Where I work

2009-02-24 02:19 by Ian

The best way I know how to describe my job to people is this:
I am an internet mechanic. I work third-shift keeping my corner of the internet running for the half of the world that isn’t in darkness. I don’t deal with this room much because it isn’t really my job to handle hardware. But my presence is diffused throughout this room when I operate on the software environments of this or that server.

This is what the internet physically looks like. Well… at least our little corner of it. There are probably hundreds of thousands of people using this room right now. But all of them are inside those little humming boxes.

The images that follow were taken in the datacenter. There are thousands of servers in this room, and the noise is palpable. Two people standing 15 feet apart have to yell to be heard.
Each rack of servers draws between 30 and 40 amps, and with dozens of racks, the power bill gets quite large. Most of that current consumption ends up as heat emitted by the servers, and that means the room must be actively cooled all the time.
In some of the pictures, you can see holes in the floor. Those holes are the output vents from the AC system for the building. There is a temperature difference of at least 10 degrees F depending on if you are standing in front of a rack, or behind it.

One of the datacenter guys told me that this building has a monthly utility bill in the neighbohood of $200,000 per month.

In each of these pictures, you can see large cages hanging from the ceiling. These frames support the hundreds of pounds of copper cable that supply power and ground planes to these computers. The network cable is also run through these frames, but it is organized such that there is minimal overlap between network and power.

These are our shared servers. All of the machines on the right are webservers. Their primary job is to run IIS and all the various services that talk directly with customer code (PERL, PHP, ColdFusion, etc).
The servers on the left are (from foreground to background) MSSQL, MySQL, and Mail. The blog you are reading right now is hosted on a webserver in the right background, near the floor. The database for this website is hosted on one of the MySQL boxen in the middle-left.

Shared servers

The following two pictures are boring. Our nameservers are here. Other than those, these are servers that the customers never see. They are the backup servers, and various departmental support servers that help everyone to do their jobs. In the second photo, there is a small mountain of old dedicated servers that were not in immediate use, so they were piled in the center of the room while the network operations department decides what to do with them.

First departmental server row

Second departmental server row

This is the switch cabinet. I was fortunate to find it open. Normally the network guys are very protective of the contents of this cabinet, and are loath to let anyone touch it. I have no idea how any of this stuff works. But I know that all of the internet gets routed through it. And that means that if I screw it up somehow, the entire company stops hosting websites. So I don’t touch it.
There are two internet connections routed through these cabinets. One from Quest and another from Cox. The primary firewalls and routers also live here. Our Quest data rate is measured in gigabits during peak hours. I’m not sure what it is for the Cox connection.

Switches and firewalls

Here is where the bulk of our servers are. These two photos are all of the dedicated servers that we host. There are several thousand 1U servers running all day, every day. Walking behind these racks makes you sweat. One of these boxes is my server.

First dedicated server row

Second and third dedicated server rows