Episode 12 – Virtual Machines

Barry McGuigan, possibly the worst developer ever, was more excited than usual.

“The Google Cloud team are here! They are giving stuff away, does anyone want anything?”

“The fucking what?” Penelope Crank, the resident crusty old mainframe developer, unusually decided to join the conversation.

“Google Cloud.” confirmed Chris Tackle, who unlike Barry McGuigan actually was a developer.

“You pricks are always going on about the weather. I have no fucking idea what you are talking about.”

“You don’t know what the Cloud is?” asked Dave Starling, IT Manager.

“Nope. Fill me in.”

“Do you live under a rock?” Barry realised immediately that he should not have said anything and quickly snuck away to the side to avoid being hit by a stapler.

“In the old days…” Dave started, but suddenly wished he hadn’t brought age into a conversation with a mainframe developer. “We used to have servers in data centres.”

“Got it. So its a server in a data centre.”

“No, no. That was the old days. Now we use the Cloud.”

“So where does it live?”

“In a data centre. Just someone else’s data centre.”

“If I said I was following you, I’d be lying.”

“It’s virtualised. So multiple things can run on the same hardware and share the resources.”

“Like a mainframe.”

“Err, yes. Just like the mainframe. And you pay only for the cycles that you use, so no long term commitment.”

“Like a mainframe.”

“Err, yes. Just like the mainframe. Plus you can run up environments whenever you need them and you don’t have to manage the patching and stuff because the cloud provider does it for you.”

Penelope looked at Dave. “You know what I’m going to say don’t you?”

“Yes, it does sound very much like the mainframe model, I have to give you that.”

“Does it have the ability to scale up and down to match demand?” Penelope asked.


“Detailed billing?”


“Storage and CPU charged separately?”


“Backups included?”


“I get it now.” Felicity smiled. “You are the mainframe team! Cloud equals mainframe. It’s just a cooler name, and instead of a proper operating system you can only run shitty PCs on it.”

“VMs” added Chris, “We run VMs on the Cloud.”

“He means virtual machines. That’s what we call them.” Dave explained.

I know what VM is. IBM released it in 1972. If you can’t have an original idea, could at least make up some new acronyms?” Penelope shrieked, “Okay, Barry McGuigan, if that’s really your name, now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s go and get some cool stuff from IBM, I mean Google.”


With Penelope and Barry out of the way, Dave took Chris Tackle to a meeting with the Cloud Fulfilment team. Because I can’t be arsed to keep creating new characters, the meeting was being led by Paul Settings, Enterprise Architect. And lets be honest, he had nothing else to do for the afternoon.

“Thanks for joining.” Paul Settings kicked off, “We need your demand profile for the next six months.”

“In English?” Dave said.

“Tee shirt sizes.” Paul clarified, by confusing everyone even more.

“He means VM sizes.” Chris Tackle said, “Its trendy to call them tee shirt sizes nowadays.”

“Its bloody stupid.” said Dave.

“We are trying to standardise our VM sizes, like tee shirts.” Paul clarified.

“Why? What difference does it make to you what size VM we have?”

Nobody had asked Paul this question before, he just assumed it was obvious that standard sizing was better. Now he realised that it really didn’t make any difference to the infrastructure people, but it did make it a worse experience for the customer. Paul found that in situations like this, it was better just to keep quiet. He paused for two minutes, looking like he was about to speak.

Finally Penelope and Barry McGuigan arrived.

“I got a hat and a pen! Who’d have thought?” shouted Barry.

“Yes, the bastard got the last ones.” Penelope said, “I wanted a tee shirt, but there were none left.”

“Did you get anything at all?” Dave asked.

“All they had left was sandwich boards, but they are out at the moment. I’m going back at 3pm to put them on and walk up and down Pitt Street.”

Dave thought he should return to the topic at hand. “So, do small, medium and large VMs cost the same now, if you are using the tee shirt analogy?”

“No, of course not.” replied Paul.

“Then how does calling them tee shirt sizes make any sense?”

From the look on Paul’s face, Dave didn’t think he was going to get an answer, so he continued, “What if my application needs a VM that isn’t one of your standard sizes?”

Paul jumped back into life, he had an answer for this one. “Non-standard tee shirt sizes! You need senior management approval for that though.”

“Great, now we are getting somewhere.” Dave continued, “Barry, can you take an action to get Brenda to approve our non-standard tee shirt sizes. Get Chris to tell you our sizing and write an email to our boss, Flux Larson, telling him what we need, so he can get Brenda to approve it.”

By the time Dave had finished, Barry had vanished. Nobody had ever given him an action before and he wasn’t going to wait around and have it taken off him. He hadn’t heard the bit about sizing and Flux Larson, because he was already running to Brenda’s office.

When Barry barged his way in, Brenda de la Rue shrieked and jumped out of her chair.

“What do you want, you funny looking oik?” she demanded.

“An action item. Can you approve a non-standard tee shirt size?” Barry breathlessly got the words out.

Brenda looked at Barry, and looked behind him at a wall of boxes. Boxes that were full of every conceivable size of tee shirt. Brenda had ordered them in haste during the ‘work-like-a-startup’ debacle and there was nowhere else to store them.

Brenda looked at the boxes on the wall, and then back to Barry. “I’d say you were a ‘Small’, just looking at you. But, what the hell is a non-standard tee shirt size? Do I look like a tailor?”

Barry had no idea, but he was close to finally completed an action item, for the first time ever, so he smiled, like an idiot.

“No, no, you don’t understand. I need you to approve a non-standard tee shirt size for a VM. Is that okay?”

By now even Brenda and Barry thought that this joke had run its course, but Brenda gave it one last shove to get to the end.

“Is it for that fat bastard who is always shitting himself? There are only so many X’s available before he pops.”