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A Day in the Life of a System Engineer's Trunk Unit

Blog Post created by rfenton Employee on Jun 23, 2014

When you join Nimble Storage as a Systems Engineer (SE), you're given your own trusty "trunk" array. They are called trunk arrays as they spend most of their time in the boot of our car or an airplane conveyer belt being transported between sites. The primary function of this array is to allow SEs to demonstrate the Nimble CS controllers and CASL to our customers, prospects and partners. So these units see a lot of physical abuse, as they are often hauled around transported in and out of trains, planes and automobiles, lifted up stairs, lifted into and out of lifts and car boots, racked / deracked and even checked onto flights as luggage!

 

When on-site we encourage customers and partners to ‘break' them. They maliciously pull disks out (to test our Triple Parity RAID and the impact of disk rebuilds), remove SSDs, simulate Scale-to-Fit controller upgrades by physically removing and replacing the standby controllers, pulling fans and power supplies. It’s not an uncommon sight to see an array eating it’s way through an IOMeter or SQLIO benchmark, flat out with a bunch of components next to it (a removed controller, a missing SSD, missing disk drives and a power supply short).

 

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Picture: A Nimble Array running IOMeter with a Missing Controllers, Power/Fan Supply, 3 x SSD’s and a missing HDD.

 

 

My particular array (serial number AA-100510, or just 510 for short) is a hand me down. Prior to me joining Nimble it belonged to my boss (Charlie Whitfield - EMEA South SE Director).  Charlie was our inaugural SE in Europe and AA-100510 was originally his trunk unit, so it was a mainstay of our early European adopters. When Charlie climbed the management tree he gave his beloved trunk unit to me. I gladly took ownership and proceeded to use it for the intention for which it was purposed. When not on a customer site it’s in my home lab being upgraded, downgraded, reconfigured, a CS220 controller one week, a CS220G controller the next.

 

Over a curry at our recent Customer Product Council in Manchester, Charlie and I were reminiscing on the places this particular unit has been installed and travelled. Dining with us was Rod Bagg (VP of Nimble Customer Support), so we asked Rod whether InfoSight could help us identify everywhere that particular array had been. The next morning my inbox was an email from Rod with a full list of the controller’s travels – it was almost like browsing at the stamp history of your passport. (You’ve got to love the power of InfoSight.) 


Here is a map of 510’s adventures:

 

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Picture: 501 - A seasoned traveller

 

The inevitable stresses of the physical abuse this unit has taken over the past three years have had their affect; after all, we still have cobbled streets "up north in England"!

 

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Picture: Cobbled streets in the North of England

 

At trade shows, users can be a little vigorous with the way they remove and replace Field Replaceable Units, and of course the controller itself is now close to it’s fourth year and has led such a hard life. But much like Triggers Broom on Only Fools and Horses as a component fails the array itself notifies support, I receive a replacement part, I simply replace it and the thing just keeps on running and running:


Video: Trigger's Broom sketch

 

In fact one of the original components is still the original Generation 1 face plate, sure to be a nostalgic collectors item in future years (It’s mine Charlie your not having back!)



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Picture: The Original Faceplate – A collector’s item

 


So here’s to many more years of travels of this young jet setter - like our very first customer Grocery Outlet, who have evolved their CS200 to something quite different over the years, I’m looking for ways that I can get this unit upgraded to a CS400 or even a nice shiny new CS700 and spend many more years with Trigger’s Broom !

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