Sun Project Blackbox – Datacenter in a Can

Lots of small companies want to hire an IT department in a can… You know, the ones who hire only one person to run their Linux servers, code their websites, architect their networks, support their users and order more printer toner. It’s a hard job, but it’s pretty common to see them advertised. What I never dreamed I would see is an entire data center in a can… Literally, in a can… Or at least a shipping container, which is really not that far off.

Leave it to Sun though. Not only have they packed an entire datacenter into a shipping container, they have packed a really good datacenter into a shipping container. Complete with integrated power, cooling, fire suppression, cable managment and redundant everything, this little server room-in-a-box has it all. They even showed off how tough it is by putting it through an earthquake!

All told, I really like the idea of my brand new datacenter rolling in on the back of a tractor-trailer truck. It kinda reminds me of the setup the bad guys had in latest Die Hard movie. I just hope nobody buys one and hires only one person to run it.

How to Make Gnarly Big Linux Filesystems

At least in RHEL 4, the fdisk command does not support the creation of filesystems larger than 2TB. In order to get around it, you have to use the parted command. I found the basic info here, but this is the long and short of how to cut off a big ol’ slice of disk using parted:

Run parted

# /sbin/parted

It’s interactive, so the following commands are issued within the utility.

1) Make the disk label

(parted) mklabel gpt

2) Create the partition

(parted) mkpart primary 0 -1

3) Verify

(parted) print


Disk geometry for /dev/sda: 0.000-38146.972 megabytes
Disk label type: msdos
Minor    Start       End     Type      Filesystem  Flags
1          0.031    101.975  primary   ext3        boot
2        101.975  38146.530  primary               lvm

4) Exit the GNU Parted command shell

(parted) quit

5) Finally, make the filesystem:

# mkfs.ext3 -m0 -F /dev/sdb1

6)Finally, you don’t want to wait for that big filesystem to fsck from time to time, so make sure it does not get checked unless you run the command yourself:

# tune2fs -c0 -i0 /dev/sdb1

That should just about do it. Remember that only RHEL 4 and higher can support filesystems larger than 2TB. If I remember correctly RHEL 3 can go up to 2TB, RHEL4 can handle 8TB, and RHEL 5 can make a whopping 16TB chunk of disk. Have fun!

Nice Clients > Nasty Clients

It occurs to me that when you work in IT, you can easily tell how how nice the person you are working with is by the extent to which he is pleasant to you when things are not going well.

All too often people act as nice as can be when they want something, but as soon as a service they want to use is down, they start spitting fire and calling managers. As if we can somehow resolve issues faster with all the added blood pressure of higher-ups breathing down our necks.

Anyone can be nice when they want something. If you really want to stand out from the crowd, remember to be nice and respectful when you are waiting for your IT department to resolve a problem. Outages are stressful enough for your IT guy without you making his life harder. Remember that he wants the service back up as much, or more than you do.