Police ignored the laws of datacenter climate control

Hello, hello, what have we here, then? A dead Dell, if I'm not mistaken. Whodunnit?

On Call With Friday upon us once again, The Register finds itself glancing at weather forecasts as we prepare another instalment of On Call, the weekly tale of tech support in which we share readers' stories of being asked to fease the infeasible.

This week, meet a reader we'll Regomize as "Sylvester" who, in the early 2000s, found himself working as civilian IT support for a local constabulary that operated across in several locations – each of which had its own mini- datacenter housing a file server and some other kit.

One of those remote rigs struck trouble and Sylvester was summoned to sort it.

"This particular machine (a typical small rack mount offering from Dell per the era) was running hot and would reboot spontaneously every hour or so," Sylvester recalled. His initial investigations yielded the info that it was located at a site primarily concerned with roads policing and which included a fully stocked vehicle maintenance bay that put commercial garages to shame.

It may also have made cleaners cry, given the detritus produced by vehicle maintenance.

When Sylvester arrived, he was shown through the vehicle repair bays into an adjacent "drying room."

"Imagine those TV drama scenes in which two dozen police batter down some villain's door down in the pouring rain," he suggested, next asking Register readers to imagine where all that wet gear is placed afterwards.

In a drying room, is the answer.

Sylvester learned that the drying room was also where this outpost of law enforcement decided to install a half-height rack in which resided the servers he'd been asked to fix.

"Yes, the servers were in a cold damp room whose only entrance was through the vehicle maintenance bay," Sylvester told On Call.

Sylvester suspected that the combination of damp and dirt may have done for the Dell.

His deductive instincts were spot on. When Sylvester opened the rack and looked at the fans, he found "a solid, unrecognizable black lump."

"There wasn't a gap in it anywhere for anything even approaching airflow and even if there had been, the fans were never going to move again."

Sylvester informed his colleagues there was no chance the server would be available until new fans were installed, which happened the next day.

"Credit where due, the server fired up again with no issues once the new block was installed the next day," Sylvester signed off.

What's the least appropriate location you've seen hardware located? Click here to send On Call an email and we may share it here on a future Friday. Keep 'em coming, dear readers – the mailbag has lots of nice little stories in it, but we could do with some meatier fare. ®

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