The server is in a locked room. What do you do? • The register

Who me ? Welcome to another entry of The register Who me ? archives. Today, a reader is filling up on Hollywood to save the day (and fix some IP addressing).

Our story comes from Dave and takes us back to Australia in the 1990s. It was the time of Paul Keating and John Howard and, significantly, a period of progress in telecommunications technology.

Riding that wave was our reader, “Dave” (no, not his real name) who worked in software and infrastructure for a government agency. His team had developed an imaging system (“back when it was hard,” he said modestly) that could display trademark records on new Windows desktops that were popping up everywhere.

“The app worked wonderfully,” Dave explained, “and saved everyone a lot of time in their day-to-day work, and managed to replace some dedicated SUN workstations that were used to view images from the database of coveted brands.”

“Instead of queuing, reviewers could just use their desktop computers to do their daily work. Unfortunately, that fell victim to its own popularity.”

It was indeed. The problem was that the servers were in one office and the examiners in another, about 12 km away. Connecting the two was a 2Mbps link, which frankly wasn’t up to snuff as more and more users piled in.

Always concerned with satisfying users, Dave had a brilliant idea. Why not just put the servers in the same building where the heavy lifting was done? A simple job – transporting the physical hardware to the new location, setting up his new home’s IP addressing and – Hey presto! Fast images and happy users.

The change requests were approved, and at 9 p.m. Sunday, Dave and his team took the server down. An hour later, it was stowed away in its new location, communicating its contentment by means of flashing lights and spinning fans.

Except that none of the workstations in the building could see him. It was related. The lights were on. But the most important images were not accessible.

“After a few hours of troubleshooting, we discovered that the networking team had not yet implemented the IP address change needed to allow the server to reside at the new location on the network,” Dave explained.

It was now 1am. In seven hours, 600 users were to show up and expect things to work. What to do? An urgent call was made to the networks team, but no one answered: “There was no 24/7 support at the time,” Dave said.

So again, what to do?

Dave, who had probably watched far too many heist movies, had an idea. Certainly the team could just undo the change. Or he could become Dave The Action Hero. The securely locked network equipment room was on the other side of the partition wall. The door wasn’t an option, but he found that if he slipped a ceiling tile out of the way, he could climb through the ceiling cavity and over the partition…

“Landing on the ground hurt me a bit,” he said, “but within minutes I had restarted the FreeBSD server that was running DNS in single-user mode, made the necessary changes DNS files and restarted the server.”

A quick hit of the big green “Quit” button and Dave was out. It was now 2 a.m. Six hours before the users deadline and everything was up and running.

He slept in that morning and arrived at the office at lunchtime “to be greeted by some *very* angry network team members.

“Turns out the correct solution didn’t involve skipping the score.”

So the users were happy, a whole of Dave’s management was happy. And a set was livid. Dave shrugged, the app was now working perfectly. And he had learned an important lesson.

“Now I do security consulting,” he told us, “It’s amazing how much the adventures of my youth help me make sure my clients are safe – something floor-to-ceiling mesh securing data centers…”

“He he.”

For some reason, we can’t shake the image of Bruce Willis climbing a vent in die hard from our minds after reading Dave’s Adventures. Although the line “Did you ask for miracles? I’m giving you FreeBSD” doesn’t quite sound the same.

Tell us about the time you had to channel your inner Tom Cruise on behalf of DNS via an email to Who, Me? ®

Dora W. Clawson