On being a 24/7 organization and the 2016 leap second

Support calls are about to go up at a time when 24/7 support isn't always available

On being a 24/7 organization and the 2016 leap second

If the cloud is real, software important, and system reliability paramount, then non-stop computing, computing across time zones, and invisibly short repair times ought to be mandatory, wouldn’t you think? 

Of many requirements lain in litigation, regulatory compliance, and other “best practices,” there is one that doesn’t seem to make the checklists. 

Let me lay it out for you: 

Can you get support 24/7/365.25?

You get bonus points for knowing leap seconds are coming. Why? Because among other things, Kerberos time synchronization mandates pretty accurate timing. We’re about to insert a leap second into your life on western New Year’s Day. You may have zones that celebrate other years, but to be in sync with the time standards in the United States, there will be an extra second. The earth is slowing down. 

But your support calls are about to go UP. 

I recently changed to a host provider that has customer support available during the day and into the early evening. A late colleague of mine called it: A Photoelectric Operation. Getting attacked at 3 a.m. from IoT tea kettles in Nepal? I’m sorry. Check with us later, or press 5 to leave a voice mail. Did you know that older Linux kernel versions and things such as Java are time sensitive? You could get both the tea kettles and an extra-second systems software explosion all at once. 

There are organizations that transfer details to call centers located in odd areas where the person answering the phone may or may not have command of the desired language, be it English, French, Swahili, Urdu, Twe, whatever was sought. This degraded support sometimes poses as 24/7, but in reality is Warm Body Syndrome. 

Weather: Productivity's enemy

Also, weather has not been our friend, and perhaps your international help desk and on-call infrastructure might also become synchronistic with the leap-second problem when suddenly a tree limb, laden with two inches of ice drops on a utility pole, cutting power back to generators whose tanks weren’t checked. 

Whatever the current malaise, all of the greatest productivity in the world becomes askance when seven inches of rain turns to ice and snow and causes your router to search for as the leap second crashes it. Murphy’s law demands the most complex path for a problem to be solved, not the simplest. 

I feel for the overnight workers. I know a few of them, like the plucky folks that mind the lab’s NOC in Indy at Expedient’s huge center who live for an interesting problem—as I’ve presented several to them before. Maybe they ban Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and so forth there. I cannot know. I do know that I file a “remote hands” ticket with them and needn’t brew a pot of coffee because the work gets done. This compares favorably to the new hosts of my mail and httpd, who are in the bars or asleep. 

And so for those in the data center on western New Year’s, remember: You get an extra second on your paycheck. Please attach this article to you payroll department to remind them.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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