An architecture home companion

Episode 9

I suspect if you saw it, not walking with my father and Thomas, the sight of them stuck to the data center floor unable to move for a short time would have been funny. I doubt however that my father found it to be very funny.

Apparently it took he and Thomas five minutes to figure out how they could remove their shoes and make it safely back to the door. They took their shoes outside and washed them off. Then they called the building janitor who had to use bleach to get the ice cream soup off the floor. It took the janitor over an hour to remove the last of the soup.

Uncle Tom and my dad searched for the source, finding it of course when they opened Uncle Tom’s office and more of the goop poured out. They quickly mopped up the remains with paper towels and looked at the mess that used to be a freezer. Uncle Tom must have been horrified knowing that all his ice cream was gone. I know my brother and I were upset later when we found out, as visiting the ice cream freezer was one of the highlights of visiting dad’s office on the weekend.

My dad found a sheet of paper, but the only thing he could find to write with were the crayons my little brother had left in his desk. For the next ten years (until they had decayed to the point where you could no longer read them) there were hand written signs (in red crayon) taped to all the doors (3) of the data center. They read:

“Ice Cream is forbidden in the data center. For a darn good reason so please don’t ask.”


An Architecture Home Companion

Episode 8

The great ICE Cream debate

Thomas, or Tom or Tommy he went by a lot of names over the years. Tommy kind of lost its luster as he got older. Thomas was his Uncle’s name and he always felt odd when people called him that. Tom was the name he used most often and was the one I knew him by.

Tom as the floor manager or facilities assigner for the data center and the town hall and worked for my dad. They had started out together many years before when Tom was Tommy and my dad was younger and my brother and I weren’t around. Over the years Tommy settled into being Tom and Tom was the facilities assigner. He came over to the house all the time for dinner. I used to think he actually was my uncle. Well until I got smarter when I turned 10 at least.

His one passion in life was Ice Cream. That of course led to the great debate. About a week after the freezing July event Tom was in his office that was just off the data center floor. In his office was a freezer where he stored the various types of Ice Creams Tom liked to consume. In the mad rush to plug in fans to warm up the cooling system someone unplugged the freezer that Tom used for Ice Cream. Had it been a traditional chest freezer all of this would have been fine. It was however a smaller dorm freezer and by the end of the week, everything was melted.

Ice Cream by nature is a frozen liquid and of course liquids once freed like to flow. On the Monday morning after the great freezing or roughly a week later the Ice Cream now Ice Liquid had made its escape.

All over the data center floor was a sticky gooey mess.

An architecture home companion

Posting early due to travel all day tomorrow.

Episode 7

The tension continued to get worse, core temperature of the cooling system was 30 degrees. Core temperature in the data center was 73 degrees.

Outside the town hall/general store and overflow bingo facility the ice cream vendor (Bob) was making a killing. Ice cream treats that normally sold for less than a dollar were now going for 2 and 3 dollars apiece.

At the same time the people of the town government were become frantic. Mayor Toldhead was bustling back and forth seeking solutions from the gathering crowd. “What can we do?” he would say to anyone that would listen as he wrangled his hands and paced back and forth.

No one hand an answer, simply blank stares as they enjoyed the wafting cold air that flowed out of the now completely open cooling system.

The temperature was now 74.5 degrees and my father was visibly shaken. It is hard to watch someone you admire crumble before you.

My mother arrived about that time and perhaps as only mother’s can do she saved the day. She leaned in to my father and said, John, why don’t you use the garden hoses and pour water on the cooling tower to warm it up?

The crowd upon hearing the suggestion cheered and began running for hoses and water buckets. Gallon after gallon of water was poured onto the still frozen cooling system as it slowly but surely began to warm up.

My father smile at my mother as the cooling system reengaged and the data center, stuck at 76.3 degrees stopped rising and started to fall again.

It was the summer day that was frozen.


An Architect Home Companion

Episode 6

July 23rd the year of the freeze was the warmest July day Indiana had ever had. 105 degrees of roasting Indiana humidity that could melt the very tar in the road itself. It was hot day and the air conditioners in town were roaring in agony as they pumped warm air out into the broiling hot air. Everything was struggling to stay cool and the computer in the town data center was no differently. Alabaster’s massive cooling system was struggling to maintain an even 68 degrees inside the data center. My father and Alabaster worriedly walked about the grounds looking at the various air intakes seeking anything blocking the flow of air. My father looked harried, I remember watching him, sweat pouring from his brow as he watched his data center warm up degree by degree.

Around noon that day the mighty cooling system seemed to gain a second wind. Mystically the fans seem to whur faster, more air seemed to move and then nothing. The fans stopped, the giant tower that cooled our data center fell silent.

When Alabaster opened the center cooling chamber (with the coils) it was frozen solid. 32 degrees of Ice in 105 degrees of air waves of cool flowing off the device and into the yard around. My father and Alabaster quickly opened every access panel on the giant cooling tower. My father watching the remote temperature gauge he had connected to a sensor inside the data center.

The danger line was 78 degrees and with an ice cube for a cooling system we were creeping towards that number.


An Architect Home Companion

The Summer of the great freeze

Our town data center didn’t have a raised floor. My father was the data center manager and used to say “we don’t need a city folk data center, we are country folk.” When people would ask about the trend towards the raised floor in data centers which made the data center a magical jungle of wires and hanging objects. As a child I used to love going into that data center and listen to the hum of machines and the whur of printers and pretend this was the island where wild things lived.

We also had the largest data center cooling system in the entire world. Alabaster built it the summer after the great winter debacle. My father always said he made it far too big and far too complex of a project. But he also said old Alabaster was a town hero and the town owed him something. So he built the giant cooling system for the town data center. It was the largest ever built and some town folks said when it was running you could see it from space. I couldn’t see it from my bedroom window so I kind of doubted that.

Old Alabaster would drive in from his house every morning and check on his creation. He would make clucking noises as he walked around the cooler and occasional lean in and say something to the machine. He did that every day of the week, regardless of weather.

Lake Architectless was proud of our cooling system. After all it was the largest in the world, which meant that it was bigger than the cooling system for the Sears Tower and the Mall of America. We had a datacenter festival every summer just to celebrate the wonder of the edifice old Alabaster had built.

An Architecture home companion

CRM, Episode 4

When I finally got to the truck carrying the CRM software it was amazing. There were bits of code dangling from the ceiling of the truck. The mud flaps had pictures of happy people with computers (instead of the usual half naked woman). The inside of the truck was crammed full of just about everything you would need for a CRM system.

  • Stacks of Contacts
  • Keyboards with keys aligned to the arcane commands you needed depending on which CRM solution you were buying.
  • CRM packages stacked against the side of the truck in gold, silver, platinum and mud-flap brown.

I was in awe of what I saw. Clutching the money my mother had given me that morning closely to me, I said to the man. “What do I need.”

For a second I saw a twinkle in his eye. An almost sad twinkle like I had asked a question he had heard before and yet didn’t want to answer. As if the question pierced him like an arrow.

“That depends upon what you want to do.” he finally said. His voice was scarred and aged like fine wine stored in a decanter not the bottle, less than perfect but still with the resonance of something that once was perfect.

“My mom wants a new family calendar.” I said quietly in awe of this truck of CRM.

“Well then, I have what you need. A CRM system that exports to phones and allows every device to have the same calendar at the same time. One that allows for multiple users and and thousands of contacts so that creating your Christmas card list becomes simple and easy. One that tracks conflicts and measures your free time, to reduce that free time to whatever your mother deems necessary. And I see by the fist full of dollars in your hand, that you have just enough for that system.”

For the briefest second I was overjoyed. Then he handed me 27 boxes that must have weighed 40 pounds.

“The installation guide” he said handing me a two page pamphlet “is right in here” he tapped the guide and turned to the next customer.

It took me over an hour to get home.


An Architecture Home Companion

Episode 3

CRM Continued.

The cart with the shiny new CRM rolled around the bend. The man driving the vehicle was unlike anyone I had ever seen, but then again he had never been to our little town before so that was kind of to be expected. But still he had a strange look in his eyes, a wanderlust that you seldom saw in our idyllic little town.

He was also driving fast and hugging the side of the road. It was a long held tradition of Lake No Architecture drivers to head more towards the center of the road than to drive along the shoulder. As the road frequently froze, cracked and ultimately created many more potholes along the edge of the road which made driving hazardous if you hugged the side and much safer to drive near the center. Mayor Withers (William) had asked the road works group to consider changing the way they repaired pot holes, but that had been voted down by the city council. The thought of road planning was akin to architecture and of course not really something that our town wanted any part of.

The truck carrying the CRM solution roared past me heading towards the town square where traveling solution vendors set up shop. I turned around and started walking that way. As the road wound it was two miles to the town square. Cutting across Mr. Timkins farm it was less than a ½ mile so I would be able to be there around the same time as the CRM truck (the town had implemented a solution that allowed every house to have its own stop sign. It seemed like an interesting idea when it was proposed – but it did make it nearly a 30 minute trip across town in a car.)

It was a great sunny day and the walk would do me some good so I set off across the field towards the town square and a CRM solution.


An Architecture home companion (episode 2)

As a child, which i am sure is the case for everyone who grew up in the middle of anyplace like my friends and I did, in Lake No Architecture (our town was so small that we just adopted the Lake name as our town name. Or as the legend went the settlers of this area were so poor they could only afford one name). Anyway as a child there were those special summer days that we waited for. The days when the traveling vendors would come to town to peddle their wares.

It was a particularly hot July the year I turned 8. It was also the first time the CRM Peddler came to town. His cart loaded down with shiny objects and bits of code that would help you manage your family schedule and plan. My mother had sent me to the edge of town, she was seeking a new family event management system, apparently my father and mother had forgotten my brother at some event that wasn’t on the ancient http based calendar that we all carried on our phones. I was all for ditching my brother but my parents were very upset and thus we needed a new CRM system.

I wasn’t quite sure as I waited by the edge of town what exactly CRC would be. But i knew the peddler would hawk his wares, singing a CRM description song as he wandered his way down the road into town. I hoped by then I would understand just what this new addition to our family would do.

Based on the appearance of my brother that ruined of course our entire family I was also a little apprehensive. Our family had long been a family of technology for technologies sake, as was the philosophy of most of the people in Lake No Architecture.

So what was this CRM thing? I could hear the vendor as he rolled around the last curve singing a CRM song…




bright and


lights up your screen




To be continued…


An Architecture home companion

With great apologies to Garrison Keillor

I grew up in a small town just north of the Lake No Architecture. As a child I didn’t wonder much why such a place existed or for that matter why such a lake didn’t have architecture or architects.

In fact growing in the idyllic place we really didn’t IT problems. This just kind of solved themselves.

I remember as a child going down to Old Man Withers Engineering store. You could anything there, in fact as 8 year olds my friends and I bought all the components of a home brew ERP system.

We spent the summer trying to get that ERP system to work as a billing system for our lawn mowing business.

There were numerous trips to the withers store that summer to find the missing code and pieces we didn’t know we needed. But we were young we didn’t know we needed a big picture to figure out all the small pieces. We just kept attacking the problem with fix after fix trying to get it to run.

In the end we only mowed one lawn that summer because we had to spend all our time building our billing system. Old Man Withers laughed at us as we brought back our now old fashioned solution.

“Boys you should have used this.” He said as he handed us 25 cents for every dollar we had given him. “The new ERP solution, makes the old one you bought obsolete.” We drooled for awhile and then headed down to the engineered ice cream store.


Is mimicking another pattern its own pattern?

There are a number of ways to apply patterns to your solution. Is mimicking another pattern a way that you can actually have your own iteration of the original pattern? Or is that very act of modification creating a new pattern?

its a lost afternoon at the bottom of the well for that one.

So I’ve been thinking about building out a migration structure ( and kind of talked through some of the issues around IT and migrations on my other blog.

My thinking today is around why do migrations fail.

  1. Too Hard
  2. Too Complex
  3. Too big
  4. Lost alignment with the business
  5. Too Expensive

It is interesting to me that I’ve actually seen and been around projects that failed for all those reasons. If we know them why are they still a problem?