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Open Heart Surgery, Geeky Beach Style.

I once heard someone say that doing a major network upgrade on a live production network is not unlike performing open heart surgery on someone – while they are running a marathon. In the world of The Internet, one bad keystroke can be as dangerous as an unanticipated slip of the scalpel.

Over the past 8 months, the Serverbeach network has undergone a series of upgrades that definitely felt like open heart surgery. It’s challenging to truly do the scope of these network upgrades justice, but I’d like to attempt to give this project a bit of perspective.

We spent months designing, planning, organizing, testing, and re-testing. Planning for any possible issues that might come up, because there’s no such thing as an undo button on a live production network. No amount of planning can make that open heart surgery any easier, It simply means you’re more aware of the difficulties that might arise, and are suitably prepared for them.

Although a datacenter network can range from modest all the way to the Googlesque, they can all be broken into 3 layers. The Serverbeach network upgrades touched every single layer in each data center. We completely upgraded the top two layers, essentially transplanting the heart and all supporting muscle and valves. On top of the transplant, we also reconfigured the whole bottom layer of the network, which would equate to making every vein and artery more efficient. In the end we succeeded in completely overhauling Serverbeach’s circulatory system.

For a little more directness on the scope of this project, here are some of the numbers that make up what the 5 person backbone network engineering team worked through:

Number of man-hours spent planning, coordinating, ordering, designing, meeting, preparing, decommissioning, documenting, diagramming: 1800
Number of man-hours spent in after hours change control windows: 300
Number of man-hours spent in after hours emergency change control windows: 18
Number of after hours Change controls performed: 16
Number of after hours Emergency Change controls performed: 1
Number of Kilometers/Miles flown: 33,800 / 21,000
Number of hours spent in airplanes: 55
Number of network devices reconfigured locally while sitting within the datacenter : 380
Number of hardware failures that occurred within Change Control windows: 6

To allude back to the original metaphor of comparing a network upgrade to open heart surgery, a successful surgery requires more than just a surgeon to be a success. Just like a surgeon is aided by a variety of resources, so too was the backbone network engineering team aided by an incredible variety of teams within Peer1. Without this level of coordination of efforts and awesome team work, these upgrades would not be possible.

Guest author Ben “Dr. Network” Kennedy is a hockey player, network engineer, and aspiring open heart surgeon who has developed a mild case of Stockholm syndrome ever since the 8 month network maintenance window has closed.

ServerBeach Bowls for Kid’s Sake

Last month a team of Beachers traded in their geeky glasses for some super stylin’ shoes and headed down to the bowling alley to take part in the annual Bowl For Kids’ Sake Fundraiser.

The event is the largest annual fundraiser for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of South Texas, and very close to our own Alyssa Vargas‘ heart, as she was involved as a Big Sister back when she was in High School & College. She coordinated our participation in the event, and was thrilled to see that we were able to fill not one, not two but three teams to represent the SeverBeach family.

“Participating in the Bowl for Kids Sake fundraiser was a great experience” said Business Analyst Matt Valdes. “It’s always rewarding to help raise money for a good cause, especially one that helps children. To be able to play a game while doing it makes it a win-win situation!”

Congratulations go out to our Assistant Data Center Manager Brad Pearson for bowling  the game of his life, knocking down a 7-10 split. Apparently our team was defeated during the hula hoop contest, but I hear guarantees of redemption being promised for next year.

I’ve also been told there’s video of IT Support Guru Jim Park and our very own Big Kahuna Dax Moreno dancing the YMCA circulating on Facebook, but this has yet to be confirmed by the author.

Special thanks goes out to all of our friends and families who supported our efforts. In total we were able to raise almost $2000, all of which will go toward making a positive, long-lasting impact on children in our community.

Geek Pride Day Contest Winners

Congratulations to our five Geek Pride Day contest winners!

1. Jason enjoyed towel day by reading some Douglas Adams and playing some minecraft
2. Alex hangs out at work with his friend little Cthulhu
3. Jot shows off his customized Nintendo DS project
4. Jennifer is an indisputable Queen of the Geeks (check her full submission here)
5. Chris keeps a reminder from Marvin the paranoid android close at all times: Don’t Panic!

We had a lot of great entries to the contest, you can check out the rest of them here if you’d like, and let us know your favorites!

Winners will receive an awesome $100 credit at ThinkGeek.com, and we will be sending a free copy of our Map of the Internet poster to all participants. If you submitted a photo please forward your address to me (sboten at serverbeach dot com) so I can get your poster on it’s way as soon as possible.

Thanks again to everyone who entered from all of us at ServerBeach – we definitely got a kick out of all your photos. Until next year – Stay Geeky!

The Return of the ServerBeach Forums

It is with great pleasure today that I officially announce the long anticipated return of the ServerBeach Forums.

Need a hand with your server? Have a service you want to share? Want to stay up to date with the latest news and products? Have a suggestion for something you’d like to see at the Beach? Let us know! The ServerBeach forums are your place to connect with your community – get help, geek out, and let us know what you think of life at the Beach.

We’ve got a new team of moderators standing by and we want to hear from you! Why not get started by registering and introducing yourself?

To celebrate this wonderful news, I thought I’d write a brief history of the online message board, but while doing some research I came across The BBS Documentary, which is a surprisingly engaging eight part mini series documenting the subculture that was spawned by the creation of BBS’ in the early days of the Internet.

The documentary was a labour of love produced by technology historian Jason Scott Sadofsky of textfiles.com. You can watch all eight parts here, courtesy of creative commons.

ServerBeach Hearts SXSW 2011

Hello SXSW! It’s crazy over here at the Serverbeach Booth! We’ve got Maps of the internet, brand new I [heart] geeks shirts, VIP passes to tomorrow night’s GeekyBeach Bash and a big surprise at 3pm – the first taste tests of our new Surf Lager – custom brewed by the Big Kahuna Brewing Company. Don’t miss it!



Serra’s Seven SXSW Session Suggestions

Music Mavens, Film Fanatics and Techie Types of all persuasion will decend upon Austin, TX today to kick off yet another year of great shows, movies and new media at South by South West 2011.

If you haven’t heard of the festival (often referred to as SXSW), you’re likely not very into music. Or film. O r the Internet. What started off in 1987 as a small music festival has morphed into one of the largest festivals of it’s kind in the world. Taking a look through the schedule is almost overwhelming – so many sessions, speakers and shows to attend, it’s hard to decide where to start.

Personally, I say the place to be is at SXSWi – Interactive is where it’s at. Five days of presentations from the brightest minds in technology, covering topics from design, development, emerging technologies, digital lifestyle, gaming, social media, robotics, business, health, politics, comedy… and parties. LOTS OF PARTIES.

The most important, of course, being ServerBeach’s infamous GeekyBeach Party – Have you RSVPd yet?  We’ve got all kinds of surprises ready for the party and The Beach is buzzing with excitement. We can’t wait to get out and let loose with all our favorite geeks. We’ve also got a whole new booth design and a TON of new SWAG we’ll be giving away at the Trade Show, so make sure you stop by and say hi!

Get your Geek on with SB@SXSW!

Check out more pics from last years party here. In the meantime I give you:

Serra’s Seven SXSWi Session Suggestions
(Otherwise known as “where I’ll be if I manage to sneak out of the ServerBeach booth”) 😉

Bike Hugger’s Built: A Series of Talks by People Who Create
Tuesday March 15 12:00 PM
Various, Bikehugger.com
Built is our flavor of a maker, hacker, DIY Ignite-style event, with the bike as a backdrop. A Series of Talks by People Who Create, covering topics such as “Hackable: Light Communication Kits for Bikers” and “How to Build A BBQ Smoker from a Trash Can.”

Non-Visual Augmented Reality and the Evaporation of the Interface
Sunday March 13 12:30PM
Aaron Parecki & Amber Case, Geoloqi.com
This presentation will highlight the advantages and disadvantages of visual and non-visual augmented reality, covering alternate types of augmented reality techniques and how they have been saving us time in the past few months. Amber Case is a Cyborg Anthropologist! (#3 on my “what I want to be when I grow up” list.)

The Nerdist LIVE Monday
Monday March 14th 6:00PM
Chris Hardwick, Nerdist.com
The Nerdist Podcast is an excellent source of geeky hilariousness, infused with witty banter and guests like Sarah Silverman, Will Wheaton and Kevin Smith.

Keynote Speaker: Christopher Pool
Sunday March 13 2:00PM
Christopher Pool, 4Chan
Christopher “moot” Poole is the founder of 4chan.org, which has grown from a niche site targeting anime fans to one of the most influential communities on the ‘Net. With over 12 million unique visitors per month, many popular viral videos, Internet phenomena, and memes get their start on 4chan.

Hacking Space Exploration: Robots, the Universe and Everything
Monday March 14 5:00PM
Ariel Waldman, Spacehack.org
On launching robots into space to discovering distant galaxies: how the public is hacking into open source space exploration. As technology shifts from a means of passive consumption to active creation, people are collaborating on a massive scale.

Know Your Meme
Saturday March 12 3:30PM
Andrew Baron, RocketBoom.com
This session will examine the entire lifecycle of a  meme.  Touching on subjects such as how a viral video becomes a meme, how to qualify the value of transmitters as well as examining the boundaries of legal gray areas, and the psychological effects of exposure to a global audience. Tactics vs. Strategies for extinguishing memes. Aggregating realtime statistics for predicting memes and memes in the future. Memes memes memes!

The Sexual Survival Guide for Geeks
Friday March 11, 5:00PM
Violet Blue, Open Source Sex
We may be hot and nerdy – and could all use a little “booty call boot camp”. When you’re faced with real-life situations and the nuances of quirky geeks who are smarter than the average hottie, and have that irresistible OCD, you’ll need to know more than how to Google a pickup line. Topics will include: Do’s and Don’ts of picking up geeks, Sex etiquette and social media, Why geeks are better lovers, how to attract a geek and Geek-specific suggestions for seeing each other.

For a complete list of sessions and speakers check out the SXSW Website – See you there!

Game on, Game Developers!

Happy Friday everyone! Today is the last day of GDC here in San Fran. We’ve been having a blast here at the ServerBeach booth – chatting, tattooing and swagifying all our favourite geeks. I even managed to get a couple guys to let me tattoo their forehead!

Check out some of the pics we’ve taken so far and leave a comment if you see yourself!

Did you get a shirt? We’d love to see a shot of it in action. Send pics to me (sboten@serverbeach.com) and we’ll make you famous on the internets!