Monthly Archives: October 2006

Project Blackbox – A Revolutionary Data Center

This morning I received a series of E-mails on Project Blackbox. And after having a look at the photographs of Project Blackbox, I was in a retrospective mood to look back to my days in an organization, where I had to spent a few hours in the cold temperature of a datacenter ,even on some weekends, trying to figure out what caused a machine to go down all of a sudden, giving several employees a paid vacation at office, or to bring up a certain server as per the standard stack in the organization. Honestly, it was tough and I only have bad memories about the same. And I was all the more shocked, when I learned that the organization used to pay a heavy price as rental to keep those servers (it was a hetrogenous environment consisting of hundreds of servers) in that data center. To tax such a lot of money just for the space to keep those machines in shape…well, don’t we have a better solution?

Sun’s innovative ideas have always amazed me even during my college days and this time around it is no different. My dear long suffering readers, I think I have bored your enough talking to you a lot. Now, let me take my insignificant personality away and invite you all to have a look at Sun’s “extraordinarily simple idea” and then sneak into this picture gallary. And when you come back to me, if at all you will, and if you do not find me on my desk, well don’t get surprised, I might just be busy setting up my own data center either in the backyard or the attic of my house:)

A Shaky start, a Smooth sail, a Satisfying finish and now a Sore throat

Reached Bangalore yesterday morning. Didn’t feel like doing anything yesterday as my throat was in a really bad shape and I wasn’t feeling all that great. Today I feel much better. I do have a sense of satisfaction to have completed my training on a good note. And considering the fact that I had my heart in my mouth on last Sunday while doing the lab set up for IDM 345, I greatly feared that I would come across lot of trouble during the entire training program. But the folks whom you would see in the photograph below raised themselves to the occasion and helped me in brining up the machines to the ‘start state’ of the training program and got themselves very quickly equipped with the necessary working knowledge on Solaris Operating System to get on with their job of performing the lab exercises. As I mentioned elsewhere this course is very lab intensive and it requires enormous amount of patience from the participants to walk through the entire lab materials and they all did exactly that with no major hiccups.

Not only did they perform the labs very diligently, but also took the ‘teach back’ assignment very seriously to display some good presentations on the final day of the training program.

Guys, wish you good luck with your projects and my apologies to have made you run through the tedius installation procedures to bring up the machines to the ‘start state’ of this course.

A bolt from the blue

In Mumbai. In fact, in the venue where I would be talking about Sun Java System Identity Manager tomorrow. This place is going to be my platform for the next five days time.

Landed in Mumbai airport at around 11:00 A.M. this morning. The flight journey was made interesting by a sailor sitting next to me (sorry that I am unable to recollect his name). In just under half an hour time he briefed me on his experiences travelling all around the world and how miserable life could be in a ship with only 21 sailors managing the whole ship. It seems, at times, they don’t see a glimpse of land for 3 months at stretch. Quite a scary thought I believe.

I checked in at the hotel at around 11:45 A.M or so and reached here (training venue) at 12:30 sharp. I came here to set up the lab for tomorrows class. I have done this several times before. And I was (over)confident to complete my job in a couple of hours time. I expected a text book installation, but didn’t have a clue that a surprise was in store for me and I were to have a very tiring and tension filled afternoon. Let me explain:

Generally I carry a Flash Archive in my laptop to the training venues so that I could install all the lab bundles for the course on the student machines. And the flash archive for IDM 345 course contained Solaris 9 Operating Environment, mysql installed and the lab bundles for the course. And a clean installation (read extraction) of this archive ensures a smooth take off for this course , since all the student machines would be in a ‘ready to go’ mode. And I was confident that my Flash Installation would not take more than two hours time. I had ten Sun Blade 1500 machines at my disposal for performing this installation and I chose one of them to be my jumpstart server. Let me also mention here that the archive that I had in my laptop was created on an Ultra 10 machine. I have had arguments with my training participants on several occasions on archive installation on machines with varying architecture. And until this afternoon I was under the strong impression that an archive created on one architecture could be installed on any architecture without any problem. It didn’t take much time for me to create a jumpstart server and I was using a Solaris 10 CD as the boot CD on the jumpstart server so that the clients could boot from the CD on the jumpstart server. The installation procedure appeared faster than ever and I was busy thinking on my agenda for the evening once I reach my hotel after what appeared to me as a clean installation process. It was a joy to watch nine machines extracting my the flash archive from my jumpstart server. Once the installation got over, one machine rebooted and then it crashed with an error indicating that the root filesystem is corrupted and needs fsck. I felt slightly shocked, but had the confidence that I would be able to repair the problem. But then I saw even the rest of the machines crashing one by one. It was a depressing sight to see each of those machine going into the maintenance mode one after the other. Perhaps it was an early Diwali dhamaka. I immediately called up Samson Selwyn, a very senior colleague of mine on his hand phone. Well, this is certainly not the first time that I spoiled his weekends. I have done that before and done it on several occasions. So I think he’s used to it now. He gave me a few tips to somehow get out of the bad situation that I was in. I was feeling very tired and hungry and hence went out to gobble something. Back in my mind, this was really bothering me, for IDM 345 is a lab intensive course and any minor upset in the lab setup would spoil my next five days.

I came back and tried booting the clients using CD and very soon discovered that the system was behaving very abnormal. The format command gave me “No disks found” error. I found myself at sea and the only solution that I could think of was to create an archive of Solaris 10 OS of my Jumpstart Server (Sun Blade 1500) and use the same to install the OS ‘at least’ on all the client machines. By this time, I had already reached a conclusion (whether right or wrong, I don’t know) that an archive created on one architecture may not work on other architecture. Well, at least this time the installation of the OS went through fine. So now all the machines in here are installed with Solaris 10 OS. Now I will have to request my participants to carefully install the other softwares tomorrow while doing the lab. That will tax a lot of our time, but then I don’t seem to have a choice. And I really hope that things work fine tomorrow. It has been a very tiring and exhaustive day and all I feel now is to somehow get back to my hotel and take some rest.

An Expensive Love Affair With Apple

Well, it appears to be a busy weekend for me. I seem to have lot of things to do. But still haven’t prioritized the tasks. I was spamming my participants over the last couple of hours over lot of stuff. And it shall continue the whole day today. It was a productive week, last week. I was sitting through the LVC for ZFS. Jeff Ferreria was speaking on ZFS from his place. And for that, everyday he was up till 1:00 A.M his local time. I am sure that would have been really tough for him. Still, he did an excellent job and went out of the box to give us a “bootcamp” session on 3510 storage (Well, we were duing the ZFS labs using a 3510)! Personally, I was benefitted to have an informal training on iChat from Jeff:) I had never bothered to use iChat ever. And during one of those days, when I stepped into the “classroom” an hour early or so, Jeff was in there and we had a chat using the iChat tool. Believe me, it’s coool. Well, that was a free training from Jeff:) And now my only buddy in iChat is Jeff Ferreria. Let me see if I can pull in lot of other people as well and create a new network.

Just when I thought Jeff’s training on iChat was cool and was free, a price came for that from a different direction:) I sneaked into a local Apple Service Center on Thursday to sort out the problem with my keypad (If you are still kept in the dark on what my Apple PowerBook G4 keypad did to me, click here) and it didn’t take much time for me to discover that I was getting into an expensive affair. Well, my Apple PowerBook G4 was outside the Apple Care Protection Plan (which is one year) and hence was billed, royally, for diagnosis and the spare (keypad). I have raised a request for the spare and I shall be getting that in a week or so. But the fact is that by Indian standards, the bill that I got from the folks at Apple was a little high. So my advice to the Apple lovers in India is that next time you decide to pick up an aesthetically pleasing piece of an Apple product, just ensure that you extend the Apple Care Protection Plan (you need to do so before your one year warranty expires) or reserve a few bucks in your pocket to shell out at the Apple Service Center, in case your product behaves a little different than what you expect.

I am heading to Mumbai tomorrow morning for delivering a training on Sun Java System Identity Manager (course coded IDM 345) and I am looking forward for an eventful week full of fun and learning.