’tis the season

I guess at the end of it I enjoy this time of year.  There’s one unchanging reality though.  After Thanksgiving there’s just no getting anything done that’s not related to preparing for Christmas.

I’ve been noodling switching to SageTV for our PVR needs.  In the meantime I’ve been researching the details and trying to make sure it’ll actually do what we want it to.  I’d be annoyed if we spent money on gear and didn’t end up with a good solution.  It’s looking pretty good though.  I think after the 25th I’ll try the demo version of SageMC and try to get a sense for the flow of using it.

Related to that, if I go with SageTV part of my criteria is backing up all of our DVD’s.  I haven’t decided if I just want to rip them to h.264 or if I want to preserve the extras.  The argument against preserving the extras is that we  can simply pop in the DVD if we want to get to that and raw ISO’s of the DVD’s would take up a LOT more space than compressed h.264.  DVD management has become a real problem with the kids though and it sure would be nice to have all of that digitized.  Either way, DVD’s will require a lot more storage space than I already have.

I’m probably going to head in the direction of a Linux based software RAID using LVM.  Sounds really cool from what I’ve been reading.  I should be able to add disks and arrays and expand the volume dynamically through LVM.  No more shifting of content around when an array gets too small.  I should also see a performance boost as I’m using windows software RAID 5 currently.  It’s been working fine for me but I’ve also been reading horror stories.  Not to mention the performance is rotten compared to Linux.

Look for posts regarding all of this after the 25th.

So maybe I was wrong…

…but not entirely.  Turns out the 180 day waiting period for tests is only if you pass.  That makes more sense as the only good reason you’d have for going back right away is to braindump.

Ok, so maybe I jumped the gun a bit.

Still, there’s a reason I would consider Cisco actually pulling a stunt like that.  Despite the lip service to SMB’s they continue to treat their small integrators like crap.  I still stand by my feelings on this.

Cisco’s SMB focus is superficial

I certainly hope this isn’t the case.  If it turns out to be wrong I’ll post an apology.  However, in a recent post on CiscoBlog there’s a troubling comment.  The post itself shows how silly Cisco can be about certain things.  It’s essentially talking about Cisco taking your picture when you take an exam.  Ok, no big deal.  Like DRM it only affects the honest people, but our pictures are already taken in so many other contexts, who cares if there’s another one.

No, the really troubling thing is from one of the comments.  Cisco might now be forcing a 180 day waiting period before retaking the same (number based) test if you fail it.  That’s 6 months for the mathematically challenged.  I can only hope those are calendar days.

This can’t possibly be true.  If it is, it would have dire consequences.  Quite often careers hinge on the ability to get certified.  Having to wait 6 months to try again, at the risk of failing again, is frightening.  Talk about a chilling affect.

So, how does this hurt small businesses?  SMB’s are largely served by small integrators.  We’re talking about the Premier Partners, not Silver and Gold.  Each level has certification requirements and recently Cisco tightened up the ability to have people cover multiple tracks.  So, if you only want to be Premier it’s not as big a deal.  You only need 2 or 3 separate individuals.  I can’t remember which.  However, if you want to also be Unified Communications certified, or Advanced Wireless you then need other individuals to support those roles.  Officially it’s a 2×2 rule.  Any one person can support 2 roles in any 2 specializations.  Premier, or “Foundation” is considering a specialization.  You can imagine in a small company you start to run out of people to fill roles.

Now imagine that the partner re-cert deadline is approaching.  Engineers start going to take tests and fail them the first time out.  Wait 6 months?  The partner cert expires because you don’t have certified bodies?  You have to start the process all over again once everyone passes certifications?

Cisco keeps talking about how they’ve not addressed the SMB space effectively and how they want to change that.  Their actions tell a different story.  What I can’t figure out is if they think the SMB’s will just be happy paying large integrator prices after they force all of the SMB integrators out of the market.  And do they really think they can get away with that when their competitors aren’t treating SMB integrators the same way?