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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Raiding one tech's personal hardware stash late at night

Not long after Katrina tore through several gulf coast states in 2005, a bunch of customers relocated their hosting. One of them had a particularly interesting situation, and I was proud of how it was handled.

This customer had shipped a DDS tape drive to the data center where their new server had been provisioned. Apparently, they had a backup of their former machine and needed to pull a bunch of data off that tape and onto the new system to get started. Due to the hurricane, they didn't have the time or resources to do it themselves.

There was a technical problem, though: none of those machines had the kind of SCSI connectors which would match up with our customer's tape drive. Everything out there was either IDE or SCSI behind a RAID card. Those RAID cards would not talk to a tape drive, so the fact it happened to be based on SCSI didn't help matters.

This situation basically called for an Adaptec 29160 or similar card. Normally, you'd just run out to CompUSA or whatever and grab one, but did I mention it was about 9 PM on a Saturday night? No stores were open, and none would be open for over 12 hours. Our customer was suffering.

What to do, what to do.

Well, another tech on the floor, my cube-mate, had the solution. He had just that sort of card at home and it wasn't doing anything super-critical. He could live without it for a couple of days. So, he jumped in his car, drove home, snagged it out of his machine, then drove to the data center and handed it off to one of their techs. That tech took it inside, cracked open the box, and dropped it in.

An hour or two later, our customer happily spun up their tape drive and started rebuilding their business. We had managed to get them going by drawing on the expanded pool of hardware which came from having a bunch of technical people around. The hour and the day didn't matter.

For all of the bad stories I have, it's nice to have a few where everything turned out better than expected.