Do you remember the time when you had to install Linux from ten 3.5 inch floppy disks and for some reason you were always missing a file? It took days to install a workstation properly. Not to mention all the bugs that were on networks and servers.

It was a hard job to maintain a network. You had people watching all the services that ran on the network, twenty-four seven. Any downtime called for action and if the controllers couldn’t fix it by restarting the process, those of us who had the so called ‘call duty’ would get a phone call at 3 o’clock in the morning, telling us to go and check things out. In good weeks, that happened two or three times – not to mention the bad weeks. I relied heavily on coffee to make it through the day back then.

It sounds like it was all in the dark ages, but mind you, it was only fifteen years ago. We have come a long way since then. If you want to install a new machine nowadays, all you do is fire it up, connect to the Internet, press Enter a few times and everything is done for you. And today you have to look really hard to find a system that has a floppy drive to start with, of course 😉

The same goes for networks, servers and maintenance. Systems check themselves and their running processes now and can fix or reset them themselves if necessary. The modern demands on the Internet of course meant that things had to get better and we have mostly software developers to thank that they actually became better. Does that result in fewer nightly calls? No – the Internet became bigger in the meantime, so there are many more things nowadays that can go wrong. And the Internet became “badder” as well: DoS attacks used to be a very curious event back then, but nowadays DDoS attacks are a daily occurrence.

Huge software improvements mean that the days of waking up in the middle of the night three times a week to go and fix something, are gone. Sure, sometimes a DDoS wakes you up, but normally we only work at night for scheduled maintenance, which we can plan in advance. It still makes for long days every now and then but it is way better than waking up for an unplanned event.

To a network engineer, coffee is therefore still vital to make it through the working day. When will new software developments free us from the need to drink coffee all day?