Hoop dreams soothe harsh reality of remote systems management

March Madness has infected the Rat.

No, it isn't the NCAA basketball tournament that's driving the cyberrodent into
seasonal insanity. It's his section head's seasonal gullibility disorder.

After attending a day-long sales pitch by a management software vendor, the Rat's boss
has been chanting "lights-out management, lights-out management" as a prayer to
the budget gods.

Apparently, no one told him the price tags on the alleged enterprise management
packages, or he'd be chanting something less printable.

The Rat feels like putting somebody's lights out, because these post-seminar ravings
have sold the chief information officer on the idea of remote systems management for all
the agency's field offices in the Lower 48.

So, as the NCAA Final Four converges on San Antonio, the Rat and his crack squad of
system administrators are boldly going into uncharted--and unmanaged--network territory.
It's enough to make a grown rodent cry.

As the Rat and his minions enter their fifth week on the road, surveying potential
pilot sites for a glorious centralized management test, they've found a way to relieve
their TV-remote separation anxiety.

The Rat Patrol has taken to playing pickup games of round ball.

We take on all local comers with an unorthodox style of play--what the whiskered one
calls the pocket-protector press.

After examining the Cleveland field office's 25 PCs, a Unix server and a minicomputer
that predates the cotton gin, the Rat flashed back to an advertisement of Larry Bird and
Michael Jordan playing Horse for a hamburger.

The basketball greats made progressively harder shots off the billboard, across the
freeway, through the skylight, off the scoreboard--nothing but net.

Net is the one thing in short supply at field sites, the furry one has found.
Connections to headquarters have all the bandwidth of smoke signals but none of the

"Remotely managing systems over these connections would be like sinking a one-hand
free throw from a kayak on Lake Erie," the Rat whined.

But apparently that doesn't bother the Rat's boss, ever since Computer Associates
International Inc. started giving away the CA-Unicenter TNG framework for free.

"Nobody explained to him that you get what you pay for," mumbled the Rat to
his minions as he missed yet another hook shot.

The Rat's game suffers somewhat from his vertical impairment.

CA's abortive attempt to take over Computer Sciences Corp. did achieve one thing for
the Rat: It reduced his staff attrition. The thought of answering to CA's Islandia, N.Y.,
headquarters got some of his contractors talking about returning to government service.
Unfortunately, it lasted only as long as CA's bid.

Holding that thought, the cyberrodent lunged through the legs of his guard and took a

Wide open, with all the grace of a Tivoli/TME 10 deployment, he laid one up for two as
the allotted court time expired.

After the ball rattled around the rim and dropped, the rodent turned to his opponents.
The gracious losers smiled and thanked the black-socked cyberband for the workout.

"Who were those guys?" asked one oxford-clad Rat Patroller.

The Rat, shaking his head in sympathy, replied, "The Denver Nuggets. That's the
closest game they've had all year."

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets
in cyberspace. E-mail him at [email protected].

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