Space Probe Mode
In November 2006, the Mars Global Surveyor had been orbiting the Red Planet for over nine years. On the second of November, the mission team at NASA ordered the spacecraft to reorient a solar panel, and suddenly the decade-old spacecraft lost contact with Earth forever. A small error introduced months earlier, when fixing an error introduced a year before that, set the stage so that an innocuous adjustment to the spacecraft resulted in the end of the program.
We’ve been doing a lot of Touchless IT at Deep Core Data recently, both for our health and the health of our customers. Our Touchless IT services are more popular than ever. We’re sending out a lot of hardware with no expectation of ever being able to touch it again. We’ve developed a term for it: Space Probe Mode.
Space Probe Mode is what we call hardware out to a site we never expect to visit, but we’ll be working with that piece of hardware a great deal remotely. Once it’s out the door, it might as well be on Mars for most practical purposes; we can’t pick it up, we can’t bring it into the lab for diagnostics, we have to work with it remotely, and we need to be very careful not to let it get into a state that we can’t access it ourselves. For example, making some minor change to a customer system an ocean and three flights away and suddenly seeing “Reconnecting…” unexpectedly. I’m told that the untechnical, but increasing common term for when you have this realization, is a Onosecond.
Of course, our stakes are much lower than NASA’s; even the most expensive single piece of equipment we work with is in the ballpark of $100,000, as opposed to a probe worth millions of dollars. Getting a replacement usually happens in a day or two but can take weeks if there’s a supply disruption (like a trade dispute or global pandemic), and for our customers we’re still talking about the careers and livelihoods of their employees. So, we take extraordinary care not only to make sure we have access to the systems we’re responsible for, but that we have backup plans for if we lose contact via our primary methods. We make sure we are getting telemetry from our fleet of devices in the field, just to make sure that if a customer’s ISP or building manager reshuffles something without telling us, it’s a graceful recovery rather than hello Mars.
Some risks we can’t stop, we can only mitigate; no process we can put in place will save your router if your building is struck by lightning. For the risks we can control, though, we treat every piece of equipment that goes out as an irreplaceable satellite going forever beyond our grasp.
We do have one major advantage, though, that NASA hasn’t had since the shuttle stopped flying, and that’s people at the ready. Our technicians aren’t reading from a script; they actually know what they’re doing. When all else fails, they can and do talk customers through resets and repairs, even when it seems as intimidating as fixing the Hubble Space Telescope. We’re here to take care of our customers, and nothing is going to stop us from doing that.
To learn more about Touchless IT from Deep Core Data, visit out page at Touchless IT.
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