Monday, January 24, 2011

Intimidating Servers

When I first got into computers I was 14 or so. The man who helped us get it all plugged in said something interesting to me.

"After doing this for as many years as I have" David Smith mused, "I've come to the conclusion that all computers have personalities."

As he was 40 and I was 14 I did what all folks my age do. I dismissed the old man of being senile, and set about using my computer to play BASIC games and make me gobs of money.

Now, as a 33 year old computer administrator with no more BAISC games that interest me and slightly shy of my gobs of money, I find myself agreeing with David and wishing I had paid his advice more heed at the time.

Computers have personalities... It's true. Ignoring these personalities will only make your job harder as a computer administrator.

Windows Vista PC's are like IT managers. They think they know better than you, even when they don't.

"Access restricted: See your network administrator"
"I just want to open my E-mail..."
"Sorry, when we devised the acceptable use policy it was decided that e-mail wasn't a critical application."

Mac's are like Beverly Hills residents busy overpaying for peripherals and software upgrades.

"Have you tried the new Leopard darling?! It's wonderful and finally utilizes all my BEST features!"
"Sounds good. How much is it?"
"Four times the going rate! It's a must have this season."

But servers are the worst. There is something inherent that comes with knowing you are relied upon to maintain a business network that makes them self important. This responsibly breeds a sort of arrogance that can only be described as "The Office IT Guy". That's right our beloved servers have taken a que from our own cynicism and general distaste for the users. They are a dark reflection of us, their geeky keepers. For months they'll be chugging along working tirelessly and then one day, for no good reason, all work stops.

"Why did you stop serving files?"
"I'm busy, torrenting some Dr. Who episodes"
"What?! You can't do that, you've got spreadsheets to host!"
"It's on my list. I'll check into it, probably just a loose wire in the server room..."

Solution? I go Jack Bauer on them. It's the only thing I can think of. I'll bring an innocent server down and start taking out parts. I do this on the floor of the server room so all the other boxes can see.

"What's he doing to XEON?"
"He was working fine!"
"SWEET MERCY! Is that his HBA!"
"That's not hot swappable you MANIAC! What's wrong with you!"
"There's no way he'll get him running again, you're not even grounded!
"YOU FREAKING SICKO!"

Just for good measure I'll leave parts scattered on tables with the server chassis opened up and cables hanging loose like some horrific technical autopsy. I find, for me, the process has been quite effective. Sometimes though, on particularly suborn machines even more pressure is required to bring them back into obedient servitude.

"I'm Windows 2008 R2. You can't possibly know what rouge services I might be running by perusing the task manager. I could be doing ANYTHING I want with my 16 cores..."

In these times I bring in the consultant. Not because the man knows more than me. No actually quite the opposite. The last time we had a hardware consultant in to swap out a RAID controller card he grounded out the mother board. Then to make matters worse, during the mother board replacement he ended up wiping all the data from both RAID sets. This man is a full fledged mobster in the eyes of my servers.

"No not Wes. Look look, Net Logon is up again. IT'S UP AGAIN!!! Please tell him to put his tools away"

Sure it might not be considered best practice but for ultimate reliability and five nines or better? Intimidating servers is the way to go.

6 comments:

Jeremy said...

"Have you tried the new Leopard darling?! It's wonderful and finally utilizes all my BEST features!"
"Sounds good. How much is it?"
"Four times the going rate! It's a must have this season."

Actually... Mac OS upgrades are significantly cheaper than their Microsoft cousins. With a Mac there is only one version of the OS... with a PC you get "Microsoft 7 for Business, but only home business because we also have a Microsoft 7 Fortune 500 Business version too.. so pick the right one!"

Just had to make a fanboy remark.

kludge said...

Success!

Shhh don't tell anyone but I've been actually been thinking about a used Macbook for Patricia.

Wouldn't that blow your mind? Yeah, I'm not sure yet...

Tony said...

"Windows Vista PC's are like IT managers. They think they know better than you, even when they don't."

Don't you mean to say all Windows versions are like that? Also, don't you mean that they think they know better than you, especially when they don't? They all countermand orders given by a human just because they might feel like it. Just try to debate with any Windows box sometime on what driver to use to run a peripheral, especially if someone has already installed a wrong one... "Don't you dare tell me what driver to use! I am a computer and you're just a puny human - and I know a mass media drive when one is connected to my USB port! I'm reinstalling this driver you just removed and that's that." Mmkay then computer, but just so you know, from the outside... that 'mass media drive' looks an awful lot like a printer.

(I'm sure we don't need to revisit the whole "computer repair at gun point" thing again. Although one must admit, your method is more work safe in some working environments.)

"Actually... Mac OS upgrades are significantly cheaper than their Microsoft cousins."

You do realize that that ain't saying much, right? :)

kludge said...

Tony-

You're so right on about the drivers!!

Makolyte said...

I find database servers to be the wisest of all, because they know all the answers to your queries.

//lame i know :P

kludge said...

Makolyte-

Well played!