Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Introduction and Welcome

Hi. If you've stumbled on this blog, it was either by mistake, or you're interested in the rough and tumble world of systems administration. God help you if it's the latter.

A good first entry should probably cover who I am, and what my background is. I've been a sysadmin for 7 years now, and with the exception of 3 months after an acquisition, I've never been the administrator of a company which employed more than 20 people.

My first position was as the assistant network administrator of a large dial-up ISP in West Virginia. This was in 2000 or so, and dialup had dropped off most people's radar. Since we were in WV, we had a bit of a reprieve, since so many of our customers couldn't get broadband. I eventually became the network administrator when the previous guy left to work for the government. I stayed until a bit after we got acquired by our bandwidth provider. I presided over the technical aspects of the merger, then I left after the culture went downhill and they wanted to move my job.

I evacuated WV to come to Columbus, OH, where I took a short-term job as a PHP programmer, which paid the bills until I could find an admin position. That patience let me find my current company, a financial services firm with a headquarters just outside of New York City. I work outside of Columbus in what was the primary datacenter. This summer, I'll be relocating to NJ and join the corporate collective. Resistance is futile.

There's my background. How does that qualify me to write this blog?

I know what it's like. I know how it is, in charge of all the computers, whether they're many or few, and being tasked with making them work. At the ISP, we bought maybe 3 new servers the entire time I was there. We inherited hand-me-downs from a partner company that went under, which allowed me to use rackmount servers for the first time. Prior to that, we had 15,000 dial up accounts authenticating against a 3 year old tower "server" running Windows NT4. With no spare. I feel your pain.

I'm very fortunate in that the company that I'm now with allocates money to the IT dept (which consists of me, and my boss, the CTO). When I got here, we had mostly antique tower servers. The purchase of rack mount servers brought us into the 20th century. Client demand of 24x7 access to their financial data dictated that we use a more robust solution than sticking servers in our glorified closet, so we moved production into a co-location center. Growth and the corporate relocation plan now has us creating a new data site in another colocation, this one in NJ, a half an hour from the corporate headquarters.

In this new facility, we're not putting our old, underpowered rack machines. We've ordered blade enclosures, 10 blades each, and a fibre channel SAN to go along with them. We've got a 9TB of disks in an AX-45 to provide storage for the new servers, and once we get the new location completed, I've got to work on the new backup, which will have a nearly exact footprint.

So yes, I've been there. I'm not currently at the "enterprise" level, but I'm getting closer. I've been all the way at the bottom, and worked my way up. I can, and will, offer advice and caveats, and also some of the problems that I encounter as I improve the infrastructure here.

Feel free to ask anything, critique, and offer advice. We're all just trying to learn more.