Tales from IT : Installing Servers in Style

I’ve been lucky enough to do quite a bit of travelling throughout my working life. Most of the time it wasn’t particularly glamorous (“Be an IT guy! See the inside of server rooms in exotic locations!”) but occasionally I’d get to do something particularly cool.

Like being driven to the centre of New York City in a chauffeur in an enormous stretch limousine.

The firm I worked for at the time had just acquired another company based in New York City. They were a very new Internet-focussed company riding the initial crest of the dot-com boom; as far as our IT department was concerned this had two important ramifications;

1) No one understood what the company did but it was something to do with the Internet so everyone was prepared to fire huge wads of cash at them from enormous money-cannons.
2) They had almost no infrastructure to actually, you know, run their company.

So as part of the plan to get them up and running while drenching them in lucre I was sent over to get them onto the logical corporate network (the physical networking had been done). That meant designing and building a suite of servers to provide them access to the Windows NT domain (for authentication) and Exchange (for email).

I’d had some other work to do in America so I’d been sent to the Dallas office for a week. There I was going to build out all the servers we needed, ship them to the New Jersey office and then onto New York.

The week had not gone well; I can place the date and time (March 26 1999) because I remember being woken up in the small hours by the corporate email system being brought to it’s knees by the Melissa virus.  Email servers and clients have improved dramatically since then but at the time this auto-mailing Word macro virus flooded networks and ruined (IT Worker) lives. I remember people wearing “I spent the night with Melissa” T-Shirts at messaging conventions for quite a while afterwards 🙂

People were powerless to resist this elite social engineering.


I was up close to 24 hours clearing message queues, bringing database’s off-line to clean them and generally trying to hold back the tide of chaos (the easiest solution, getting the users to not repeatedly open the infected email messages proved impossible).

Still, in among all this I got the servers built for the NY office and sent them onto New Jersey. Zombie-like, I followed them on to the office with one of the US IT guys. We were on the home stretch!

Except apparently the transport unions in New York City were on strike. My US counterpart spent the morning calling around but couldn’t get anyone to move the servers. Apparently you didn’t mess with the trucker unions.

The problem was we needed a vehicle big enough to take several rack-mounted servers and their disk arrays, which wasn’t a truck, van or any kind of goods-shipping vehicle and was available at short-notice for large amounts of money.

Hence us rocking up to New-York City in a huge stretch limousine.

The IT Help Desk Rapid Deployment Service

The chauffeur was a bit horrified as we piled into the back of the limo with trolley-fulls of servers. The interior was pretty luxurious with TV, bar and surround seating but we spent the whole journey contorted around the equipment, trying desperately to stop the disk arrays being knocked or shaken. It was like those old cartoons where the cat tries to keep loads of plates spinning at once while disaster unfolds around him.

We turned up in the middle of NYC’s business district and attracted a bit of a crowd (most of whom were wearing clothes that cost more than my car at home) who wanted to see who were the big wig’s about to get out of this ridiculously overwrought vehicle were. The chauffeur went around the side, opened the door and we both wriggled out clutching our kit.

I imagine it was a bit of a disappointment to be honest.

Still we get the servers racked, powered and networked and everything worked beautifully! The infrastructure came up and linked with the main network so we had time to look out over the centre of New-York City from the fully-glass top-floor offices while sipping an awesome coffee.

We were Kings Of New York City!

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