Emergency, redefined

It's the day before Christmas, and all through this big company, employees have already gotten an email from the boss telling them they can knock off four hours early, according to a database analyst pilot fish handling QA changes there.

"When I walk in at 9 a.m., there's a new change waiting for me," says fish. "It's large enough: Create two new tables each in two environments and alter two more, reorganize and run statistics on the two altered tables, and migrate the six total schemas.

"As I am finishing processing the rest of my email, the requestor contacts me wanting to know when the change is going to be complete. My first response is the second Tuesday of next week.

"He tells me he has to have it today, because it's an emergency!"

Fish knows that officially there's no such thing as an emergency QA request, and normal service levels give him one full business day to complete a request -- that would put delivery around noon on the day after Christmas at the earliest.

But fish tells the requestor he'll try. He notifies his team leader, just in case, and goes to work laying it out.

Turns out one of the tables is 186 million rows in one environment and 222 million in the other. And the same table is also data sharing with the data warehouse, so that link has to be worked around as well or the vendor sharing software will crash. And there's a 24/7 data-sharing pipe job involved that locks both tables involved, so the reorg can't be done until that pipe job is stopped.

Fish plows ahead, and manages to finish his QA tests on the changes in time to go home just a little later than everyone else in the office.

But as he's almost done, he finds out why this job was an emergency: The developer who requested it wants to make the production change at 8:30 a.m. on the Monday after Christmas.

"But he didn't consider that pipe jobs are not stopped in production during the week, and data-sharing changes are also not made during the week, as the odds of crashing the vendor software go way up if that's done," fish says.

"And the reorgs took 45 minutes apiece in QA, so the same time frame would be encountered for the production change.

"All of that means the earliest it can happen is the Saturday night 'down window' reserved for such changes. Which would mean an extra five days for testing -- not such an emergency after all."

It's not exactly an emergency, but you should still rush your true tale of IT life to Sharky at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll score a sharp Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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