Monday, June 14, 2004

Re: IT Infrastructure plan?

A former colleague recently asked for some advice:

I'm advising a very early stage startup. They want to put together a computing infrastructure for their office. This includes purchasing the usual desktop computers, say about ten, but also networking equipment, servers for the usual services such as email, ldap, internal web services and a file server (NFS, SMB and perhaps even AppleTalk). They want to plan things out so they can hit the ground running.

This exercise happens all the time. Does anyone have a project plan or checklist that enumerates the steps to get a functioning office and software develop group up and running as quickly as possible?

Thanks in advance,

This was my reply. Maybe it can help you, too:

I haven't put this into MS Project yet, but here's the basic plan, based upon my experience:

WEEK 1, Day 1: Kickoff. Tell the developers that they will be getting the best computers money can buy, tell the business people they will be getting the lightest computers available, and tell the controller/CFO that you were lying to the first two groups.

Days 2-5: Hardware specification. Argue with the developers over which operating systems and manufacturers to use. Settle on Windows for business users, dual-boot systems (Windows/some open source OS) for developers, and a really big freakin' server for the network. Promise to continue the conversation by email once the mail server is up.

Week 2: Network and software standards. Discuss licensing costs with controller/CFO and decide to use open source wherever possible to save money. Begin discussions with developers over which open source packages are good, which are crufty, and which are only pushed by techno-religious zealots. Realize that everyone you work with is, in fact, a techno-religious zealot.

Week 3: Network and software installation. Hardware arrives. Developers begin installing their preferred software on their own machines, establishing the ability to work together by means of compatibility negotiations that make the SALT II talks look straightforward. The developer that sets up his own machine first wins the ability to set up the network, which he does over the weekend with the aid of several six-packs of Newcastle Brown Ale. The second-place developer gets the mail server, third-place the file server. Disputes over network, file-sharing, and messaging protocols are settled by shouting, wild gesticulating, and, eventually, rock-paper-scissors. Anyone who suggests using a Microsoft product is summarily expelled from the server room.

Weeks 4-20: Tweaking and maintenance. Now that the mail server is up, software standard negotiations can continue at a faster pace. Developers change tools regularly in an attempt to form a group consensus, eventually reverting to a combination of Notepad/text editor of choice and CVS. While the network servers never actually need to be rebooted, they do require regular reconfiguring to accommodate the evolving standard. The most opinionated developer becomes the de facto IT guy after driving out any contractors/part-time IT staff that were originally hired, and splits his 60- to 80-hour weeks evenly between development and network support. Spend time with business users to make sure that they can connect to email and their shared network directories, occasionally explaining to them why they need to stop downloading the "free" porn dialers if they want their computers to continue working. Explain the difference between "hard" license costs and "soft" productivity costs to the controller/CFO.

Week 21: Capitulation. Contact Microsoft about purchasing a Complete Office Solution.

I'm kidding, of course. No one ever makes it to Week 21.

Good luck!
- Me

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