannot get back. How are you spending your allotment?

Not every fight needs fighting. Determine which is which. Live with one, pursue the other. I will let you decide which path to take with which fight. Picking which fight to fight is sometimes more about which weapon to choose.

I find an approach to the recalcitrant project counterpart is to leverage some of my limited consulting skills and make my counterpart think that all of what I want is because he/she thought of it. Mostly you can do that with the “help me understand…” sentence preface where you get them talking. A few suggestions along the way and their explanation of their perspective will start aligning with the answer you need them to give. It works, it really does.

How many times have you had someone say “just a sec”? That is an extreme case of over promising, because we all know that waiter is not getting back to our table in “just a sec.” Expectation setting is crucial to positive outcomes. If you layout what you will be able to do, and then exceed that, everyone is happy. If you do the layout and cannot deliver the minimums, everyone is not happy. Very simple. So simple it appears to be in the same vein as “common sense.”

Finally, the re-focus thing cropped up again. How I spend my time, what goals are important enough to survive the latest round of life objective updates, and what am I doing about those goals and objectives needed some introspection.

Goals and objectives simply need to be refreshed on a regular basis. We have our personal goals, our professional goals, and the goals our manager says we have. Review, re-prioritize, shuffle, juggle, change, delete, and add objectives to achieve your goal. If you don’t pay attention to this process, the process will do it for you, and probably not in the way you want. You must do it. Or it will do you.

Just so you know, Stargate (the movie) is a lot deeper than the genre might suggest, and NCIS: Los Angeles has a few spare angles as well.

2017/09/06

AudioCodes X-UM

By now, I hope you already know that as of July 2018, Office 365 will no longer work with SBC connections linking your off-brand PBX to Exchange Online UM services (read voice mail).  For an actual read of the announcement, see this.

Here are the solutions offered by Microsoft:

  • Option 1: Complete migration from 3rd party on-premises PBX to Office 365 Cloud PBX.
  • Option 2: Complete migration from 3rd party on-premises PBX to Skype for Business Server Enterprise Voice on-premises.
  • Option 3: For customers with a mixed deployment of 3rd party PBX and Skype for Business, connect the PBX to Skype for Business Server using a connector from a Microsoft partner, and continue using Exchange Online UM through that connector. For example, TE-SYSTEMS’ anynode UM connector can be used for that purpose. (sic)
  • Option 4: For customers with no Skype for Business Server deployment or for whom the solutions above are not appropriate, implement a 3rd party voicemail system.

Personally, I would change Option 1 and Option 2.  Especially if you have any combination of complexity, multiple locations, and user count.  Couple that risk scale item with sheer lack of calendar, and I think it would be easier to get on-premises fired up and connected.  And, IMHO, doing 2 would make getting to 1 easier with a better user experience.

Option 4 is not really an option is it?  Everyone should want, need, and implement SfB.  Life is better with SfB.  Trust me.

About this time, the alert reader will notice that I skipped Option 3.  That’s because those nice folks at AudioCodes have somewhat solidified their plans for stepping into the breach.  How nice of them! 

AudioCodes has put together a very nice, comprehensive, suite of solutions based on their outstanding hardware and CCE experience. 

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As the X-UM solution set, there are three of them:

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Here is a bit different look at it…being a visual kinda guy, this is the view that helped me the most:

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And then we have these further details for each scenario:

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Microsoft licensing for the X-UM solution you choose is not covered, which makes sense, there are too many variations.  Here is the official blurb:

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How about some architecture oulines?  I like pictures that show me things.  Here is the X-UM Standard and Lite.  Note that the “Lite” version relies on existing on-premises SfB resources.

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Now, based on my current project, I know that there is going to be someone out there in reader-land who needs a visual of the call flows.  I know I do.

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Summary

About now you are most likely wondering which of these will work for you. AudioCodes X-UM is based on proven hardware and proven solution approaches (CloudBond, CCE). If your environment is more complex, needs that existing PBX to coexist with Office 365 for your VoiceMail needs, then choose the flavor that answers your needs.  AudioCodes has you covered for any of the option 3 scenarios and could possibly help you (in the Lite version) with Option 1 and 2 also.

I know that somewhere above 75% of my customers all have some sort of “mixed deployment” usually due to call centers, business process, and culture.  Notice that none of those are easily changed before July 2018.  Ergo, we need to do something else in the short time we have available.  I submit that AudioCodes X-UM might well be that something.


As always, YMMV


2017/07/28

SfB Default AD Containers

Scenario

You know how those tin-foil-hat types are…

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If it can be changed to “enhance” security, then by golly!  Let’s do it!  The problem, of course, is the rule of unintended consequences.  You know, what happens to something else because of action A, that is totally unplanned, and no one knows about it.

And, while I am mentioning it… have you ever noticed that the same team YOU have to run everything through for approval never asks your team if it is OK if they make a change?  They just do it?  Odd how that works out, eh?

Adelante.

The Oops!

It turns out that about 6 weeks ago, the aforementioned team instituted a change to the default AD containers.  To whit, they changed the default computer container to be something other than the OOBE.

Turns out that breaks SfB big time.  As in no more publishing the topology.  A Get-CsAdDomain fails.  But that is the clue to the fix.

The Fix

Simply run the SfB Domain prep again.


YMMV

2017/07/19

Technical Consulting

Something went through both of my brain cells today. And to keep a long story short, it centers on your approach to the question – whatever the question might be at the moment. But, let’s confine the definition to work, where we spend a goodly portion of our life, and how we would like that portion of life to be as good as possible.

I was listening to a hotshot answer what I narcissistically thought was a great question when the light bulb lit. His answer was not only covering the technical aspects that I needed to hear that he knew, but he was (quite cleverly) also feeding in the business angle aspects to the answer formula. In essence, he was answering my follow-on questions of “what is the business reason for taking this action and does this action resolve the situation with the minimum staff adjustments in terms of time and skill set and did you cover the hidden costs as well as storage, cpu, ram, racks, et cetera.”

In short, he was doing really well answering my question. And I know he was the same in front of the customer. Everyone needs to have this guy on the team.

At any rate, the light bulb lit up on the concept of technical v consulting answers. Mr. Hotshot could have stuck with the pure techno-babble, with lots of numbers, specifications, descriptions of how to do it, and all of that fun stuff. Surely, there is great value in having someone know exactly how to do whatever it might be right off the top of his or her head. I wish I could do that sometimes. I usually revert to being able to point them right at some reference work. Works for me. And reserves my spare brain cell for other things.

Details are critical to our success. Mr. Hotshot was clearly in the right spot – he can bang out the details like no-one’s business. And he knows what he does not know. And he knows how to defer the question to an issue parking lot for follow-up. Perfect.

Mr. Hotshot could also have just gone the technical route and ignored the consulting aspects until asked. All the logistics questions and staff and culture type stuff could have waited. There is some tremendous value in knowing all of that stuff even if at first glance it does appear to out of scope for our project. After all, “how is lunch served around here?” is an important project scheduling point.

But more to the point, what about using those consulting skills to identify architectural detail about the environment, impact to the project (and affecting the defining business goals/requirements) and perhaps dredge up more business? Gees. That sounds awful salesy huh? How about the idea that the design might need to change in mid-project? There is a benefit to having your very own in-house consultant, eh?

We have two approaches to doing what we do. You can be deep technical. You can dive in deep. I know a guy that you can call at almost any hour and pose some bizarre Active Directory or Registry question. Just be prepared to scribble fast because there is no way you will remember the details the forthcoming answer will encompass – but it is going to answer your issue. He knows some serious technical depth stuff.

But you can go too deep and lose your audience. What we do must be tailored to the audience. If a business decision maker is in the room, then you better be including that person in your audience profile. The technical team can wait a bit while you fill in their boss with the business details stuff and make his staff look like they were all over it from the beginning.

In our work, I see a real-life need for a consultant who can get into the technical errata, be able to walk and talk at the same time, and discuss business to the extent of your understanding; all of that without getting into even minor prevarication or truth stretching.

And here is our intrepid Mr. Hotshot fieldling my question tree with answers that meld the technical with the consulting. “Choices made for these reasons which tie to this technical answer and so on to this business requirement.” Or “we discussed the need for expanded storage” and “I expressed my concern that the network might not support the technical solution.” I know he gave those same answers to the customer and guess who was in the room? The customer’s CIO. And Mr. Hotshot is giving me answers like that. The conclusion should be obvious.

We have more work coming from that customer. That makes your work life better.

YMMV

2017/07/06

Elevator Pitches


There I was eating dinner. A popular activity in my house. This evening was more involved as my wife had a friend in from out of town; this results in the whole event being more structured than the normal goat rope that passes for a meal. Ribs. Check. Mac n Cheese (homemade you clowns, not that box stuff). Check. Corn on the cob. Check.

Sit down, make some small talk while dishing stuff up. Our guest had a strap-hanger so I am trying to be nice (Yes, me, being nice. And no Matilda, hell did not freeze over). Eventually you get past weather, drive times, fashion, weather (again), and food; the conversation needs to address larger items in life like “…and what do you do?”

When that question comes up, and it ALWAYS does, are you prepared? Actually, there are several levels to this question. The first is the concept of “initial impressions” which unfortunately for some of us makes and breaks things. Sometimes there is simply no getting over that first impression. My econ prof used to say “corporate America does not hire Beavis and Butthead” – and while I think that needs to be modified for portions of the west coast, that statement is mostly true. I encourage reflection on how you present yourself and how that presentation might be affecting your life. OK, back to dinner.

Remember that we are chowing down on some good eats, generally having a great time. Do you really know who is who in your initial circle, and possibly the next few layers out? Do you understand the concept of six degrees of separation (and here also)? I will wait right here for you to read up on that.

We are at the moment of truth; out comes The Question. Communications Engineer says I. I get the expected response which is “what is that” and I get to give my little spiel about helping companies envision, design, architect, and implement collaboration solutions [Note: not a word about Microsoft or Cisco, or whoever at this point]. This gets me several questions about the difference between design and architecture; how long have you been doing this, et cetera. Around this point in time I start wondering whether or not this person is simply bright, engaging, and well-rounded, or is simply great at small talk.

Or it could be the OTHER ANSWER. In MY house and at MY dinner table. I will wait while you go back and re-read the six degrees thing up there.

Now it is MY turn to ask The Question. Oh my. It was the OTHER ANSWER. Sitting at my table was the executive admin to a notable international private investment firm. Oh man. I sure hope I did not do anything. This person has the private ear of the entire executive staff – you know, those folks who make business decisions. For like 16 years. Clearly this person swings a big bat. What I did and said might well result in either a welcome reception or locked doors for our sales team.

Let’s review the bidding. Initial impressions count more than you think. Maybe not fair, but it is what it is. You need to have an “elevator pitch” prepared (and practiced!). You need to be thinking through follow-on questions. You may need several versions to cover various life situations. I have the social version and the 9-5 version. You can guess as to which one I used at dinner.

Everything we do counts. We are all in sales at one point in time or another. Everyone we meet and communicate with (any medium) forms an opinion about you, your work, family, and overall value. Bottom line? Be prepared. I learned long ago (1975) that you are always on, and that you can never tell when you might need to turn it up a notch.

YMMV

2017/06/28

Vision and Happiness


There I was, having a nice talk with my previous manager about life in general.  At one point the conversation hit on back when the branch first opened and our culture and how happy I was when I moved into the branch.  I cannot remember why the next comment came out, but here it is: “I already knew your vision.”

What is that?  And why is that tied to Happiness?


Uhm… Vision, as in Mission & Vision Statement 101?  Yes, that’s the one.  As in “describe your future state in five years.  Where will you be doing what you do?” That sort of vision.  You have some personal version of that, everyone does; or at least I hope they do.  How close you come to that vision is pretty much how happy you are.

On top of that, there is also a persona that is presented in your workplace.  In fact, I am pretty sure that there are some people with personas that are tailored to the social or work occasion.  Woot!  Not me, thanks, I am trying to have only one vision.

Moving forward, I think I see where having personal and professional visions that match pretty closely could be an important factor in “how happy am I?” answers. Don’t you like it better when things line up neatly? On a business angle, your general happiness in terms of workplace/profession satisfaction will therefore occur when the company vision and execution of that vision come closest to your personal vision.

How well does your personal vision line up with your work?  How does that equate to happy for you?  It might be that your vision and your execution of that vision serve as a change agent for the good in your culture.   Is your vision causing parts of your life to be unhappy?  Could it be that the mismatch between personal and work is too large?

There is a solid connection between employee satisfaction/happiness and ability to deliver to their customer.  And create happy customers.  Which comment to other people they know.  Which generates the highest ROI of any sales/marketing plan ever.  I will wait right here for you to finish reading.

  

Well, that’s nice, but what about your vision?


So, great question – and here it is – both personal and professional.  I think the professional vision is an outshoot of the personal.

“I want my customer so happy they talk about us on the golf course”

And I will close with this L.P. Jacks quotation that I like:

“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.”

2017/05/31

SQL Change Ports

The Port Change Issue

On a project where the SQL team has a policy of changing the SQL port away from the default of 1433? 

This does not pose a huge problem for your intrepid Skype (or Lync) deployment engineer.  If you are needing to know what to do, and maybe you have, oh, 30 or so front ends to modify, then maybe I can help you out a tad.

The issue is modifying the registry to tell your host server where to go to access the requisite port on the target SQL server.  As it turns out, I had to remember this, as it has been a bit since I had to last do this task. 

The Simple Fix to the Simple Issue

Luckily for you and me, it seems that every copy of a Windows operating system I looked at for this post (Win7, Win8, Win10, Server 2008+) have a utility in \windows\system32 called cliconfg.exe.  You can read up on that utility here.

A wonderful tool.  Here is it in Windows 10 form.  Which looks the same as Win7, so I think they will all pretty much appear to be the same. Actually, the Win7 version has a different set of window frames, so the appearance is more rounded instead of the ugly-ass Win10 metro crap.  But I digress.

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What we need to do is select the Alias tab…the select Add.

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For the purposes of this exercise, I need my system to talk to my SQL server (FQDN = sqlalwayson-a.tsoorad.net) on port 49001.  So, you set it up like this and then say OK.

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Follow up that OK with an APPLY and your newly modified operating system will for thereafter talk to SQL server sqlalwayson-A.tsoorad.net on port 49001 vice 1433.  Simple.  Easy.  Works well.  Less filling.  Man, I am thirsty!

But Wait!  What if…

…you have like four user pools, and they all need to talk to the same monitoring server, but different archive targets per pool?  And what if there are like 30 front ends that need this modification, and every time you type this stuff in there is the possibility of spelling errors that mean system failure.  Now, I am sure there is some folks out there in techie land that are starting to chant “PowerShell!  PowerShell” -  but in this case, I am going to ignore them, and simply export a registry key, and then incorporate that into my server build process – which can be PowerShell-ized if you wish.

Here is the registry key to export.  HKLM\software\microsoft\mssqlserver\client\connectto

In my project, we had four SQL AG clusters, each with two nodes, a cluster name, and the AG name; all that needed to resolve by DNS.  So, our registry key looked somewhat like this: 16 entries with AG, cluster, node1, and node2 per supporting SQL cluster.  We then simply imported that into each server at build time.

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Summary

The SQL mavens might well change ports on you.  If they do, there is an answer in form of cliconfg.exe.  If the scale is a tad larger than manual typing will cover, you can regedit your way to success.

YMMV








What Vacation Taught me

I took vacation this year; a formal thing with travel, schedule coordination, planned activities, and days full of interacting with others. ...