How to delay your fileserver replacement project by six months or so

December 10, 2014

This is not exactly an embarrassing confession, because I think we made the right decisions for the long term, but it is at least an illustration of how a project can get significantly delayed one little bit at a time. The story starts back in early January, where we had basically finalized the broad details of our new fileserver environment; we had the hardware picked out and we knew we'd run OmniOS on the fileservers and our current iSCSI target software on some distribution of Linux. But what Linux?

At first the obvious answer was CentOS 6, since that would get us a nice long support period and RHEL 5 had been trouble-free on our existing iSCSI backends. Then I really didn't like RHEL/CentOS 6 and didn't want to use it here for something we'd have to deal with for four or five years to come (especially since it was already long in the tooth). So we switched our plans to Ubuntu, since we already run it everywhere else, and in relatively short order I had a version of our iSCSI backend setup running on Ubuntu 12.04. This was probably complete some time in late February, based on circumstantial evidence.

Eliding some rationale, Ubuntu 12.04 was an awkward thing to settle on in March or so of this year because Ubuntu 14.04 was just around the corner. Given that we hadn't built and fully tested the production installation, we might actually have wound up in the position of deploying 12.04 iSCSI backends after 14.04 had actually come out. Since we didn't feel in a big rush at the time, we decided it was worthwhile to wait for 14.04 to be released and for us to spin up the 14.04 version of our local install system, which we expected to have done by not too long after the 14.04 release. As it happened it was June before I picked the new fileserver project up again and I turned out to dislike Ubuntu 14.04 too.

By the time we knew we didn't really want to use Ubuntu 14.04, RHEL 7 was out (it came out June 10th). While we couldn't use it directly for local reasons, we though that CentOS 7 was probably going to be released soon and that we could at least wait a few weeks to see. CentOS 7 was released on July 7th and I immediately got to work, finally getting us back on track to where we probably could have been at the end of January if we'd stuck with CentOS 6.

(Part of the reason that we were willing to wait for CentOS 7 was that I actually built a RHEL 7 test install and everything worked. That not only proved that CentOS 7 was viable, it meant that we had an emergency fallback if CentOS 7 was delayed too long; we could go into at least initial production with RHEL 7 instead. I believe I did builds with CentOS 7 beta spins as well.)

Each of these decisions was locally sensible and delayed things only a moderate bit, but the cumulative effects delayed us by five or six months. I don't have any great lesson to point out here, but I do think I'm going to try to remember this in the future.

Written on 10 December 2014.
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Last modified: Wed Dec 10 00:13:51 2014
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