Thoughts, information and reflections about technology

War Stories – Moving an expensive server

Sometimes I get bored and something I think “Hey, I have a few old war stories that might not be that boring…”.. Oh heck, Let’s post some of them for posterity and for those who have trouble falling asleep at times.

Here is the story of how you don’t want to move a server if you can help it.

When I was running the IT department at a local college we were migrating our admin system from a legacy system running on cobol where only ONE person in the entire world knew the source code. This was prior to Y2K and the system would have definitely crashed on 1/1/2000 (or 1/1/00 as it was coded). The machine that it was running was an old Wang. One of my older staff members kept telling the joke about the merger between Bull and Wang. It was actually funny when he told it.

One day I was visiting one of those big data recovery centers. I had strict orders from my VP to ask about a hot backup for the Wang. Before I asked the VP of the recovery center who was taking us around, I said “Before I ask my next question, I want you to know it’s OK to laugh”. Well, he held his composure for about 3 seconds and then tried to get out “No we can’t offer that” without rolling on the floor laughing.

We were migrating to an admin systems that ran on a Unix server. The problem was that the only shipment terms we could get was to have a 1200 pound server delivered to our loading dock. So, I hired the Larry Moe and Curley moving company to move it from the loading dock to our old data center in the basement. Problem was they only sent us 4 guys, albeit four guys who could probably snap the neck off a full grown gorrilla… with one hand.

Anyway, me and my guys had to help. The other problem was the door was about 1/2″ wider than the machine. As the machine passed throught the door, Mongo, Og, Thor and KingKong had times when they didn’t have a piece of it. I figured out later that there was one point where I was holding about 400 to 600 pounds of really expensive server three feet off the floor threading it through the door.. In case you are wondering why we didn’t just put it on a dolly and roll it in, it was because the server was about a foot or so taller than the door height. Hey, don’t blame me, I didn’t put the data center in the basement. Also, at that time, IT ranked slightly below the janitorial department in the pecking order.

We got it in safely and then proceeded to put it in the only available location which was under a matrix of water and sewer pipes next to the 4000 volt electrical service entrance. It survived there for about a half a year until we were able to move it up to the newly constructed data center. This time the moving company sent two more guys, Conan the Barbarian and Hercules in addition to the previous guys. The server ended up in the new room with no problem.

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