November 6, 2015

Under the Infrastructure: Server build tech Christos Panoudis confirms whether or not Spider-Man hides in our server racks

November 6, 2015

Shhh, don’t tell Texas, but we’re never going back to the States! Not just yet, anyway. We’re not finished meeting the amazing folks in our offices and data centers across the pond.

This week, Under the Infrastructure takes a short jaunt south from Amsterdam to Frankfurt, where we’re chatting with server build technician shift lead Christos Panoudis. He’s been with us for a bit under a year (which makes sense, considering our Frankfurt data center just opened in December 2014!), and he’s been integral to getting one of our newer data centers up and running.

Say hello.

SOFTLAYER: Why did you decide to become a server build technician?

CHRISTOS PANOUDIS: Having many years of IT experience, I was looking for a job that it would be interesting and would teach me something. I was also interested in working in the Internet sector—I find it pretty exciting, and being raised in the so-called “Internet generation,” it has certainly affected me. What could be more exciting than working in a data center, where you can work with unique equipment and learn new things? Building a PC doesn’t have a high grade of difficulty, but building a server via complex procedures and being faced with obstacles until you deliver it to the customer? That is what I call a challenge. Networking, software installation, collaboration across departments, and socializing with colleagues are all components of the position that I enjoy.

SL: Tell us more about how your love of technology began.

PANOUDIS: Everyone tells me that I took an interest in technology when I was a little kid by repairing my grandpa’s watches. But they’re wrong; my dream then was to become a pilot [laughs].

I believe my true love of technology stems from two events. The first one was when my father took me to a Greek computer (PC) exhibition in 1994. Observing the new technology, I was in awe. The second event was when my uncle’s computer got a virus, and we made a deal that he would let me on his PC if I successfully removed it. He thought that I couldn’t do it, but after three hours, I did. I was so proud. But I never got to play with his computer, because I had just reformatted his hard drive [laughs]! After that, I caught the computer engineering bug and began to study computers.

A big part of the decision to become an IT professional was the fact that IRC and online gaming were making huge strides in the market. I was spending lots and lots of hours in front of a PC—I had my own IRC server and website—and I was working with other users to troubleshoot connection issues.

I was interested in every gadget and new technology that emerged in the market, while at the same time, I was increasing my technical skills in both software and hardware.

SL: Describe a server build technician’s workstation to us.

PANOUDIS: Chaos. That’s the word that someone would use to describe it if he took a look at a server build technician’s (STB) computer monitor. Multiple browser windows, terminals, remote desktops, server status flows, customer tickets, emails. Of course, it’s chaos to someone who isn’t specialized. But for a STB, this is a daily routine and a habit—or I should say a need? He must be ready to start building servers for a new order, to reply to customer tickets (which could be just a simple upgrade or a complicated maintenance issue), or anything in between. It is necessary for us for that “chaos” exists—so we can consistently do our jobs.

At my workstation, I have three monitors. Two are used for information sequences and the third one is for working. On one screen, I keep track of the incoming tickets and email. On another screen, I monitor server statuses and internal chat. On the central screen, I monitor the terminals that I need to connect to the customer's server and to perform whatever maintenance needed. There are also multiple browser windows to access our internal management system.

SL: What’s it like working for SoftLayer in Frankfurt?

PANOUDIS: Frankfurt’s data center is one of the newer Softlayer data centers in Europe, with modern equipment and high levels of security. Seeing all those cameras and the high walls with barbed wires on my first day of work, I was a bit surprised. Until then, I’d never thought that a tech building would have such security.

In Frankfurt, we work in three shifts. Each shift has a “shift leader” and five technicians. As a shift leader, the most important thing for me is to make sure that everything works like a well-oiled machine, since tasks flow continuously and there must be perfect communication so we won't miss deadlines. That’s why, at the end of each shift, the shift leaders have “hands-off reports,” where task delivery takes place.

The beginning of each shift starts an hour before the previous shift ends. During that time, tasks and on-going maintenance are assigned.
Of course, nothing would be possible without the fantastic people that we work with. It is truly amazing how people with different nationalities, cultures, and ways of thinking come together as one entity to complete tasks.

SL: People on Twitter think Spider-Man lives in our server racks. For once and for all, does he?

PANOUDIS: I dare him to come and live in such an environment: cold and with more than 90 decibels of continuous sound (jet turbine-like). The network cables are structured this way for organizational purposes and to make it easier for personnel to work among such a high volume of wires.

Each color represents a network. For example, red cables are for public networks, blue cables are for private networks, and green are for management.

Even if Spider-Man were able to cope with the sound, he would not be able to live in our data center, since he wouldn’t be able to get past security [laughs]. So, no, we definitely don't have Spider-Man here—not even small spiders.

-Fayza

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