Category Archives: Equipment Maintenance

Zen and the Art of Running a Data Center

canstockphoto4912969by TechRack Systems

Chances are you and your team work hard to ensure that your data center is set up and maintained properly, but did you ever think about seeking advice on how to make it not just more energy efficient but also more energetically balanced? That just might be possible with the ancient art of feng shui, the Chinese philosophical system of environmental harmony.

Although it might seem odd for ideas that are thousands of years old to be applicable to the care and maintenance of data centers that were invented only a few decades ago, but many of the general principles of feng shui just make good common sense. The principle of repairing or fixing anything that is broken, cracked, or rotting isn’t just a good idea but is also a professional imperative. Another obvious maxim is to clear away all clutter, easy to understand but hard to do!

Maybe less applicable is the suggestion to make your space beautiful (“Live with what you love!”) and to bring in nature, although maybe a plant or two in the entryway is a good idea. It has the added fortune of satisfying the recommendation to make your entryway enticing – after all, that’s how the chi gets in. Chi is the basic energy of the universe, kind of like The Force…and who doesn’t want more of that?

But it’s not just about rearranging your server racks and sweeping out dust. Peace of data mind also comes from within. Our “monkey mind” can distract us with inner questions, so here’s some advice from the ancient masters to put you in that ZEN state of mind.

Q: Do I need an emergency back-up generator?
A: “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.”  – Marie Curie

Q: What is the rated floor weight limit for my server racks?
A: “Life is more or less a lie, but then again, that’s exactly the way we want it to be.”  – Bob Dylan

Q: What is the best way to ensure facilities have dust-contained, raised floors?
A: Learn to wish that everything should come to pass exactly as it does.”  – Epictetus

Q: How do I install fiber network cables into the server cabinets?
A: “I’d love to give you something but what would help?”  – Ikkyu

Q: What is the best way to configure my data center power systems?
A: “It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”  – Confucius

Q: How can I get more airflow through equipment racks?
A: “Practice not-doing, and everything will fall into place.”  – Lao Tzu

Q: What’s the advantage of fully enclosed cabinets versus open racks?
A: “There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.”  – William Shakespeare

Q: I have my computer equipment in front of an air conditioning unit and yet the equipment still runs hot. Why and how can I fix it?
A: “Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.”  – Pablo Picasso

Q: Where should I place perforated floor tiles, in relation to small server racks, in order to maximize air floor and cooling?
A: “Your duty is to choose, not to choose this or that.”  – Zen Koan

Q: How often do I need to check aging equipment to ensure it’s in good working order?
A: “Man who stands on hill with his mouth open will wait a long time for roast duck to drop in.”  – Confucius

Q: What’s the best approach to upgrading older server racks?
A: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”  – Lao Tzu

Thoughts from the old masters and TechRack Systems: techrack.com; 888-266-3577.

DATABLANCA

canstockphoto2944364“I Stick My Rack Out For Nobody.”

by TechRack Systems

It was a quiet night at the data center. The day shift was gone, and the house lights were out. Street lamps shone through the fog and across the desk of Rack Blanca, now slumped over a tangle of old cords, an empty glass by one hand, and a near-empty bottle by the other. At the sound of footsteps, Rack stirs, pours a drinks and knocks it back just as Sam, the night onsite engineer, walks in.

“Is that you, boss?” Sam says. Rack just looks at him, expressionless. The light of a passing truck sweeps the scene, and Rack reaches for the bottle in silence. Sam tries again. “Boss?”

“Yeah?”

“Ain’t you going to bed?”

Rack takes a swig. “Not right now.”

“Ain’t you planning on going to bed in the near future?”

“No!” Rack is clearly in a grim mood. Sam settles in and starts to fiddle with some equipment.

Rack hangs his head. “Of all the data centers in all the towns in all the world, she had to walk into mine.” Sam nods; Rack’s talking about the new manager, Ella. He figured she would show up sometime – after all, everyone comes to Rack’s.

“What’s that you’re doing?” Rack looks up at Sam.

“Oh nothing, just looking over some PUE data,” Sam shrugs, trying to seem casual, but really, this was something Ella asked for. Her job was to ensure the data center basics were all in place, and she was a stickler for power continuity and secure server enclosures. She’d been bugging Sam to ensure their UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) was solid.

“PUE. What’s that?”

Rack must be really drunk, Sam thinks. “C’mon, boss, you know – Power Usage Effectiveness. Don’t you want me to keep us running efficiently, and avoid brownouts, blackouts? Then I gotta measure our power usage. Anyway, that’s what Ella said…” Sam sees Rack wince, and knows he shouldn’t have mentioned Ella.

“Oh yeah? So you’re measuring power usage for her, huh? Well, now measure it for me. C’mon! I can take it. If she can be more efficient, I can!”

Sam shrugs again, and Rack’s thoughts drift back to earlier that afternoon, when Ella had suddenly showed up, in his private office, lowering the blinds. She said she wanted to talk security, and so he pretended to believe her, for old time’s sake.

First she started talking about cameras – how many security cameras did they have and in what locations. Maybe they should hire security guards. Didn’t he want to protect his data?

“Want to?” Rack had said. “Baby, I have to protect my data and lock my server cabinets. But it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of one little data center don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world…”

Some women were never satisfied; luckily she didn’t bother to bring up fingerprint and retinal scanners – she knew Rack’s was too low rent for that – but she really pressed him on the firewalls. “And I’m not talking those little boxes inside the computers,” she’d purred. “I mean, actual walls for preventing fires. Rack, can you give me that?”

Ella had looked around the place with a bit of distain. “What’s happened to this place? Sure, it’s always safer to keep a low profile – no reason to just let in anyone when you’ve got data to keep secure, but…” She ran her finger along a dusty air duct. “Can’t you at least keep the equipment running?”

Rack had only half listened as she talked about the sad state of his old HVAC. “Rack, we’ve got to optimize our environmental factors.” She never used to talk so fancy. “Keeping the cold rooms at 70 degrees, like in the old days…you don’t need to. Let’s bring the heat up to 80, and re-think server density, I bet we can reduce operational costs just by…”

Leave it to her to bring up the past, that very first data center they ever worked in together. Now that place had bad airflow management. Ella’s throat had always been dry, but that just made her sultry voice even better…back when she’d loved him…

Suddenly, a crash startles Rick awake. His bottle was in broken bits on the floor, and Sam was already grabbing a broom to sweep it up, singing a little tune to himself. “The world will always welcome data, as time goes by.”

Rack sits up. Sam was right. No need to dwell on the past. Rack turns back to the QuadAdjust 24” deep wire shelf unit he’d been installing before going off on that bender. It was a sweet piece of TechRack’s equipment, heavy duty chrome finish, perfect welds and able to hold a ton. Who needs women when you got equipment like this, he thought. Heck, it might just be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Oh No… HELP! Do You Have a Solid Disaster Recovery Plan for your #DataCenter?

canstockphoto15431220by TechRack Systems

A disaster recovery plan is one of the most important elements of a well-run data center. Sometimes, however, important areas can go unaddressed—not intentionally, but because of other priorities, or the “set it and forget it” mindset to name a few. In order to take all possible precautions, consider these often-overlooked items for disaster recovery planning.

#1 – Not Thinking of the “Common” Disasters

More often than not, it’s the more typical incidents, like a failed power supply or a software crash, that occur and cause havoc rather than a natural disaster such as an earthquake or a hazardous material spill. These smaller-scale but no less important crises should have their own “mini-plan” to ensure steps are in place to address, if and when they occur. Otherwise you’ll be making up a plan as you go during a disaster situation.

#2 – Your Technologies Have Cobwebs

Well, hopefully you do not have literal cobwebs. It may be good fortune that you’ve never had to dust off the disaster recovery plan from its spot on the back shelf, but there is a downslide to this too: The older the plan, the more likely it will include obsolete technology and outdated tactics. This could result in a major problem should a disaster occur. Review your current disaster recovery plan and conduct a technology audit; determine if alternatives for “old” technologies are required, and if so, what needs to be replaced. The extra effort could save time and money, and most importantly, stave off a panic situation during a disaster and subsequent recovery time.

#3 – The Plan Has Never Been Practiced

You may have an airtight disaster recovery plan on paper, but has it ever been put to the test? Doing a practice run is the best bet against failure. Test the realities of the actual conditions and situation of your data center. Since business processes, IT operations, and personnel do change all the time, your plan must reflect these shifts. Also, your test run will accomplish several things: You will learn information that could change the plan (i.e., data have been moved from one server rack to another, for example), and also provides an opportunity to iterate and tighten up the plan. This testing will help all participants to fully understand the list of recovery priorities for services and data.

#4 – Know Your Service Level Agreements (SLA)

Another area that can fall between the cracks is details of your SLA and/or support contract with your vendor. Since there are different types of response levels depending on the agreement, you must fully read and understand what your service contracts encompass so you can plan for it. For instance, your data center may have what you consider to be an “emergency”, but your contract may specify different criteria that qualifies with your third party vendors and service providers. Conducing this review may also potentially mean you must upgrade or downgrade service levels in your contract.

#5 – What About Software Licensing?

Another commonly missed component to disaster recovery planning is software licensing. For instance, many software vendors allow for site licensing that is not active (“passive” licensing), but depending on how the software is set up and deployed, it could become unusable after the disaster recovery backup is initiated. This can lead to huge recovering back up issues and delays, including limited storage and processing resources. Don’t let this happen and stall the process of getting back to business.

#6 – It’s Not Just the Plan, It’s the People

Sure, you have a communications plan, but what about the people actually doing the work? It’s critical to compile a complete list of responsibilities and tasks, with detailed information on task areas and everyone’s role within the plan. Components would likely include accountability, informing, consulting, and other task development and execution steps. For example, who will be responsible for informing clients and customers of the down-time period? What specific actions will they take? A detailed people plan ensures that escalation and authorization processes are followed in order to keep systems running as smoothly as possible in disaster and recovery modes.

Find out more about disaster recovery resources. For questions about your data center server cabinet needs, visit our website (www.techrack.com) or contact us at sales@techrack.com or 888-266-3577.

Are Your #Data #Center #Servers in Tip Top Shape?

canstockphoto12893445by TechRack Systems

At most data centers, servers get the least amount of attention—not because they aren’t important, of course—but because they are the most “stable” elements compared to other IT priorities. Taking the time to address potential pitfalls that can occur with servers can avoid future problems.

Ditch the Dust

One of the biggest issues for electronic equipment is that it attracts dust and other particles. Because of the airflow patterns in data centers, it doesn’t take long to cause equipment issues. Take these precautions:

  • Use air filters and sealed doors on server racks and cabinets to help eliminate dust getting into servers and peripherals.
  • Limit who has access to the server area to avoid opportunities for touching equipment.
  • When opening cardboard boxes or other materials, avoid doing so near the server cabinets since particles can become airborne quickly.
  • If there is construction near the servers, clean up residual sheet rock or other materials that can corrode equipment components.

Let Equipment Breathe

One of the most common problems with server equipment is that the electronics inside can cause it to run hot. If the air doesn’t have the opportunity to expel, computers and peripherals can overheat, fail, or become a fire hazard if not ventilated properly. Here are some tips for upkeep:

  • Use perforated metal doors and side panels and fans for better air flow into and through the cabinet.
  • Vented shelves to allow fixed air space between pieces of equipment; it is discouraged to stack components on top of each other as it can cause overheating.

Check Aging Equipment

Electronic equipment and its software have a limited life even when it seems to be in good working order. For instance, CPUs, adapters, and other hardware can be used for years, but the applications and software that run on computing equipment can degrade the overall performance over time.

  • Evaluate all components to ensure good wear-leveling and endurance; factor these into your software purchasing and maintenance cycles.
  • Work closely with equipment vendor(s) to ensure you understand lifespan, managing and protecting the equipment, and warranty details.
  • Compare your current equipment with the latest version(s) to determine if it’s more cost-effective to retire it and purchase new models.

Do a “Once-Over” on Equipment

Periodically, it’s recommended to do a hands-on evaluation of the physical appearance of servers and peripherals to make sure they’re in good working order:

  • Check hardware for error indicators or lights and any hardware termination or interoperability issues.
  • Test the functionality of all peripheral equipment to make sure it’s operating properly.
  • Check all plugs and cabling; look for wear and tear and any incorrect cabling; investigate disconnected cables and adjust or remove them.

Taking these steps can help extend working life of your server equipment, reduce the chance of service calls, and allow the IT team to focus on other priorities (and save those urgent requests for other departments).

For any questions or a personal evaluation of your server rack needs, visit our website, www.techrack.com, or contact TechRack Systems at sales@techrack.com or 888-266-3577.