Why and How Evernote Moved 3 Petabytes of Data to Google’s Public Cloud

Took 70 days and a whole lot of engineering work to move 5 billion notes and 12 billion files!

Evernote migration to Google Cloud Data Center

How do you move an entire data center to the public cloud? And if you’re a SaaS provider like Evernote, how do you do all that safely, securely, and without your millions of active users even noticing?

Here is a fascinating account of the why and how Evernote, the popular cross-platform note-taking app, moved their infrastructure from two private data centers to Google’s public cloud platform, transferring 3 petabytes of data in the process. The entire operation involved moving some 5 billion notes and 12 billion files, and took some 70 days, and a whole lot of engineering work. That’s a whole lot of notes and clippings!

Why this decision to go the public cloud route, and why Google Cloud in particular?

Machine learning was a highlight of Google’s platform for Evernote CTO Anirban Kundu, who said that higher-level services offered by Google help provide the foundation for new and improved features. Evernote has been driving toward a set of new capabilities based on machine learning, and Google services like its Cloud Machine Learning API help with that.

While cost is often touted as a benefit of cloud migrations, McCormack said that it wasn’t a primary driver of Evernote’s migration. While the company will be getting some savings out of the move, he said that cost wasn’t a limitation for the transition.

The decision to go with Google over another provider like AWS or Azure was driven by the technology team at Evernote, according to Greg Chiemingo, the company’s senior director of communications. He said in an email that CEO Chris O’Neill, who was at Google for roughly a decade before joining Evernote, came in to help with negotiations after the decision was made.

This is something I’ve heard over and over again, and even seen myself with the insignificantly tiny infrastructure that I manage. In the grand scheme of things, cloud computing is hardly about cost savings. Companies move their infrastructure to the cloud for such other benefits as scalability, elasticity (the ability to scale your infrastructure up and down based on load — which is often the primary reason for cost savings), and, in Evernote’s case, availability of and proximity to “upstream” services and APIs.

The PCWorld article has details of the actual migration, including the critical role that Google’s engineers played to make this a success. Of course, Google had EVERY reason to ensure the success of this migration: just imagine what the headlines would be if there was a catastrophic failure, whether Google had anything to do with the failure or not!

The State of the Family Address

In which witty George Appiah presents a cryptic pontification of what's really going on in his little nest

We’re already 28 days into the new year. I thought it’d be fun to give a little update on what I’ve been up to, what’s going on in our little nest, and more importantly, what’s to come in the coming weeks and months. For fun, let’s call it the State of the Family Address.

How The Mega Tribe Of Three Came Into Being

As the folks who have lingered here for a while will surely remember, nearly 3 years ago I did the abominable: against my own better judgement, I put my signature to the deed that I knew was guaranteed to permanently erase every trace of the simple, quiet and tranquil life that I so much relish. That’s how I’d always perceived marriage anyway, and tell you what, I’ve never had a single day of disappointment in that regard.

As if to protest my silly decision, my father passed away just two days before the wedding. That should have shaken me up and brought me to my senses. But, it didn’t. And thanks to, in my own opinion, our silly customs that cherish the dead over the living, a new breed of trouble was out of the production line before I could even say my final goodbye to the old one.

And there you have it: the short story of how I let go of the very simple life I’d always cherished and ended up with this little tribe and a whole lot of troubles and responsibilities. Below I’ll now present to you a brief state of affairs.

Mother’s Daughter-in-law

Here’s a little riddle for you: what is it that those in want desperately to get out, while those out want desperately to get in? (If you need a clue, read Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Church at Corinth.)

The past three years of marriage life have been, let’s say, challenging. Indeed, very challenging. From my perspective, it’s absolutely obvious what the problem is and the reason our kids are ugly. But as anyone who has ever had an argument with another human knows, those ‘retards’ never see what’s so blazingly obvious to you.

Yeah, I know.

I won’t get into the itsy bitsy minutia here, at least not in this post. Except to say, mother’s daughter-in-law has decided to return to the classroom, the very place I’m working like crazy to keep little Elvis out of (more on that below).

She’s convinced the keys to her happiness in life (and her acres of diamond) can be found in there. What’s a broke like me got to say? “Go, girl, go”, I tell her (and silently to myself: I hope you don’t quit halfway.)

Expect a heck lot’a drama in this column soon 🙂

The Little One

Little Elvis is 25 months old now, and proudly wielding the “terrible twos” moniker day and night. As very little talking goes on in our nest (blame the screens and gadgets!), his speech has delayed a tab bit. But what he’s unable to say, he certainly overcompensates with what he’s able to do.

He was sitting fully by his fourth month, and by his sixth month he was climbing up and down the stairs (we didn’t install any fancy safety gates — #badparenting), using the wall or rail for support. By the 8th month, little Elvis was pretty much running everywhere independently, including up and down the stairs!

Elvis Appiah

I don’t remember seeing him crawl even once. In fact, by the time a baby crawl mat I ordered from China (via AliExpress) arrived here in Accra, Ghana, the little one was already walking briskly.

Elvis Appiah

When Elvis was 6 months old, he tried jumping out of his crib and ended up with a big swelling on the side of the head where he landed on the floor. This scared the bejesus out of us! Thankfully, God sent an angel far smarter in the field of parenting than all three of us combined to come to our rescue and save the day. That is — after the very pinnacle of Ghana’s healthcare system had failed us completely.

Though just 25 months, Elvis is already the kind of the nest. He’s usually the first to get up in the wee hours of the mornings, and won’t get to bed until, well, until he’s made to. We recently got him his very own Amazon Kindle Fire tablet, along with Amazon’s FreeTime Unlimited subscription, and now even getting him to eat is a tough battle!

Elvis Appiah

For his education, we’ve decided to pursue some alternatives. To paraphrase Mark Twain, we’re being cautious to not let his schooling interfere with his education. Stay tuned for more on this when I finally resume publishing regularly on this website (and on little Elvis’ own website, www.ElvisAppiah.com).

The Poor Old Buttler

And then there’s me… your poor old butler. Other than struggling to pull the bits and pieces of this near-dysfunctional little tribe together (and apparently doing such a terrible job at it!), there isn’t much going on that’s worth talking about.

But if you don’t mind me boring you with the ordinary, here are a few random happenings and thoughts:

  • I’ve assembled a whole lot of gadgets and accoutrements now, but I’m yet to publish a single video. I even read Stephen Presfield’s War of Art, but that didn’t do the trick. Resistance is still here with me.
  • My WordPress book and course are practically done, but I feel very strongly that they’re not good enough, and that I should re-do the whole thing. Perfectionism, just another face of resistance?
  • In December last year, I shut down the “shared” and “reseller” segments of my hosting business, sending all customers away to other providers. But that self-destructive move wasn’t enough. I also parted ways with all, let’s say, ‘troublesome’ VPS and dedicated server clients, leaving me with just two clients and two VPSes under management. In essence, I killed my entire hosting business. Maybe I’ll start over. Maybe not.
  • Having shut down my hosting business, I’m now finding myself with way too much time… that I don’t know how to use. I don’t know how to not be busy. And oddly enough, I find this far more tiring and stressing than the days when I was busy day and night fixing clients’ sites and servers.
  • With my hosting business dismantled, I’m also without a source of income now. And with a mountain-high pile of expenses quickly approaching, I need to replace this income immediately. Trouble is, I’ve got too high a pile of ideas to sort through.
  • With Mother’s DiL returning to school, I’m going to have to take on the babysitting business. On the one side, little Elvis and I get to have a whole lot of fun together. But on the other side, I… help… I can smell something!

George and Elvis Appiah

As you can see, your poor old butter has a truckload of stuff on his mind and plates now. Should he re-build the hosting business he dismantled himself? Should he develop any one of the dozens of new business ideas on his mind now? Should he (finally) embrace what he’s always considered his true passion and calling, TEACHING? Or should he, but may God and all the angels launch and offence to forbid this, return to the corporate world he ran away from more than a decade ago?

Gotta roll the dice, plan and act now!

So, there you have it — the perfectly accurate account of the true state of affairs in our little nest. And, here’s my promise to you big and little critters: this will be the very last of my silly, witty, cryptic, self-serving pontifications. You’ll soon realise there’s always been a reason to my madness.

My Newly Adopted Color: Rebecca Purple

I've been thinking a lot about personal branding lately, especially as it applies to online tribes and professional platform building. I even adopted a personal color, Rebecca purple. Here's the short story.

Rebecca Purple - 663399

Grandma was right: you should never judge a book by its cover. But the reality is, most of us pay no heed to grandma’s sound advice, and more often than not, we do judge a book solely by its cover.

Therefore, as sellers of products and ideas, it’s essential that we pay as much attention to the packaging and branding of our stuff as we do to the actual stuff that we sell.

And when it comes to branding and packaging, color is undoubtedly one of the most important visible elements. When it comes to making purchasing decisions, a great many of us decide by visual cues, the strongest and most persuasive of these visual cues being color.

So, what is the color of your personal brand? And more importantly, why did you pick this, of all colors, to be your favorite color?

Recently I set out to answer these very questions for my own personal brand and online platform.

My immediate instinct was to Google the meanings commonly assigned to colors. So I guzzled a ton of blog posts, podcasts, YouTube videos and even read a whole book on color psychology. My intention was to pick a dominant color that would best align with my personality and purpose, the world I’m trying to build for myself and my family, and the kind of impact I want to make in the world.

But as I dived in, I quickly discovered that I was on a fool’s errand. That’s because for every positive attribute I found for any color, I also found an equal number of negative attributes for the very same color, often from the same source.

Want a “happy” color? Go for the sunshine color, Yellow. It stands for optimism, warmth, friendliness. But, not so fast! Yellow is also associated with criticism, impulsiveness, and egoism.

Blue is deemed to be the color of loyalty, trust, and integrity. But it can also stand for rigid, deceitful and spiteful. Hmmm.

Green supposedly stands for growth, vitality, renewal, and restoration. But blue is also envious, selfish, greedy, and miserly.

And so on, and so forth, ad infinitum. And don’t even get me started on the contradictions in meaning from the various experts out there. Color, it seems, is too dependent on personal experiences to be universally translated to specific feelings and meanings.

So, in the end, I gave up on the search for meaning and instead, decided to simply pick a color or two from my favorite brands. That is, until I reconnected with Rebecca purple and this amazing story of digital remembrance.

The Color Rebecca purple (CSS: rebeccapurple)

REBECCA ALISON MEYER passed away on her sixth birthday. Having survived rounds of treatment for cancer, the little girl, the adored daughter of Kathryn and Eric Meyer, finally succumbed.

For those of you who make all or even part of your living from designing websites, ERIC MEYER should be no stranger to you. For the rest of us, Eric A. Meyer is an American web design consultant and author. He is best known for his advocacy work on behalf of web standards, most notably Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), a technique for managing how websites are styled and displayed.

His daughter Rebecca Alison Meyer died on June 7th, 2014 on her 6th birthday, less than a year after her diagnosis of grade 3 (anaplastic) astrocytoma, a kind of brain tumor.

To honor the life of Rebecca, and in appreciation for her father’s tireless contribution to the development of web standards, the CSS standards community officially adopted the name “Rebecca purple,” for the hue (#663399), Rebecca’s favorite color.

I’ve known Eric Meyer (albeit from a distance) and his works for over a decade now. I was even familiar with the unfortunate passing of Rebecca, and the story of the named color, Rebecca purple. I may have even used this named once or so in my CSS stylesheets.

But it was only recently, while searching for meaning, that I reconnected with the story and the color. But after this reconnection, I knew I had found my true love, I knew I had found my true color.

Instead of a mishmash of contrasting perceptions and beliefs, Rebecca purple is a story of love that I can relate to.

So, now, Rebecca purple is my favorite color. It will be the dominant color of my personal brand into the foreseeable future. I’ve even decided to use this story as the introductory hook into all my presentations, both online and offline, to highlight the importance of service and devotion to one’s commission.

So what is your favorite color? And what’s the story behind your choice of this color? Kindly share your story with us in the comments section below.

Download Over 240 Microsoft eBooks Free (Yes, Legally)

Eric Ligman, Microsoft Director of Sales Excellence Blog
10th July, 2016

Eric Ligman, Microsoft Director of Sales Excellence is giving away a whole bunch of free eBooks for IT profesisonals (and power users) working with Microsoft Technologies. These Microsoft eBooks cover a wide variety of Microsoft technologies, including: Windows 10, Office 365, Office 2016, Power BI, Azure, Windows 8.1, Office 2013, SharePoint 2016, SharePoint 2013, Dynamics CRM, PowerShell, Exchange Server, System Center, Cloud, SQL Server and more!

There are no restrictions on downloads, so you can download as many of these eBooks as you want, even all (but don’t be greedy). Just know that while you’re free to download all the books, you won’t find a single zip file containing all the books — so you’ll need to download each book individually.

Download 240 Microsoft eBooks Free Legally

 

TU Delft’s One Million MOOCs Enrollments

I recently received an email from TU Delft (Delft University of Technology, Netherlands) celebrating 1 million enrollments in their MOOCs program — an effort to open education and allow learners from all around the world to gain access to TU Delft professors’ knowledge and expertise.

TU Delft - One Million MOOCs Enrollments

One million enrollments is impressive, even by MOOCs standards. Equally impressive, at least to me, is the diversity of learners enrolling in the various courses offered, with learners from 229 countries and ages 8-94. Here’s an infographic with a lot more data.

The keyword here is enrollment. One data point I wish to know, but which was curiously absent from the slew of data presented in their infographic, is course completion rate. That is, out of the 1 million course enrollments, how many followed through to the end of the course… submitting all assignments and writing all exams (wither they attained the minimum pass mark or not)?

Curious George yearns to know.

Taking Imperfect Action Towards Clarity

Taking Imperfect Action

After I published my diatribe on why 2015 was such a stale year for me financially, I found my inner critique yelling at me for passing the buck — blaming external factors for my failures — when I knew deep down that there are other, perhaps bigger, internal issues responsible for my abysmal financial performance in 2015.

And with 36 years of experience, I’ve come to realize whenever Inner Joe speaks, I better listen. So I’ll fess up right here and now.

Yes, I couldn’t be as productive as I could have been in 2015 due to the electricity problems I so laboriously and eloquently articulated. Yes, the depreciation of the Cedi ate further into my already razor-thin margins. Yes, all these and more external influences teamed up to mess up my year. But that’s only one-half of the story.

The other, and perhaps the bigger, reason for my inability to make any meaningful progress in 2015 is my own ongoing internal struggle for clarity and focus.

I’ve no doubt that clarity and focus are important qualities for success. For, how can you march forward with gazelle intensity if you’re uncertain of your destination? How do you even know which way to turn?

I have first-hand experience with the amazing power of clarity and focus. In my professional life, I’ve been able to move mountains, cross oceans, conquer giants and solve really big problems when I have absolute clarity of purpose and I’m totally devoted to the cause.

But when it comes to my own life, where clarity and focus matter the most, I’ve struggled with clarity for as long as I’ve known the concept. And without clarity, it’s been impossible for me to focus on any particular endeavor, and thereby make any meaningful push forward.

In the latter part of the last year, I spent a whole month away from home and family and encamped myself in a tiny hotel room with one just goal: to finally chart a new career path for 2016. During this time I read books and articles, I listened to podcasts, I watched videos, I attended teleseminars — all on the subject of clarity. I really dug deep and wide in-between several cups of coffee and a whole lot of tears.

And the result of all that laboring? I can sum up the result of my month-long exercise, in terms of real progress, in just one word: None. Zero. Ziltch. Nada.

Sometimes it’s tough to set a clear goal because you don’t know what you’re getting into. This is doubly so when it comes to big decisions like what pursuit to devote your life to. But that shouldn’t stop you from trying.

I’m still on a wild hunt for clarity on this life’s — my life’s — purpose that’s so far eluded me. I’m still studying. I’m still digging inside. I’ve even joined two group coaching programs run by two of very successful businessmen I respect so dearly (but haven’t met before). And most important of all, going forward, I’ve decided to take imperfect action.

Rather than set goals around a clear life purpose (something which has eluded me so far), my immediate goal now is the pursuit of clarity itself. It’s as much about the journey as the destination. The one gift I’m absolutely clear on is having the heart of a teacher, and rather than wait till all the lights turn green, I’m taking imperfect action by exploring and experimenting in order to gain clarity within this space.

Doing what you’re already doing won’t give you more clarity. Thinking about what to do next and writing down some goals can certainly help, but that isn’t always enough. Sometimes you have to get moving first before clarity can be achieved. You’ll enjoy more clarity when you’re in motion than when you’re standing still. A pilot has better visibility from the air than from the ground. Why not take imperfect action today?

good-plan-violently-executed

These are the imperfect actions I’m taking this week:

  1. I’m rebooting my email newsletter this week. Back when I provided free tech support on this website, I also published a weekly email newsletter with juicy stuff for my (then) huge tribe. If you were previously subscribed to the newsletter, or if you’ve engaged with me recently, expect an email on Wednesday inviting you to click a link to confirm your subscription to the newsletter.
  2. I’m getting my client Dr. Emmanuel Kojo Hopeson’s book, Understanding Human Behavior in Conflict Resolution, published in the Amazon Kindle store.
  3. I’m finishing Phase 1 of a new website for the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation (founded and led by Dr. Hopeson). The design and coding of this initial phase are complete. We’re just left with the copy for a few pages. This should be done by Thursday.
  4. I’m pushing, cajoling, threatening, and doing all I humanly can to push out issue #1 of CPR’s monthly e-newsletter. We’ve been back and forth on this for so long, it’s this week or never.
  5. And perhaps the biggest imperfect action I’m taking this week: I’m picking a project, any project, aligned or not aligned, clarity or no clarity, to work on for the next 6 months. This is just for six months, not a life-long pursuit or some life purpose thing to put tremendous pressure on me to make the right choice. The only criteria is I should tremendously enjoy doing it. At the end of the 6 months, I’ll decide whether to stop or continue with the project.

What imperfect actions are you taking this week to move forward with your life, career, or business dreams? Kindly share them in the comments section below.

Reflections on 2015: The Toughest Year Of My Adult Life

I wrote this on Christmas eve, 2015, but never had the courage to put it online. Until now.

George Appiah - Value Creator

It’s Christmas day tomorrow.

I packed my backpack some two weeks, bid goodbye to house and family, and checked myself into a little room in a not-so-little hotel off the Aburi Road in Accra, Ghana. I came here to reflect and take stock of my life through the past 11 months of the year, close the lid on some still lingering projects, and finalize my goals for the coming year — along with a plan of action to accomplish those goals.

Taking Stock Of The Past Year

Throughout the year I’d aways known that things were not going well for me financially, at least not as well and as fast as I’d hoped, for considering how much effort I put in and the great cost to other areas of my life.

But I didn’t realize the full extent of this slowdown until I started crunching the numbers and consciously reflecting upon the year we’re about to leave behind.

For the readers new to this blog, I’m an independent IT consultant presently live in Accra, Ghana. For the past 3 years, the entire nation has been experiencing an acute power shortage that has been dubbed DUM-SOR (literally, OFF-ON). In the best of times, I experience 24 hours of total blackout followed by 12 hours with stable power. I say “best of times” because often the scheduled 12 hours of power ends up being less than 8 hours because the power will come on an hour or two later than scheduled, go off an hour or two earlier than scheduled, and fluctuate several times in-between.

How does one bootstrap a business to success in such an environment?

As you can imagine, this has had a crippling effect on the whole economy, but more so for small businesses like my little IT consulting operation that relies 100% on power and the Internet to deliver value to clients before I can make a single cent.

In addition to not being able to deliver enough value to my clients so I can be paid accordingly, these clients themselves have been hit equally badly. Before DUM-SOR I had 11 local managed services clients. Of these 3 have failed and folded completely, and 5 are in SURVIVAL MODE now — having downsized and cut off all but the most critical stuff, including my services to them, just to keep the ship afloat until Godot arrives.

The continued rapid depreciation of the Cedi, our national currency, has also punched its own holes into my already punctured pockets. I rent servers and pay for various online services in US$, but I have to bill most clients in the local currency. This alone has drained my profits to a razor-thin line, as I’ve been unable to raise fees month after month for clients whose tabs are already hovering on the CANCEL button.

USD per 1 GHS

The Government, on the other hand, showed no remorse in hiking utilities 3x during the past year in spite of the many structural issues facing businesses — the afore-mentioned power problem, rapid depreciation of the currency, over 30% interest rate on borrowing, 17% inflation rate, etc — but that’s how far I’ll go with political rants on this blog.

So, in a nutshell, it’s been a tough year for everyone in Ghana, but more so for small services businesses and independent knowledge workers, including yours truly — and I’m ending the year with nothing to show for all the sleepless nights and hours of daily commute “chasing” electrical power just so I can get some work done.

Charting A New Path To Freedom

2015 has been a tough one financially. And as you likely realize, wherever financial stress goes, there you’ll also find all kinds of issues. So it should come as no surprise to know that I also experienced a great deal of turmoil in practically every other area of my life.

Albert Einstein on InsanityAlbert Einstein is widely quoted to have said that insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. If I’m going to thrive in the new year and make major strides toward my long term goals, something’s got to change: me, my environment or both.

2016 is an election year in Ghana, and two things are likely to happen on the political front: a) the government is going to find a stop-gap, short-term and very costly solution to the power issue, and b) the government is going to print a whole lot of money to fund their campaigns.

Both of these actions are likely to have the effect of exacerbating whatever problems we have, now post-election, no matter who emerges the victor.

Of the government, what it does, and the consequences of its actions, I’ve no control over — at least that’s not a battle I want to fight in this lifetime. That leaves me as the only factor I can control to make the desired outcomes in my life happen.

And that’s why I’m here, at the last stretch of the year, alone in a tiny hotel room, to chart a new path and design processes to deliver amazing value to the world in exchange for a commensurate reward — my preferred path towards financial freedom.

Steve Jobs on Focus and Innovation

Steve-Jobs-on-Focus

 

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”

Update On My WordPress Course Under Development

After yesterday’s post one of the three or so regular readers to this blog (not counting Google Bot 🙂 ) as how far I’ve going with the WordPress course. So I decided to publish my response here for the benefit of the other two.

Update On My WordPress Course Under Development

My original plan was to release the course by year’s end. But there’s been so many turns and twists along the journey that my new release date is far towards the end of Q1 2016.

The main only reason for the delay is my own extreme naivety: my lack of experience in this business made me grossly underestimate both the sheer amount of work involved and the number of different hats that one must wear in order to ensure success with an information product.