Soundproofing your server room

Recently I was asked techniques for soundproofing a server room to keep the noise down in a small to medium-sized office.  Before the discussion dives into the article, there are a few things to keep in mind

1. Don’t let the soundproofing aspect overtake the airflow aspect.  Airflow is critical.
2. Make sure your solution meets fire and building codes.
3. Mass always wins when it comes to soundproofing.

Now on to some ideas.
Acoustic Foam
https://www.thefoamfactory.com/acousticfoam/acousticfoam.html

Ceiling Tiles
Ceiling tiles are typically sound absorbent, but you can get some with higher absorption than others.

Soundproofing on the cabinet
For those of you familiar with high-end car stereos know products like Dynamat and other sound deading materials. The work in two ways.  The first is by adding mass to what the are applied to. Secondly, they are made of materials specially designed to absorb sound. There are many kinds of these on the market. One such product is here on Amazon

Other techniques
Keeping the air conditioner on a decent setting can cause the fans in the equipment not to work as hard. If the device is getting cooled the fans may not have to spin at higher RPMs to move air.  Proper airflow through your cabinets and racks helps greatly with this.  If you have your equipment taking cold air in from the front, where maybe a vent is in front of the cabinet door, this can greatly help.

Supplementing your cooling with a slow moving large fan.  Large fans spinning at low RPMs can move just as much air as smaller fans spinning at higher RPMs.  If your server room needs help this could be an option.

Proper cable management is also essential for airflow.  The better the air moves through the equipment the cooler the equipment will be.  As stated above, cooler equipment means fans are not spinning at high RPMs generating noise.

Precision screwdriver review


Recently I came across this nifty, and inexpensive, precision screwdriver set.  If you want to order your own: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07CMVYDQ2

Being an I.T. guy and an avid G.I.joe collector I am always in need of a smaller sized screwdriver set for various reasons.  ANyone who has been at a Data Center trying to get the rack ears on or off a Mikrotik cloud core router knows what I mean. Let’s dive into some uses of this particular kit.

First of all the kit comes with the following bits.
10 x “✡” (Star hexagon Screwdrivers) (T2/T3/T4/T5/T6/T7/T8/T9/T10/T15)
5 x “+” (Cross Screwdrivers) (1.0/1.2/1.5/2.0/3.0)
4 x “-” (Flat-blade Screwdrivers) (1.0/1.5/2.0/3.0)
2 x “★”(Pentagon Screwdriver) (0.8/1.2)
1 x “Y” (Y-type Screwdriver) (2.0)
1 x “▲” (Triangle Screwdriver) (2.3)
1 x “⊙” (Point Screwdriver)(0.8)
1 x Screwdriver Handle

This covers most of the small things I come across on a regular basis.  For my purposes, the cross and flat bits are what I use the most. The rest are nice to have for those one-offs.

One of the problems I always have in the GI Joe World is the back screws on the “o-ring” figures.  For those of you who don’t know there is a little screw in the back which basically holds the entire figure together.

G.I. Joe was released in 1982 and the screw can rust or otherwise become almost impossible to get out.  With this set I am able to get several screws out I have been unable to get out with other kits.

Once the screws are out you can get replacements, but getting them out is the hard part.  If the screwdriver doesn’t work you have to go to extreme measures if you don’t want to damage the figure.

The handle is easy to grip. I like the flared design to it.  Some of the other small screwdrivers don’t allow me to leverage I need. On a small screwdriver, you might not think you need leverage, because, well it’s small.  Well, there are cases where you need that extra bit of “bite”.

The bits are held in but a unique system.  I both like this and am annoyed by it at the same time.  What I like is the bits are pretty secure.  However, getting them back into the holder can be a little of a pain.

Closeup of the locking “lug” for fitting into the case.

The case is small enough to have in your go bag or laptop bag. Close up, the case is about the size of a credit card.  I will be adding one into the tool bag I carry with me.

Where does Trill and VXLAN fit in your strategy?

As networking trends yo-yo between layer-3 and layer-2,  different protocols have emerged to address issues with large layer-2 networks. Protocols such as Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links (TRILL), Shortest Path Bridging (SPB), and Virtual Extensible LAN (VXLAN) have emerged to address the need for scalability at Layer2.   Cloud scalability, spanning tree bridging issues, and big broadcast networks start to become a problem in a large data center or cloud environment.

To figure out if things like TRILL is a solution for you, you must understand the problem that is being addressed by TRILL. The same goes for the rest of the mentioned protocols. When it boils down to it the reason for looking at such protocols is you want high switching capacity, low latency, and redundancy.  The current de facto standard of Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) simply is unable to meet the needs of modern layer2 networks.  TRILL addresses the problem of STP’s ability to only allow one network path between switches or ports.  STP prevents loops by managing active layer -2 paths.   TRILL applies Intermediate System-to-Intermediate System protocol (IS-IS), which is a layer3 routing protocol translated to Layer 2 devices.

For those who say TRILL is not the answer things like SPB also known as 802.1aq, and VXLAN are the alternatives. A presentation at NANOG 50 in 2010 addressed some of the SPB vs TRILL debate. This presentation goes into great detail on the differences between the two.

The problem, which is one most folks overlook, is that you can only make a layer 2 network so flat.  The trend for a while, especially in data centers, is to flatten out the network. Is TRILL better? Is SPB better? The problem isn’t what is the better solution to use.  What needs to be addressed is the design philosophy behind why you need to use such things.   Having large Layer2 networks is generally a bad idea. Scaling issues can almost always be solved by Layer-3.

So, and this is where the philosophy starts, is TRILL, SPB, or even VXLAN for you? Yes, but with a very big asterisk. TRILL is one of those stop-gap measures or one of those targeted things to use in specific instances. TRILL reduces complexity and makes layer-2 more robust when compared to MLAG. Where would you use such things? One common decision of whether to use TRILL or not comes in a virtualized environment such as VSPHERE.

Many vendors such as Juniper, have developed their own solutions to such things.  Juniper and their Virtual Chassis solution do away with spanning tree issues, which is what TRILL addresses.   Cisco has FabricPath, which is Cisco’s proprietary TRILL-based solution. Keep in mind, this is still TRILL.   If you want to learn some more about Fabric Path this article by Joel Knight gets to the heart of Fabric path.

Many networks see VXLAN as their upgrade path.  VXLAN allows layer 2 to be stretched across layer 3 boundaries. If you are a “Microsoft person” you probably hear an awful lot about Network Virtualization using Generic Routing Encapsulation (NVGRE) which can encapsulate a layer two frame into IP.

The last thing to consider in this entire debate is how does Software Defined Networking (SDN) play into this. Many folks think controllers will make ECMP and MLAG easy to create and maintain. If centralized controllers have a complete view of the network there is no longer a need to run protocols such as TRILL.   The individual switch no longer makes the decision, the controller does.

Should you use Trill, VXLAN, or any of the others mentioned? If you have a large Layer-2 virtualized environment it might be something to consider.  Are you an ISP, there is a very small case for running TRILL in anything other than your data center. Things such as Carrier Ethernet and MPLS are the way to go.

Where does TRILL and VXLAN fit in to your network strategy?

As networking trends yo-yo between layer-3 and layer-2 centric different protocols have emerged. Protocols such as Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links (TRILL), Shortest Path Bridging (SPB), and Virtual Extensible LAN (VXLAN) have emerged to address the need of scalability at Layer2.   Cloud scalability, spanning tree bridging issues, and big broadcast networks start to become a problem in large data center or cloud environments.

To figure out if things like TRILL is a solution for you, you must understand the problem that is being addressed by TRILL. The same goes for the rest of the mentioned protocols. When it boils down to it the reason for looking at such protocols is you want high switching capacity, low latency, and redundancy.  The current de facto standard of Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) simply is unable to meet the needs of modern layer2 networks.  TRILL addresses the problem of STP’s ability to only allow one network path between switches or ports.  STP prevents loops by managing active layer -2 paths.   TRILL applies Intermediate System-to-Intermediate System protocol (IS-IS), which is a layer3 routing protocol translated to Layer 2 devices.

For those who say TRILL is not the answer things like SPB also known as 802.1aq, and VXLAN are the alternative. A presentation at NANOG 50 in 2010 addressed some of the SPB vs TRILL debate. This presentation goes into great detail on the differences between the two.

The problem, which is one most folks overlook, is that you can only make a layer 2 network so flat.  The trend for a while, especially in data centers, is to flatten out the network. Is TRILL better? Is SPB better? The problem isn’t what is the better solution to use.  What needs to be addressed is the design philosophy behind why you need to use such things.   Having large Layer2 networks is generally a bad idea. Scaling issues can almost always be solved by Layer-3.

So, and this is where the philosophy starts, is TRILL, SPB, or even VXLAN for you? Yes, but with a very big asterisk. TRILL is one of those stop gap measures or one of those targeted things to use in specific instances. TRILL reduces complexity and makes layer-2 more robust when compared to MLAG. Where would you use such things? One common decision of whether to use TRILL or not comes in a virtualized environment such as VSPHERE.

Many vendors such as Juniper, have developed their own solutions to such things.  Juniper and their Virtual Chassis solution does away with spanning tree issues, which is what TRILL addresses.   Cisco has FabricPath, which is Cisco’s proprietary TRILL based solution. Keep in mind, this is still TRILL.   If you want to learn some more about Fabric Path this article by Joel Knight gets to the heart of Fabric path.

Many networks see VXLAN as their upgrade path.  VXLAN allows layer 2 to be stretched across layer 3 boundaries. If you are a “Microsoft person” you probably hear an awful lot about Network Virtualization using Generic Routing Encapsulation (NVGRE) which can encapsulate a layer two frame into IP.

The last thing to consider in this entire debate is how does Software Defined Networking (SDN) play into this. Many folks think controllers will make ECMP and MLAG easy to create and maintain. If centralized controllers have a complete view of the network there is no longer a need to run protocols such as TRILL.   The individual switch no longer makes the decision, the controller does.

Should you use Trill, VXLAN, or any of the others mentioned? If you have a large Layer-2 virtualized environment it might be something to consider.  Are you an ISP, there is very little case for running TRILL in anything other than your data center. Things such as Carrier Ethernet and MPLS are the way to go.

What is an LOA for a cross-connect?

LOA’s (Letters of Authority/Authorization) are a mystery to many.  We help many of our customers with LOA’s on a semi-regular basis.  If you are here you are probably wanting to find out what an LOA is and how to properly fill one out.

When you or a provider orders a cross-connect within a facility, such as a data-center, you have to generate an LOA that allows someone to run a cross-connect to your space from someplace else. This cross-connect could be fiber or copper.  The other side generates and LOA as well.

An LOA is simply a piece of paper with a few parts.  It usually starts on your company letterhead to make it more official. It states you are giving authority to the other party to land a cross-connect to your physical space.  Normally it reads something like this in the first paragraph.

The undersigned appoints ______________________________________________________ (“___________”) authority to act as an authorized agent to order cross connects to be delivered to YOUR_COMPANY (“YOUR_COMPANY”) collocation facilities.

Specifically, this letter authorizes ___________ to order services on the behalf of YOUR_COMPANY in order to engineer and deliver access and transport to the collocation designated below.

___________ is hereby released from any and all liabilities for making pertinent information available to necessary contractors and for following instructions provided by YOUR_COMPANY with reference to the following order:

The above establishes who, why, and somewhat the what and where. The meat of the LOA is usually in the next part.  This is where you define where the LOA is specifically going.  Most LOAs include the following information:
-Where your physical space is in the facility
-What cabinet or rack the connection is to land in
-What patch panel to go in, If you are not using patch panels you really should
-The port designation to plug into on the patch panel
-The type of media (single mode, Ethernet, etc.)
-If fiber what ends your side should be (LC,SC,etc)
-Any other pertinent instructions.

Depending on several factors you may or may not need to include all of the above.  Some data centers are totally hands off and just run the cable to a spot in your space and you are responsible for plugging it into your gear.  Others will plug into the patch panel ports you designate.  Others can do a full turnkey of actually patching it down to your equipment.  If they do this you will need to include additional information on where the switch is, what switch port, what cable needed, etc.

You may ask why can’t I just tell them what I need and they do it? Part of it is because the person doing the work needs to know exactly what they are doing. The person running it into your space may never have even seen your gear and set up before they get there. Secondly, it is a check and balance.  If you tell them to plug into ports 3/4 on patch panel 2 and there is already something there it helps to make sure your documentation is correct, and you meant to type the correct thing.  Thirdly, its a CYA for the data center or the contractor running the cable.  If you specified LC and the contractor put SC on it’s the contractor’s fault.

Lastly, the LOA includes signature, and title of someone who has been authorized by the facility on your behalf.  This is another check and balance.  Some LOA’s have additional wording about a time limit this LOA is valid for or additional notes.

LOAs are an important part of the documentation process.  Data centers are a place most people do not visit very often.  Having good documentation to generate a proper LOA is essential to things running smoothly.

Hope this helps.

Data Center Tiers

Tier 1 = Non-redundant capacity components. things such as power have single feeds.
99.671% Uptime
no redundancy
28.8 Hours of downtime per year.

Tier 2 = Tier 1 + Redundant capacity components.
99.749% Uptime
Partial redundancy in power and cooling
Experience 22 hours of downtime per year

Tier 3 = Dual-powered equipment and feeds for power, cooling, and essential services.
99.982% uptime (Tier 3 uptime)
No more than 1.6 hours of downtime per year
N+1 fault tolerant providing at least 72-hour power outage protection

Tier 4 = All components are fully fault-tolerant including uplinks, storage, chillers, HVAC systems, servers etc. Everything is dual-powered.
9.995% uptime per year (Tier 4 uptime)
2N+1 fully redundant infrastructure (the main difference between tier 3 and tier 4 data centers)
96-hour power outage protection
26.3 minutes of annual downtime.

If you want to read up on the N redundancies. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N%2B1_redundancy