We don't need no stinkin' UPS

Just to prove that the server had its own circuit breaker, Joe went ahead and, well, broke it

I had been working as the Junior Network Administrator for about 6 months at a large grocery reseller in 1995, and budget season was coming up. Our group had submitted the initial budget and now the series of managers responsible for approving the budget wanted to tour the datacenter to see what they had bought last year. Joe, the senior network administrator, had the duty of leading the tour.

All of the managers came out of the mainframe era of the company, and the entire PC Network thing was new to them. Joe grew up on Netware, and he was about to show off his pride and joy. We worked at world headquarters and supported about 750 local users. The previous year, Joe had purchased two high-end Netware servers, splitting the load between them.

Joe showed the management group the primary server, starting with the council screen. He pointed out the uptime, indicating that it had been online since about 3 weeks after it was purchased. He explained the processor, the memory, and the external drive arrays. This was an impressive server for its time. One of the managers asked about the power and if there was a UPS. Our datacenter had its own battery room, and Joe explained that there was no need for a UPS.

He was so enthusiastic, he could not bring himself to move on. He had to let the managers know that the server had its own circuit breaker where the power feeds into it. And then he proceeded to show them where the circuit breaker was. At that point, Joe "just touched it" for some reason -- and the breaker kicked out.

It was midmorning. About 500 users instantly got the pop-up that their server connections were lost. The help desk phones started ringing, and I got the pages from the server alerting me to a power failure.

Joe stood up in shock. He reset the breaker, but the damage was done. The server took about 35-40 minutes to cold boot.

It really bothered Joe that the breaker kicked out so easily. He wondered whether something was wrong with it. He proceeded to move to the secondary server, and yes, "just touched it" and it kicked out again. Another 250 users dropped. Joe got very red in the face, reset the circuit breaker, and then handed the tour over to me on his way back to his desk.

I quickly reviewed some of our other utility machines in the datacenter, touched on our tape backup system and e-mail. After cutting the tour off somewhat short, I returned to my desk to find Joe and our group leader Rob in a comical argument with Rob ribbing him with "Joe, why didn’t you just make fun of Jim's mother or call Steve names if you wanted to give them a memorable tour?" Joe just replied, "I just touched it," and shook his head.

We spent the rest of the day dealing with the aftermath of our primary and secondary servers being restarted in the middle of the day. Management was so impressed that both servers could just be powered off and would come back online by themselves, they decided to move forward with further investment in the server infrastructure. Joe managed to get his credibility back after a few weeks, but he never heard the end of the power switch teasing as long as I was around.

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