Technically Speaking

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The Christmas Eve Adventures of Sysadmin Santa

Every year, Santa Claus gets swamped with work on the night before Christmas. By daylight, he must place all the gifts underneath the Christmas Trees or face some pretty disappointed children. To do that seamlessly, he needs to plan. Working with such a high volume of data requires great server capacity and scalability. How does Sysadmin Santa do it?

Here’s the story of Santa and his sysadmin endeavors on the night before Christmas.

8 Hours to Go

Christmas Eve is approaching fast, but Santa has been procrastinating, so he quickly goes through the directories to find the letters from children and start reading them.

# cd /home/

# cd /home/ETHminer/

Seems like Santa’s only working day isn’t that lucrative.

# cd /home/WoW/

Nope, no time for that today.

# cd /home/Xxx/

Oops, better not let Mrs. Santa see this.

# cd /home/xmas/

That’s the one!

# less /home/xmas/2019/letters/wishfulthinking2k19.txt

Santa pings his programmer elves to check if all the presents will be ready in time for Christmas, and not release them in production. Fingers crossed the elves have been more hardworking than him.

# ping alabaster_snowball

# ping bushy_evergreen

# ping shinny_upatree

5 Hours to Go

To see what he’s dealing with this year and what resources he may need, he compares the good and bad kids’ lists from 2018 and 2019:

# diff /home/xmas/2018/goodkids.txt /home/xmas/2019/goodkids.txt

# diff /home/xmas/2018/badkids.txt /home/xmas/2019/badkids.txt

Santa works with an increasingly high volume of data each year, so he needs powerful dedicated servers, or else he'd have to share all the resources with online shops running Christmas Sales. Eek.

Sysadmin Santa checks the size, used and available space on the mounted filesystems of his computer.

# df -x -h

But since he didn’t update his infrastructure in time, Sysadmin Santa gets slightly anxious.

4 Hours to Go

To help her husband keep his energy up, Mrs. Santa brings him some cookies, but on the way from the kitchen, she trips over some cables in the data center. Nooo! Server down! No backup!

Panicked, Sysadmin Santa decides to call support. Unfortunately, there’s only one person on call on Christmas Eve and that is none other than… The Grinch! Classic Grinch, trying to ruin Christmas yet again.

Santa needs to work some Xmas magic.

3 Hours to Go

Sysadmin Santa remembers his more hack-prone competitors, Jolakotturinn, the Icelandic Christmas Cat, and Ded Moruz, the Russian Santa Claus, and gives them a call. Ho-ho-ho and a bottle of rum later, he convinces them to team up and hack into his own servers and recover the lost data.

Winner winner chicken dinner for Team Christmas! Grinch ends up taking the night off while the good… erm, goodish guys win.

2 Hours to Go

Getting back on track, Santa realizes he needs more resources for this year (kids and their ever-growing lists of demands!) and decides to use a bigger server. He uses an API and simply attaches the disk to another bigger server. All in less than 5 minutes. Hey, he must be using Bigstep’s servers!

Easy like Christmas morning.

Santa then checks the server error logs, to see who broke the rules and doesn’t deserve any presents.

# less /var/log/messages

However, since the log file is full of cryptic and unrelated entries (he needs to have a talk with the elves about this) and Santa is running out of time, he looks for errors another way:

# grep -ril errors *

1 Hour to Go

A notice pops up. The elves have updated the gift list, so he starts inspecting it to see if there’s enough presents for the good kids:

# cat –n presents-updated.txt

# diff home/xmas/2019/goodkids-presentrequest.txt /home/xmas/2019/elves/presents-updated.txt

It’s getting seriously late, so he decides to automate everything by creating a bash script.

# bash

To be safe from any cyberattacks, he updates his password:

# passwd


That’s so unlike kind, old Santa though.

# passwd


That’s more like it! (although it does seem like Santa’s creativity all goes into gift-making and not into passwords)

30 Minutes to Go

There’s one last thing he has to check before go time: are his reindeers ready for the ride?

[santaclaus@jumpstation01 ~]# who

root tty1 2019-08-24 14:08

rudolph pts/1 2019-12-24 12:43 (

dasher pts/5 2019-12-24 13:53 (

prancer pts/7 2019-12-24 13:00 (

vixen pts/13 2019-12-24 13:04 (

comet pts/16 2019-12-24 10:27 (

cupid pts/23 2019-12-24 11:28 (

donder pts/18 2019-12-24 10:29 (

blitzen pts/20 2019-12-24 10:40 (

Uh, seems like someone’s missing. Dancer probably went ice-skating all night long again. That’s fine, 8 reindeers will do. No need for one who keeps snoozing on the most important night of the year.

Christmas Morning

All’s well when it ends well. The good children received their desired presents and the bad ones received an old version of the gadgets they asked for. The reindeers and elves are all asleep, so Santa can relax until next year.

Before winding down, Sysadmin Santa simply scales down his infrastructure thanks to the scalability and flexibility of bare metal cloud. After all, he can be generous at Xmas only if he’s cost-efficient all year long. Now he can finally enjoy his long-awaited and well-deserved hot chocolate with rum – far away from the servers, of course. wHOHOHO wouldn't want to be Santa now?

# echo Merry Christmas everyone!

# poweroff
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