The Data Center: IT's Halloween Fear Factory
October 31, 2016

Kong Yang
SolarWinds

Share this

I was working in the data center, late one night
When my eyes beheld an eerie sight
For my infrastructure began to screech
And suddenly there was a breach …

 
Hey, it's Halloween, how could I not take advantage of the opportunity for a little IT-style "Monster Mash?"

The spookiest day of the year is here, and Halloween is actually a good reminder that trouble in the data center is always lurking just beneath the application surface, ready to wreak havoc at any moment.

So, in the spirit of Halloween, SolarWinds recently asked our THWACK community of IT professionals their deepest, darkest IT fears. While some are definitely good for a chuckle, and you'll probably just nod your head in agreement at others, the responses simply allude to the fact that in IT, if things can go wrong, they usually will, and how important it is to be prepared to address the many challenges that exist.

Here are a handful of the responses we got:

■ Stupidity. Yes, my number one fear is stupidity. Not mine, mind you, but others'. For example, I recently walked into a client's site and found a ton of power strips laying on the floor behind their telecom racks. It would have been so easy for someone to have simply tripped over one, unplugging it in the process. Doing so would have caused an outage to an entire manufacturing plant.

■ My greatest IT fear (and fear is general) is clowns on backhoes digging all around our facility looking for that undocumented fiber or twisted pair. (Shudder.)

■ My greatest fear is upper management not understanding the importance of redundancy. Our ERP system is at headquarters and all plants communicate with it almost nonstop for labels and shipping information to get product out. Having headquarters' WAN connection die and then needing to wait for hardware to arrive to replace it would bring business to a halt.

■ My leading fear is our monitoring software either taking an unscheduled dirt nap for some reason or otherwise becoming unavailable. Flying blind in this day and age is a scary proposition. It would indeed be a dark day.

■ Human error can be the worst nightmare of all. I've seen overly enthusiastic electricians and phone technicians cut lines they weren't supposed to.

■ Aside from my technological nightmares, my biggest fear is a server fan eating my beard. There are some devices out there (NexSAN SATABeast, anyone?) that have massive fans, and I've come close to being eaten alive a few times. Aside from the immediate pain, the call to support to get a replacement fan would be quite awkward...

■ My biggest fear? That a "new" and as of yet undetected vulnerability is wreaking havoc in my environment, letting bad guys take whatever data they want even as I write this … and that it then ends up on every news channel with our company logo big and bold.

■ Natural disasters are especially frightening to me as an IT professional, whether it be hurricanes, tornadoes or particularly earthquakes. I'm both curious (and not interested) in finding out the technological ramifications an earthquake would have in our data center and the subsequent ripple (no pun intended … OK, pun intended) effect throughout the organization. Not just server racks, but the smaller stuff, too, like all the creative ways an earthquake would kill spinning hard drives. (Though, if racks are just falling over, hard drives would probably be the least of our worries.)

■ I'm deathly afraid that there's ransomware living on some of our critical production and backup data without us knowing it, and then someone decides to pull the trigger and poof! All of our production and backup data are encrypted.

■ Weather in general has me always freaked out! Water and data centers don't mix well.

While data center-destroying clowns may not be so likely, some of these fears are definitely legitimate. Another fear many systems administrators have is staying relevant today and into the future, especially considering the continual and rapid rate of change we see in the data center (think hyperconvergence, the cloud and hybrid IT, microservices, containers, DevOps, serverless architecture, etc.). So, in closing, I thought I'd provide some advice I think may help:

Develop an application-centric mindset

What matters to the business most is that applications are working well all the time, because every business, and every component of every business, is now dependent on applications. The modern systems administrator needs to think about application uptime and performance first and foremost — end user experience metrics are now part of the CIO's SLA.

Use monitoring with discipline to be the "silent hero"

Given the importance of application uptime and performance, systems and application monitoring needs to become second nature. Systems administrators must implement and manage comprehensive monitoring solutions in order to optimize application performance, realign resources, identify early warning signs of problems and take proactive action. By finding and solving a problem before any end users even know there is a problem, the systems administrator becomes the "silent hero."

Embrace the role of strategic adviser rather than simply remaining a problem fixer

Thanks to the consumerization of technology, the control of many technology decisions has shifted from systems administrator to the end user. This means systems administrators should look to provide insight and advice to all parts of the business to help end users and department leaders make intelligent choices, rather than just responding to tickets.

Learn how to make the right technology decisions for the business

There is a myriad new technologies available to IT: from those mentioned above to IoT to big data. Systems administrators must be smart about choosing the technologies that can truly add value to the business and be able to integrate them when they reach the right level of maturity.

Always keep security top of mind

Whatever a systems administrator does, security needs to be a top priority. The sophistication of attacks is increasing and evolving just as quickly as organizations can prepare for them, sometimes faster. Exacerbating the issue is how much sensitive information companies are storing in today's era of Big Data. And the weakest link remain the end users. Today's systems administrators must continually take steps to ensure the security of their organizations' digital infrastructure.

Kong Yang is a Head Geek at SolarWinds.

Share this

The Latest

May 23, 2019

The first word in APM technology is "Application" ... yet for mobile, apps are entirely different. As the mobile app ecosystem is evolving and expanding from pure entertainment to more utilitarian uses, there's a rising need for the next generation of APM technology to stay ahead of the issues that can cause apps to fail ...

May 22, 2019

For application performance monitoring (APM), many in IT tend to focus a significant amount of their time on the tool that performs the analysis. Unfortunately for them, the battle is won or lost at the data access level. If you don’t have the right data, you can’t fix the problem correctly ...

May 21, 2019

Findings of the Digital Employee Experience survey from VMware show correlation between enabling employees with a positive digital experience (i.e., device choice/flexibility, seamless access to apps, remote work capabilities) and an organization's competitive position, revenue growth and employee sentiment ...

May 20, 2019

In today's competitive landscape, businesses must have the ability and process in place to face new challenges and find ways to successfully tackle them in a proactive manner. For years, this has been placed on the shoulders of DevOps teams within IT departments. But, as automation takes over manual intervention to increase speed and efficiency, these teams are facing what we know as IT digitization. How has this changed the way companies function over the years, and what do we have to look forward to in the coming years? ...

May 16, 2019

Although the vast majority of IT organizations have implemented a broad variety of systems and tools to modernize, simplify and streamline data center operations, many are still burdened by inefficiencies, security risks and performance gaps in their IT infrastructure as well as the excessive time it takes to manage legacy infrastructure, according to the State of IT Transformation, a report from Datrium ...

May 15, 2019

When it comes to network visibility, there are a lot of discussions about packet broker technology and the various features these solutions provide to network architects and IT managers. Packet brokers allow organizations to aggregate the data required for a variety of monitoring solutions including network performance monitoring and diagnostic (NPMD) platforms and unified threat management (UTM) appliances. But, when it comes to ensuring these solutions provide the insights required by NetOps and security teams, IT can spend an exorbitant amount of time dealing with issues around adds, moves and changes. This can have a dramatic impact on budgets and tool availability. Why does this happen? ...

May 14, 2019

Data may be pouring into enterprises but IT professionals still find most of it stuck in siloed departments and weeks away from being able to drive any valued action. Coupled with the ongoing concerns over security responsiveness, IT teams have to push aside other important performance-oriented data in order to ensure security data, at least, gets prominent attention. A new survey by Ivanti shows the disconnect between enterprise departments struggling to improve operations like automation while being challenged with a siloed structure and a data onslaught ...

May 13, 2019

A subtle, deliberate shift has occurred within the software industry which, at present, only the most innovative organizations have seized upon for competitive advantage. Although primarily driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI), this transformation strikes at the core of the most pervasive IT resources including cloud computing and predictive analytics ...

May 09, 2019

When asked who is mandated with developing and delivering their organization's digital competencies, 51% of respondents say their IT departments have a leadership role. The critical question is whether IT departments are prepared to take on a leadership role in which collaborating with other functions and disseminating knowledge and digital performance data are requirements ...

May 08, 2019

The Economist Intelligence Unit just released a new study commissioned by Riverbed that explores nine digital competencies that help organizations improve their digital performance and, ultimately, achieve their objectives. Here's a brief summary of 7 key research findings you'll find covered in detail in the report ...