What would you carry to the colo?
April 17, 2009 11:27 AM   Subscribe

What tools and equipment do your carry with you to the datacenter / colo when it's time to work on your servers?

I'm a largely self-taught webops guy, and am heading out to the datacenter to do some routine work. I've got a standard checklist of tools that I bring; what do you take with you when you're setting up or maintaining a big pile of servers?

Here's my list-

Stuff on my toolbelt:
- ratchet screwdriver, multiple tool heads (torx, phillips, etc)
- sharpie
- cable ties: velcro, plastic
- diagonal cutter
- needle nose pliers
- lineman's pliers
- utility knife
- flashlight, penlight
- electrical tape

Stuff in the bag:
- labelmaker
- magnetic pickup
- ethernet tester
- USB CD/DVD burner
- CD / DVD media
- jewler's screwdrivers
- phillips, regular, torx drivers
- index cards
- notebook, pen, pencil
- USB Key drive w/ distro on it

Stuff in the car
- keyboard (if there's no crash cart)
- LCD display (if there's no crash cart)
- socket set
- crescent wrench
- vice grips
- cat-5 cable
- RJ45 crimper
- rj45 stripper
- RJ45 ends

What would you add?
posted by jenkinsEar to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If I'm working on any networking equipment I always have an assortment of serial cables with me, at the very least a null modem cable and a Cisco rollover cable. Add rj-45 to db9 converters and some gender changers in there so I can adapt to whatever bizarre port configuration I'll come across.
posted by mikesch at 11:34 AM on April 17, 2009

The all-in-one network cable.
posted by jquinby at 11:35 AM on April 17, 2009

A small collapsible chair or stool in the car would be high on my list - I've spent a few marathon sessions far from civilization, and standing on concrete the whole time isn't fun. On the same note, a couple of bottles of water.

On the pricier side, a little laptop and a 100 mbit hub, so you can slap it on a server and run a packet sniffer, would be pretty great. A cable toner and probe can save you hours of work, too.

Also, really long extension cords for power, network, video, serial, and whatever else you can think of. Maybe a charged UPS in the car in case you need to hook up a monitor but you can't get to power.
posted by pocams at 11:47 AM on April 17, 2009

I always kept a sweater in the car. Comes in handy if you go over there in a tshirt and shorts.
posted by advicepig at 11:52 AM on April 17, 2009

On the same note, a couple of bottles of water.

I did some seriously long onsite sessions in the middle of nowhere and water is a strong call. Also a couple of Cliff Bars.

Consider also a quick reference card with vendor/provider support numbers, account numbers, circuit IDs and whatnot.

The key (or access code) for the bathroom. One place we hosted had their bathrooms in some other part of the building, which meant we had to cross through their office space to use them. They weren't keen on that, so they took away the keys. We threatened to start using the front lobby area, and in a burst of generosity, they threw a port-a-john on the loading dock for us. Good times.
posted by jquinby at 11:54 AM on April 17, 2009

Crossover cable. CD's with OS files on them, also any recent or large updates that you don't want to download. Earplugs for when you need to think. Earpiece for when your bluetooth earset doesn't work. Cellphone charger for when you are on hold with microsoft for 45 minutes before a 3 hour tech support call.
posted by 8dot3 at 11:56 AM on April 17, 2009

Also, on that usb drive or on dvd's: troubleshooting software of any imaginable kind: systinernals stuff, microsoft analyzers, dnscape, tcpview, any of that stuff that you have ever used. Carry it all with you. Even the stuff you think is insanely out of date. (You will run into that netware3 server someday and need a copy of autoexec.ncf.)
posted by 8dot3 at 12:00 PM on April 17, 2009

- Earplugs. I have a set of these, and the vast improvement over the standard foam ones means that I always wear them. Most people don't realize how loud data centers are, because it's mostly white noise in there. Don't wear them in order to think... wear them to protect your hearing.

- A Kill-A-Watt. Know which of your servers is responsible for your power usage.

- a Z-shaped screwdriver or a right-angle ratcheting one. If you've ever worked in a cabinet with poorly placed PDUs and/or power circuits, I don't need to tell you why. If you haven't, you eventually will.

- A small box of bandaids and some neosporin. Racks, cage nuts, rails, and the insides of rackmount gear have countless sharp edges, but most people (myself included) don't wear work gloves. Nexcare's clear "Heavy Duty" ones are essentially sterile packing tape, and are about a million times tougher than the ones in your colo's first aid kit.

- Serial gear, including a USB-to-RS232 interface, gender changers, a null, and the correct adapters to go to 25 or 9 pins in either gender. Yes on a Cisco blue cable and a rollover, if you've got any gear that uses RJ45 for serial.

- Your laptop should be able to PXE-boot your distros of choice, and your rescue tools of choice. Once you get used to having this, you'll stop carrying CDs. Essentially all modern server gear can be PXE-booted. Hint: If you've got solid remote console, either by KVM or IPMI-sol (or other means) and a machine in your cabinet/cage that can serve DHCP/TFTP to the others, it becomes much easier to build/rebuild/repair a machine remotely.

- A foldable, but still heavy duty baggage cart, with rubber bungees (none of the cloth/elastic ones). You can stack half a rack on one of these and roll it to your car.

- A stepstool that's comfortable both as a ladder and as a stool. I leave this in the cage.
posted by toxic at 12:43 PM on April 17, 2009

Headphones, bluetooth headset, skype speakerphone, evdo card. USB Serial Adapter, couplers, tile puller, panduit cable labels. C13/14 to NEMA 5-15 adapter for in rack power.

I wouldn't suggest bringing water in to the facility, see if you can stash it in the break room. In our facilities liquids on the DC floor = ban hammer.
posted by iamabot at 12:45 PM on April 17, 2009

Two cans of compressed air (since one is always almost empty).

A Petzl headlamp so you don't have to hold a flashlight.

An AirPort Express, since the colo probably won't allow WiFI in the rack, and a laptop.

Extra RAM DIMMs for the servers, since if something's wrong and it's not a hard drive it's probably bad RAM.

An electric screwdriver, or a little 12V cordless drill, to drive rack screws.
posted by nicwolff at 12:57 PM on April 17, 2009

Also, hold compressed air upside-down and spray overheating RAID for an instant 20ºF temperature drop...
posted by nicwolff at 1:02 PM on April 17, 2009

What kind of work are you getting ready to do? Bring the tools you need for that job.
posted by gjc at 6:23 PM on April 17, 2009

Your laptop should be able to PXE-boot your distros of choice, and your rescue tools of choice.

Why has this never occured to me? You, sir, are a genius. This is an excellent suggestion.
posted by popechunk at 6:32 PM on April 17, 2009

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