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Feb 6 / Greg

Life At A Data Center

I know I don’t put many personal posts on here, but here is one for you. This narrative was inspired by the cold weather. Here in central/south Texas we don’t get many really cold days. We’ve had temperatures down to 15 degrees…which is exceedingly cold for us (I hate it!).

This means that Monday night I got an hour of sleep, then got called into work. Granted I did go to sleep late…the thinking was “I’ll probably be stuck at work tomorrow, so I’ll stay up with the wife tonight to watch a movie.” So since we are a Tier 4 designed facility, we have a plethora of redundancy. This being said, we have three chillers and five generators on the roof.

The chillers that aren’t running have to have their isolation valves cracked juuuuust right to keep water flowing through their coils, otherwise the water stagnating inside might freeze and burst their coils. Folks up north run glycol systems to avoid this.

Also, diesel fuel has something called a “gel point”. This is the point at which the paraffin wax inside the fuel begins to congeal. Once the temperature drops below freezing the wax begins to gel. Around 15 degrees it gels to the point where fuel filters will clog and starve your generator! To work around this issue you can install fuel heaters or just add a treatment to the fuel. Since we really only have two weeks of this a year, the treatment is the preferred route. To treat the fuel, one adds about a gallon of treatment to every 1000 gallons of fuel. This will lower your gel point to around 0, which is perfectly acceptable for us.

So, nearing the end of my first night, I started getting alerts on one of my VMs. It seems that I lost a drive on the host server and it degraded performance enough to be noticed to the VM. So, I started to work on that. I was finished in the early afternoon and headed home to sleep about 3 hours. I then showed back up at 7PM and then worked again through to about 10AM.

Fast forward to the day I’m writing this, which is Saturday night because I’ve worked that same schedule ALL week. We make rounds to all the gear on a bi-hourly basis ensuring everything is rocking and rolling.

I would offer this as a word of warning to anyone considering working for a data center. You aren’t just a network guy, or a server guy…you are an EVERYTHING guy. My background lends itself to such endeavors because I’ve never been great at any one thing, but mediocre at tons of stuff…hehehe.

One more thing of note: it’s not the sleep I missed, it was my family. Then again, they are the reason we keep jobs like this in the first place, is it not. 🙂


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  1. Justin Wilson / Feb 7 2011

    Very good post. I look as the data center/ISP guys as the special forces of the I.T. world. You have to be able to have a very flexible way of thinking due to the wide variety of tasks one might be thrown into. Corporate I.T. people don’t understand what it’s like to work at the “headend”. They think coming into work overnight is like a field trip.

    It took my wife many years to understand my job is whenever I am needed. This means I might be able to watch movies with her for 3 nights in a row, but if I get a call at 3am I have to go to work.

    It becomes a lifestyle.

  2. Greg / Feb 7 2011

    That’s one of the things that still gets me. My wife loves to say “Why do you have to go?” I’m always thinking in my head, “The same reason I always have to…it’s my job woman.” hehehe

  3. Tim / Feb 7 2011

    The more you know, the more you are expected to do. But not necessarily compensated for. Clearly we are indispensable till our annual pay reviews come up. However, it sure beats shoveling #$*t in Louisiana.

  4. Greg / Feb 7 2011

    Indeed sir. If I ever have my own IT employees I’ll make them salaried as I am now…or as I like to call it, slave labor…hehehehe I wouldn’t have it any other way, though 😉

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