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Ask Slashdot: Setting Up a System Integration Room At VAR? 70

Posted by timothy
from the don't-forget-all-the-little-screwdrivers dept.
o2binbuzios writes "Due to an office move, I have a chance to do a clean-sheet design for an integration room at a fairly large VAR ($100M+ ). I'm looking for some ideas or best practice to support 100-120 square meters (~50 x 30 ft). I'm particularly interested in ideas around efficient workflow, ways to manage cabling and electrical, and 'environmental' solutions that make it a pleasant place to work. There will be a central bench with 6-8 stations (3-4 per side) with engineers and techs who may be configuring stacks of up to 10 devices at a time that could range from servers, to network elements, to SAN & NAS devices and more. I've been looking for a paper that seems like it must exist — but I'm happy to gather good ideas one at a time or in bunches here on Slashdot."
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Ask Slashdot: Setting Up a System Integration Room At VAR?

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    If the company is that large and the room is important, hire someone who knows what they're doing for that sort of thing and doesn't need to use a lifeline.

  • VAR = what? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Maybe I'm stupid. Value added re-seller? What the fuck is your question about?

    timothy you're a moron.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gadzook33 (740455)
      Seriously, is not writing the acronym out some sort of geek badge to you? Learn how to write like a professional instead of a fucking child.
      • All I could think of was Value Added Reseller. I agree, the asker should have spelled it out at least once.
        • English is not my mother language and I wasn't familiar with the acronym. I had to go to the disambiguation page in wikipedia and find some difinition that could make sense
        • Yeah, I think you're right though.
        • /var (used to hold variable files such as logs, the mail and printer spools). Yep that's just one of the things I thought about as I'm in the process of doing a Clean install of Gentoo in a chroot on a Gentoo system. It's chroots all the way down

        • so.. to decode... the guy wants advice on building an assembly room for an equipment provider?

          system integration in his speak = slapping some cards on some pc?

          • I don't get to do as much hands-on work as I used to. (I'm too senior and usually am in software work, but I still occasionally teach anti-static techniques and electrical safety to engineers who need some brush-up. Some low-end manufacturing employees have a lot to unlearn.) But no, it's really not just "slapping some cards on some pc". The workshop needs depend a lot on what the relevant tasks are. Good tool placement, for example, saves a lot of work walking back and forth to get the needed tool. Good el

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      Maybe I'm stupid. Value added re-seller?

      Sounds like it. After all, they're doing value-add here - in this case, they're not just shipping you the equipment you ordered, but customizing, configuring and ensuring it all works before shipping it out and assembling it on the spot.

      So unlike a regular reseller that just sells you stuff, a VAR offers additional services that you pay for to get your stuff the way you want it. Also known as system integrators. A lot of resellers often are VARs as well - your neighbo

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've worked in IT my entire adult life and I have fucking acronyms.

  • Twat (Score:3, Funny)

    by Sketchly (1354369) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @06:33PM (#43551123)
    So you're in charge of a $100m project, and you're asking random people on the internet for advice. God, I wish I was your boss.
    • by Kaenneth (82978)

      1 room, for a company $100M in 'size' (annual sales? market cap? dunno) not a single $100 million room.

  • why are they letting someone who doesn't even know the basics set up a 100 Million dollar VAR?

    • You must not have worked with many VARs or consultants before.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        I don't know what a VAR is, but it sounds like there's good money in it.

        • by pnutjam (523990)
          Don't bother, if you are any good you will be undercut by the incompetent and the unethical. Businesses would rather save $10k on a $100k quote and spend $40k on lawyers to try to get an unethical weasel to do what they would be doing in the first place if they had any morals. Alternatively they will save $30k by paying someone totally incompetent, then spend $100k on lawyers to sue when the project doesn't work. They then abandon the project because the don't want to spend another $50k to fix the original
    • He should primarily be asking his stakeholders. Maybe if he read the PMBOK5e and Rita Mulcahy's PM Crash Course, he'd realize he needs to start by finding the actual engineers who will be working there, and the managers who will be running it, and the guy funding it, and maybe some of the customers, and asking them what THEY expect to do with it. Questions like "How do I accomplish a two-sentence stated goal?" are inherently stupid.
  • = 100 thousand? A 100 million would be $100MM, if done correctly.
    • Big M= 1000000 (like in megohms)
      Little k =.1000 (like in kilograms)
      But your confusion is understandable, given the failure of Americans to grasp the metric system (humour)

      Actually come to think of it, we should really write $100M as 100M$.

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @07:41PM (#43551571)

    It sounds like what you're trying to build is what we call a "rollout room".

    Well, there's a few things -- first, you need to think vertical. Even just a couple people in a space that small can start to feel cramped. You want overhead space to run cables, power, hang lights, and have it open so equipment can be staged there and left in-place. You'll want KVMs, port duplicators, etc., with an eye on minimizing the number of peripherals in the room. The only thing that should be in the staging area besides the "box" is a power cable. I also suggest overhead for staging because it's less likely to be bumped or shoved off the end of a table, thus damaging the (yet unused!) equipment.

    Second, you want aisles that can easily allow someone carrying equipment past someone who's standing. There also needs to be plenty of elbow room between workstations. Some engineers are thin. Others, are sorta round. You may at some point hire someone who has a wheelchair. Think of these things now, and try to maximize the amount of available walking/moving/standing space in the room. This ties in with "think vertical!" above.

    A personal note -- Engineers are very picky about their own tools -- have heavy-duty rail-mounted drawers (or a small tool chest) with individual keys. They don't have to be big, and can be put at the table-ends. Even though you're creating a communal working area, tools are not communal, tools are private. Second, air conditioning, as much as you can put in there, but more importantly is air ventilation and sound-proofing on the walls, etc. Staging areas are loud. Loud enough you could be edging into OSHA territory and requiring ear protection. Also... a lot of computer people neglect personal hygiene. It's not a problem when they're living in a cube... but it's going to take your quality of life index way down when Joe shows up and smells like he hasn't showered in a week. Good ventilation goes a long way towards limiting the man-stench of a dozen dudes crammed into a confined space.

    Lastly, lighting. I'm sure you'll be stuck with fluorescent lighting like every other corporate environment on the planet, but try to choose 'natural light' bulbs if you can swing it. Believe it or not, the color 'warmth' of a bulb can have a significant psychological impact on a workspace. And consider something other than pure white on the walls. Obviously, don't go retarded and throw pastels up... but go to a hospital and see how they paint their hallways and stuff; Use that as inspiration for creating your own open space. And lastly, on the topic of lighting -- you will want swing-arm spot-lights wherever equipment assembly will take place.

    One more thing: If there's carpeting in the room, take it out. You need to eliminate static discharge. Everything should be grounded and there should be multiple signs indicating where to connect grounding straps, etc. Also, that elbow-room comment I made above? There's a practical reason for it too -- if someone bumps you while working on equipment, they can inadvertently transfer a static discharge onto the other person, and from there, onto the device.

    OH! And make sure you have plenty of circuit breakers and UPS in the room -- new equipment has a much higher failure rate than equipment that's been in the field for a short time... and the most common thing to blow is a power supply. Isolate assembly and testing areas from staging areas (where imaging, etc., takes place) electrically. You will short things out.. don't let one device ruin your night.

    • Oh... and color-coordinate your cabling. Power cables black, ethernet internal grey, ethernet to the 'outside world', red... whatever, just make sure it's consistent and have bins of replacements nearby of the appropriate color. Staging areas become a morass of cabling very quickly -- color coding everything will make plugging things in right easier, and faster. You may also want to color-code the actual tables... blue for assembly, green for testing, orange for staging, etc., so that a quick eyeball can pr

    • by ALeader71 (687693)

      As someone who works in a data center, I'd add a few things:

      1. Paint the walls some sort of "sand" color. It'll lower the emotional temperature in the room.
      2. Keep a budget for swiffer wet pads and have a Friday "GI Party" for clean up.
      3. Rubber pads for assembly. Nothing sucks more than a lost screw.
      4. Hearing protection and wipes for the ear muffs or a few big dispensers with ear plugs. These rooms are LOUD.
      5. Task lighting and hand sanitizer. Keep the squinting and the sick time to a minimum.

      • There are a few other things that I, personally, forgot. A broom, with regular sweeping. It's painful, and even dangerous, when dropped screws wind up embedded point first in your shoes as you transfer a heavy box to a cart for delivery. It's not the janitors' job to sweep that room, there are likely to be too many electrical cords in use. It's the assemblers' job.

        Don't use vacuum cleaners if it can be avoided. Those put ridiculous power draws on whichever outlet they use when they start, and can cause dang

    • by borehawg (88380)

      Also think about ingress/egress. If you're trying to carry equipment like rack-mount servers, you'll want elbow room to bring it in the door. Go for double-doors in the entry-way without that middle door jamb, so they can both open up to create one massive entry-way. This is useful when two people are carrying a heavy 4u server or when you need to roll in gear on a cart or handtruck.

  • Most folks I know don't want to sit next to noisy heat-generating equipment in a lab, in the uncomfortable workspaces that often accompany them.

    Keep only lab gear in the lab, with enough workspace for the just the physical hands-on type of work that's sometimes required.

    Invest in switched remotely manageable power strips, remote KVM/Serial., and layer 1 switches (e.g. http://www.mrv.com/tap/physical-layer/ [mrv.com] ). SSH/RDP access to the various lab hosts for things like packet capture, traffic generation, test a

  • If you're going to be integrating large racks of blades and storage systems you'll need a LOT of power and the needs will change from job to job so I seriously suggest you look at an overhead busway system. We use Starline, but there are a couple vendors out there. If you go Starline realize that the boxes often have a couple weeks leadtime (at least through our supplier) so buy 20% more of whatever flavors you think you'll use.

  • I'll toss in some more suggestions:

    • Put a unique label on all your cables, at both ends.
    • Prepare to have your cabling documented, and be willing to keep that list up to date.
    • When they wire the building, ensure there are enough power drops with enough current to supply your equipment.
    • Make sure there's enough airflow into that room to keep temperatures reasonable.
    • Try to do everything you can with configurable network hardware.
    • Keep a wiki
    • I'll second the suggestions to color code, and route cabling overhead.
  • by borgasm (547139) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @09:48PM (#43552213) Journal

    I just got a firm foam anti static floor mat for my workstation, and it is the greatest money I have ever spent. Even standing for 20 minutes is greatly improved by something a little squishy under my feet.

    If any person might be standing in some spot, put one on the floor.

    As for software and digital copies of stuff, buy a big honkin NAS device and store everything in ONE PLACE. Just the fact that its on the same physical machine eliminates people's need to search anywhere else.

    • Those tend to be shredded by cart wheels. And they do soak up spills and get scary if coffee or blood are spilled on them. So those are an ongoing expense. They can help prevent some very expensive static issues.

  • Teklinks?
  • There are people who do this every day. Use them. At the very least:

    1.An interior designer/architect. They'll point out the obvious mistakes you'll make, (like doors which, when open, obstruct switches, plugs etc.), plus ensure you comply with local regulations.
    2. A 'lean' process guy. They wil ensure you design the workplace with optimum safety, efficiency and ergonomics. For example, have you thought about material flow? Mistake proofing?

    • by borehawg (88380)

      He didn't say he wasn't using professionals, but that he was looking for "ideas or best practices". Sounds to me like he's in charge of the project for his company, but will be using contractors (such as designers/architects, consturction crews, etc) for the actual work.

      The interior designers and architects will know how to design a layout based on his input and requirements, but they may not have specialized knowledge for his particular use case. He's looking for ideas from people who have been in the tren

  • I don't think what's best for the equipment is generally best for the staff or vice versa.I would divide the room into two areas with some soundproofing and ideally glass in between.

    Make the equipment side a bunch of shelves on racks with modular cabling into the staff area. Have commonly used infrastructure in the racks (KVMs, DHCP servers, power distribution file servers for images etc.) Make sure that there are plenty of well labeled/colored cables available and a means to store them conveniently. The e

  • I was the senior integration technician at a mid-large VAR. We processed about 12,000 custom systems annually comprised of HP, IBM, & the occasional Sun server.

    In 2010 our division was purchased and moved across the country (I didn't move with it). I've got a lot of tips and even some photos of what our build rooms were like. We had a major uptick in volume in ~2008 and I was given a similar chance to do what you're doing now. We picked up a new blank warehouse and gutted offices to turn into build room

  • by MasterOfGoingFaster (922862) on Friday April 26, 2013 @11:14AM (#43557427) Homepage

    Lots of good ideas here. But nobody mentions an isolation station.

    Assume someone brings in a PC or laptop that is infected with something really horrible. If you connect it to your internal network, it might spread to your own PCs and servers. So - first stop is to the isolation station, where we can test it and see what's broken without any danger to our network. Our's has a "server" running in a VM that is effectively read-only. It contains all the service packs, patches and tools. We can kill it and relaunch it with zero danger to the next PC.

    How do we know what is infected? We assume anything with an OS installed is infected.

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