‘They Even Ate Lunch In The Server Room’

‘They Even Ate Lunch In The Server Room’

One of the challenges in our World Of Servers competition to win a trip to TechEd North America in New Orleans involves confessing your data centre secret. At last week’s Microsoft Managent Summit in New Orleans, I heard a doozy.

Hamburger picture from Shutterstock

In a pointed example of how not every data centre in the world uses deployment technologies efficiently to install Windows on new systems, MVP Mikael Nystrom described the situation at one site he encountered:

They had a DVD which they ran around with and in the end of all the hallways they have a big note on the wall with the product key typed on it. I wanted to ask them what their reference image was, but they clearly didn’t know what one was.

And adding insult to injury, taking physical care of the machines was a low priority:

They even ate lunch in the server room.

With that in mind, grab your lunch later today, eat it somewhere safe, and spend some more time planning your competition entry.


  • I guess my data-centre secret, is that I disable the fire-alarms in the server room so that the water-sprinklers don’t go off when I take my smoke break.

      • Very true. And that you seem to smoke in the server room.. Tar is one of the worst things I can imagine for nearly every component of a server room..

        • It’s not the tar, it’s the ash. Which with dust can make a nasty fan stopping combination… if it isn’t taken care of. Smoking near a computer is fine as long as you do the cleaning leg work.

          • You’d be surprised. Open any device that’s been in the house of a smoker for 5 years, the brown goop you will find is quite conductive and is not removable by any known means lol.

          • Wow! I didn’t know that.

            And no thanks. I can’t bear to touch any device that’s been in a smokers house for that long. Or object. Because they smell way too bad.

          • Discovered this first hand when fixing a workmate’s computer. Utterly disgusting.

  • We don’t have fire sprinklers in our server room but we did have a huge water main in the roof above the server room. It only cost us 11 million dollars to replace our server room when the water main burst and turned our servers into an indoor water feature.

  • I eat my lunch in the server room too some days when it’s really hot – a nice cool place where only my people have access… Not near the servers though xD

  • My data center confession details a shocking event which, surprisingly, did not lead to a discontinuation of my consulting contract. It did, however, lead to a banning of Barb’s Cape in the server room.

    When I was but a wee lass, a grad student earning part time cash supporting a system built by a defunct former employer at one of the largest law firms in America, my desk was IN the server room. Being a grad student with personality and a reputation, I wore a winter cape instead of a winter coat. So every day I’d gamely walk into the server room after class, toss my Darth Hackeresque winter cape on a nearby flat surface and get to work. Around 7 or so, I’d pick my cape up and leave to go home.

    And therein was the source of the problem. One day, as I grabbed my cape on the way out the door, one of the armholes caught on a handle on the side of the flat surface, and I pulled to get it free. Ooops, the handle turned (IMHO) *FAR* too easily when I did that.

    And what greeted me was the sort of sound I’d never before, or since, heard: several dozen large-ish servers simultaneously powering down. The flat surface was… the server room’s UPS. It took down the servers, the network lines connecting 14 or so branch offices in the US and Europe and the phone system. They had to call the UPS service people to get it turned back on. In the meantime, everything was dead in the water. Fortunately, this didn’t happen during the business day for the HQ office (which was the one in which I worked).

    Somehow I lived to tell the tale, and stayed there for another 18 months before I left that gig to resume full time employment.

    • Wow, that’s nasty. I would have wanted to run at that point. I sure don’t blame you though. From what I have seen servers of those size should have dual power supplies. One connected to the UPS and one to surge-protected mains. That way if one was to go off the other would keep the servers powered. Networking equipment not so much, but they should be fairly easy to bring back up. So really, its a poor set up that put them in that situation.

      • Agreed. And I probably could have made some brownie points pointing that out, albeit after the fact … had I known back in the early 1990’s about such things.

      • And yes, the instinct to run was quite strong. However, since they would have known it was me, I figured owning up to what happened and how it happened was the least worst of all alternatives. (You know, if you walk up to the ops manager and just tell them this, with a very perplexed and stunned voice, it hopefully looks a bit better for you than if you run with no explanation, seeing as they knew who was at fault. You can’t exactly hide a turned UPS handle that can’t be turned back on without a service person present. (And yes, I admit it, I know this because I DID TRY, and only REALLY started to panic when turning the handle did not get rid of the blinking red LED’s and the beeping.)

  • Not a secret for those involved, but my data centre secret is the following;

    One night after several hours of server work, including installing several blade chassis and blades in a server room, we took a break and had some pizza (in the office away from the servers).

    My colleagues, unaware of my lactose intolerance assumed Pizza would be fine.

    After an hour or so of work continuing, I was in the middle of working in the cool row of the server room, when it happened, the most horrible expulsion of gas known to man.

    My two colleagues in the hot row enjoying the odd bit of cool air circulating to them while they cabled servers and switches received a horrible surprise.

    At this point, my boss told me to go have a cigarette and use this time to let go any more of these surprises outside while they waited for the server room to clear.

    We all laughed later, but at the time we nearly threw up all over our shiny new servers.

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