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IFDS goes hands-on with Zerto’s Kubernetes backup

As International Financial Data Services (IFDS) started containerizing more and more environments, it needed better Kubernetes backup.

IFDS first dipped its toes into containers in 2017. The company writes its own software for the financial industry, and the first container deployment was for its application development environment. With the success of the large containerized quality assurance testing environment, the company started using containers in production as well.

Headquartered in Toronto, IFDS provides outsourcing and technology for financial companies, such as investment funds’ record keeping and back-office support. It has around 2,400 employees, a clientele of about 240 financial organizations and $3.6 trillion CAD ($2.65 trillion US) in assets under administration.

Kent Pollard, senior infrastructure architect at IFDS, has been with the company for 25 of its 33-year history and said containerizing production opened up a need for backup. One of the use cases of containers is to quickly bring up applications or services with little resource overhead and without the need to store anything. However, Pollard said IFDS’ container environment was no longer about simply spinning up and spinning down.

“We’re not a typical container deployment. We have a lot of persistent storage,” Pollard said.

Zerto recently unveiled its Zerto for Kubernetes backup product at ZertoCon 2020, but Pollard has been working with an alpha build of it for the past month. He said it is still in early stages, and he’s been giving feedback to Zerto, but he has a positive impression so far. Pollard said not having to turn to another vendor such as IBM, Asigra or Trilio for Kubernetes backup will be a huge benefit.

Kent PollardKent Pollard

Pollard’s current container backup method uses Zerto to restore containers in a roundabout way. His container environment is built in Red Hat OpenShift and running in a virtualized environment. Zerto is built for replicating VMs, so Pollard can use it to restore the entire VM housing OpenShift. The drawback is this reverts the entire VM to an earlier state, when all he wanted was to restore a single container.

Pollard said, at the least, Zerto for Kubernetes instead allows him to restore at the container level. He understood the early nature of what he’s been testing and said he is looking forward to when other Zerto capabilities get added, such as ordered recovery and automated workflows for failover and testing. From his limited experience, Pollard said he believes Zerto for Kubernetes has the potential to fill his container backup needs.

Pollard said Zerto for Kubernetes will give him incentive to containerize more of IFDS’ environment. The number of containers IFDS currently has in production is still relatively small, and part of the reason Pollard won’t put more critical workloads in containers is because he can’t protect them yet.

He said there were many reasons IFDS moved to containers three years ago. With containers, IFDS is able to more efficiently use its underlying hardware resources, enabling faster responses to application load changes. Pollard also said it improved IFDS’ security and supports the company’s future move to the cloud and built out a hybrid infrastructure. Zerto provided Pollard with an AWS environment to test Zerto for Kubernetes, but IFDS currently has no cloud footprint whatsoever.

IFDS first deployed Zerto in late 2014. It started as a small production environment deployment on a couple of VMs but became the company’s standard tool for disaster recovery. IFDS now uses Zerto to protect 190 VMs and 200 TB of storage. Pollard said he was sold after the first annual DR test when Zerto completed in 30 minutes.

“We never had anything that fast. It was always hours and hours for a DR test,” he said.

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Pandemic could alter healthcare CIO terrain

Healthcare CIOs started 2020 with a roadmap for health IT projects that then took a sharp turn because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

David Chou, CIO at Harris Health System in Houston, Texas, and former principal analyst at Constellation Research Inc., said healthcare CIOs have adjusted their focus away from longer-term projects and toward day-to-day technologies and priorities that enable operations to continue. The pandemic could also be a catalyst for transforming the role of the CIO, making a strong case for healthcare IT leaders to push out of the back office and become executive partners, Chou said.

In this Q&A, Chou, who started as CIO at Harris Health System in May, discusses what tools CIOs are looking at right now as well as how the pandemic will have a lasting effect on health IT and the role of CIO.

What trends or technologies are healthcare CIOs paying attention to right now?

David ChouDavid Chou

David Chou: Virtual care, I think that is definitely here to stay. The industry has been waiting for it. Adoption has been slow with maybe some resistance, but I would say now people are going to go full speed ahead and there is a lot of emphasis there. Remote patient monitoring, anything that’s going to improve the wellness of patients without having to see a doctor, those types of initiatives will definitely be there.

I think a lot of CIOs may also recognize [areas] where they don’t have the proper foundation in place to support these virtual initiatives. … So there are a lot of investments in the necessary foundation to really scale, for example, a remote workforce from 3,000 to 18,000. You’ve got to have the right foundation to be able to scale that properly in an expeditious manner. Foundational technology is top-of-mind right now versus any new shiny object.

What are some of those foundational technologies CIOs are looking at?

Chou: The infrastructure networks — you have to be thinking about utilizing software. You hear about software-defined networks where you can roll out a new site and manage the flow of traffic utilizing software. Really scale up or scale down your site easily. That’s going to be huge, and what people should be thinking about in terms of next-generation infrastructure.

Foundational technology is top-of-mind right now versus any new shiny object.
David ChouCIO, Harris Health System

Are CIOs doubling down on tools they have versus bringing in new technologies?

Chou: Definitely [doubling down] for the later part of this year and maybe Q1, Q2 of next year. I think there’s enough work in terms of deploying and optimizing what you already have in-house rather than going out and buying the new shiny thing people may be thinking about.

What will CIOs be looking at to help healthcare systems reopen for routine, in-person care?

Chou: Some organizations are going to have to mature their data platforms, whether it’s business intelligence or just enterprise analytics because that is going to help drive decision-making. … There will be a lot of emphasis on making data available so users can take action. That’s going to be critical as things are starting to open up.

Organizations have to reevaluate their business models too. Coming into the start of this year pre-COVID, there was a lot of emphasis on modernizing their back office. [For example,] moving toward ERP is probably on everyone’s agenda in the healthcare provider world within the next two to three years. That may be on pause, but this may also be a good time to reflect on that. That’s not just updating a system, it’s about reevaluating your supply chain that has probably not changed in the last 15 years. You have to redesign the process to be more efficient in today’s new world. You can only do that with the right data in place to make those decisions, but also to transform the organization’s process. That’s the hard part.

How do you think this pandemic will impact the role of the CIO?

Chou: I would say there’s probably going to be a change in expectation for IT and CIO leaders. The traditional philosophy and traditional management of just keeping the lights on is probably not going to fare well in the new era where [organizations] are looking at technology to be a competitive advantage and a differentiator. The CIO that can really do that can help organizations maximize their investment and are going to be key drivers and partners for the CEO and the executive team. The ones who are not able to do that and are focused on managing technology without understanding the true impact, I would say they may not be around their seats much longer.

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Investing in tech startups an act of trust for VC firms

When investing in tech startups, including BI vendors trying to get started, venture capital firms want to see more than just a good idea.

They want to see a real need for a particular product when they consider investing in tech startups, and they want to see founders who have enough management experience that they won’t ruin a company with poor decisions even if what they’re bringing to market could stand out.

There is also a litany of things they don’t want to see when they’re investing in tech startups, warnings that tell investors a particular company is a bad bet.

Vanessa Larco is a partner at New Enterprise Associates, a venture capital firm with over $20 billion in assets under management. From Salesforce and Tableau years ago to Sisu just recently, NEA has a history of investing in tech startups, and betting on BI vendors in particular. Larco, meanwhile, has a background in computer science that includes time as director of product management at Box and leading the speech recognition experience team at Xbox Kinect v1, and she leads some of NEA’s investments in tech startups and participates on deal teams led by colleagues.

Vanessa LarcoVanessa Larco

Larco recently answered a series of questions about investing in tech startups. In Part I of a two-part Q&A, she discussed what she looks for in BI startups and what stood out about Sisu. In Part II, she went into detail about what might prevent an investor from working with a company, and her process for investing in tech startups.

In a given year, how many tech startups — not only BI vendors — might NEA invest in?

Vanessa Larco: It’s anywhere from 15 to 30 new investments per year where we take a board seat — this excludes seed deals.

Meanwhile, when looking at investing in tech startups — those 15 to 30 in a given year — how many pitches do you go through before choosing who to work with?

Larco: For me individually, I invest in one or two companies a year — period. I spend 12 months just finding those one or two companies a year. But I talk to at least one or two companies a day, so I’m seeing between 600 and 1,000 companies a year and I invest in one.

So of those other 599 to 999 companies, what is it about them that eliminates them? What are some obvious warning signs and some more subtle things that stop you from investing in a tech startup?

I can think of hundreds of reasons why you shouldn’t invest, but what you’re actually thinking about is what’s that thing, what’s the spark that makes you suspend disbelief and take that leap of faith.
Vanessa LarcoPartner, NEA

Larco: By default, it’s more about what is that special thing that makes me say, ‘Yes.’ When you’re investing in a company in their early startup phase, there are a billion reasons why you shouldn’t invest. I can give you a thousand red flags — the capital-to-revenue ratio doesn’t make sense, the team isn’t experienced in the space, it’s too early for us because they’re pre-product, or it’s too late for us because they’re pre-IPO, the work that they’re going after isn’t big enough, the economics don’t really make sense, and I don’t understand how they’re going to make sense in the future. I can think of hundreds of reasons why you shouldn’t invest, but what you’re actually thinking about is what’s that thing, what’s the spark that makes you suspend disbelief and take that leap of faith, because they’re all leaps of faith.

So what gives you that faith when investing in tech startups?

Larco: On every deal, at least a dozen people are like, ‘That’s the dumbest stuff that I’ve ever seen; how did that person ever think that was a good idea?’ You have way more naysayers than you have people who think something is brilliant. That’s just the nature of investing in startups.

You’re looking for that spark when something just clicks for you about the founding team, whether it’s that they’re incredibly accomplished, or have some unique insights, or there’s something incredibly special that even if something doesn’t make sense you feel like the team will figure it out and you just really want to work with them. There’s enough stuff there that’s interesting that you believe they’ll make something work and their initial hypothesis is something I can get behind. Or it’s, ‘Holy cow, I’ve never seen such an innovative product. It meets a need that no one is paying attention to, and it leads to their vision of how they’ll become an independent company… that expand its vision.’ Or it can be that you don’t really get it, but holy smokes, look at the customers they have attracted in a short amount of time — these are hard customers and we know they don’t just buy anything, so we know something is there, and if these people see it a bunch of other people will see it and they’ll be successful.

And what’s the process – how does the relationship start and progress to the point where NEA commits capital?

Larco: It’s different for everybody. Some people are super data driven, some people are very relationship driven. I’m personally a hybrid of being space driven and relationship driven. There are some spaces I really like, data being one of them, HR tech being another. And then I want to get to know the people and find out if they’re people I’ll click with, so then we’ll just spend time together over months, and then when they’re ready I’m just like, ‘I’m here.’ We’ve done all the work, I know I want to invest. And from there you talk to your partnership and do a financial analysis and a returns analysis, and do the actual quantitative work. That’s the easier part. The harder part is to get the conviction to take a leap of faith. For me that’s about the relationship, and I really believe in the founders — I see the need.

How long might it take from the point when you first meet with someone to the point when you close the deal?

Larco: For me it’s longer than most. I like to get to know someone because ideally we’re going to spend the next 10 years of our lives working together, through the ups and the downs, so I want to get to know the founders a year before they actually want to take funding from us. And once they say they’re ready to go, it can take us two to four weeks to make the investment as a partnership.

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Differentiation key for BI startups when attracting investors

BI startups, like all companies when they’re getting started, need money to get off the ground.

BI startups need to show that they have a good idea, and are not simply repackaging analytics software platforms already on the market. They need to show that they can build a strong product, and that their founders have the expertise to build and sustain something commercially viable.

And with that, they need to attract investors to fund the company in the years it takes between the time an idea forms and a company becomes financially solvent.

Vanessa Larco is a partner at New Enterprise Associates, a venture capital firm with over $20 billion assets under management. NEA was an early investor in companies such as Tableau and Salesforce when they were tech startups, and, among many other types of companies, continues to invest in BI startups. Recently, NEA was part of an investment round in Sisu, a startup BI vendor founded in 2018 and based in San Francisco.

Vanessa LarcoVanessa Larco

Larco, meanwhile, has an extensive background in computer science, and before joining NEA was director of product management at Box. Prior to that, she worked in the gaming industry, leading the speech recognition experience team at Xbox Kinnect v1. She leads deals investing in tech companies, including BI startups, and participates in others led by colleagues.

Larco recently took time to answer questions about investing in BI startups.

In Part I of a two-part Q&A, she discusses what she looks for in a BI startup and what she loved about Sisu. In Part II, Larco talks about the process of investing in BI startups, including the warning signs that arise that may keep her from investing.

When you’re considering investing in BI startups, what are some of the characteristics you want to see in a vendor that tell you it might make a good investment?

Vanessa Larco: I think every partner has their own journey when trying to figure out where to invest. For me, I draw a lot on my experience having been a product manager. When I think about what the challenges were that I had or that my team had in building, launching, supporting, maintaining products and then when you see a solution — whether it’s in data or any other vertical — that makes sense and you can say, ‘Wow, if this had existed when I was doing things it would have made my life easier, my team’s life easier,’ it’s something that resonates right off the bat.

I think every partner has their own journey when trying to figure out where to invest. For me, I draw a lot on my experience having been a product manager.
Vanessa LarcoPartner, NEA

You then validate it against actual teams that are still building things and ask them if this would be helpful, and that validates the real need for it.

In the case of Sisu, what stood out about them and led NEA to decide it was a company worth betting on?

Larco: Every process, as much as we like it to be standardized, turns out to be its own unique snowflake, and in the case of Sisu, Pete Sonsini led the deal team and I joined the deal team, meaning I helped him evaluate the opportunity and spent time with the team. I am super excited about Sisu. I ran it by some of my portfolio companies, particularly the ones who [complain that] board meetings take forever because they show a bunch of data and people ask, ‘Well why did this happen, why did that happen?’ And to get those answers it takes at least week. So when I saw the Sisu value proposition I wondered if this will solve that problem.

Even back when I led a product team in the past and we would present to CEOs, we’d show numbers going up and down and they’d ask, ‘Well, why did that happen?’ We’d have to get back to them. It’s just super painful when you know they’re going to ask you why, and that is what takes forever. Sometimes you spend all that time trying to figure out why, and then nothing comes of it, so when I saw the Sisu value proposition I thought that if this actually works it could be game changing.

What happened after you saw Sisu’s value proposition?

Larco: I took it to a good friend at a portfolio company to kick the tires, and they were like, ‘Yes. Yes, this awesome. Thank you so much.’ They said their data person would be so happy they wouldn’t be bogged down answering some very simple questions and doing the manual work to answer why, so from that perspective it was super exciting.

Once NEA invests in BI startups, how much influence does it want going forward — does it seek a spot on the board of directors, leave the company alone or something in between?

Larco: Each case in venture is different. It’s not a high-volume type of industry — we’re not doing hundreds of deals a year — so each deal is very unique and each financing round is unique. But in general, the earlier in the company’s lifecycle you invest in, the founders want you on their board because they want the attention and support, the advice, the feedback, the connection. VCs, in most cases, have been on many boards and seen a lot of stories play out, and you have a lot of connections to potential customers, and so to be able to understand what a company’s needs are as they change is really valuable. Most of the time, both parties want a seat on the board.

But if it’s super, super early and someone else leads the financing round and you’re just participating, someone else takes the board seat. Or if it’s the late stages then the board is already pretty filled out and it has less unknowns than in the early formation years, in those cases you may not take a seat on the board. If an investor is acquiring a significant amount of equity and you’re between 15 and 30 percent, they will typically take a board seat. Anything less than that, it may not make a ton of sense to take a board seat — there’s a limit to how many board seats we can take.

Besides Sisu, who are some startups in the BI/analytics space NEA has recently invested in?

Larco: My colleague Julia Schottenstein led the investment in Metabase, which is in the data space in the open-source project world. I was on the deal team and attended the board meetings for a company called OmniSci. The real value proposition there is they do some really cool geospatial [analysis], and it’s lightning fast. If you need data and need to visualize it across any type of map, I haven’t seen anything like it. From my gaming and advertising days that would have been a massive help. It’s a category that historically if you were investors in Tableau and other data companies that have done really well — it’s a category NEA has performed really well in in the past. It’s a massive category for IT spends, so it’s an area we actively invest in year over year.

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Major funding, SaaS trends top data backup news in 2019

In the backup market, 2019 started with a financial bang.

On back-to-back days in January, Rubrik announced a $261 million funding round, while Veeam disclosed that Insight Venture Partners invested an additional $500 million in the data backup and management vendor.

That data backup news set the tone for a busy year of more funding rounds, acquisitions, CEO changes, new products and key trends in a market that is constantly evolving.

Backup business busy with acquisitions, funding, leadership changes

Much like recent years, backup was big business in 2019.

Carbonite had one of the busiest years of all. In March, the data protection vendor acquired cybersecurity firm Webroot for $618.5 million, with a focus on fighting ransomware. In July, CEO Mohamad Ali left to take the same job at tech media company International Data Group, with board chairman Steve Munford filling the role at Carbonite on an interim basis. Then in November, following months of rumors of a possible sale, content management provider OpenText acquired Carbonite for $1.42 billion, to help expand its cloud offerings.

Commvault also transitioned to a new leader, as longtime CEO Bob Hammer stepped down and former Puppet CEO Sanjay Mirchandani stepped in. The company made its first acquisition in September, buying software-defined storage vendor Hedvig for $225 million to help converge primary and secondary storage for better data management.

Headshot of Commvault's Sanjay MirchandaniSanjay Mirchandani

Acronis became the latest unicorn, closing a $147 million funding round in September at a valuation of more than $1 billion. The company has shifted from a backup-focused product portfolio to a more comprehensive cyber protection platform. Like Carbonite, Acronis now has a major emphasis on cybersecurity.

Druva and its cloud-focused backup and recovery product set received a $130 million funding haul. Just a month later, the vendor acquired CloudLanes and its cloud migration technology.

Veeam Software, which is on the lookout for acquisitions, actually did the reverse this year. The vendor sold back AWS data protection provider N2WS, a company it acquired two years ago, to the original founders. Veeam is launching its own products focused on AWS and Azure backup.

In other data backup news developments:

  • Veritas Technologies acquired Aptare to improve its storage analytics and monitoring.
  • Cohesity made its first acquisition, choosing Imanis Data for NoSQL database protection.
  • Spencer Kupferman took over as CEO of AWS data protection provider Cloud Daddy, a recent entrant into the market.
  • OwnBackup secured $23.25 million, its largest funding round, for expansion of its Salesforce data protection.
  • David Bennett, previously the chief revenue officer at Webroot, became the new CEO of backup and disaster recovery vendor Axcient.

SaaS backup continues its ascent

The software-as-a-service backup market remains one of the hottest in tech. The word is out that SaaS applications such as Salesforce, Google’s G Suite and Microsoft Office 365 need backup because these vendors typically have protection for their own infrastructure but not for your individual files.

Clumio came out of stealth in August with its cloud-based backup as a service. Noting that “SaaS is taking over,” Clumio CEO Poojan Kumar described his company’s founding vision as “building a data management platform on top of the public cloud.” The vendor originally offered protection for VMware on premises, VMware Cloud on AWS and native AWS services. While closing a $135 million funding round in November, Clumio pledged support for more public clouds, SaaS applications and containers, starting with Amazon Elastic Block Store protection.

Clumio backup dashboard
Clumio, which provides backup as a service, came out of stealth in August.

Commvault launched a SaaS backup subsidiary, Metallic, with an emphasis on protecting servers and VMs, Office 365 and endpoints. The data protection vendor is aiming Metallic at smaller businesses than its usual enterprise customers.

Much like recent years, backup was big business in 2019.

In other notable data backup news on the SaaS front:

  • Druva enhanced its SaaS backup capabilities, adding restore options to its Office 365 protection and introducing backup for Slack and Microsoft Teams conversations.
  • Odaseva, a data protection vendor focused on Salesforce, unveiled a high-availability option for the customer relationship management provider.
  • The newly launched Actifio Go SaaS platform offers direct-to-cloud backup to AWS, Azure, Google, IBM and Wasabi public clouds.
  • Arcserve updated its Unified Data Protection product to provide granular, file-level backup and recovery for Office 365.
  • Veeam enhanced its Backup for Microsoft Office 365, the fastest growing product in the history of the company, to back up directly to the cloud to either Azure or AWS.

Container backup takes the spotlight

One area that emerged in 2019 is backup of containers. As Kubernetes workloads in particular increase in popularity, organizations will need specifically targeted protection. Newer vendors, including Kasten, Robin and Portworx, focus on Kubernetes protection and management. Products from other vendors, including IBM Spectrum Protect, tackle Kubernetes protection in addition to other capabilities.

Container and SaaS backup will likely increase in 2020. Organizations should continue to keep an eye on data backup news, as products and businesses are evolving at a dramatic pace.

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Azure Quickstart Center – Microsoft Garage

It started with data. Data showed customers were experiencing difficulties onboarding to Azure, not knowing how to get started, with murky understanding of all the tools and services available to them. Ayesha Ghaffar, a data scientist who analyzed these and many other customer onboarding experiences, saw an opportunity to improve the existing process. She put together a proposal of a new way to acclimate customers to Azure. Ayesha began meeting with a few product teams about her idea and everyone felt it was worthwhile to pursue – but what she found was resources were thin and other commitments took priority. “I just wanted to make this idea a reality, but I was a data scientist and I didn’t know how on my own. I needed help to make this happen.” The answer came in the 2017 company-wide Hackathon. “A week before the Hackathon started, I thought, ‘I’m just going to write an email and put it out there. This is the problem, this is how we can solve it, and this is the impact.’ I sent it to everyone.”

Soon, employees from around the world – designers, user researchers, developers, program managers – wanted to join her Hackathon project. They found a common passion for the customer experience. Peilin Nee shared her experience as part of the hack team. “Designing with empathy begins with yourself. This was my first time working with 15 others coming from different disciplines who have never met before. What amazed me is how we put aside our differences and work towards our shared dream – provide new Azure users a better getting-started experience and ultimately increase trial users’ adoption rate. And, we did just that in two and a half days.”

Azure Quickstart Center

For their hack project, called Azure Launchpad, they created an extension in the Azure Portal that served as a hub for key getting started resources and personal recommendations for customers to achieve their cloud goals. Their efforts were noticed by the head of the Azure Portal product, Leon Welicki who was able to secure a Portal developer, Asher Garland, to continue to work on the project. While Ayesha was still a data scientist, she worked with Asher on a private preview version of Quickstart Center for the Ignite 2017 conference.

After the positive feedback they received from the private preview released for the conference, they were invited to present their work to Scott Guthrie who later mentioned it in one of his employee meetings. Because Ayesha moonlit as a product manager for the hack project, the Portal team eventually hired her to work on it full time as the PM in November 2017.

At Build 2018, Azure Quickstart Center shipped in public preview and became available to all customers through the Azure Portal. In 2019, Azure Quickstart Center partnered with the FastTrack team and Azure Docs to introduce Azure setup guides in the Quickstart Center to help customers deal with more complex scenarios like governance and migration based on the Microsoft Cloud Adoption Framework for Azure.

“The Cloud Adoption Framework provides the One Microsoft voice for cloud adoption. Azure Quickstart Center has made that voice actionable by injecting pointed and relevant guidance into the customer experience. The user now has prescriptive instructions at the point of execution. Together, these assets create a seamless integration of strategy and tactical execution,” shared Brian Blanchard, Sr. Director, Cloud Adoption Framework.

The Hackathon helped the team get feedback and continues to be a way to showcase the value of their ideas and projects. For Ayesha, “Hackathon is one of my favorite things at Microsoft – it helped me land a job as a PM, get visibility on the solution, and I learned how to solve customer problems in depth.” For the 2019 Hackathon, Ayesha and team (along with FastTrack team) iterated on features they could add that customers have said they wanted. “The goal is to democratize knowledge and put it in these custom guides. Our superpower is enabling our customers and partners to find their own superpowers. Cloud can be complicated, we want to enable customers and partners to simplify it for their organizations by creating their own custom guides for their users.”

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For Sale – Retina Macbook Pro 13 inch Late 2013

Yes you can update it yourself easily, it doesnt need to be connected to iCloud. I have started downloading Mac OS High Sierra, and will install that.

Everything works perfectly. On closer inspection there are two dead pixels (one I had not noticed before now!). They are tiny, and only noticeable on a pure white background, and if you are really close to the screen. Under normal use, you will not notice them. I tried to take a few photos to show it as bad as possible.

If you look on the attached file, the first one is under the U and I in “restart required” and the second one is under the e in “software”.

No box, but it comes with a charger. I will also chuck in a case for it, its not an expensive one (£15 or so) but its ok, and it protects it well for transit too.

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For Sale – Retina Macbook Pro 13 inch Late 2013

Yes you can update it yourself easily, it doesnt need to be connected to iCloud. I have started downloading Mac OS High Sierra, and will install that.

Everything works perfectly. On closer inspection there are two dead pixels (one I had not noticed before now!). They are tiny, and only noticeable on a pure white background, and if you are really close to the screen. Under normal use, you will not notice them. I tried to take a few photos to show it as bad as possible.

If you look on the attached file, the first one is under the U and I in “restart required” and the second one is under the e in “software”.

No box, but it comes with a charger. I will also chuck in a case for it, its not an expensive one (£15 or so) but its ok, and it protects it well for transit too.

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Lessons learned from PowerShell Summit 2019

Most Windows administrators have at least dabbled with PowerShell to get started on their automation journey, but for more advanced practices, it helps to attend a conference, such as the PowerShell Summit.

For the second straight year, I attended the PowerShell + DevOps Global Summit in Bellevue, Wash., earlier this year. As an avid PowerShell user and evangelist, I greatly enjoy being around fellow community members to talk shop about how we use PowerShell in our jobs as well as catch the deep dive sessions.

This year was a bit different for me as I also presented a session, “Completely Automate Managing Windows Software … Forever,” to explain how I use Chocolatey with PowerShell to automate the deployment of third-party software in my full-time position.

There’s a lot of value in the sessions at PowerShell Summit. Administrators and developers who rely on PowerShell get a chance to learn something new and build their skill set. The videos from the sessions are on YouTube, but if you don’t attend in person you will miss out on the impromptu hallway discussions. These gatherings can be a great way to meet a lot of veteran IT professionals, community leads and even PowerShell team members. Jeffrey Snover, the inventor of PowerShell, was also in attendance.

In this article, I will cover my experiences at this year’s PowerShell Summit and some of the lessons learned during the week.

AWS Serverless Computing

Serverless computing is a very hot topic for many organizations that want to cut costs and reduce the work it takes to support a Windows deployment. With serverless computing, there is no need to manage a Windows Server machine and all its requisite setup and maintenance work. You can use an API to run PowerShell, and it will scale automatically.

I have not tried any sort of serverless computing, but it didn’t take much to see its potential and advantages during the demonstration.

Andrew Pearce, a senior systems development engineer at AWS, presented a session entitled “Unleash Your PowerShell With AWS Lambda and Serverless Computing.” Pearce’s talk covered how to use Amazon’s event-drive computing with PowerShell Core.

I have not tried any sort of serverless computing, but it didn’t take much to see its potential and advantages during the demonstration. Pearce explained that a PowerShell function can run from an event, such as when an image is placed in an AWS Simple Storage Service bucket, to convert the image to multiple resolutions depending on the organization’s need. Another possibility is to run a PowerShell function in response to an IoT event, such as someone ringing a doorbell.

Simple Hierarchy in PowerShell

Simple Hierarchy in PowerShell (SHiPS) is an area in PowerShell that looks interesting, but one that I have not had much experience with. The concepts of SHiPs is similar to traversing a file system in PowerShell; a SHiPs provider can create a provider that looks like a hierarchical file system.

Providers have been a part of PowerShell since version 1.0 and give access to data and components not easily reached from the command line, such as the Windows certificate store. One common example is the PowerCLI data store provider to let users to access a data store in vSphere.

You can see what providers you have on a system with the Get-PSProvider command.

PowerShell providers
The Get-PSProvider cmdlet lists the providers available on the system.

Another familiar use of a PowerShell provider is the Windows registry, which PowerShell can navigate like a traditional file system.

Glenn Sarti of Puppet gave a session entitled “How to Become a SHiPS Wright – Building With SHiPS.” Attempting to write your own provider from scratch is a complex undertaking that ordinarily requires advanced programming skill and familiarity with the PowerShell software development kit. SHiPs attempts to bypass this complexity and make provider development easier by writing provider code in PowerShell. Sarti explained that SHiPs reduces the amount of code to write a module from thousands of lines to less than 20 in some instances.

In his session, Sarti showed how to use SHiPs to create an example provider using the PowerShell Summit agenda and speakers as data. After watching this session, it sparked an idea to create a provider for a Chocolatey repository as if it were a file system.

PowerShell Remoting Internals

In this deep dive session, Paul Higinbotham, a member of the PowerShell team, covered how PowerShell remoting works. Higinbotham explained PowerShell’s five different transports to remoting, or protocols, it can use to run remote commands on another system.

In Windows, the most popular is WinRM since PowerShell is most often used on Windows. For PowerShell Core, OpenSSH is the best option for cross-platform use since both Windows and Linux. The advantage here is you can run PowerShell Core scripts from Windows to Linux and vice versa. Since I work in a mostly Linux environment, using Secure Shell (SSH) and PowerShell together makes a lot of sense.

This session taught me about the existence of interprocess communication remoting in PowerShell Core. This is accomplished with the command Enter-PSHostProcess and the main perk being the ability to debug scripts on a remote system from your local machine.

Toward the end of the presentation, Higinbotham shared a great diagram of the remoting architecture and goes over what each component does during a remoting session.

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