This is not the time for distraction -- this is a time for laser focus on the task at hand. He can picture the pathways, the routes, each layer of the network as he ever so carefully peels them apart and makes the preliminary changes. Finally, he pulls the trigger and the devices pull in the freehanded changes, starting with the deepest device, which immediately goes offline, as it now requires pending upstream modifications to be accessible once more.
On his screen, several terminal windows that had been showing healthy pings begin to display timeouts. Internal systems at the site blink offline. He switches from window to window, each logged into a different device, working backward through the chain. He gets to the last device and makes the final change, perspiration beading on his forehead, his gaze fixed on those ping results.
At that very moment, the person who drew the short straw to make the four-hour drive is sitting on her couch and watching TV. She's constantly distracted by her silent cellphone, wondering if it'll ring and send her on a midnight cruise or if she'll be able to finish tonight's episode of "Game of Thrones."
A few pregnant seconds tick by as the timeouts continue, then suddenly bytes are received. The bits, they can pass once again. The admin suddenly realizes he's been holding his breath; now he lets it out in a whoosh, gives himself a mental high-five, and runs a few more tests to make sure everything is normal. Then he sends a very brief email to the IT group stating that the operation was a success and that adding redundant network access to this site might be a good idea going forward. He grabs a beer. The cellphone will remain silent, at least for tonight.
As much as we'd like to think that single-homed networks are becoming rarer with the advent of cheap business-class cable, fiber, and DSL circuits, they're still a reality for many companies the world over. It's simply not always possible to maintain redundant egress circuits to every site a company may operate. The general rule is that the more remote the site, the fewer the options available.
Back in the days when T1s ruled the roost, remote cutovers were very common, and network admins who cut their teeth during those times know both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. These high-wire acts tend to make one very circumspect, and very exacting in one's understanding of the network arts, as failure typically carries a considerable penalty in terms of both network downtime and reputation.
But without risk, there's no reward. To a network admin, seeing those packets finally come back after those interminable few seconds, that reward is great indeed.
This story, "Mission impossible: A remote network cutover," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Paul Venezia's The Deep End blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.