This and That

Random bits of my life

Playing Engineer

Posted by Avital Pinnick on July 26, 2011

Inside the Blade server

My day job is technical writing. They keep us chained to our keyboards and change the newspapers in our cages once a year (just kidding about that bit; you probably wouldn’t believe me anyway, after seeing the photos of our summer party). But technical writer do tend to be removed from the technical side of things. Adrian, one of our English colleagues, came to Israel to test a new IBM shared storage, so he had to set up a clean system. I asked whether I would be in the way if I watched the installation. He told me I would do the installation. I really thought he was kidding … until he told me to print a copy of the document and download the Blade firmware updates to my USB drive.

First we unpacked the servers. Adrian had me work with a new systems engineer who was hired a month ago. That’s Adrian on the left and Shimron on the right. Adrian showed us how to open the server (see photo above), take out and replace the hard drives, and slot the Blade into the BladeCenter H chassis.

Checking out the Blade

The first day Shimron and I struggled with the chassis firmware and managed to get halfway through the procedure until we ran into network problems, so Adrian dealt with that after I’d gone home. The next day I set up the disk mirroring and configured the controller cards, using Adrian’s laptop and working remotely. In the afternoon he set me up in the lab, told me to install the Blade firmware upgrades and operating system, and disappeared for two hours.

There’s nothing like using your own document. If the documentation is perfect and everything behaves as expected, a well-trained monkey could do the installation. However, in the real world you always run into things you don’t expect. In this case, the documentation was vague because IBM’s motto seems to be, “If it ain’t broke, fix it anyway.” In other words, it’s a moving target. I ran into a few glitches and screens I didn’t expect. I had to figure out how to reboot the server (as you can see from the photo below, it’s quite different from a PC!) and which installation files to use, based on the size of the drives (had to find that out on my own as well). But I got through the process without breaking any expensive equipment. 🙂

It was a cold, lonely two hours, like working inside an industrial walk-in refrigerator. Very noisy, cramped, and chilly. Although the temperature was 36C outside (96F) I needed a cup of hot soup when I got out. No, not contemplating a career change because HR has policies to prevent that kind of lateral movement but it was a nice change of pace. System engineering — it’s not all malt whiskey and fast bikes!

BladeCenter H chassis

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One Response to “Playing Engineer”

  1. Karen R in GA said

    That’s pretty cool – since I came from the assembly line to prototype builds in a cable house, to now driving a desk doing CM/DM in satcomm, I miss putting stuff together. As part of the prototyping/first article process, I wrote the work instructions that they actually used on the floor, so I had to make sure they worked. I would LOVE to go help the Sys Eng’s integrate a system hub – the hardware part; they can have the software parts 🙂

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