The Growth in Geographic Information Technology

The Growth in Geographic Information Technology

Every day, a staggering amount of new data is produced, and business and governments look for ways to utilize that data to help them plan and strategize, cut costs, innovate, and deliver services. While some companies and organizations are working at the cutting edge of data implementation, many companies are still lagging far behind when it comes to making optimum use of that data.

Geographic information technology has emerged as a critical data implementation tool that allows companies and governments to drill deeply into their data and use that data to help them determine their future direction.

What is Geographic Information Technology?

Geographic information technology allows data to be analyzed and then displayed on maps. It can be used to analyze anything from locations where it would be most profitable for a restaurant chain to open up a new outlet, finding out which areas of a city are responsible for the most pollution, and tracking disease outbreaks.

How Does a Geographic Information System Work?

A GIS system captures, stores, and analyzes data related to its position on the planet’s surface. Many different kinds of data can be displayed on one map, which allows patterns and relationships between elements to be discovered.

The location data used can be cross-referenced with other information in the database to show information about the people in that place, such as their education levels, income levels and life expectancy. Another example would be mapping locations of water or air pollution and then looking for the source based on all of the farms and factories in a given area.

An organization will need specialists holding a geographic information science and technology degree in order to implement and administer a GIS system. Members of a company’s IT team can also undertake a part-time online GIST program to acquire the relevant education and skills.

Which Types of Organization Can Benefit From Using a Geographic Information System?

Because the benefits of understanding location data are so far-reaching, a wide range of companies and government departments can gain from using a geographic information system.

The US Department of Defense uses analysis provided by data specialists at National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to identify potential threats to national security.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention uses GIS to help shape public health-related policy decisions.

Local government bodies provide location data mapping to various departments, including those responsible for public utilities and services, property tax assessments, highways, and town planning. For example, accident hotspots can be identified and steps are taken to minimize risks in those areas. Location data can also help to develop a local tourism strategy or plan new residential communities.

Companies can use a geographic information system to manage their supply and distribution chain more effectively, to plan new locations based on local income levels and population density, and the road and other transport networks that make traveling to the location feasible.

Geographic information technology enables a better understanding of data and can ensure smarter use of resources and more efficient targeting of services, both in the public and the private sector.


Backup and restore vCenter Server Appliance

There are times when things don’t go as smoothly or work as planned. For example, during routine VMware maintenance, while performing a basic step, you lose your VMware vCenter. As a result, you lose the ability to manage important aspects of your infrastructureDepending on your time constraints for the maintenance window, you may have to consider backing out of the changes. This can be a challenge in of itself. Here are some steps that can help. The idea is to have a smooth backup and restore of the vCenter Server appliance. 

The original problem

I mentioned even basic things can go completely wrong. This was the case when I tried to replace the built-in/default SSL Certificate with a standard CA signed one, on a vCenter Server Appliance 6 (VCSA) with the built-in tool, the Certificate Manager. I did follow the instructions on the terminal, but at the end, something went wrong and the tool reported roll-back to the original Certificate. However, that didn’t work either, it never finished and while the certificate seemed to be “in place”, the “vpxd” service didn’t start and that caused the web-client to not load in.

Until this day we are still not sure with the VMware technician what was the root cause, and why the “fix steps” didn’t work. At some point, I decided to just install a new vCenter and restore the original vPostgres database. It is worth to mention, we are using the recommended method with VCSA: 2 appliances, the vCenter appliance and the PSC appliance. The PSC is the most important functionality is that it handles the Single Sign-On, so I’ll refer to them as vCenter and PSC, both need to be operational to make the solution work.

The solution: steps to restore vCenter Server Appliance, including some troubleshooting steps

  1. Take a snapshot of the PSC.
  2. Take note of the vCenter server build number.
    • Connect to vCenter with SSH or console, authenticate and enable shell
    •  Run the following command to get the build of your vCenter:
      You should see something like this:
      VMware VirtualCenter 6.0.0 build-3018523
  3. Backup the vCenter database: Back up and restore vCenter Server Appliance/vCenter Server 6.0 vPostgres database
    • The following KB article describes the steps:
    • Make sure you don’t mix vCenter Server and vCenter Server Appliance steps. The first is the Windows version, in this case, we need the second, linux one.
    • First, I saw a weird error message when I was running the script. It was because vPostgres was not running, but the error message did not explicitly state that. Make sure to start the vPostgres service by running:
      service-control –start vmware-vpostgres
  4. Decommission the vCenter Server appliance: Using the cmsso command to unregister vCenter Server from Single Sign-On
    • The following KB article describes this step:
    • In case you get an error like this, while you are trying to use WinSCP: “Host is not communicating for more than 15 seconds. If the problem repeats, try turning off ‘Optimize connection buffer size’.” then check out this KB for the solution:
    • In case PSC cannot talk to vCenter Server appliance anymore, which was the case for me, you can still unsub vCenter from the PSC with the following command, that you need to run on PSC:
      /usr/lib/vmware-vmdir/bin/vdcleavefed -h HOSTNAME_OR_IP -u administratorYou should see something like this: “vdcleavefd offline for server HOSTNAME_OR_IP
      Leave federation cleanup done”Replace HOSTNAME_OR_IP with the correct hostname/ip of your vCenter appliance.
  5. Re-deploy a new vCenter with the same Build number (you noted in step 2), and Networking settings.
  6. Recover the vCenter database: Back up and restore vCenter Server Appliance/vCenter Server 6.0 vPostgres database
    The following KB article describes this step:
  7. Make sure all services are starting, and vCenter properly working.

If you have questions or have comments feel free to ask below. If you need help, contact us at [email protected]

Hurry Slowly

running-lateIn Prague

A car in front of me had a bumper sticker “ Hurry Slowly !”. My immediate thought was “how ridiculous”! It seemed a contradiction in terms.  Who would want to slow down given the time pressures most of us live under? How many companies failed due to the suboptimal pace?

Nasa Lesson?

I then remembered we’ll mark the 31st anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger disaster next January: it broke up 73 seconds into the flight. NASA management hurried the launch.

The chief engineer refused to sign off on the launch. Since he and his team didn’t believe that the O-ring rocket booster seals had undergone adequate testing in cold conditions. However, NASA management overruled them. Probably because the mission had already been delayed for 6 days by weather and technical issues, NASA decision makers didn’t want to delay again. In fact, the investigation after the disaster confirmed that the O-rings became too brittle in the cold weather. As a result, this prevented proper sealing and allowed flames to damage the external fuel, causing an explosion. Hence, NASA’s decision to hurry not only cost 7 lives but delayed the Space Shuttle program by 2 years – a true lose-lose. Hurry slowly.  

Are We Slow Learners?

The Challenger isn’t the only incident caused by rush and faith that everything will go well (hope is not a strategy). There are many recent examples and high profile failures:

  • BP with the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry,
  • GM with the faulty ignition-switch,
  • Toyota with the famous brakes recall,
  • Takata with the malfunctioning airbags (the company is mulling bankruptcy for its US unit as a direct result),
  • Samsung with the Galaxy Note7 battery “fix” which didn’t work and seriously damaged Samsung’s name,
  • and Samsung’s exploding washers and their subsequent recall didn’t help Samsung’s brand.   

So how many times was a decision made to “just ship it” and hope for a “sunny day” scenario?  Or is the answer just “blowing in the wind”?

Ignoring The Lessons In Software?

Software is no exception. For example, Ralph Young estimates the cost of a bug fix to be 1:10:100: 1x in requirements/coding phase, 10x in testing and 100x in production. In addition, production fixes often damage the company’s name, sometimes beyond repair. Writing tests against requirements seems like a low hanging fruit. If it’s not possible to create a test case, the requirement probably needs to be updated. Despite this, managers often skip this early step. The result is an underbid project and a financial loss or product flaws. Hurry slowly.

Final Thoughts

Starting “in the middle” to rush things through without proper strategy defined can waste significant resources and time. It is often the main reason for failure as outlined in “Ten Deadly Sins of Strategy Creation”.  

Dilbert as a team-lead tells his team “You guys start coding while I go upstairs and find out what they want”. This illustrates the “ready-shoot-aim” philosophy on some projects.  A car traveling at 50 mph in a straight line will likely reach its destination much faster than a zig-zagging car going twice as fast. Hurrying slowly may actually be the fastest way to get to your objective it if means taking time to lay the proper foundation of the strategy, solid requirements for projects and working smart.

When did you hurry slowly last time?