Dealing with a backup that backfired
But unfortunately, that’s exactly how everyone else believes we writers operate, and this paranoid belief rises up to overwhelm both their thinking and their deeper emotions once the going gets rough. Hence I was expecting this self-destructing Exchange server to be one of those problems that I’d hear about eventually, but not be directly involved with.
Just goes to show that not everyone gets paranoid as the panic level rises, because a week or so after I heard about this incident, which ended up with a complete rebuild of the server in question, I was invited by the Symantec/Veritas team to pay it a visit and hear its side of the story.
Now this may come as a bit of an anticlimax, but it turned out that Veritas was remarkably well informed about the circumstances of the disaster, thanks to the diagnostics returned from every installation performed by its software utilities.
The team was bemused, and wanted to reproduce the behaviour, but couldn’t
I suppose this could count as a revelation about just how much chit-chat goes on over the internet from inside your ostensibly secure corporate LAN, but that’s another story for another day.
Anyhow, the team was quite clear that out of 200,000 install events of this particular type, with this particular release of Backup Exec, there had been only one incident of total meltdown. The team was bemused, and wanted to reproduce the behaviour, but couldn’t.
Of course, by the time I was sitting in Hollywood, the client had long since rebuilt the crashed server, and carefully set up the agent for Veritas, while expressly avoiding the unattended push-install that had apparently caused the problem. Much as Veritas was ready to go further, commercial pressure to have a running server at the client ended this investigation.
The peacock’s tail
This is quite often the deep truth about corporate operations involving server operating systems. You’re not a real hard-core support guy until you’ve not merely downloaded a patch from Microsoft TechNet, but had to go through all the rigmarole of applying for a one-shot link to an optional download that’s only to be applied in a specific combination of circumstances.
Selective pressure such as this within computer marketplaces is what drives software companies out beyond their comfort zones, and sends them off on unwise crusades into parts of the operating system where they really don’t belong
The fact that this happens quite often nowadays is a veiled pointer to a steadily growing trend I refer to as the peacock’s tail. Those of you who aren’t so well read in the essayists of evolutionary biology may be wondering what the connection is between software – and backup software in particular – and unfeasibly long tail feathers, but think of it this way.
The peacock ended up being decorated with those absurdly impractical body parts because of an external decision-making process (in his case the pea-sized brains of sexually active peahens), which drives the species’ ability to reproduce.
A mad preference for long tails in the minds of a zillion peahens was enough to produce this completely pointless and largely decorative outgrowth.
Selective pressure such as this within computer marketplaces is what drives software companies out beyond their comfort zones, and sends them off on unwise crusades into parts of the operating system where they really don’t belong.