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Reporter's Notebook: Heard any good jokes lately?

Hey, did you hear the one about the very serious Gartner analyst with a seriously funny punch line? A collection of quips, tips and snafus from last week's Gartner conference.

Thank you for the merger. May I have another?

LAS VEGAS -- Todd Christy, managing director of infrastructure and security for US Airways Group Inc. and America West, was scheduled to deliver a 25-minute session about how Fujitsu Computer Systems Corp. helped modernize his airline's legacy systems. His work with Fujitsu began as an America West project, but was expanded dramatically when the airline merged with US Airways a few years ago.

Christy had to cancel his appearance at Gartner Inc.'s Data Center Conference at the last minute last week, according to Fujitsu Senior Vice President of Marketing Richard McCormack. McCormack filled in for him.

The reason for Christy's no-show? Apparently he's busy planning for another merger: US Airways' much-rumored bid for Delta Air Lins Inc. Sounds like Fujitsu might have some more business coming its way.

Rats in the water?

When disaster strikes, you want to make sure you can get your critical systems back online. But you also want to maintain good communication with your employees and customers.

That was a lesson learned by Greg Hearn and Dave Trupkin, senior network administrators at the Las Vegas Valley Water District. When the utility lost power due to a pair of overheated power lines that fused together and shorted, everyone was left wondering about the cause of the power failure.

With no answers readily available, an embarrassing rumor started to spread among employees and customers: A rat inside the water utility had chewed a cable and caused the catastrophe that eventually knocked out all 200 of the water district's servers.

Don't snakes eat rats?

Steven Olson, IT infrastructure manager at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, gave a nice presentation about how IBM helped him specify and build a new data center for the newspaper when his old "computer room" started to become a liability.

To give the crowd a sense of how bad things were, he showed several photos of tangled cables choking off airflow under raised floors, corroded flooring, dozens of floor fans that looked like they'd been purchased at Sears, and a prehistoric UPS system that eventually had a meltdown.

In the midst of his charts and graphs and photos, he shared something unexpected: A vacation photograph.

"This is a picture of me in India with a snake charmer and a snake," he said with a deadpan delivery.

Without missing a beat or waiting for the laughs to die down, he barreled right into a presentation on his new network operations center.

Perhaps it wasn't such a non sequitor. After all, those hundreds of cables that were spilling everywhere in his other photographs certainly looked reptilian.

Storage is no laughing matter

While discussing the benefits of storage consolidation, Gartner research vice president Stanley Zaffos said storage is the fastest-growing part of IT budgets. He said it was growing for reasons of technology, business and regulatory environments.

He pointed out that regulations from the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and Basel II don't prescribe technology.

"What you see is references to what data needs to be stored, how long it needs to be stored and how long you have to recover it when you're being sued. Does anybody here work for a company that's not being sued?"

No one raised a hand.

"The reason I ask that is not that it's related to storage, but my son is an attorney. I'm sure he made the right decision and it looks like he has a secure future."

Joke of the day

Peter Armstrong, corporate strategist at BMC Software Inc. in Houston, offered up some nice jokes that mixed geopolitics and the IT Infrastructure Library. Then he left this reporter with these thoughts: "If a train station is a place where trains stop, then what is a workstation?"

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