RealityIT: Data Center Infrastructure

Getting between your CIO and the IT Team you supervise can get downright ugly sometimes.

January 16, 2004

3 Min Read
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How You Play the Game

You might think I'd have been asked for input into such a massive decision, but nooooo. The deal had been inked, and I was charged with overseeing the IT aspects of the move, on a tight schedule and an even tighter budget.

Now if you've ever had to deal with a move of this magnitude, you know it's like some evil rite of passage for IT people, and those who survive have the scars to prove it. My impulse was to rant and rave, but rational thinking won out and I decided to rise to the challenge. I called for a meeting with data center manager Marvin Mips, network manager Dirk Packet and telecom manager Sandra Hook to devise a plan, taking into account that holiest of trinities: technology, logistics and bureaucracy.

First, we had to determine what kind of infrastructure we'd need in the new space, and what kind of layout would best accommodate all our systems and servers. The suburban facility had a computer room with a raised floor, as well as good heating and ventilation, though some essentials, like a central UPS and a backup generator, were missing.

Naturally, we hoped to take advantage of this opportunity to upgrade to some state-of-the-art equipment. In fact, Dirk informed me, our network engineer had his heart set on some monstrous bladed network switch for our new digs.We knew we'd need separate voice and data cabling runs (no time to investigate the possibility of voice over IP, despite the temptation), but first we had to figure out which circuits we'd need at the new site. And that meant we'd have to deal with the various carriers for the different lines--sheer joy.

We calculated the cost of having an IT engineering consultant on hand and manufacturing reps to move some of our heftier gear and certify the new installs. We also prepared to fill out stacks of paperwork to justify our capital expenses and keep the bean counters at bay.

Next, we set a time line for the project, which was tricky because we couldn't shut down all operations simultaneously, even on weekends, plus we'd need time for testing and tweaking. But we were committed to having all systems running smoothly within a month after the new lease took effect.

Then we braced ourselves for the inevitable moaning and groaning from the IT people who'd have to cancel weekend plans.

Heavy Lifting RequiredI wanted to set a good example for my team by doing some of the dirty work, so when I wasn't supervising the manufacturers' reps and consultants, I was hauling servers, assembling racks, and crawling around connecting power cords and cables. We worked long and hard; we even pulled an all-nighter. (Boy, all that pizza and Red Bull brought back fond college memories--anyone out there remember Jolt?)

The new data center will require periodic upgrades and maintenance, of course, so the gig's not entirely over, but I'm ready to move on to the next major challenge. I have some projects to pitch to my CIO, and I'm sure he has some in store for me as well. Now I just have to figure out how to balance the high-priority (read: urgent) jobs with the IT team's day-to-day work. Spending all that "quality time" with my staff was a great bonding experience--I just wouldn't want to do it again anytime soon.

--Hunter Metatek is an enterprise IT director with 15 years' experience in network engineering and management. The events chronicled in this column are based in fact -- only the names are fiction. Write to the author at [email protected].

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