Have you ever wondered what it must have felt like?- crawling though the jungle in Vietnam, amongst venomous snakes, and poisonous spiders? Your life is in your hands, and it all comes down to what you know. Its you and your M4, 3000 miles from home, in an alien world. Will you kill or be killed?
You suddenly catch a glint of a wire in the foliage, and it makes you stop. You throw up your fist in the air motioning for your squad to stop. You trace the glint of light to the trunk of a tree, where you notice its tied to the pin of a grenade. You only get one chance to do this. You can be a hero in the books, or you can stay alive with your wits. As your trembling hand reaches for the grenade to grab the pin before the wire pulls it out, you can’t help but think this is the first time you have ever actually done anything of this sort.
So what the hell am I talking about? The frightening world of supporting people’s data. Much like the above scenario, there are things lurking out there to kill you. The metaphorical snakes and spiders are crappy bits of antiquated code, written in COBOL, and intentionally obfuscated. Your M4 is your wits, as you crawl on your belly though this alien landscape, so far from what makes sense. Perhaps I am a bit for the dramatic, but I almost saw some good people die today from that glint of metal wire between the trees.
Application Xtender (see snakes above) is a horrible application left to me in a presumably working state. Two days after the job was clearly mine, I got a call from the Admissions dept. They seemed to think some data was missing, and I was about to brush it off, until I too noticed my acceptance letter had vanished into the Swamps of Sadness. After some quick looking, I decided I was in over my head and called S******. It turns out some 240,000 records were misplaced. Simply a nightmare on any level to manage, even one that is mostly automated.
It turns out, a change had been made to the application, and the old data no longer matched the current form. Instead of doing something sensible like notifying someone about it, the application took a mind of its own and started to migrate everything into the backup table. It was like the Nothingness had torn Application Xtender apart. (Yes I know I went from Vietnam to the Neverending Story, but just bare with me…) 240,000, is such a large number, that it is almost inconceivable to think about. It is a 14 MB text file. It is 30 minutes of computational time on a 16 core Solaris box. It is almost more RAM that anyone will ever possibly need (he he). That is what I had to move today.
The good news, is after much nail biting, and pacing around my office the plan worked. With the support of S******, I migrated all of the files back to the original table (all 240K) , and am happy to report I made it out of the trap alive. I will see another sunrise in the jungles of Vietnam, before I am wounded and get a free ride home.
Such is the world of supporting enterprise software. All abandon hope who follow me here…