One example was our shipping experience with APC. The sheer volume of gear that APC shipped us for this project was staggering. We wound up using an entire 40 foot container truck to delivery our goods—and it was stuffed. You don’t overnight something like that. That gets shipped via ground and sea by a contractor other than APC. And that’s where the trouble starts.
Naturally, we simply took APC’s word that the shipment was en route as ordered — and they, in turn, were taking the shipping company’s word for it. It turned out, however, that our stuff was ordered and consequently shipped later than we'd thought. That became an issue right around the time we realized the cooling condensers had to be weather coated. Because the project deadline loomed just two weeks away, adding a week or so of weather coating into the schedule was a big problem.
But when APC tried to find our goods in the shipping company’s records to see if we could either halt the condenser delivery so APC could coat them, or speed it up so we wouldn’t be so crunched for time, the shipping company couldn’t give us an exact location. By the time it could, the condensers were bobbing across the Pacific. We couldn’t even get the shipping company to prioritize our container so it would get dropped on the dock early Monday morning. We ended up having to shift project deadlines and travel schedules. Staying on top of your vendor’s shipping process may be a pain, but it will serve up golden dividends of efficiency on project day.
Another important part of vendor watching is staying on top of equipment orders. We weren’t nearly careful enough here. Don’t just place the order, glance at the P.O., and assume they’re shipping what you want. We did and it hurt. Even the best vendors with the best intentions can make critical mistakes when filling orders. Only the caution of Phil Rapoza, our facilities manager, saved us from APC's condenser spec-and-switch. We also had a full cable management system spec’d out and ordered, but suddenly the vendor (who shall remain nameless) backed out, claiming resource problems. Here again, Phil Rapoza and his band of merry men saved the day, fabricating cable ladders customized for the room when an alternative supplier couldn't be found in time.
Your project's problems might have different root causes , but in an industry that moves as fast as ours companies can go out of business, shift direction, or be acquired over the course of a weekend, leaving customers holding the bag when orders disappear into the ether. Count on orders and shipments to go wrong. Plan for the unexpected by getting an early jump when you can and building time for unexpected delays into your project schedule.
Lesson 5: Make a migration checklist and check it twice
Finally, moving day arrived. To make our migration easier, we’d contacted the boisterous folks at Silverback Migration Solutions, a Walnut Creek, CA-based outfit that specializes in helping companies perform datacenter migrations and build-outs. Where a general IT staff might take days to put racks together, add shelving and other accessories, slide the servers in on new rails, and test functionality end-to-end, Silverback cranks through these tasks in record time, sometimes installing 30 or 40 full racks of servers in a single day. (In our case, it was 10 racks in a few hours; see "Pimp my datacenter: SilverBack Migration Solutions".)