Having a machine room can mean having things in your machine room

May 1, 2024

Today we discovered something:

Apparently our (university) machine room now comes with the bonus of a visiting raccoon. I have nothing against Toronto's charming trash pandas, but I do have a strong preference for them to be outdoors and maybe a bit distant.

(There are so far no signs that the raccoon has decided to be a resident of the machine room. Hopefully it is too cool in the room for it to be interested in that.)

Naturally there is a story here. This past Monday morning (what is now two days ago), we discovered that over the weekend, one of the keyboards we keep sitting around our machine room had been fairly thoroughly smashed, with keycaps knocked off and some scattered some distance around the rack. This was especially alarming because the keyboard (and its associated display) were in our rack of fileservers, which are some of our most critical servers. The keyboard had definitely not been smashed up last Friday, and nothing else seemed to have been disturbed or moved, not even the wires dangling near the keyboard.

Initially we suspected that some contractor had been in the room over the weekend to do work on the air conditioning, wire and fiber runs that go through it (and are partially managed by other people in entirely other groups), or something of that nature, had dropped something on the keyboard, and had decided not to mention it to anyone. Today people poked around the assorted bits of clutter in the corners of the room and discovered increasingly clear evidence of animal presence near our rack of fileservers. The fileserver rack (and the cluttered corner where further evidence was uncovered) are right by a vertical wiring conduit that runs up through the ceiling to higher floors. One speculation is that our (presumed) raccoon was jumping into our fileserver rack in order to climb up to get back into the wiring conduit.

Probably not coincidentally, we had recently had some optical fiber runs between floors suddenly go bad after years of service and with no activity near them that we knew of. One cause we had already been speculating about was animals either directly damaging a fiber strand or bending it enough to cause transmission problems. And in the process of investigating this, last week we'd found out that there was believed to be some degree of animal presence up in the false ceiling of the floor our machine room is on.

We haven't actually seen the miscreant in question, and I hope we don't (trapping it is the job of specialists that the university has already called in). My hope is that the raccoon has decided that our machine room is entirely boring and not worth coming back to, because a raccoon that felt like playing around with the blinking lights and noise-making things could probably do an alarming amount of damage.

(I've always expected that we periodically have mice under the raised floor of our machine room, but the thought of a raccoon is a new one. I'll just consider it a charm of having physical servers in our own modest machine room.)

Written on 01 May 2024.
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Last modified: Wed May 1 22:09:28 2024
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