Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash: Pick Two (aghrivaine) wrote,
Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash: Pick Two

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Where Order Lives

At work, we are building out a new datacenter. This is a cool project for nerds; we're doing it from the ground up, and consolidating several disparate facilities into one new one. The place where we're moving is a brand new facility. It's one of the largest in Southern California, and sits astride the largest conglomeration of bandwidth in the world. If you had to point at the map and say, "this is where the internet lives" it would probably be Los Angeles.

This week I got to move in the first batch of our equipment, and inspect the new cage. The facility is vast, and we had to have our hands biometrically scanned, pictures taken, and passwords chose even to get through the round man-traps that lead into the actual floor. The man traps allow entry from one side, and after your PIN is entered and hand scanned, they rotate to allow entry to the other side.

The whole place is lit very dimly, with only a few blue lights in the aisles to illuminate anything, and green emergency exit signs made out of transluscent material so only the edges glow. There are hundreds, probably thousands of cages, and the guard (who was literally a hunch-back) had to guide us through the labyrinth to our particular cage. Some truly major players on the internet base their sites here, and the array of bleeding-edge equipment is mouth-dropping. Everything is in perfect order, absolutely everything. Overhead, three separate tracks run networking cables, fiber optic, and power around the facility; blue for power, clear for network, yellow for fiber. In each cage, the tracks terminate into a chute that leads down into precisely spaced terminals. Every rack is organized by hot-aisle/cold-aisle, and the cabling that joins every server into the vast web of the network is neatly laid along, perfectly sized so that it is unnecessary to loop the spare into a fall. There are no tangles or clumps; strips of velcro fabric secure the bundles into orderly tentacles that go precisely where intended, no further.

No clutter is allowed inside the cages. Everything in the aisles is regularly taken away by the custodian staff. There are cameras in blue and white orbs pointing at every cage, and every aisle of the larger cages. The chainlink fence walls of each cage are a uniform ten feet high. Every corner is squared away, and every aisle in between is precisely the same width.

I felt like an alien, an interloper when, trying to leave, we couldn't find our way back out of the facility. This is not a place for disorder, and there is no room for those who are inclined to wander or prone to getting lost. This is not a place to daydream or woolgather, it's a place you go for a specific purpose, to build something to exact specifications, and to lay along every bit of it in perfect order. When I found myself in a dead hallway with only the matrix behind me, and a door that said, "Do Not Exit, Alarm Will Sound" it was all I was worth not to open the door, burst into song and dance, and wait to be ushered out as clearly not belonging. But there's also a part of me that like the neatness, the order, the exactness of everything. I've worked in too many companies that didn't do everything right from the ground up, and so the disorder grows layer by layer as more is added, and the difficulty of straightening out the tangles grows exponentially. Eventually those kinds of server rooms become almost too wild to work, and are certainly inefficient. Even today here in the office there's stuff that I just don't touch because the work-around I know might not be as efficient, but at least I know where it is and don't have to trace lines and break out a flashlight to find where it all ends.

I've been to the place where order lives. There's no entropy there. No chaos. It's just not allowed, the shield of organization is too impregnable. I suspect if I threw a bunch of empty cardboard boxes in a corner, all in a heap, they'd reorganize themselves into a neat stack when no one but the all-seeing cameras was watching. There's no poetry or music there - but there are numbers, lines, rays, edges, segments, arrays. If math were a creature-encounter, this would be its lair.

I was glad to get out into the sun, but also glad that's where my machines will be living. Those particular sheep are kept by a formidable shepherd, and so I don't need to worry in the slightest that I won't have access or be unable to find anything. It will all make perfect, bulletproof, rigid sense.

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