Old stuff in the data center

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Yesteryear.

I started to call this post “Data Center Survivability”. Then my thoughts went in a different direction. Processes and procedures to make sure a data center can transition through technology and people didn’t seem as fun as “Old Data Center Stuff”. Maybe I’ll do that post another time.

We are reaching the 25-30 year mark when many companies started to establish a data center for the computing needs of their business office. My first IT jobs were in data centers with SUN Microsystem Unix servers and Novell Netware. There was the raised floor, big A/C units, and or course the wiring patch panel. The IBM mainframe (Big Iron) was adjoined to the data center. It had it’s own room complete with operator stations and console.

Current Year.

Today, the data center of years past has matured but still has remnants of yesteryear. My experience, no doubt, mirrors that of many other IT professionals. There are pieces and even whole systems in the data center that are no longer used. The current IT support staff may not even know how some of the equipment functions or when it was installed.

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Old Stuff.

Here are some examples of technology in the data center from yesteryear. There is a good chance that many of these items are inside your data center today. Some of it is still operating and providing service!Modem

  • Voice wiring closets with 110 and 66 punch blocks. The punch blocks are still in-use, but with not near as many active connections due to VoIP systems.
  • Analog PBX systems which are being replaced with VoIP systems. The VoIP desk stations rely on the data cabling and network and not the phone wiring that is punched down to the 110 and 66 punch blocks. Older PBX systems are large pieces of equipment unlike their modern day equivalents that fit into a rack.
  • 10/100 BaseT Hubs and Switches or even Token Ring hubs are being replaced with Gigabit switches.PollCat
  • Tapes and tape drives used for data backup to tape are being replaced with disk-to-disk and disk-to-cloud architectures. Old tape storage racks and filing systems are not needed near as much as they were in the past.
  • Console splitters so that servers can connect to a common console are often by-passed by engineers who use remote control software.
  • PC Peripherals such as VGA accelerators, modem cards, ethernet cards may use a data bus format that is longer found on modern desktop PCs.
  • Old storage drives are starting to be replaced with solid state drives.
  • Security and fire alarm panels should still be working, but the facilities maintenance or the IT team may not know how its wired.
  • The UPS battery and generator systems are probably still the original units. But these require periodic maintenance and parts refreshes. There is a good chance current support staff may not know much about how it’s all connected.

Time Goes On.

Time marches on for the data center as it does for all of us. The life span of computing equipment varies. The space and cooling requirements of a data center change may change. Cloud services are in vogue right now and may continue to gain popularity because data centers are complicated and expensive to maintain.

Deciding what to do with the old stuff in the data center can be a challenge. Do we throw it away? Recycle it? Reuse it? Or punt and let the next guy decide? One thing is for certain. This old stuff triggers memories for those that have installed and maintained it. This stuff is full of stories. This stuff provided solutions to problems and helped spawn a new level of business process automation. Everything has a season and then gives way to new creation.

Onward and upward!

What do you enjoy most about your work?

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One of my takeaways from college studies was that I didn’t want to work in a job that offered the same work-script each day. Right or wrong, this was the time in my life that I decided I didn’t want to code computer programs for a living because I saw the the activity as repetitive. It wasn’t the end result of the computer program that influenced my thinking, but rather the act of writing code. I wasn’t the most gifted code writer in my class. I completed assignments, but often by brute-force and will power through hours of trial-and-error. I do enjoy writing computer code, but I didn’t see myself doing it for a weekly 40.

During this time, I found that I enjoy work variety. I enjoy solving new puzzles each week and the process of creating new things. There was a bumper sticker at Georgia Tech during my undergraduate years that said “we don’t fit the mold, we make it”. While I didn’t pick an engineering major or pursue an engineering career, I share many characteristics with engineers in what motivates and inspires me. I love to examine a process to see how things fit together to create work.

So I’ve pursued job assignments in information technology, product marketing, and digital marketing during my career. In all of my work I’ve been involved with creating something new to solve a problem for a customer. So this is what I enjoy most about my work.  I see work as the opportunity to create, to bridge, and to learn.

Onward and upward!

Crystal Ball – The next business phone system

One of my first job assignments as a cooperative education student (Co-op) during college was to learn the local Siemens business phone system. The central phone unit was in an enormous cabinet in the basement of the building. This past weekend I worked with a team at my current job to decommission a Fujitsu PBX that started service in the same time era as my Co-op job. It was also the biggest piece of equipment we had in the computer room.Fujitsu PBX

But we didn’t decommission the Fujitsu system because of its age. The unit was still working and providing service. The primary driver to replace the system was cost. The support contract for the old equipment was expensive and newer Voice-over-IP (VoIP) systems offer additional savings by reducing long distance costs. I certainly appreciate all the modern features on the VoIP system, but that was not the primary driver for the change.

After the implementation experience, I had time to reflect on what I think will be the future of business phone systems.

 

Wireless

I observed that many office dwellers are already just setting their desk phones to forward to their cell phones. People are growing accustomed to have a single phone for their voice communication needs and they like it with them and not tied to a desk. So I don’t see the next generation of a business phone system requiring wires, punch blocks, and ethernet switches in the building. Rather I see a desk set that is wireless and talks to a local PBX through wifi.

Power and Portability

The phone sets we installed last weekend draw power from a POE ethernet switch. I see the future phone drawing power from a desktop surface device, not a cable. The phone unit will have a battery and be portable around the office. Hopefully this doesn’t lead to more lost phones and cracked screens.  🙂

Cloud/Cellular

The central PBX in the data center may be replaced with a cellular solution from a provider. For those willing to have their phone service on a subscription and as a tie-in with cloud based data center services, a cellular option will exist for primary business phones. This could appeal to both small businesses and large. Desk phone units could either be cellular or use a wifi connection to a local device at the facility that negotiates the cellular signal with the provider.

The bottom-line

I see the future of business phone communications systems with less wires, more air based communication, less on-premise equipment, and more portability.

Now, I need to work on decommissioning all those old fashion FAX machines. My future dream can’t exist with FAX machines and modems.

Onward and upward!

Waiting for another marshmallow

Long term thinking.

This week I discussed the idea of basing management decisions on a long-term philosophy with a few of my colleagues. It’s a concept that few will argue against, but yet is known for creating friction within organizations between management and line workers.

I consider the relationship between management and shareholders as a major contributor that increases pressure around short term results. Healthy results are certainly desired by ownership and management, but it can lead to contention. The Harvard Business Review published a good article on the relationship between shareholders and management that describes factors that influence some of the behaviors on this topic.  It’s good reading for a historical view of the changing makeup of shareholders.

What the kids taught us.Marshmallow

Then I remembered the Stanford marshmallow experiment about delayed gratification. 15 minutes is a long time for a child!

The basic premise was a child was given a single marshmallow and they could eat it right-away. But if they waited for 15 minutes they could have two marshmallows.  What’s great was that researchers followed up with the experiment years later and found that children who were able to wait longer for the extra rewards “tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT score, educational attainment,  and body mass index.” Now that’s something to think about!

Onward and upward!