This Halloween, We Give Thanks to dRACKula
October 31, 2013 | Daniel Ryan
Administering a rack of servers, switches and power strips is hard enough. But doing this remotely — from another continent — is a horror story.
We used to map out our racks and file servers using an Excel spreadsheet with our data centers’ contact information…which is as easy to navigate as you’d expect (not very). If anything went wrong, which was a certainty, this required an international call to get hands on our equipment. These phone calls would last hours and about half the time, errors would be made. Downtime was the result. Our tech support team was on the receiving end of harsh language from our customers, to say the least.
Our salvation? A name from beyond the dead. Or, rather, beyond the rack — dRACKula. It’s a powerful online tool that allows us to view our servers and co-locations around the world. We use it to visualize our equipment using a WYSIWYG interface.
Prior to using this service, onsite incidents used to cost us at least $1,000 because of the time involved in explaining the problem and giving guidance. Using dRACKula during a recent incident involving a server in Amsterdam, we allowed our remote hands a read-only view of dRACKula to see exactly what needed to be done. The easy to understand graphics of the application meant errors due to misunderstood instructions were eliminated, in this case. The chance of accidentally bringing down an entire network was zero. Since the app lives on the web, the tech was able to bring up a visualization of the rack on his phone without lugging around a laptop. The job was completed quickly and without any complications.
But dRACKula’s more than sparkly pictures. It generates reports of our resources, maps external monitoring tools (e.g. nagios) specific to each device and features an audit log that tracks who worked on the equipment — all of which isn’t possible with Excel spreadsheets, international calls and, quite simply, the way we used to do things. We also have more security with the service since we can set up read-only permissions. It’s saved us time, money and frustration.
If you’re still hand drawing your racks, or diagramming them using Visio or Excel, give a vampire a chance.
Oh yeah, and have a Happy (and safe) Halloween!