Rat roars a rallying cry: 'Parts, shmarts—we gotta replace servers!

The dawn
of yet another ozone action day found the Rat sweltering in his server room. When the air
conditioning had gone out over the weekend, three servers had stewed in their own juices.


The Rat managed to switch the applications over to standby systems but at a lower
performance level than the users had accustomed themselves to, and they didn’t like
it.


Fortunately for the whiskered one, it was spend-o-rama time again. The extreme
austerity measures he had imposed earlier in the year—such as losing all requests for
new desktop systems in a mysterious flash cubicle fire—paid big dividends in the
end-of-the-fiscal-year buying sweepstakes.


The cyberrodent had just one obstacle to circumvent. The now-deceased servers were
under a maintenance contract, and agency policy mandated that he make an attempt to get
them repaired before replacing them.


That was where the tale began to take on an ugly pink, hairless twist. The replacement
cost for the servers was lower than the bill for new parts, not to mention there was no
guarantee that fixing the CPU boards would get things working again.


“Never mind that it comes out of a separate pot of money,” the router rodent
complained to one of his minions. “It’s the principle of the thing.”


The cyberrodent had only himself to blame. He was the one who had suggested the
repair-first policy to the agency’s budget police, mostly because at the beginning of
the fiscal year, the maintenance contract had covered both parts and labor.


But now the parts replacement portion of the contract had been used up, and the
contractors were merrily making field repairs to old 486 PCs that just begged to be put
out to pasture or used as artificial reefs.


The contractors have been having so much fun, in fact, that they don’t even wait
for the automatic trouble tickets to arrive from the Rat’s help desk. They can smell
the smoking carcass of a dead CPU or flamed-out monitor from miles away.


They show up and start circling like buzzards while waiting for their pagers to go off.
They’ve been hanging out at the help desk so much that it’s eating a serious
hole in the Rat’s coffee budget.


So, caught in his own trap, the Rat had to find a way to replace the servers without
trouble-ticketing them—at least until the maintenance contract is renewed in October.


Gazing at his Julian calendar, the whiskered one had a flash of inspiration. He
wandered into the division head’s office, with all the necessary acquisition forms in
paw, whistling “Pennies from Heaven.”


His boss looked up from the paperwork, not even suspecting he was about to be duped.


“Sir, remember that executive decision support system we’ve been talking
about?” the Rat queried. “Well, I was thinking we could push the hardware end of
that project under the wire for this year and hold off on the software until October. New
systems would be overkill, but I’ve got a few servers on hand that we can replace in
the name of performance, charge it back to the ops support budget … ”


In minutes, the Rat had a signature, accounting approval and his IMPAC card ready as he
called his faithful friends at the House of Hardware.


Of course, the executive decision support system could run on a few spare cycles of the
glossy new multiprocessor boxes he was buying.


Meanwhile, the lobotomized servers would merely sit in a corner of the boss’
office with their power lights on.


As the sun set on the ozone action day, the Rat boarded the Metro in the proud
knowledge that he had once again saved the taxpayers’ money, not to mention
conserving his precious supplies of java. 


The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad
packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@gcn.com.

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