Michael was annoyed. Their in-house package manager- software that everyone needed to do their jobs- was complaining about a missing file that had just existed a second ago.

No big deal. First step: close the program, then re-open.

Cell membrane drawing-en

Except the program didn’t re-open properly. A new error appeared; a different file was missing. “MainDatastore” was a much more important file for their system, and its abscence was a Bad Thing™.

Then another error: “Network path not found.”

With a growing sense of dread, Michael poked his head out to see if anyone else was affected. Before he could ask the question, their exclamations answered him. Errors were being thrown, files were disappearing, network paths were going offline and online… and everyone knew exactly where the problem lay.

Whereas your average person might not know (or need to know) what specific physical hardware runs their applications or stores their data, whether it’s lurking in a local datacenter or sitting out in the “cloud”, there was no such abstraction or indirection at Michael’s workplace. There was only the Membrain.

The Membrain was the solitary server that hosted all of the software and all of the data that made Michael’s company work. The Membrain had been installed years ago and, aside from minor upgrades, it had been left untouched, lest a careless hand overturn the basket holding all of their eggs.

Michael and his co-workers rushed to the workroom. Even as they hustled, they asked: “Were the hard drives dying?”, “What’s our recovery plan?”, “Where are the backup tapes?”, “When was the last backup?”, “Were they ever tested?”, “How much work are we about to lose?”

There was no smoke, no server fire, nor any warning lights in the workroom. Just the Membrain and one of the cleaning staff, blocking the view of the corner where the Membrain lived, and a small stack of hard-drives had been laid neatly out on the table nearby.

The Membrain had a front panel that conveniently opened to the hard drives inside, which were easily removable, but not hot-swappable. The front panel had a lock, but it was never used, because no one should ever touch the Membrain.

The untouched Membrain had gathered a layer of dust. The cleaner had seen just too much dust, and decided to clean the rack. And one-by-one, the easily-accessible hard drives had been removed and dusted, because “it was dusty and I saw dust inside, too.”

The hard-drives were carefully returned, and after some diagnostics, the Membrain resumed its duties. The key for the lock was found stuffed in a manager’s drawer, and at last, the Membrain had its “membrane” secured.

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