Because saving taxpayer dollars is Job 1, right?

This government agency is responsible for archiving digital material for other agencies, and it's time for a big data center upgrade, reports a pilot fish working there.

"The project was to greatly upgrade both the servers and the storage systems to cope with the now-vast amounts of data we were collecting," fish says.

"Part of the project was supposed to be an upgrade of the UPSes and the air conditioning in the primary server room, as all the new equipment would consume much more power and generate much more heat."

But one senior manager notices that it's been only two years since the server room's power and cooling were beefed up. He decides it's not necessary to spend thousands of taxpayer dollars on another round of improvements.

Fish and his boss try to explain to the senior manager about power usage and heat. They argue forcefully. They explain simply. Nothing works. He's not listening.

The best they can do is to get the senior manager to sign off on a document stating that he understands the risks and is prepared to accept them.

"The switch-on day for the new equipment was on a Friday," says fish. "It was a lavish affair, with the senior manager spouting to the media about how sophisticated the system was.

"At around 4:30 Sunday morning, I got an autopage from the server management console about severe overheating. Surprise, surprise."

Fish throws on some clothes and makes the 45-minute drive into the office. As he approaches the building, he can see the flashing lights of fire engines.

After finding the fire chief, fish explains who he is and why he's there -- and gets an explanation of what happened.

"Well, the air conditioning cooked and then failed," fire chief says, "causing the power to trip. The UPSes couldn't handle the load and two of them caught fire, and took out most of your equipment."

Sighs fish, "It turns out that senior manager had also cancelled the fire suppression system for the room, and hadn't told anyone.

"The media had a great time at the senior manager's expense, and he got promoted after six months. The agency head noted how he had 'raised our profile so effectively with the media.'"

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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