Posts Tagged ‘Details’

Geek Alert! Info forAuthors

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

I’m reading this really good book in which the heroine is all computer geeky, which is fun. The author, at one point, has her heroine visiting a facility described as cutting edge, technology-wise, including computers. The author then casually mentions that the employee workspace (not IT employees) has computers and servers sitting around.


That’s the sound of Carolyn falling (briefly) out of this otherwise extremely excellent book. I forgive the author because the rest is so good.

So I’m going to explain, at a very high level, about servers so you won’t make that mistake. If you need specifics, Google around for more targeted info. I have left out details so as not to be hopelessly confusing. Or befriend someone in your IT department.

Employee workspace with computers? You betcha. Gotta have that.

Employee workspace with servers sitting around? No. Sorry. In a corporate environment there would NEVER be a server anywhere but in the server room. (See slight exception below).

What’s a server room you ask? Oh, what’s a server? Well, it’s a computer. Doh.

Hmm. Maybe an analogy will help. This applies to medium to large companies, OK? Companies with an IT budget of more than $200,000K a year — or way way more.

Your desktop computer is a Toyota Corolla. A server is a Lamborghini.

A basic Windows PC costs <$1,000. A basic server costs about $30,000 (If your needs are limited, otherwise, $100,000 wouldn’t be unusual.

A server room is a climate-controlled room dedicated to housing servers.

The server room should have controlled physical access so that only authorized people can get inside. Why? Because you don’t want your data or equipment walking out the door or worse.

Climate-controlled means it’s freaking cold in there. You need a coat if you’re going to be in there for very long.

Why? Because servers generate a lot of heat and hot servers shut down and your business ceases to function. Server rooms tend to be noisy. Often the AC is quite loud. The network guys will get paged if the server room temp gets too high (68 might be a warning level. 75 is reason to panic. at 8o, meltdown is immanent if not already happening.)

A lot of companies house certain servers in colocation facilities. These COLO facilities rent out server racks and provide some tech support, the climate control and the physical access control etc. You bring your own servers and put them in the racks yourself. Corporate IT personnel remotely administer the servers from wherever.

But many companies have at least some subset of servers on-site.

Servers do NOT have monitors. There might be a desk(s) in the server room with monitors and keyboards so you access the servers from there. Or, there might be a monitor/keyboard tray in the server rack that pulls out so you can pull up the monitor and access the servers in that rack.

This picture shows what looks to be a fairly modest sized server room. Over on the left there, toward the bottom, those 3 beige things are older severs. Note that they are labeled. The vertical thingees (there are 4 in each of the 3) to the right side of the beige servers are the hard drives. They come out — if one is broken, for example– and you can put a new drive in. To the bottom right, you can see two narrow black box thingees. They are also servers, but different ones. There’s another beige server underneath the two black ones.

Here’s an example of why you need physical access control (and also of how it can fail any way). Someone at a company once removed a server drive, replaced it with another drive and walked away with a copy of the corporate data. The multiple drives (depending) contain redundant data — they all have the same data. That way if one drive fails, your data is still up and running.

There are all different looks to servers and server rooms. Things can look all mismatched like this picture, or homogeneous. It depends on your budget, who you decided to buy from and what your needs are.

Server racks usually look like very tall cabinets. They usually have doors. You open the doors and see a stack of servers with blinking lights. They should also be labeled so you know which one is which in case you have to access the physical box (to add drives, memory or even (ack!) restart the box.)

The BACK of a server rack has ethernet cables that run from the network cards (most servers will have more than one network card) to a router or switch and usually from the router or switch to a patch panel. (Flying at a high level here!)

disorderly cablesThose cables can look like a spaghetti nightmare (in which case someone should be fired) Or they can be neat and orderly and tied down.

Here’s a flickr grouping of various server room photos if you’re curious about the variety.

But you can see that a server looks NOTHING like your desktop computer. You *could* configure a desktop computer as a server — but that’s not what you’d typically see in a corporate environment. Except in the room where IT personnel sit. Then you’d see workstations configured as servers for testing and development but, pray God, not production end-user equipments. Geeks like me play with those.

So, no high-falutin’ cutting edge company will have servers sitting around in an area open to non-IT personnel. Really. They generate heat and need to be kept cold. They wouldn’t sit flat on a desk. They’re made to be inserted into a rack. Would *you* want to be the one who accidentally knocks the $100,000 server off the table? Or watch it fall off the table during an earthquake? I don’t think so.

So, that’s it.