System engineers: the architects of the data highway

The operations department at SecureSafe consists of four system engineers. They are responsible for the server infrastructure and ultimately for making sure that our customers can access their data at any point in time. In this interview Pascal Weller (43) explains how data from a PC reaches the cloud and what role the servers play here.

Pascal Weller specialised himself in complex server architectures more than 15 years ago. Since 2014 he has been with SecureSafe as a system engineer.

How would you explain in layman terms what your task is as a system engineer?
The system engineer is responsible for the server infrastructure. In the first phase of his work, he designs the complete server architecture. In this phase decision are mainly guided by the required system performance, security and operational processes. Next, he installs the hardware in the data centres and configures the needed software.

The goal is to automate as many processes as possible and keep unnecessary manual tasks to a minimum. Of course, the setup is continuously optimised, expanded and adapted to changing circumstances. The world of IT never really stands still and the goal is always to keep up with the newest developments.

Additionally comes the monitoring of the entire server environment. We want to be able to recognise a possible problem in good time before it becomes something that restricts the user. The ultimate goal is that the user can always access the data he or she keeps in his/her SecureSafe in a highly reliable way.

For which tasks are the servers responsible in a data centre?
The servers process all requests sent by customers to the cloud – for example when you upload data to your safe, look up a password or download a PDF. Multiple servers are always involved in these types of processes to ensure that if one server fails another one is ready to take over the task. At SecureSafe, we also have a tripple redundant system, which means that every single file is always stored in three different storage systems.

Do all servers look the same?
We make use of standard servers. These models are designed to be installed in server racks and for this reason they are always the same width, but different in their heights. Often one refers to these standard servers as "pizza boxes" because they look like something a pizza delivery boy would bring you in their most compact form.

Depending on the function, the height will vary along with the technical features of the servers: storage servers are the biggest ones, since they must accommodate a large number of hard disks. Application servers process countless requests and hence there are more of them installed. The database, or the brain of the complete system so to say, have to fulfil the highest level of requirements in terms of speed and reliability