Old stuff in the data center


I started to call this post “Data Center Survivability”. Then my thoughts went in a different direction. Processes and procedures to make sure a data center can transition through technology and people didn’t seem as fun as “Old Data Center Stuff”. Maybe I’ll do that post another time.

We are reaching the 25-30 year mark when many companies started to establish a data center for the computing needs of their business office. My first IT jobs were in data centers with SUN Microsystem Unix servers and Novell Netware. There was the raised floor, big A/C units, and or course the wiring patch panel. The IBM mainframe (Big Iron) was adjoined to the data center. It had it’s own room complete with operator stations and console.

Current Year.

Today, the data center of years past has matured but still has remnants of yesteryear. My experience, no doubt, mirrors that of many other IT professionals. There are pieces and even whole systems in the data center that are no longer used. The current IT support staff may not even know how some of the equipment functions or when it was installed.

Old Stuff.

Here are some examples of technology in the data center from yesteryear. There is a good chance that many of these items are inside your data center today. Some of it is still operating and providing service!Modem

  • Voice wiring closets with 110 and 66 punch blocks. The punch blocks are still in-use, but with not near as many active connections due to VoIP systems.
  • Analog PBX systems which are being replaced with VoIP systems. The VoIP desk stations rely on the data cabling and network and not the phone wiring that is punched down to the 110 and 66 punch blocks. Older PBX systems are large pieces of equipment unlike their modern day equivalents that fit into a rack.
  • 10/100 BaseT Hubs and Switches or even Token Ring hubs are being replaced with Gigabit switches.PollCat
  • Tapes and tape drives used for data backup to tape are being replaced with disk-to-disk and disk-to-cloud architectures. Old tape storage racks and filing systems are not needed near as much as they were in the past.
  • Console splitters so that servers can connect to a common console are often by-passed by engineers who use remote control software.
  • PC Peripherals such as VGA accelerators, modem cards, ethernet cards may use a data bus format that is longer found on modern desktop PCs.
  • Old storage drives are starting to be replaced with solid state drives.
  • Security and fire alarm panels should still be working, but the facilities maintenance or the IT team may not know how its wired.
  • The UPS battery and generator systems are probably still the original units. But these require periodic maintenance and parts refreshes. There is a good chance current support staff may not know much about how it’s all connected.

Time Goes On.

Time marches on for the data center as it does for all of us. The life span of computing equipment varies. The space and cooling requirements of a data center change may change. Cloud services are in vogue right now and may continue to gain popularity because data centers are complicated and expensive to maintain.

Deciding what to do with the old stuff in the data center can be a challenge. Do we throw it away? Recycle it? Reuse it? Or punt and let the next guy decide? One thing is for certain. This old stuff triggers memories for those that have installed and maintained it. This stuff is full of stories. This stuff provided solutions to problems and helped spawn a new level of business process automation. Everything has a season and then gives way to new creation.

Onward and upward!