7 Minute Miles

The End of a Network Era

Posted Friday, April 3rd, 2009 10:29 pm GMT -6 in Technology, Work

This week was sort of bittersweet for me – after more than four years of service, I was tasked with decommissioning my work servers from the data center in Seattle where we have been leasing a half rack. digital.forest has offered us great service over the years and I’ve been a friend and colleague of their tech VP, Chuck Goolsbee, who I first met many, many years ago in his role as list-mom of the very useful Mac Managers mailing list.

Over the years, we placed many different pieces of equipment in our half-rack. The service and pricing structure of digital.forest were miles above what was offered in the Minnesota market and more than offset the physical distance issue. Their tech support staff handled most issues on-site for me and they patiently dealt with my literally hundreds of DNS support tickets over the years. I really only needed to travel to Seattle to install new gear or perform major upgrades.

The trip this week involved taking five servers, one switch and one tape backup unit off-line, removing all of those items from the rack, packing them up and getting them back to Minnesota. I planned to do this over the HSRA spring break so I could minimize downtime. Originally I thought about driving out, but ended up flying out on Tuesday afternoon and returning on the early Wednesday morning red-eye flight.

Since Sun Country isn’t flying to Seattle right now, I flew the “new Delta” and took one of our studio Anvil cases along. The flight out was full and I waited until the end to board. That was a mistake, as my reserved exit row aisle seat had already be giving to someone else because they booked a child into an exit row and had to move people around. The flight attendant wanted me to sit in a middle seat in the row in front of the exit row – you know, the one that doesn’t recline. Since they make you pay extra for exit rows, I was a little pissed off. They offered to move me to a middle seat in an exit row, but a Delta pilot came down the aisle and said that was “his” seat. Jerk. At least the lead flight attendant came by later and offered to make him move.

When I got to Seattle, I decided to go to my favorite fast food place at SEA-TAC, Ivar’s Seafood, and get some late lunch. The fish and chips were great and I meandered down to baggage claim to get the Anvil (which they only charged me $15 for, despite being oversized). Everyone from my flight was still standing around – I think it took about an hour for the baggage to arrive.

After that, things went pretty smoothly. I rented a Mazda mini-van from National and packed two servers in the Anvil case. I removed the hard drives and put those in a small box along with a Mac mini server and a small ProCurve switch. The three other devices got packed in some extra Dell boxes that digital.forest had laying around and were sent home via FedEx (those items didn’t need to be put back online right away).

After a nice dinner with Chuck, I went back to the airport, returned the car and hauled the heavy Anvil to the check-in area. After some confusion about what they would or would not accept, they decided to charge me $190 and let me check it. Their scale said it weighed 81 pounds, but it had to be much, much more than that, so I was happy. Got through security and hung out in the WorldClub lounge for two hours until the plane left.

This time I claimed my exit row seat early and ended up having no one in the middle seat, which was nice. It was still hard to sleep, though, and I ended up driving straight to the school to get the three servers unpacked and back online ASAP. Fun airline fact – the baggage handlers at MSP will put anything down the regular carousel, including extremely heavy Anvil cases. That thing could have destroyed smaller, inferior luggage if the timing had been better.

I spent most of Wednesday working to get everything back online. Two of the three were online by Wednesday night and the last one came online this morning. Overall downtime was minimized, but it took much more work than I planned, especially on the DNS side of things. Everything seems to be up and running fine today, but the real test will come on Monday when staff and students return in force. I decided to put all of the HSRA workstations back on the wired network too, but I’ll write more about that next week.

Special thanks to Chuck and his staff at digital.forest – if you need a co-location facility, they’re awesome.

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Originally published by DK on April 3, 2009 at 10:29 pm

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