BOFH: Every silver lining has a cloud

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Episode 5

"Code Magenta," the PFY mumbles quietly as he wanders past me on the way to Mission Control.

"Code Magenta!" the Director's PA repeats in hushed tones, unable to keep her nose out of things that don’t concern her – "What does that mean?"

"It's a systems code about operational availability," I lie. "We have various codes depending on the potential impact of any situation on our service level agreements."

Which is a lie. We don't have systems codes or operational availability and the last person who tried to force us into a service level agreement is rumoured to be very close to being able to touch a lightswitch without crapping himself.

"So what's Magenta mean?" the Director's PA asks, in the same hushed tones I'm sure she'll use to pass this on to the rest of the IQ-challenged crowd at lunchtime – in between salacious gossip about the royal family and this week's reality TV recap.

"Magenta means operational reversion standby," I say, cranking up the seemingly technical importance of Code Magenta without actually giving any useful information away. At this point operational reversion standby could mean I'm waiting outside the toilets to take a dump or I'm ready to press the power button on my desktop machine.

"Really!" she gasps. "Is that bad?"

"Bad's a relative term. Code Hot-Chilli-Red is worse, and Code Victim Orange is better – but all of them are worth looking into."

I could talk crap like this for days, but I'm not going to. We're at Code Magenta!

Code Magenta, as the PFY and I both know, is the code for hostile takeover. Not of the company, but of the IT services. In these days of Cloud Computing, SAAS, and mobile workspaces, the streets are littered with smooth-talking types in casually precise business clothes talking the words we all like to hear – simplicity, redundancy, and of course, lower cost.

The same people who used words like "synergy", "enterprise solution" and "Total Cost of Ownership" five years ago are still using words like that now, only this time they've added to their vocabulary with the catchphrases-de-jour of the cloud mentality.

Sure enough as my conversation with the PA dies a natural death from three-syllable word poisoning, two smooth-looking sales types rock on up to see the Director.

"Simon!" the Director gasps guiltily, noticing me outside for the first time. "How convenient. I was just going to listen to a presentation about some potential areas for savings in our IT budget and I thought you might like to sit in!"

Now sitting through a sales pitch from some clean-shaven charmer fresh out of MBA school is about as appealing to me as performing my own testicular surgery with a hole punch and a 100watt soldering iron, however I know the Director doesn't want me there, so right away I’m starting to warm to it.

"Fantastic!" I say, faking enthusiasm, and shaking hands all round.

Ten minutes later we're in the thick of it, and I'm hearing how data abstraction has never been so good and how RAID comes a poor second to clouded duplicated RAID spread out over the globe. The iPad2-rich media presentation has the desired "shiny bead" effect on the Director and by the end of it he's almost begging to sign up.

"We've already got that," I say to the Director, before he can whip his pen out. Well I assume it's a pen he's fumbling around furiously in his trouser pocket for.

"I ... thought all your data is in the server room," Smooth Guy 1 says.

"No, it's in our own Cloud," I ad-lib. "Well, when I say 'our own' I mean we signed up to a partnership agreement with several companies all over the Globe to each backup the other's services in a multi-homed data centre cloud," I reply, turning to the Director. "Surely I told you about that?"

"Uh – no..."

"Oh. Well I meant to. Yeah, we have a five-year contract with each other to make available a stack of virtual resource. We use freebie sync and schedule software to ensure redundancy amongst all the member partners and to our systems it just looks like it's hosted in the server room like a normal system."

"So your data is totally protected?" Smooth Guy 2 asks, too professional to cough "*bullshit*".

"Absolutely," I say smugly, knowing he can't prove me wrong.

"And your data sits?" he asks, trying to find a weak spot in my lies.

"All over the place," I lie. "I know we had some problems after the recent tsunami, so I can only assume that part of one datacentre was partially deployed in Japan but I'm fairly confident that we'll be back to full 100 per cent redundancy once our local data is completely resynced and verified."

Smooth Guy 2's a little put out at my answer, which can only mean he was going to suggest we power-down the data centre to test our redundancy, but he knows that any outage would immediately be blamed on Fukishima.

"Well it looks like you're all covered, what with the global network and that 'contract' and all," Smooth Guy 1 says with just a dash of sarcasm. "Though I'd really like to see that contract – just out of professional interest."

"I don't see why not," The Director agrees.

"Sure," I say, dialling the PFY on hands-free.

"Systems," the PFY answers.

"Hey, it's me. Can you bring over a copy of that Global Cloud contract that we signed with those overseas companies to share each other's resources to create our own multihomed Cloud? You know the one with the freebie sync and schedule software?"

"I think it's in the document safe," the PFY lies. "I'll just dig it up."

"Yes, make sure it's the latest version – the one with the five-year term."

The next five minutes pass quietly. Well, relatively quietly. I thought I saw a black widow spider and leapt backwards – unfortunately landing right in the middle of an iPad screen – but it turned out to be a bit of dust. Ah well.

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