"Back in the '90s, Internet connections were notoriously unreliable, and random disconnects were common and expected," he adds. "But I suspect few people realized how frequently those disconnects were done on purpose for the amusement of a bunch of dumb teenagers."
True tech confession No. 5: Borland unpluggedWhen Chris Barbin was senior VP at Borland in the mid-2000s, he was asked to help integrate the IT department of a software testing company Borland had just acquired.
"I told my boss at the time that our data centers were a big mess," he says. "He said, 'If you're going to complain about IT, you're going to have to fix it.' That's how I became CIO."
Barbin started as CIO by commissioning a survey of Borland's IT assets. He discovered that the company had some 1,100 servers in its eight primary data centers -- or more servers than employees. Worse, some 200 of them came back as "unknown," meaning that nobody had any idea what they were supposed to do.
Barbin told his data center employees to unplug them. He figured if something important suddenly stopped working, the company's help desk would hear about it soon enough.
"If you've got 200 servers and no one has any idea what they do, odds are they're not running a mission-critical system," he says. "When we pulled the plug literally no one noticed."
The defunct machines ended up stacked in "the server cemetery," a stairwell between the 7th and 8th floors of Borland's Cupertino headquarters, until Barbin could figure out what to do with them.
The server purge was only the beginning of a long process of rationalizing Borland's IT assets, which Barbin achieved largely by moving into cloud-based services like Salesforce.com. About a year later, he and three colleagues founded Appirio, a solutions provider that helps medium-sized and large enterprises migrate their IT infrastructure to the cloud and manage it.
Barbin says what he found at Borland was not all that unusual. Even today, large enterprises may own thousands of underutilized servers and not even be aware of it. However, he adds he would not do the same thing today -- because he can't.
"We don't own a single server," he says. "We are 100 percent in the cloud and committed to the server-less enterprise. We started with four employees, now have nearly 500, and hopefully one day we'll have 25,000, but we will never own a server."