Take-Your-Child-To-Work Day never made much sense to me. Unless you're someone cool like Tony Hawk or Batman, showing kids the reality of the workplace just seems outright cruel. Cubicles, meetings, TPS reports -- I mean really, while you're at it, why not just crush all of their hopes and dreams and tell them that Santa Claus died in a mid-air collision with the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny was run over while trying to save the world's last candy factory, and that there would never be any birthday parties ever again. It's practically the same thing.
Apparently, not everyone shares my point of view. At least one day each year, I notice kids all over the place, from standing behind the counter at the jeweler's to playing in a corner of the executive's office. Some organizations, such as Robert R's, even formalize the whole thing, giving presentations about what mommy's employer does and taking the sons and daughters on a guided tour of the workplace. Thinking about the workplace from a child's perspective, the only places that might actually be fun to visit would be the elevators, the vending machines, and possibly the data center. Robert's employer must have agreed, as they made sure to include all of those places and many more in their annual children's tour of the facility.
Imagine how exciting a modern data center like the one at Robert's organization would be for a child. Bright lights, multiple backup UPS systems, redundant AC units, and a very powerful generator out back to ensure there can never be an outage. Several giant systems housing multi-terabyte storage arrays, four huge IBM P695's, and a few hundred other servers. Super high tech security to restrict physical access to the datacenter and a round-the-clock staff of fourteen administrators to lord over it all. I'm sure quite a few of you were getting excited just thinking about all that. Really, could there be a more awesome place to take the kiddies to see what millions of dollars of computer equipment looks like?
The CIO, a big fan of Take-Your-Child-To-Work Day, would give a fun presentation on how much computing power the organization required and then lead the kids on a tour of the data center. They loved it, and there were never any real problems. Well, until that one year when one little tyke couldn't resist the temptation of The Big Red Button.
Yes, I realize how cliché The Big Red Button is, but that's IBM's doing. When building the P695, they must not have considered how tempting it would be press a Big Red Button on the front of the case, even if the button was an instant kill-switch to shut off the server. Needless to say, the twenty-five virtual partitions on the machine, including the critical accounting system, all oracle databases, and the payroll system, all went down very hard and very fast.
Normally, that wouldn't usually be such a critical problem, but at the time, they were in the process of reconfiguring their high availability system, which meant that there was no fail over. In total, it took three milliseconds for the kid to run over and push the Big Red Button, and over seventy-two hours for the system administrators to fully restore the virtual systems to their previous states from backup.
There have been a few changes since that fateful day. Although the CIO still gives his presentation on the computing power, the data center is no longer open for tours. And The Big Red Button -- it's still there, encased in plexiglass should anyone else have the temptation to press it again.