Monday, November 5, 2007

Extreme Makeover, Data Center Edition

I was a part-time NetWare administrator in my first job out of college. Since then, I have moved on and worked as a developer and product manager. This past two weeks, however, all the memories of my first job came back to life when I was asked to help set up our OpenWorld hands-on lab environment.

The task was equivalent to an Extreme Makeover, Data Center Edition. In less than two weeks, we had to transform a collection of 10 “bare metal” servers into the equivalent of a mini-data center, complete with 85 client workstations. We had to deploy Oracle E-Business Suite, Siebel CRM, Oracle Fusion Middleware, Oracle Enterprise Linux, Microsoft Windows Server, and Oracle Enterprise Manager into the environment.

Even though this project was really about setting up equipment for a training lab, we ran into the same kind of challenges that administrators face on a daily basis. First, there was the schedule. OpenWorld starts on 11/11, and it would start whether our environment was ready or not, so that target date ain't moving. On the other hand, our hardware arrived one week late! So we were way behind schedule before we even got started.

Second, we didn't get the hardware we expect to get. The vendor provided us with CD-ROM drives in our servers, and we had DVD media for our software. These are some of the latest multi-core Dell server boxes. Putting CD-ROM drives in these boxes is like putting cassette tape deck into a brand new Mercedes Benz! The CD-ROM media that we ended up getting was also the wrong one – 32 bit instead of 64 bit, and we didn't find out until we called in a developer to figure out why we could not run E-Business Suite's RapidInstall. These mismatches wasted some of our time, which we could not afford to lose.

Third, there was the unforeseen situation. A 5.6 earthquake hit the San Francisco Bay Area on one night while we were going to system test our client-server connection. That disrupted our work for the night as we didn't feel safe working in a mid-rise building not knowing whether there would be more shaking to come. More time was lost.

Oh yeah, we ran into some “unintended features” in our software as well.

These are just a couple of the server, network and software problems we ran into. The actual list is quite a bit longer than this. Let me put it this way, I feel your pain as administrators.
I did learn a few things from this experience, and I will cover them in a follow up post.

No comments: