You Can Call Me Al (or not)

My CCIE plaque arrived today.  I’m happy that it weighed more than my usual certificates, as it can now be a handy weapon to wield when salesmen intrude on my solitude of studying:

Purdy, Ain't It?

There was one thing that did seem to generate some discussion, though.  Yes, my plaque says “Alfred” because my legal first name is indeed Alfred.  It’s a fun story.

I am the first male grandchild born to my both sides of my family.  Therefore, it is my responsibility to carry on the family name and legacy.  My mother and father had already agreed to name me after my grandfathers.  My paternal grandfather was named Alfred.  My maternal grandfather was named Tommy, so they decided on Thomas.  Right up to the point where my mom went into labor they both knew what my name was going to be.  Or so they thought.

I was a particularly difficult child, even before I was born.  20-some-odd hours of labor and an emergency C-section later, and Mom found herself sitting in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).  When the nurses presented my father with the birth certificate, he filled it out according to what he thought was going to be the correct name.  They had discussed the names, but not the order.  Naturally, my father picked his dad’s name as my first name (Alfred) and put Thomas as my middle name.  In Mississippi (where I was born), the practice at that time was to file the birth certificate with the state and provide a stamped copy to the parents as the official birth certificate.  So three days later when Mom finally came around, she was presented with a new baby boy and a Xeroxed copy of the birth certificate proudly proclaiming me as Alfred Thomas Hollingsworth.  To which she replied, “He named our son WHAT?!?!”  The nurse jumped back and assured my mother that since she pushed me out, she could name me whatever she wanted.  My mother politely declined, knowing that she would later name my brother something normal, like John.  I’ve gone by Tom most of my life.  The only time I heard Alfred as a boy was when I was in trouble.  The only time I hear it now is when the government or a telemarketer calls my house.  But it always seems to be a great source of fun when people find out my “real name”.

There’s a moral in this for IT people as well.  Communication is very important, even on the little details.  My parents knew what two names they were going to use for me, but they forgot the important detail of what order to put them in.  When faced with a decision, my father chose what he thought was the logical order.  My mother had always assumed I would be Thomas Alfred, but never communicated that to my father.  And now when people try to verify my CCIE number, I constantly have to tell them to use Alfred as the verification name.  If you glaze over the details in any type of communication, you will invariably end up with results that aren’t quite what you expected, even if the majority of the project/trouble ticket/birth certificate is correct.  Then, being called “Al” is the least of your worries.

For Sale: One Nerd

As many of you know, I’m a recently certified CCIE.  As many of these things happen, it has take a while for my current employer to talk to me about what this means to them and to me moving forward.  I’ve heard many stories about CCIEs that have attained their lab only to find themselves out of a job quickly because their employer either doesn’t see the advantage of having a Cisco Expert on staff, or they feel that having a CCIE around will cost too much in the long run and they decide to part ways before the expenses grow too great.  In my case, I’m graced with an employer that wants to keep me around for the foreseeable future.  However, I’m now tasked with a different challenge.

After some conversations, I’ve been asked to come up with a way to sell myself.  No, not like that.  Or that.  Okay, maybe like that.  I’m supposed to find a way to put my skill set front and center and bring in new customers based on things that I can provide that no one else can.  This is a somewhat interesting proposition for me.  Despite what I might say or do around my Twitter friends, I’m usually a shy and reserved person.  I have a hard time being anything other than modest, and I don’t take compliments very well.  Now, I have to turn that on its head and find a way to put myself out there for all the world to see.

When I’m in a group of people, such as at Cisco Live, it’s easy for me to put on a fun act.  Tattoos nonwithstanding, I get to be funny and entertaining for my friends.  I feel comfortable calling attention to myself and generally being goofy.  However, in front of people that don’t know me very well, I find myself much more reserved.  The hardest job interview I’ve ever had involved the interviewer telling me, “Son, I don’t know anything about you.  If you don’t tell me more about yourself, you aren’t going to do very well.”  I tend to hang back and speak only when spoken to.  I don’t interrupt conversation, even when I see someone is wrong and needs to be corrected.  Many times, it’s easy for me to take this role as the silent partner because the people I’m meeting with do the majority of the discussing.

Now, however, I think I’m going to have to be more forward.  That doesn’t sit well with me.  I’ve tried my hand at sales-type activities before and found they weren’t for me.  I’m good at presenting information and answering questions.  I suck at closing people.  I don’t have the patience or desire to endlessly ask someone to buy something.  I tend to take the approach that I’ve presented you with all the information that you need to make up your mind.  It’s up to you to buy this widget or not.  I think I’m going to need to start finding ways to “close the deal”, even if only from the aspect that I have to convince the people I’m “selling” to that I’m capable of doing the job they want me to do.

This is just a little peak into what happens after you spend years of your life chasing something that identifies you as one of the best in your field.  It tends to change your standing in ways you couldn’t possibly understand when you start out on the path.  I’m going to be spending a lot of time in the immediate future figuring out exactly how I can sell myself more effectively than I have been.  And suggestions would be warmly appreciated.

Nerd Icons

A while back, I took Angry Cisco Guy’s Cisco Geek picture and turned it into a Cisco Nerd picture.  You know, for branding purposes.  Afterwards, I noticed two things.  Firstly, Solarwinds has some great stickers that say things like “Network Geek” or “IOS Geek”.  They seem to be popular with my co-workers.  The other is Netpappy’s current Twitter avatar.  It looked very appealing to me, as it boldly stated who he was and what he was all about.  Taking my preference for nerdiness into account, I figured I’d come up with my own icon set for displaying my talents.  I took the Cisco marketing icons that are almost universally recognized in the networking industry and added a little Photoshop magic.




CallManager (Per request of Erik Peterson)



And even one for the VDCBadgers out there:

Thoughts?  Ideas?  Let me here em!

EDIT: Due to several people using these as Twitter avatars, I’ve resized them so that no dimension is more than 128 pixels, which means it shouldn’t be cut off when you put it into Twitter.  Enjoy!

Yet Another Edit:

Seems that I’ve got a few more icons to add to the pile thanks to some submissions of other vendors material.  I’ll be happy to keep churning these out, but remember that marketing icons make much better source material than wireframes in Visio.  You want something that can be recognized on sight, like the Aircraft Recognition Guides.

Juniper Router:

Juniper L2/L3 Switch:

Juniper Secured Router/Firewall:

My Thoughts on Dell and Force 10

Big announcement today concerning Michael Dell’s little computer company and their drive to keep up with the Joneses in the data center.  Dell has been a player in the server market for many years, but in the data center they are quickly losing out to the likes of HP, Cisco, and even IBM.  Until they hired away HP’s chief blade architect a few years ago, they weren’t even interested in blade servers/enclosures.  Instead, they relied on the tried-and-true model of 1U rack-mounted servers everywhere.  That has all changed recently with the explosion of high-density server enclosures becoming the rage with customers.  Now, the push seems to be headed toward offering a soup-to-nuts portfolio that allows your customers to go to one vendor to get all their data center needs, whether it be storage, servers, or networking.  HP was the first company to really do this, having acquired 3Com last year and integrating their core switching products into the Flex family of data center offerings.  Cisco has always had a strong background in networking, and their UCS product line appears to be coming on strong as of late.  IBM has been a constant bellweather in the market, offering storage and servers, but being forced to outsource their networking offerings.  Dell found itself in the same boat as IBM, relying on Brocade and Juniper as OEM partners to offer their networking connectivity for anything beyond simple low-end ports, which are covered by the Dell PowerConnect line.  However, the days of OEM relationships are quickly drying up, as the bigger vendors are on an acquisition spree and the little fish in the market are becoming meals for hungry vendors.

Dell has enjoyed a very strong relationship with Brocade in the past, and the positioning of Brocade as a strong player in the data center made them a very logical target for Dell’s pocketbook.  In fact, it had been reported several weeks ago that a deal between Dell and Brocade was all but done.  So, imagine the surprise of everyone when Dell announced on July 20th that they were buying Force10 Networks, a smaller vendor that specializes in high-performance switching for markets such as stock market trading floors.  To say that my Twitter stream erupted was an understatement.  We all knew that Dell was going to buy someone, but most figured it would be Brocade.  I even ranked Arista ahead of Force10 as the likely target of Dell’s acquisition fever.  I just figured that Force10 was a little too small and specialized to garner much attention from the big boys.  Don’t get me wrong, I think that Force10 makes some great products.  Their presentation at Network Field Day was well received, and they several customers that will swear by their performance.

What I expected from Dell was a purchase that would serve them across their whole network portfolio.  Brocade would have given them a replacement for the PowerConnect line at the low end as well as data center and fibre channel connectivity options.  They were already OEM-ing Brocade’s product line, so why not buy them outright?  I think that comes down the fact that EVERYONE is OEM-ing from Brocade (or so it seems).  EMC, IBM, and even HP have products from Brocade in their offerings.  If Dell had purchased Brocade outright, it would have forced those vendors to look elsewhere for fibre channel connectivity.  This would either be due to a desire to not inflate a competitor’s bottom line, or perhaps later if and when Dell decided to change the rules of how other vendors OEM from them.  This move away from a Dell-owned Brocade would have really muddied the waters for those inside Dell that wanted Brocade for it’s revenue stream.  As it is, I’m pretty sure that Dell is going to scale back on the B-series PowerConnect stuff everywhere but the fibre channel line and use Force10 as the main data center core technology group, while at the same time maintaining the PowerConnect line at the lower end for campus connectivity.  This will allow them to keep their margins on the PowerConnect side while at the same time increasing them in the data center, since they’ll no longer have to pay OEM fees to Brocade.

Whither Juniper?

The next most popular topic of conversation after Force10 involved…Juniper.  Juniper was a long-shot target of acquisition for Dell (and others), and now that the only major server vendor without a solid networking background is IBM, people are staring to ask who, if not IBM, is going to buy Juniper?  And when?

Folks, Juniper isn’t an easy acquisition.  Add in the fact that the IBM you see today isn’t the IBM of your father (or my early networking days for that matter), and you’ll see that Juniper is best left to its own devices for the time being.  Juniper isn’t really what I would consider a “data center switching” company like Force10 or Arista.  They tend to fall more in the service provider/campus LAN market to me.  I think that if someone like IBM could pony up the billions to buy them, they’d quickly find themselves lost in what to do with Juniper’s other technologies.  Buying Juniper for their data center offerings would be like buying a Porsche because you like the stereo.  You’re missing the point.  I’d wager money that Juniper is more likely to buy twenty more companies before they get bought themselves.  Their networking business is growing by leaps and bounds right now, and saddling them with a large company as ‘oversight’ would probably cripple their innovation.

IBM already owns a high-speed, low-latency networking company that they bought about this time last year, Blade Networks.  Why should they go out and spend more money right now?  Especially if they are happy with their OEM partnerships with Brocade and Juniper (like Dell has been doing previously)?  IBM has shed so much of what it used to be that it no longer resembles the monster that it once was.  Gone are the PCs and Thinkpads and low-end servers.  Instead, they’ve moved to the blade and high end server market, with storage to complement.  They used to be number one, but have long since been passed by HP.  Now they find themselves fighting off their old foe Dell and this new upstart, Cisco.  Does it really make sense for them to mortgage the family farm to buy Juniper, only to let it die off?  I’d rather see them make a play for a smaller company, maybe even one as well-known as Arista.  It would fit the profile a bit better than buying Juniper.  That’s more HP’s style.

Tom’s Take

I fully expect the trumpets of Dell’s new-found data center switching expertise to start sounding as soon as the ink is dry on Force10.  In fact, don’t be surprised to see it come up during Tech Field Day 7 next month in Austin, TX.  I think Dell will get a lot of mileage out of their new stalking horse, as most of the complaints I’ve heard about Force10 come from their sales staff, and we all know how great Dell is at selling.

For now, Juniper needs to sit back and bide its time, perhaps stroking a white Persian cat.  They can go down the interoperability road, telling their customers that since they have strong OEM relationships with many vendors, they can tie all these new switches together will very little effort.  They shouldn’t worry themselves with the idea that anyone is going to buy them anytime soon.

So…The Tattoo

Probably the most talked about thing at Cisco Live, at least from my perspective, was this little joke that took on a life of its own.  Since a lot of people asked about it, and since it still keeps popping up all over the place, I figured I’d take the time to say something about it.

In the World of Solutions (WoS), Cisco usually has a lounge for any Cisco Certified individuals to come in and chat and hang out.  A couple of years ago, they started making the CCIEs go into this lounge to get their silver CCIE ribbon for their badge holder.  This usually means there is a long line of CCIEs waiting to pick up their shinies.  This year, Cisco hired an airbrush artist to put fake CCIE logo tattoos on any CCIE that wanted one.  You could get the basic new CCIE logo, or a specific logo with any track name, such as Routing and Switching or ISP Dial.  People started getting tattoos put on their arms and calves right away.  Some people, like Marko Milivojevic, got two tattoos on each arm for his dual CCIE accomplishments.  I skipped getting at tattoo on Monday night, due to the long line and the desire to get as many codes as I could for the Destination Collaboration game (which I ended up winning on day one).

The next day (Tuesday), I was just getting out of a class and decided to go back to the WoS to pick up a few t-shirts and other pieces of swag.  Along the way, I saw a tweet from Mr. Tugs aimed at the Learning@Cisco people asking if anyone had gotten the “tramp stamp” CCIE tattoo yet.  From Wikipedia:

lower back tattoo is a body decoration, sometimes intended to emphasize sexual attractiveness. Such tattoos have become popular since the late 1990s. They are sometimes derided as suggestive of promiscuity and often referred to as “tramp stamps”[1] and other slang terms.[2] The German term Arschgeweih can be translated as ‘ass antlers’. Such tattoos are primarily seen on women, although a small but increasing number of men have them as well.

While the lower back is not the widest area of the human back, it has abundant space for a large design and horizontal tattoo designs can be worked easily. In contrast to the abdomen, which is otherwise a similar location, the lower back does not stretch significantly during pregnancy or other weight gains, thus providing a more stable site for a design. Lower back tattoos are often left uncovered by individuals wearing crop tops that are designed to expose the midriff and low-rise jeans that are worn low around the hips.

For those that might not be too familiar with the term “tramp stamp”.  At first it appeared to be a joke in good fun, pointing out that since the majority of attendees are male, the possibility of someone getting a tattoo in an area usually associated with someone feminine was out of the question.  The Cisco Learning folks decided to up the ante by offering a free t-shirt to the first person to get said tattoo in the lower back region.  As I walked into the Certification Lounge, I asked if anyone had gotten it yet, and I was told that no one had.  Julia, the Certification lady, asked if I was thinking about going for it.

To take a moment here to explain my thinking…I was pretty sure this would be a funny little joke for everyone.  I couldn’t care less about the position of the tattoo.  I figured Learning@Cisco would tweet about it and my name would get attached to it somehow.  My friends would have a good laugh about it and I’d be on the receiving end of some good-natured ribbing about it for the next couple of days.  I’ve been known to do silly things before, so this wasn’t entirely out of character for me.  However, the confluence of events rose to make this somewhat of the Perfect Tramp Stamp Storm.

Once I had committed to getting said tattoo, Marko walked over and said that if I would get it, he would get it too, provided there was a t-shirt in it for him as well.  Once he got the green light for his t-shirt, we went about the business of getting stamped.  When I looked up halfway through the process, I noticed a bunch of my friends sitting on the couches in the Certification Lounge.  What was originally going to be a bit of a shock to them turned into them crowding around to see and start taking pictures.  I was doomed from the moment I stood up.  A couple of quick photos followed while Marko got his matching tattoo.  Once we had completed the process, Julia asked us for a quick picture so she could tweet it out to the world to show that two CCIEs had stepped up and sacrificed a little dignity for a t-shirt.  When she posted the pic to twitter, she not only used the conference hashtag of #cl11, but she also appended the hashtag #CCIE2011, which was to be used for pictures taken at the CCIE party that night.  This was the beginning of the end.

As word spread about the tattoo, the picture kept getting retweeted over and over again.  Because the hashtag for the CCIE party pictures was embedded in the original tweet (and subsequent retweets), the picture kept popping up on the monitors at the party.  It wasn’t all that uncommon to see the picture three or four times in a row while walking around the party.  It ended up being so popular that Carlos Dominguez put it up on the big screen during his introduction at the Wednesday keynote by Padmassree Warrior.  He said it was his favorite picture at Cisco Live so far and he called Marko and I “two of our brightest CCIEs”.  For Marko and I, this was praise enough to make it worth it.

The picture keeps cropping up even a week later, as people find it and retweet it or my friends keep bringing it back up as a punchline in a joke.  Frankly, I’m more than amused.  If my jovial behavior during Cisco Live didn’t already make me popular, going to the lengths that I did to get my backside up on a giant screen in front of 15,000 live guests and who knows how many thousand around the world virtually sealed the deal.  I’ll always be known as the “Tramp Stamp CCIE”.  And I’m perfectly fine with that.

Tom’s Take

Never be afraid to make an ass out of yourself.  It takes a lot of confidence to put yourself out there and to be ready to weather the storm of criticism and jeers.  I’m pale and a little chunkier than I could stand to be.  I’m also not afraid to have fun and use some self deprecation to accomplish good humor.  If all I’m ever known for is one famous tattoo, I can die a happy man.

Should you really want to see the evidence of my little bit of humor, I’ll link to it rather than putting the pictures in this post.  Be aware, though, that what has been seen cannot be unseen.  Do not observe my paleness while under the influence of medication or while operating heavy machinery.  My back has been known to cause blindness and discomfort in test subjects and small children.  Do not expose yourself to these pictures for more than a few minutes.  Should your find yourself with blindness lasting for more than four hours, please consult a physician.

With that out of the way, check out my tattoo HERE (thanks Amy and Greg) and HERE (Thanks Learning@Cisco).

CCIE Data Center – Coming Soon-ish

Right before I left for Cisco Live, I had a big post about the rumored CCIE Data Center certification exam that I was going to publish.  I held off at the last second because I wanted to gather some more information at Cisco Live from the army of Cisco people that would be there.  I’m glad I waited.

Speculation has been rampant that Cisco is readying an update to the CCIE Storage Area Network (SAN) lab certification exam to better align their position with the new Unified Computing System (UCS) hardware and various other technologies like Wide-Area Application Services (WAAS) and the Application Control Engine (ACE).  These items are heavily utilized in modern datacenters to provide the best customer experience with large scale computing deployments.  Since the focus inside of Cisco for the past few months has involved UCS to a large degree, there is a lot of support in the partner community for top-tier certifications to recognize the investment that partners make in UCS training for their employees.  Also, having a program with the prestige of the CCIE attached to your data center learning gives the engineers working on the product an aura of intelligence when it comes to product.

During Cisco Live, there was even an overview of the CCIE SAN program in the breakout session BRKCCIE-1001.  Curiously, it was titled CCIE Data Center/Storage Certification.  I’m sure that people flooded into the class hoping to hear whether or not the data center CCIE would be coming out soon.  However, the majority of the class dealt with CCIE SAN and the methodologies and topologies of that exam. Only in the last few slides are any hints of the future of data center certification, and even then it is just a suggestion of updates to the existing blueprint.  What follows in this article are my ideas about what a proposed CCIE Data Center might involve.  They are based on conversations I had in the past week, but in no way represent the official position of the CCIE program or any person inside of Cisco, so don’t go quoting me as the gospel truth.

I think the CCIE Data Center program is still 12-15 months out.  Why?  Well, there is still a lot of life left in the SAN program.  The announcement of the removal of the Core Knowledge/Open Ended Questions slated for August 15th proved it.  Why bother mentioning SAN if it’s not going to be around for a while?  There are still a number of students in the CCIE SAN track today and announcing changes this soon would wreck all their hard work and study.  This is also a requirement that any major changes to a track or blueprint must be preceded by a 6-month notice.  As we haven’t heard any announcement yet, the data center CCIE couldn’t possibly arrive earlier than next January.

There is a lot of hardware that could go into a CCIE Data Center exam.  UCS, MDS, WAAS, ACE, load balancers, and even FC/FCoE storage arrays must be considered at a minimum.  What about focus?  There are lots of different areas that you could exam for track focus, from simple UCS deployments to more of a service provider, hosted cloud type integration.  How to cover all of those bases in one exam?  Especially if you have to shoehorn it all into 8 hours?  I’m pretty sure that we might end up seeing some form of tracks in the CCIE Data Center after it launches, similar to the way the CCIE Service Provider used to be subdivided.

What about all those SAN folks that busted their butts learning about MDS switches and figuring out crafty ways to configure fibre channel?  Are they going to be left out in the cold just like the old CCIE ISP Dial guys?  Relics of a bygone era?  I doubt it.  MDS switches are still on the proposed blueprints that I’ve seen being kicked around, and even the rumors say that the SAN program is being upgraded, not retired.  Don’t be shocked if the SAN guys get some kind of “bridge” program to take what they’ve learned about storage and apply it to a Data Center track.  My guess would be something like running the two tracks parallel for a few months after launch and then allowing SAN CCIEs and candidates a single free shot at the Data Center lab exam.

Tom’s Take

It’s time for Cisco to come out with a CCIE for the modern data center.  The other vendors that play in this space love to tout their expertise building multivendor networks and implementing large scale server/storage/switching deployments.  But let’s face it: they aren’t CCIEs.  Once someone gets the digits, they take on a different aura.  Having CCIEs focused on servers and storage would give Cisco a competitive advantage in the data center market, where it appears the battle for supremacy will be waged for the next couple of years.  I think Cisco is going to take their time and get this one perfect before releasing it to the public, both to be sure that it covers their goals for where they want the Cisco data center brand to go as well as to ensure they don’t alienate those CCIEs who have diligently studied SANs and taken the battle standard thus far.  Just remember to have a little patience, since the CCIE is a marathon that pays off in the end.

Switch SuperNAP – The Super Datacenter

One of the highlights of my trip to Cisco Live 2011 was an invitation from Aneel Lakhani and Brian Gracely of Cisco to take an impromptu tour of the SuperNAP facility in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Now, I must admit that I was a bit ignorant of what SuperNAP was when I accepted the invitation.  That changed quickly, though.

We left the Mandalay Bay hotel on the south end of The Strip and drove over to the facility.  The drive would have been less than fifteen minutes except for some road construction traffic.  Once we turned the corner into the facility, we were greeted with this visage:

This is the kind of facility that just screams “stay away”.  The only entrance is the door in the middle right of the picture.  You must have an appointment to enter the facility, and the voice on the loudspeaker isn’t a friendly one.  Once our tour group gained access, we parked in one of the three parking spots and were immediately greeted by a man in a tactical vest with an assortment of hardware, like a walkie-talkie, flashlight, and sidearm.  He informed us that we needed to have our identification ready and there were ABSOLUTELY no pictures to be taken inside the facility.  While he didn’t confiscate our cell phones, he did question one of our group about an insulin pump on his hip.

Once inside the entrance, I immediately noticed the hardware located behind the security office.  It was more impressive than what I had seen in the FBI buildings I’ve visited.  Behind several inches of bullet resistant glass were M4 assault rifles and what appeared to be shotguns as well.  Coupled with the the posture of the security guards, I was pretty sure this was going to be a rather interesting tour.  Once I surrendered by driver’s license for a visitor pass, we were escorted through the steel mantrap.  The security guard had to buzz each visitor in individually with his access badge and his thumbprint, a very nice combo of two-factor authorization for a security nerd like me.  We were escorted to a conference room filled with industrial-looking tables and comfortable chairs.  The guard asked if we needed to use the restroom, and after no one accepted his offer he asked that we stay in this room until our appointment arrived.  When I heard the door click behind him, I realized that was more of a statement rather than a request.

Once the rest of our group arrived, Missy Young came in to start our sightseeing show.  She started out giving us an overview of the facility itself, focusing on the layout and the air handling system.  In most datacenters, keeping the massive amount of equipment cool is one of the more difficult tasks.  When Switch first asked about cooling SuperNAP with the traditional air cooling units, the cooling vendor’s response to their request would have filled half the datacenter floor with A/C units.  So Switch built their own:

Each of those units contains four different types of cooling systems to ensure the most efficient method is used to keep the data center at the appropriate temperature.  There’s even a software program, Living Datacenter, running at all times to monitor the air temperature outside that keeps the air handlers running at peak efficiency and the data center from becoming a greenhouse.  Altogether, there are 44,000 tons of cooling available for the 407,000 square foot facility.  Inside, it was nice and chilly, just like the servers like it.  Thanks to all that cooling power, SuperNAP customers are not required to space their equipment out to allow proper airflow.  The building can deliver the right amount of cooling to every square inch of the floor, therefore allowing Switch to make the most efficient use of the space.

SuperNAP houses lots of equipment from various different companies like Sony and Ebay.  They also host a variety of servers from government agencies as well, many of which they aren’t allowed to talk about.  Because of this, the facility can never be down.  They promise 100% uptime to their customers, and they have the backup systems to deliver.  The facility has 100 MW of power delivered to it for running systems and has almost 150 MW of generator capacity.  Each of those generators is powered by 7,000 gallons of diesel fuel.  In the event of a power outage, SuperNAP has contracts with several fuel companies to start delivering diesel within two hours of the outage report and every eight hours thereafter until power is restored.  In the event that the fuel resupply fails, the security forces are authorized to begin commandeering fuel from the civilian population of Las Vegas.  However, I doubt it would come to that anytime soon.  SuperNAP taps the two national power mains that deliver electricity to Las Vegas upstream of the city.  Even if Sin City starts having brownouts, SuperNAP will stay online.  Due to their level of importance in keeping the lights on, the only facility in Nevada that would get power preference before them is the Hoover Dam.

After the overview, we all signed our waivers and walked out a door to begin the tour of the facility.  Since we couldn’t take our own pictures, I’m going to post some of theirs.  Trust me, they’re real.

It’s really impressive in person.  Even though there were only nine of us on the tour, we were followed by an armed guard at all times.  He radioed in every time we walked into a different section of the facility.  It was a little eerie, but I can see how they might want to keep tabs on a shifty fellow like me.

We walked into one of the air handling units and got to see each of the sections bringing air into the facility.  There is a pressure differential inside each unit, so in order to show us the amount of air being pushed by the fans, they had to crack an outside door to equalize things inside.  Somehow, I got stuck on the end nearest the fan door, and when the rather large guard opened it up, I got blasted with hurricane-force cold air for a few seconds.  I felt like Jim Cantore for a bit.  That much air flowing into the facility is a large reason behind its success at keeping the whole thing cool and stable, and they’ve got 30 of these things around the perimeter.  Combined with Living Datacenter, the units are even smart enough to shut off the outside air supply in the event of a dust storm or other unwanted conditions and recirculate the hot exhaust coming back from the server areas.

In between areas runs the Power Spine, the location of the large PDUs that distribute the go-go juice to all those hungry servers.  It looked like something out of a sci-fi movie:

Each rack can be provided 26 Kw of power from each of those color-coded units, and there are two running to each rack to provide redundancy, with a third available just in case.  There’s even enough floor space to double up and provide 200 Mw of power to the whole facility.  The floor itself uses 4,500 psi concrete to be able to support all that weight.  And since there isn’t any raised floor space in the whole facility (all the infrastructure is overhead), it allows customers to pack in some seriously heavy computing power.

One thing I will note here.  You notice that everything in these pictures looks very polished and theatrical.  That’s a bit on purpose.  From the armed guards to the LED lighting to the enamel paint everywhere, this whole facility screams theater from the inside.  Some disbelieve their ability to deliver what they promise.  Missy’s response was “just ask our customers.”  I agree that there is a bit of a show being put on at the facility.  I surmise that it’s most likely due to an extension of will from those that built the facility in the first place.  After all, it’s very impressive to visitors to see all this hardware powering rows and rows of computing power.  Why not take the extra time and effort to make it pretty?  Besides, if someone leaves a mess, you’ve always got the security guards around to shoot the offenders.

Tom’s Take

If there’s ever a zombie apocalypse, I’m getting in the car and heading for SuperNAP.  I’m going to call ahead and make sure that Missy knows I’m coming though, because that could get interesting when the guards don’t know whether or not I’m zombified.  The SuperNAP facility delivers a very impressive profile for a datacenter, both in size and operation.  It was like walking through Toys R Us as a kid, only the toys here are multi-million dollar server equipment and the sales clerks carry assault rifles.  SuperNAP delivers on their promises of 100% uptime and their customer list is rather impressive.  I think that everyone interested in the hows and whys of data center design should take a peek inside to see what it looks like when it’s done right.  Just call ahead first.

Thanks again to Aneel Lakhani and Brian Gracely of Cisco for the invite and thanks to the rest of the group for allowing me to tag along and not get us shot at.

Cisco Live 2011

The Cisco Live 2011 Twitter Army - Thanks to Hank Yeomans

It’s a bittersweet morning for me. I’m sitting in McCarren Aiport in Las Vegas about to leave to head home after Cisco Live 2011. Cisco Live is the annual convention that brings together Cisco customers, partners, and employees for fun and learning. I have been an annual Cisco Live attendee each year since 2006, so I’ve been everywhere from Anaheim to Orlando. This year, however, was the best Cisco Live ever. This is thanks, in no small part, to the amazing people I met in my short six days. I’m going to break things down by day simply because there was so much that happened that it would look like a trainwreck otherwise.  Although, it’s probably going to look like a trainwreck anyway.


I arrived Saturday around noon and immediately ran into Jeff Fry. After we collected our baggage and hailed a cab to the Mandalay Bay, I deposited my luggage in my room and decided that watching TV wasn’t the most exciting thing to be doing. Jeff and I grabbed lunch by the Cisco Live registration desk and got to register early when the desk opened about 30 minutes ahead of schedule. Jeff is kind of Cisco-famous thanks to an excellent guide he wrote for first-time Cisco Live attendees, so when we found Leslie, one of the coordinators, she handed both of us a special ribbon for our name badges that allowed us to display our Twitter handles for the world to see. I had my own little addition to the conference badge, a little insert that had the Packet Pushers logo and denoted me as one of the hosts. I figure a little advertising never hurts, right? Once we got the new conference bag, we walked over to the tables just outside the registration desk and just hung out for a bit. I knew that some of my tweeps were coming into town, so I decided to let them know where I was so they could stop by and say hello. I ran into Jon Nelson, my old nemesis from the Cisco Collaboration Code game from last year, where Jon took home an iPad. We chatted with Jon and Jeff and lots of other people that just dropped by to meet me. I even had someone come over from the registration desk because he recognized my voice from Packet Pushers and wanted to tell me how much he enjoyed listening, which always makes me feel good. Darby Weaver stopped by to congratulate me on passing the CCIE, something that a lot of people would do throughout the week. We finally wound down a lazy day one by hitting the buffet. Little did I know what was going to happen…


Sunday was interestingly busy. I didn’t have any sessions until the late afternoon, but most everyone else was in Techtorials for the whole day. Left to my own devices for once, I walked back down to the tables outside registration and just parked myself there, hoping to meet some more tweeps arriving that day. What shocked me is the amount of people stopping by to meet me and then sticking around to hang out. I honestly thought it would be a quick “hello” followed by people wandering off to look around. Instead, we got a Tech Field Day-style hangout area that just kept growing and growing throughout the week. Right around lunch, I even got to meet Amy, who remarked, “You’re taller than you sound on Twitter.” After lunch with Amy and her crew, I resumed my post at the registration tables, which quickly became the Unoffical Tweetup location for the first couple of days. This was especially funny, as I had tweeted before the conference that while there might be an official tweetup at the Customer Appreciation Event on Wednesday night, the unofficial location would be wherever I happened to be drinking. As Sunday wound down, those of us registered for the Cisco Collaboration welcome session and reception started filtering to the breakout rooms. We probably should have avoided the session, as Amy, Doug Bineti and I spent more time heckling people than anything else. The reception, on the other hand, was wonderful. Instead of being herded into half the Eyecandy Lounge, we got to spread out and occupy the whole thing. It was also better this year because I wasn’t battling Jon for Collaboration Codes. After we wound that party down, my friends from Wireless Field Day told me I should come hang out with them. After walking all the way to the Bellagio and back, we settled on a few beers at New York, New York and eventually back at Eyecandy. This would be the first of many nights where sleep was merely a suggestion.


Monday I found out that the Unofficial Tweetup location had been renamed to “Tom’s Corner” in honor of me sitting there for the past two days. It was a little humbling to say the least, but the name caught on like I couldn’t believe. I had a couple of sessions during the day, but I was really looking foward to the opening of the World of Solutions (WoS). I was a little sad this year, though, because I found out that my favorite game, the Cisco Challenge, wasn’t going to be around this year. I ran into my friends from the Cole Group that have done such an amazing job every year doing the Challenge, so at least I got to catch up with them. Monday was also the day that I discovered that my phone was dying rather fast due to my constant use to keep upon Twitter. I usually had to go back to the room and charge it at some point.  Just glad I reverted it to iOS 4.3.3. I recorded a special Cisco Live edition of Packet Pushers with Greg Ferro and Tony Mattke just to let our listeners know what was going on here this week. At noon, I ran into Stephen Foskett hanging outside the registration desk. I walked over and spent some time catching up with him and told him I was excited to attend his party later that evening, a themed affair called “Everyone Comes to Rick’s”, after Casablanca. After more chit-chat with Stephen and Jennifer Huber, the Wireless Queen, I bounded off to take my CCDE written exam. I figured since I had a free shot this year with no pressure to recertify anything, I’d give this exam a shot since it had bested me since I took the beta version two years ago. This time, I squeaked by about twenty points above the mark, so I finally got to best this challenging test. I headed back to my corner to await the WoS repception. At 4:30 on the dot, a sea of nerds streamed into the WoS for free beer and t-shirts. I made a beeline to the Certifications Lounge to pick up my all-important silver CCIE ribbon and glass mug gift. I noticed they were doing airbrush CCIE logo tattoos for a little bit of fun (more on this later). I collected the conference t-shirt, which was once again back to the “US Tour” design this year, a very welcome change. I walked over to the Cisco Collaboration Booth and ran into the people there than recognized me from my previous battle last year. They encouraged me to play the game, and I obliged by entering some codes. Thanks to the experience I had from last year, it didn’t take long for me to find all the codes I could and put them in for a chance to win a Cisco Cius. I departed the WoS and headed up to Paris to hang out at Rick’s (actually Steven’s). Before I departed, I ran into CCIE #1026, Terry Slattery. I always enjoy talking to Terry, and I invited him to Stephen’s party just in case he wanted something to do. Stephen’s party was a great time. I bumped into lots of people I knew from Packet Pushers and Tech Field Day, as well as some new people. Fun was had. Wine was consumed. Pictures were taken of my bald spot (once again). In fact, the pictures from Stephen’s NEX-5 camera were so good, many of them ended up becoming new Twitter avatar pics (mine included). I ended up chatting quite a bit and closing down the reception. After thanking Stephen and Jennifer for such a great time, I caught a cab back to the Luxor with Terry Slattery himself. As we walked through the Luxor, I got a chance to talk shop with this legend and learn quite a few things. It was another humbling experience to get to talk to such a great person, one that was greatly appreciated. On the way back to the Mandalay Bay, I ran into Brandon Carroll, Chris Jones, and Tony Mattke and turned around to go to Ri Ra, a great little Irish Pub in Mandalay Place. After a few more drinks, including some I had to chug in one sitting, we finally called it a night around 2 am, ready for the pain that was coming the next day.


Tuesday morning was better than I thought. I wasn’t hungover, just a little tired. Guess Stephen’s parties aren’t the draining after all.  Either that, or massive amounts of bourbon are a good thing.  I went to my morning session like a good boy, but ended up leaving a little early to head down to Tom’s Corner. Since yesterday, they had made a sign for our tables denoting they were for “Tom and his Twitter Friends”. Kellen Christianson even made Tom’s Corner a 4square check in location. I got a big kick out of that one. Once the John Chambers Keynote got started, I finally got to have a great seat on the floor with the other CCIE NetVets that are annual attendees like myself. The keynote was good, as usual, with John laying out some new areas of focus and talking about his vision for Cisco. After the keynote, we raided the WoS once again for more t-shirts and backpacks. I got a text message from Kira, the wonderful person in charge of the Destination: Collaboration game this year. She told me that she “might” have a cool prize for me and that I should stop by and see her. Once I arrived at the booth, she told me that I had won the first Cisco Cius giveaway! I was elated to be holding this new unified communications endpoint in my hands, as I had seen a big push from Cisco to turn this into a central hub for voice, video, and data communications in the coming months. And now I had my very own to play with! I ran back to the room to start charging it while I recorded yet another Packet Pushers episode with Greg, Ethan Banks, Kurt Bales, and Nicholas Michel about the CCIE exam. My useless hotel internet connection cut out a few times in the recording, but we had a great time overall.  I returned the World of Solutions for a little more exploration and saw that the Learning@Cisco folks were offering a free CCIE t-shirt to anyone willing to get the CCIE airbush tattoo on their lower back, a look commonly referred to as a “tramp stamp”.  When I asked the artist, he said that he hadn’t don’t one yet.  After speaking with Julia, I decided that I would give it a shot.  Once I jumped in with both feet, Marko Milivojevic sacrificed some of his pride as well and got a matching tattoo.  Several pictures were snapped, but little did I know what was in store for me.  I went back to my corner to await another perk of being a CCIE NetVet, the reception with John Chambers. Jeff and Hank Yeomans went with me and we had a good time. While I won’t divulge what was discussed out of respect for John’s candor, I will say that my first CCIE NetVet question was met with a round of applause. I even got to take my picture with John and my new Cius!

Uncle John and I - Thanks to Jeff Fry

After the reception, we headed to the buses for the CCIE party. I was pumped to attend this year, as I had heard good stories about last year. We went to Madame Tussad’s House of Wax for food and drink and socializing. However, the number of people and guests overwhelmed the catering staff and the layout of the museum was not conducive to a living, breathing event. Lots of people knotting up to take pictures and drink beer led to stuffy conditions and more than a little disappointment.  The funniest part of the whole party involved that picture of Marko and me.  Thanks to tagging the original tweet with the Twitter hashtag for the CCIE party, every retweet kept showing up on the monitors there.  It wasn’t uncommon to see the photo four times in a row. We headed back a little early and ended up spending the night at Ri Ra once again, where I ate the largest order of fish and chips I’ve ever seen in my life (and I ordered the small). There was a little more sleep, but I was still running on a deficit.  The week was starting to catch up with me, and my batteries were running low. That would change on Wednesday morning.


Instead of going to my morning session, I was invited by Aneel Lakhani and Brian Gracely to head over and take a tour of the SuperNAP facility in Las Vegas. Besides knowing it was a datacenter, I knew very little about it. I’m going to have a separate blog post about it later, but suffice it to say that I was blown away by what I saw in there.  On the way back from SuperNAP, I found out that someone had created a Twitter account dedicated to my little slice of Cisco Live, @TomsCornerCLLV.  I was completely amused by this little sentiment.  It was once again humbling to see what your friends will come up with sometimes.  When we arrived back and the Mandalay Bay, Stephen and Jennifer showed me a box full of swag leftover from their party two days previous that they were trying to find something to do with.  I volunteered to take it off their hands because last year my coworkers devoured my leftover pile of trinkets before I knew what happened.  I figured 18 pounds of various stuff should be enough to keep them occupied for a few hours at least.  Upon arrival, I was informed the Carlos Dominguez had taken the CCIE Tramp Stamp photo and put it up on the main screen right before Padmasee Warrior’s tech keynote that morning.  Some people might have been mortified having their backside shown to 15,000 people on site and thousands more watching on the Internet, but not me.  Marko and I were happy that Carlos referred to us as “our two brightest CCIEs” in his description. I took my time on Wednesday afternoon, going to one class and lounging around in the NetVet area as well as the Corner.  I was invited to talk to a program manager for the Cisco support website over dinner and spent some productive time giving my opinion about some proposed changes that I can’t wait to see.  Afterwards, it was time to hop on the bus for the Customer Appreciation Event (CAE)!  We rode out to the M Resort just south of Las Vegas proper.  Once on site, we picked up our flashy new hats (literally) and I headed over to find the official tweetup spot in the Chill Lounge.  I spent most of my time there, shooting the breeze with the Twitter folks as they filtered in and out of the party.  Some of my fellow tweeps were lucky enough to have a VIP cabana right by the stage to watch OK Go and Train rocking the house.  By all accounts, this was one of the best CAEs in recorded history.  I had a blast myself just hanging around, occasionally venturing out to listen to some music.  I was later told there was a nefarious plot to introduce me to the pool in a most unflattering way, but I was luckily able to be conspicuously absent during this vile attempt to wash off my newest decoration.  After the buses ran us back to the hotel, we descended on Ri Ra once again to do as much damage to their stocks of beer and bourbon as possible.


The last day of Cisco Live started out with one cracked eye and Herculean effort to drag myself into Shannon McFarland’s IPv6 class.  I’m glad I hauled my aching body there, as the talk was amazing simply due the amount of great information that was presented, not to mention the extra 140 slides hiding in the material that weren’t presented on.  I went back to the Corner as time ticked down to the closing keynote.  Around noon, all of the Twitter folks around the corner headed over to take a picture with the giant Cisco Live sign that you see at the beginning of this post.  While this is a fairly popular thing for people to do during the conference, I doubt that having 25 people in front of the sign is a common occurrence.  After lunch, we headed over to the closing keynote with Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner.  Literally seconds before Carlos got on stage to interview TJ Hooker, he spotted me in the crowd and ran over for a quick picture.

Hanging with Carlos Dominguez - Thanks to Leslie Hasvold

The Shatner keynote/interview was very good.  He wasn’t afraid to poke fun at his hosts and was a very funny guy overall.  He strikes me as a man that knows his audience and knows how to play to them.  Once we finished up with Denny Crane, I went back to my room and packed up all the swag I could fit into my suitcase in prep for leaving the next day.  I still ended up having to ship myself some things back, a first for me in six years of Cisco Live.  After shipping my junk off to parts unknown, I walked back over to Tom’s Corner for one last hurrah.  We closed the place down in style, only relinquishing our seats when the guy came to take them from us.  Afterwards, we learned that trying to seat 25 people at one restaurant in Vegas is like hitting the progressive jackpots – unlikely under even the best of circumstances.  We ended up splitting the group between two restaurants for one last tweep dinner.  As people left to pack up and get some rest, several Twitter folks gave our last regards to Ri Ra.  We even managed to chase Leslie out of her room for one last hurrah.  This might have been what we in Information Technology like to refer to as “a bad thing”, as Leslie was so entertaining that we ended up nearly closing down the bar.  Good times were had by all and it was a little sad to see everyone heading back to hotel rooms one last time.

Tom’s Take

My previous Cisco Live events have all been fun.  Even so, I only knew five or six people there at best.  This year was nothing short of amazing.  I was hanging out with twenty and thirty people at a time.  There was always something to do or someone to talk to.  Lots of heckling and razzing for everyone.  The parties were that much better with people to hang out with.  And when we didn’t have a place to gather, we made one.  I can wholeheartedly say that this was the most fun I’ve ever had anywhere.  I owe it all to my friends, old and new.  As I said at our last party at Ri Ra, “Thanks to all my imaginary friends for making me want to come to Cisco Live, and thanks to all my new real life friends for making Cisco Live the best ever.”  I honestly can’t wait to go to San Diego in 2012 and see what is in store for us there.  As long as we all show up ready to have fun, I have no doubt that it will be just as amazing as Cisco Live 2011 was.

I would like to thank all of my tweeps that showed up to hang out with me at Tom’s Corner and other places.  In no particular order:

Amy Arnold, Brandon Carroll, Bob McCouch, Chris Jones, Tony Mattke, Aaron Conaway, Teren Bryson, Doug Bineti, Ed Weadon, Scott McDermottKellen ChristensenBlake Krone, Andrew von Nagy, George Stefanick, Jennifer Huber, Stephen Foskett, Terry Slattery, Pilot Mike, Darby Weaver, Chris MargetPatrick Swackhammer, Mario Gingras, Jody Lemoine, Hank Yeomans, Jeff Fry, Dane DeValcourt, Marko Milivojevic, Steve Rossen, Oleg Konovalov, Erik Peterson, Jay Franklin, Ralph Olsen, Gideon TamJohn McAlpine, Ryan Adzima, Mr. Tugs, David West, Matt Reath, Shannon McFarland, Jon Nelson, Joe Papesh, Bryan Baize, James Key, Kira Swain, and last but not least Leslie Hasvold.

Why I Went Back To iOS 4.3.3…For Now

I’ve been an unofficial beta tester of iOS 5 for about two weeks now. There are a lot of interesting features that I think have the capability to make my life easier. First and foremost is the revamped notification system. Not being pulled out of my current thoughts by a modal dialog box is a great thing. Being able to deal with alerts on my schedule is very liberating. Also of great import to me is the integration with Twitter.
Allowing me to tag contacts with Twitter handles helps me keep my nerd friends straight, and the ability to snap pictures and upload them directly to Twitter is very helpful for those that takes tons of snapshots, like Stephen Foskett. There are even more features that have promise, like iMessage.

So why, on the eve of my trip to Cisco Live 2011, did I put my phone into DFU mode and go back to 4.3.3? Well, for all the greatness that I found in the beta, there were a couple of things that gave me pause. Enough pause that when I knew I was going to be at a conference where I would be relying heavily on my phone to be my lifeline to the rest of the world for a week, I had to go back to something a little more polished. My biggest complaint about the beta release of iOS 5 was the abysmal battery life. I wasn’t on beta release 1, which by all accounts had a battery life best measured in minutes. I jumped in during beta 2, where things were much improved, or so the story went. However, I found my battery life to be noticeably worse. I hesitated to use my phone to check my email or Twitter feed for fear it wouldn’t last through the day. If I actually made a call on it, I had to recharge it on the way home from work to be sure it would hold out. My trip to the OSDE tweetup was marred by less than 10% battery power, which made status updates unrealistically optimistic. I know that battery life is always a fine balance to maintain. New features require even more power, and the antiquated battery in my 3GS is quickly approaching the end of its useful life. However, if the next beta doesn’t address the battery life issue with a little more tweaking, it will be a hard choice to make.

Another irritation was the overall lagginess of my phone. Apps would take an extra second or two to launch than normal. Pulling up information inside Facebook or Safari seemed to freeze every time. My new fancy camera app crashed so much it was unusable. The phone just seemed to stall, like a computer with an old, slow processor or inadequate amount of RAM. Again, I know that most of this is due to the code train not being
optimized yet for release and the apps not being optimized for iOS 5. Usually, these are the last things to get fixed before release, so I’m optimistic that things will clear up. However, these are the same complaints that iPhone 3G users had about iOS 4 when it was released. It seems that maybe Apple’s support of 2-year old hardware is spotty in some cases.

Tom’s Take

Beta testing is always a crapshoot. You are agreeing to test something that may not be ready for prime time. I’ve been beta testing things since I got into computers and networking, so I’m never shocked by what I get into. However, in recent years, companies have been using the beta tag a lot differently. They either keep something that’s ready for release in beta forever, like GMail, or they push unfinished code out the door and make
their customers unwilling beta testers, which can best be summed up by the old maxim, “Don’t install a new version of Windows until the first service pack is released.” While I like many of the new features of iOS 5, the lack of polish in the battery life and lag departments were enough to make me reconsider my decision this time. I especially find that part funny, since I’ve never been so attached to a device to care about what revision
of code is running on it. I might give beta 3 a shot (if there is one), but for now I’m going back to something that isn’t going to make me tote around a 500-foot extension cord and curse my phone twice as much as I do already.

TweetPlusBook – Social Media for IT

A year and a half ago, social media was the furthest thing from my mind.  Twitter was for people that shared way too much information in way too few characters.  Facebook was a wasteland littered with Mafia Wars invites.  And Google+ wasn’t yet a gleam in the eye of some Mountain View programmers.  Flash forward to today and social media is a huge part of my day-to-day interaction with the world.  However, in order to keep my sanity when it comes to my online services, it might help to recognize how each of them are used and what their places really are.

Facebook for me is used as a place where my family and real life friends can read about things like my college football commentary and pictures of my kids and their pets.  Most of the people I went to high school with don’t know the true depths of my nerdity.  They would probably unfriend me just as fast if I start blabbering on about MPLS or LISP.  Facebook is where the boring details of my existence go for now.

Twitter is my geek outlet.  Until I signed up, I had to restrain my thoughts about networking and voice and virtualization. No one really wanted to hear about it on Facebook, and my wife’s eyes roll back in her head once I get on a good rant about EIGRP.  Once I realized that I could start expressing my repressed nerdy side, I realized that I had to be equally as cautious about what I put on Twitter.  Just as my nerd side really doesn’t fit in with Facebook, so too does my ‘normal’ side not really jive on Twitter.  I try to consciously avoid things like 4square checkins or useless contest invites cluttering my stream and the feeds of my followers.  I really attempt to avoid talking about things like sporting events or politics or any number of hot button subjects that can set people off without warning.  Those kinds of things can go into Facebook where only those that are interested can see them.

Google+, the latest invention in the Google Skunk Works, presents an altogether different proposition for social media interaction.  The idea that I can separate my social circles into different collections that don’t need to share information is very intriguing.  My family and real life friends can see a stream unpolluted with rants about Apple devices.  My nerd followers don’t need to be bothered by pictures of my terribly built attempts at woodworking.  People can be moved across different lines without much effort and no need to log in and out of five different clients to sync everything up.  It’s not without limitations, though.  Getting my mom and dad on Facebook took and act of Congress that I’d rather not repeat again.  Getting them to join Google+ may be a task of Herculean proportions.  Right now, Google+ is a social media service without much to the “social” part.  There aren’t enough people invited to expand circles much beyond tech people that “get” the idea behind Google+.  Right now, I have a lot of people in my Tech circle and hardly anyone in my other circles.  I’m sure time will win out as the service moves out of preview mode and opens up to a wider audience.  There’s a ton of potential in Google+ and I can’t wait to use it to offload some of my Twitter stream, Facebook status updates, and maybe even blogging topics.

Tom’s Take

I use social media to a large extent every day to gather information, learn about new things, and interact with a group of peers that I might not otherwise have been able to speak to.  At the same time, I realize the importance of compartmentalizing information.  My security background has taught me that much.  When it comes to deciding how to divide up those compartments, I think the Google+ model works rather well.  Using the symbolism of circles allows the users to visualize where their connections are placed in relation to each other.  At least it easily allows me to segregate everyone rather than mashing them all together in one big conflagration.  Because TweetPlusBook is a mouthful.