Or, how I learnt to stop worrying and start cursing the day I was born
This is a listicle of things you need if you don’t want to die cold and alone on your first datacentre trip.
Good luck. You’re gonna need it.
Unless you like the monotonous drone of thousands of servers whirring away at once, headphones and some music are essential. Just be careful, there’s nothing more scary than zoning out to music whilst removing on a rack only to see a face looking back at you from the other side! Especially if you’re listening to a Stephen King audio book.
2. Labelling device
Dynamo labeller, fancy printing device, duct tape and a sharpie, doesn’t matter what it is. Get one and use it everywhere. I guarantee you won’t remember which box is which out of the 40 identical Servers you’ve racked today next time you visit. Not labelling things also means you hate your fellow coworkers, which in turn, makes them hate you.
3. Velcro cable ties
Think the plastic ones are more secure? You’d be right, but enjoy the rats nest you’ve just made for yourself when you want to do something as simple as moving a cable. It also looks much less dodgy if you happen to have your bag searched when you get there, and you’re also carrying item 4…
4. Pocket knife
Or a scissors will do, I just find a small utility knife more practical. They’re useful for opening boxes and cutting off those plastic cable ties you thought were such a good idea six months ago. Be warned, if you get searched with a load of cable ties, duct tape, and a knife in your bag, you may have some explaining to do. But that shit is on you.
Most servers come with rails that are screwless, but should you be working with old servers or unknown unknowns, you’ll be thankful for a Phillips screwdriver.
Data centres are dry, noisy places designed for machines, not meatbags. Your level of comfort is not a priority. They can often be in industrial parks or city districts with not a lot of food options around. Or worse, you end up there at 3am. A couple of bottles of water and some cereal bars are better than nothing and can be placed in your bag ready to go.
While you shouldn’t eat or drink in the machine rooms themselves, most of them have a place you can sit and have a drink in. Unless they’re soulless fucks who hate people. Which if you’re in London Docklands, means they absolutely do.
Somewhat obvious, but you often need to raise a permit for these. Do not expect one to be there if you haven’t requested one in advance. I once made a trip to London, racked a new server, went back home to Bath, and couldn’t connect to the iLO. Good job.
Had I thought to ask the data centre management team for a KVM to test my shit worked first, I would have saved a lot of hassle. At my last job, we bought portable ones that turn your laptop into a crash cart, which are fucking cool and can be purchased on Amazon.
8. Another person
If you’re installing or uninstalling servers, you need a hand. You aren’t a DevOps Superhero. Those things are H E A V Y. Sure you can lift it, but can you lift it above your head, tilt it at an angle and put it in the top of the rack?
Didn’t think so.
Should you be stupid enough to ignore this and injure yourself, you’ll probably find yourself in breach of number of health and safety rules. You can always ask the datacentre management team for a riser, even if there is more than one of you.
Don’t assume you’ll have a power cable or network cable already there. Just don’t.
Don’t drink? You will after this.