BOFH: Shiny new computer room

What's the catch?

Episode 17

"I think I have some good news..." the Boss chirps happily as he skips into Mission Control.

"Good news?" the PFY says.

"Very good news!" he gushes.

"On a scale of one to ten?"

"Ten - at least!"

"Really," I say. "And what could possibly register as a ten?"

"You're going to get a new computer room!" he blurts.

"A new computer room?"

"Yes, what you've been after - for ages - by all accounts. AND you'll get all new plant and state-of-the-art environmental monitoring and fire suppression."

"Really?" I say, suppressing my natural urge to blurt PANTS ON FIRE! "Who's moving out?"

"We all are!" he gasps cheerfully.

"All of us?"

"The entire building!"

"Why?" the PFY asks.

"Well it's an interesting thing. An audit at the end of last year found that the only thing the company carried sufficient insurance for was workplace accident and associated liability. For some reason. Most importantly the building insurance was flagged as being seriously underestimated given the appreciation in value since the building was purchased - because of its proximity to certain parts of the city which are more desirable than they once were."

"Uh huh," the PFY says doubtfully.

"So what you're saying is that the building that was a bit of a fire sale special a number of years ago is now a valuable chunk of London real estate?"

"Exactly! As a result of this the company decided to capitalise on its good fortune by selling up, buying elsewhere for vastly less and..."

"Misreporting the capital gains as revenue?" I ask.

"No, by buying elsewhere for less and using a portion of the profit to refurbish the new building into a Head Office. And it just so happens they've found an ex-government building not too far away from here which is an absolute bargain and about twice the size!"

"Right," I say dubiously, waiting for the 'but..'. "Got an existing computer facility then?"

"No, one will be purpose built onsite - using all-new plant and materials."

"Cabling infrastructure?"

"All new cabling to be installed top to bottom to your specifications."

"Sounds okay so far," I say slowly - having learnt from harsh experience that when encountering a goldmine one must prepare oneself for the shaft. "When's it going to happen?"

"Three weeks," he gasps excitedly.

And there it is, complete with pit props and canary...

"You can't do a build like that within three weeks!" I cry. "It'll take months just to plan for it!"

"Oh, they're not planning the build for three weeks time," the Boss blurts. "We just have to be out of the building by then."


"...because we've sold it. Obviously some interim measures will need to be taken and some less than optimal configurations might need to be borne for the short term..."

"Who the hell sells a building in three weeks?" the PFY gasps, as in my mind I recall the server rooms of my youth and suppress a scream.

... Rows of tables in carpeted rooms with servers stacked on and around them....

...Portable aircon units leaking water onto the floor...

...IPS power!!!...

...Rats' nests of network cabling and power cables strewn all over floors and tables, in doorways, across light fittings...

"It's not going to happen!" I snap decisively.

"Has to happen - the building's been sold!" the Boss responds.

"It may have been sold, but we can't possibly move the equipment in time. We need a temperature and humidity controlled environment, with UPS power, generator backup, security!"

"Not to mention up-to-date racks, raised floor and a structured cabling system," the PFY says.

"How long would it take?"

"Well, if we could get the people, 24-7, and the plant and hardware, I'm guessing... a couple of months."


"If they were working 24-7."

"We don't have a couple of months. You're just going to have to make do. I think I can get you allocated about half a floor where you could put all the servers and stuff - till the work's complete in the other half."

"With workers moving in and out of the gear, carrying building supplies?"

"There might be a bit of building activity which might overlap..."

"How about this - you sell the building and LEASE BACK the computer room and operations room until such time as the server room is built?"

"I'm not really sure that makes financial sense – besides I've already told our risk people that we'd be okay to move. I mean, it's only some servers..."

"You'll have to get the buyer to delay the purchase then," the PFY seethes.

"Never going to happen. They're moving their computer room as well and they've cancelled their lease. I can't think of anything that'd make them want to delay."

"Really?" the PFY says.


. . . One day later . . .

"And apparently the WALLS of the computer suite may be made of asbestos," the PFY explains to the IT Director. "Presumably because of its fire retardant properties. One of their technical people discovered it yesterday afternoon when they came to take some measurements and moved a panel."

"Are they sure it was asbestos?"

"Oh yeah, it had CAUTION, ASBESTOS stencilled across it."

"And do we know how long it's been in the building?"

"No, Could be 20 years, could be 20 minutes – But obviously now they're delaying the purchase for a couple of months until they can have the entire building checked to know what the removal costs would be..."

"Awfully convenient for you, don't you think?"

"What, the daily exposure to an environment that might kill me horribly in 20 years?" the PFY replies. "That's not what my solicitor thinks. He is thinking out-of-court settlement though."

"I think we'll wait for the outcome of the builder's report," the Director responds.

"No skin off my nose," the PFY says. "It's all billable research time for my counsel, time for further discovery, examination of documents to see if anyone in the company has a history of signing off building works with substandard materials."

"I see. Well perhaps an out-of-court no-admission-of-guilt deal might be best," the Head mumbles.

"Meantime, I guess we'd better plan this new computer room properly," I add, nudging a stencil into the darkness under my desk...

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