Archive for Alex Galbraith

TekBytes #4: Why I’ve Switched to Simple Markdown in WordPress

I’m always looking for ways to improve my workflow and productivity; most recently I’ve started using Markdown for as many projects as I can, so using Markdown in WordPress is no exception!

If you haven’t seen or used Markdown before; it’s a super-lightweight markup language that allows you to add formatting elements as you go by using special syntax. For example, if you want to make a section of text display in italic, simply put an asterisk at the start of the word or sentence. When the output is then parsed, your *Italics* then becomes Italics).

Why is this useful?
  • Like an XML file, it’s open, super portable and easily readable across many applications, operating systems and web platforms (think Reddit, GitHub, Stack Exchange, Confluence, etc).
  • It saves time when editing simple documents as you don’t have to go back and highlight/modify formatting, just add the syntax as you go, often with the use of one or two characters at the start of a line. Simple examples might be a bulleted list, where you add an asterisk *, or an H1 heading where you add a single hash symbol #.
  • It’s fantastic for writing documentation where you might want to insert a quick code snippet or command just like this!
  • Due to the very simple notation, it’s far quicker than writing HTML and can be substituted for HTML on many publishing platforms.
  • If Git is already part of your workflow, it makes for easy collaboration with others (ideal for Devs!) and you can use GitHub for both version control and easy access from anywhere to your in-progress content.
  • Learning and practising with Markdown opens up future opportunities to move to various publishing platforms such as Jekyll, Hugo, etc. I might even think about giving the site a facelift sometime soon!
  • New skill to master, init?
Markdown Block - Activate Markdown
Using Markdown in WordPress
You’ve sold me! How do I start?

I don’t know why WordPress didn’t enable it in the default code, but it does come as part of Jetpack (which I assume 90% of sensible WordPress Users are using!). If you want to adopt it to your blogging workflow your site too, simply install Jetpack, then enable it under Settings → Writing.

You can find detailed instructions here:
WordPress Support – Enable Markdown in WordPress

Here’s a quick intro to how to use Markdown:
Markdown – Getting Started

After writing a couple of draft posts with it so far, I have to say I’m pretty happy with it. The next step is to find a decent plugin for linking to GitHub, enabling me to write/edit posts in my favourite text editor (VSCode, Sublime Text, Atom depending on my mood), then push them up via Git!

Answer Honestly: Are you Ersatz Cloud Native?

cloud

As we approach the middle of the year, I’ve been in the full-on strategic planning mode the last couple of weeks and cloud native is a major focus for me! As part of this, I was looking at industry trends and a particular type of organisation caught my eye.

Most organisations often aspire to increase agility, to respond quicker to their customers and market demands, to innovate. However, many organisations have years of technical debt, monolithic application stacks and shrinking IT budgets. IT is still too often seen as a cost centre instead of an opportunity to become a profit centre and agent for growth.

These organisations have one thing in common; they see lifting and shifting to the cloud as the silver bullet.

I thought Cloud was the silver bullet?

Now don’t get me wrong, cloud is AWESOME! It does help to address some of the challenges identified, but anyone who has been working in this space for any length of time will tell you cloud is an enabler, not the solution.

Moving your workloads to cloud is like moving your business from your garage to a shiny new workshop, with an array of amazing tools hanging on the wall just begging to help you with your next project.

You have room to breathe, so your innovation is now limited by your imagination, far more than your square footage! If you come up with an idea that turns out quickly to be garbage, there’s a handy industrial skip out the back, meaning you don’t have to wait 2 weeks until the next grey bin day to get rid of it!

Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all! You still need to understand the tools, how they work to achieve outcomes faster and what problems they solve, lest you accidently lop off a finger!

Sounds great! Am I Cloud Native now then?

Here’s the key – unless we re-evaluate everything we do today and adopt new ways of working, we are simply not going to realise the benefit of working out of our shiny new workshop, with our huge array of tools!

In the real world this means your entire process from whiteboard ideation to deployment, the ongoing lifecycle of applications and everything / everyone / every process that touches them!

To me, cloud native means a set of technologies, the methodologies and processes to manage them and a state of mind which needs to permeate an organisation!

If you’ve simply lifted and shifted your existing estate and dropped it into the cloud, you’re not cloud native, you’re simply running VMs in a different data centre.

Much like the famed elevator from Lemony Snicket, VMs in the cloud are simply playing at being Cloud, or more accurately, Ersatz Cloud Native.

Further Reading:

I wrote another brief post on cloud native considerations a while back:
The Complexity of Public Cloud Architecture

TekBytes #3: A Certification Haiku for the vExpert Announcement!

I am very chuffed to have become a VMware vExpert for the 6th time this year! Last year I wrote a post about how awesome the programme is, so I won’t bore you with that this year! If you want to read it, you can find it here:

VMware vExpert 2017 – It’s not just about the schwag!

Instead, I am compelled to write a wee haiku about something which most vExperts hold near and dear to their hearts – IT certification!

I hope you enjoy!

 

Certification;

Rolling in my hamster wheel,

Will it ever end?

 

Anyway enough messing about, better get back to the studying!… GCP next! 🤓

TekBytes #2: The Complexity of Public Cloud Architecture

cloud

For many organisations, the cloud and cloud-native application refactoring is attractive. This is often due to the belief that it will reduce complexity and risk for them, when compared to running their own DCs. The theory being that public cloud architecture is simpler.

By going all in, however, many modern “cloud-native” applications are built upon a multitude of solutions, services and elements. This could be anything from a third party PaaS / SaaS provider for ID management, to “rolling your own” caching and search solution. It could even be simply implementing a broad set of management tooling for code and infrastructure automation.

The diagram below represents the technologies involved in one such solution. It’s clearly a highly distributed application with dependencies across many different platforms and cloud-vendors! It’s also not the only example of a solution I have seen in the new cloud-native world!

The risk is, the failure of any single one of those SaaS, PaaS or IDM platforms, automation tools or API gateways could leave an application offline and its owners potentially powerless to resolve it! Developers are exchanging the complexity of building elements into their applications natively, for the risk of distributing (out-sourcing?) them out to other cloud platforms.

Public cloud architecture isn’t always simples!

That is not to say this is not a reason to go to cloud and refactor applications to be more cloudy! The relative benefits to an organisation may far outweigh the risks. The key thing is that in any organisation, requirements from the business will always trump any expectations of simplicity or even consistency!

We are simply exchanging one set of complexities for another!

Thoughts? Feel free to discuss in the comments below!