Just our way of saying thanks for the hard work

Freshly hired pilot fish at a Canadian office of this company gets his first assignment: Write an agent that will handle failover for a high-availability cluster controller. Got that?

"It's basically a script to automate failover of a disk array from one server to another," explains fish.

"I write the basic code in a day or two, only to find that although it works most of the time, as with all complex applications, the documentation doesn't quite match what actually happens."

That's no big deal when it's under human control, but it's a disaster for something that's supposed to be fully automated. So fish takes his quick-and-dirty code and sets to work making it bombproof.

He spends six weeks writing, testing and rewriting error detection to handle odd conditions that might happen during the failover. He even writes parsers for the output of the controller's status command, because the error codes returned by the standard software are incomplete.

"Finally, it works to my satisfaction and, more important, to that of the project manager and the customer," fish says. "The code goes live at the customer, and is also e-mailed to the American office along with all the documentation of why everything was done the way it was."

Fast-forward a few months: The American office officially releases a version of fish's code for all its customers to use, and fish is eager to take a look at the final cut.

And he's amazed when he sees it -- because it's nothing more than the basic quick-and-dirty code fish wrote in the first few days.

No error checking. No output parser. None of the refinements it took fish six weeks to discover and document.

"But because it's from the American office, not the international subsidiary I work at, it's the official version, and it's what will be installed at all future customer sites," sighs fish. "For all I know, it will also be the default at the original customer.

"I really pity any of the customers that have to use it though, because from experience, I know that even in the most basic environment, it won't work."

No need to bombproof it for Sharky. Send me a quick-and-dirty version of your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll score a sharp Shark shirt if I clean it up and use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

Now you can post your own stories of IT ridiculousness at Shark Bait. Join today and vent your IT frustrations to people who've been there, done that.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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