5 data center breakthroughs I'm thankful for


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Savor these server, networking, and storage advancements while you're fixing Mom's computer this holiday season

Technology has a habit of evolving at a rate that's difficult to keep up with. New hardware and software with ever-broader capabilities and increased performance hit the market at a dizzying rate. Staying on top of it all -- much less trying to figure out how best to leverage it -- can be a job in itself. However, sometimes it's helpful to take a step back and count your blessings.

Fortunately, there's a flip side to rapid technology advancement: When we're not merely striving to keep up, we're working with much better tools than before. In no particular order, here are five data center innovations I simply couldn't do without today.

Infrastructure APIs
If you've worked in a large IT department, or especially an ISP, chances are you've done a ton of scripting over the years. Either that, or you've had to perform a lot of manual, repetitive tasks for the lack of a script to automate them. I've written my fair share of kludges, usually built around some combination of Expect and Perl to take care of tasks that really should never have been addressed that way.

Many years ago, I needed to pull the MAC address table from a collection of switches to build a database of MAC-to-port assignments. My solution (if you can call it that) involved a pile of Perl that would telnet into the console of each switch, manually log itself in, figure out which switch OS it was talking to (some were Cisco CATOS, some Cisco IOS), run the right commands, and scrape the output. Depending upon the OS and version, it would then try to parse the output from a command that was never intended to be consumed programmatically. In the end, the script worked reasonably well -- as long as nothing really changed on the network -- but the code was brimming with regexs from hell. It was impossible to read without cringing.

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