My blog posts often focus on issues that my customers are having – I solve them once for someone and then share that with the wider world in the hopes that someone else may find my guidance useful. This week, I ran into a new issue with a new customer of mine.
My customer was wondering about the use of custom models in their account, and how this impacted their usage of the Watson Discovery service. They were being charged for each custom model used by the Discovery service, but they had no idea of where they were being used. I went and looked in the UI, but found nothing that indicated where custom models had been applied.
So I dug into the API and found out how you can tell. The key is the API call to get-configuration, which returns a JSON payload with information about the configurations in your Discovery instance. Using that information, along with some calls to other API services likelist_collections and list_configurations, you can find out which Discovery collections are using custom models.
Since I had to figure this out for myself, I decided to do some quick and dirty Python code to do this for me, for any given Discovery instance. If you’re interested, you can go and get your own copy of the code out in my GitHub project called Discovery Custom Model Detect. The code is a bit rough, but it gets the job done. Feel free to pretty it up or make it more interactive.
I like helping my IBM Cloud customers, and I like dealing with the technology. Every new technology (and even established technologies) has a learning curve. My goal in writing this series of articles is to help you more quickly conquer that learning curve with respect to the IBM Cloud.
Today’s article deals with understanding what is going on in the “big picture” with the IBM Cloud. How do you know what new services are available on the IBM Cloud? How do I know when maintenance windows will occur? How do I find out when services are getting deprecated and retired? If my services are down, is it just me? Is it other people too? Is the whole data center down?
Checking the Current IBM Cloud Status
When things are not working, or seem to be slow, the first place I check is the overall IBM Cloud status page. You can find it here -> https://cloud.ibm.com/status?selected=status. There are a few different ways to look at this page. The first tab shows the Status of the overall cloud – which services might be unavailable and which regions are impacted. There are four other tabs, and they show other information. One is for Planned Maintenance, and this shows upcoming maintenance windows and describes their impact on users of the services. It’s always good to check this once a week to see what upcoming activities may impact your users and cloud projects. Another tab is for Security Bulletins, and this one shows important security bulletins and events that you will want to be aware of. There is also a tab for more general IBM Cloud Announcements, which contains general cloud announcements and event notifications. The final tab is for History, so you can see the events of the past few days, and see what the resolution of those events was.
This is a lot of different tabs for you to check. I have to admit, even as a frequent user of the IBM Cloud platform, I rarely check these tabs on a daily, or even weekly, basis. Instead, I subscribe to an RSS feed that will give me push notifications of IBM Cloud events as they get posted. For those of you unfamiliar with RSS, it is a publishing technology which allows users to “subscribe” to event streams. There are a bunch of free RSS readers out there, just look one up and install it. Then point your RSS reader at the IBM Cloud RSS feed. The RSS link is on the IBM Cloud Status page – just click on the Subscribe icon on the right-hand side of the page.
Signing Up For Email Notifications
Another thing that IBM Cloud account owners and IBM Cloud Administrators should do is to sign up for email notifications. You can have the account owner (your IBM Cloud account which “owns” the subscription) get notifications each month when certain events occur.
Setting this up is easy, for the account owner. Log into the IBM Cloud as the account owner, and then select Manage -> Billing and Usage from the top navigation bar for the IBM Cloud. In the resulting screen, look at the menu on the left side of the browser, and select the Spending Notifications option.
On this Spending Notifications screen, you should now be able to specify sending spending notifications to yourself for any of the conditions specified. Set your limits, and be aware that you will be notified when you reach 80%, 90% and 100% of your specified threshold. Your Spending Notification screen should look similar to this:
Click in those checkboxes to make sure that you get emails sent to you whenever those threshold limits are hit.
Why Can’t I See That Support Ticket?
I like the IBM Cloud, but on occasion you will need to open a support ticket because you have run into an issue on the IBM Cloud, or with one of the IBM Cloud services. In order to open up a support ticket, click on Support on the top menu bar. In the resulting Support page, click on the Manage Cases tab, and you will see a list of support cases that you are involved with.
Be aware of the fact that this Manage Cases page has a filter which will only show support cases that you are involved with, and that are in some open state. You may want to go and change your filters, to be able to see additional support cases. If you are not able to see a support case, it could be because your organization has not given you the ability to see or open support cases for the organization. If this is the case, then you’ll need to ask your IBM Cloud administrator to give you that capability. The Create A Service Support Case documentation page has a great description of the process used to create a support case.
If you are the IBM Cloud administrator, then you will need to go to the Manage –> Access (IAM) page, and then go to Access Groups. Once there, create a new access group, and make sure that it follows your naming conventions. A good example might be, “SupportTicketAccess_AG”. Once the access group is created, you’ll see the Access Group page. Click on the Access Policies tab, and then on the Assign Access button. Now you will need to select Assign Access to Account Management Services. Select the Support Center service, and then apply ALL levels of access (Administrator, Editor, Operator, and Viewer) to the support center. Now all you need to do to give users access to all of the support tickets for an organization is to add them to this access group.
Note that you could create finer-grained access groups, like “SupportTicketViewer_AG”, that would only allow limited capability with support tickets. Just create the additional access groups, and change your assignment of levels of access accordingly.
Oh My God – EVERYTHING IS BLOWING UP!
Now I’m getting 5438 email messages a day about things going down – are things really THAT bad?? OK – maybe 5438 is a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea….
You have subscribed to get email notifications of outages in the IBM Cloud. Nice job – you should be proud of yourself for being proactive! Our IBM Cloud has a lot of different customers, all co-located with services in a lot of different data centers. When our infrastructure team detects a loss of service (let’s say a machine dies, which causes some IBM Cloud service to fail for the 5 customer instances running on that machine), they want to notify our customers as soon as possible. So we send out an automated warning email to our users. This is all nice automation, and allows us to be “good” Cloud providers and let our customers know when things go wrong.
Now we get to the not-so-pretty part. At the time this happens, we cannot tell EXACTLY which 5 customer instances have gone down, so we err on the side of over-communication, and let EVERY CUSTOMER IN THAT DATA CENTER know that they MIGHT have lost service. We didn’t want to ignore or pretend the errors weren’t happening – so we took this approach. Unfortunately, these things happen relatively frequently, and while they are short in duration and limited in scope (only a couple of customers lose service for a short period of time), the email blast to customers is EXTENSIVE. Inside of IBM we half-jokingly (with accompanying eye roll) refer to this as our BLAST RADIUS.
What does this mean for you? It means that you will get a lot of notices, only 5-10% of which will actually apply to you. We SHOULD watch this issue though, as this is a known (and painful) issue that IBM is currently addressing and rolling out fixes for. As these fixes and changes to the IBM Cloud get implemented, the percentage of notices that actually apply to you will increase from 5-10% to 100% (meaning we only notify you about things that WILL actually impact you).