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Andrew S. Baker (ASB)

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The Dangers of Consolidation

It has been said that technology in general, and automation in particular, simply make it easier for humans to propagate errors much faster than they could otherwise do so.

This morning, I awoke to find that none of my scripts – on any of my machines – had executed overnight.  Hmmmm?!?

Initially, I only thought that it was two scripts that I had updated the night before, because those where the logs that I was checking.  And, of course, I had only tested them peripherally, as the changes were relatively minor.

Well, it didn’t take more than a couple of minutes to determine that the problem was widespread. The source was a centralized date routine script that attempted to determine if the current date was an ODD or EVEN date.  Unfortunately, if you’re using Windows native shell scripting, and you attempt to manipulate a number with a leading ZERO, it assumes that this number is octal rather than decimal.  And there’s no way to change that.

So, today and tomorrow would have been utter script failure, since virtually all of my scripts call a centralized one with this routine.  It didn’t take much to fix the problem, at least not after I stopped shaking my head, and this will probably be the straw that really gets me to convert the vast majority of these scripts to PowerShell, like I’ve been threatening to do for a few years.

The funny thing is that I added this particular routine on November 11.  Had I done it just two days prior, I would have found the issue during testing, rather than one month later.  Smile

How does this tie in to the title of this post?  Well, the more infrastructure or automation one ties together, the more likely a single mistake will cascade across different areas and systems causing substantial failure.  And it might not happen immediately.

There are definitely immense gains to be made with consolidation and automation – we just have to evaluate and mitigate the risks more carefully when we’re putting more and more eggs in a smaller number of baskets…

Such is life on Technology Boulevard…

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Posted: Wednesday, December 08, 2010 6:46 AM by Logik!

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About Logik!

Andrew S. Baker aka ASB aka Logik!

Andrew S. Baker is a business-savvy, hands-on IT leader with expertise in mentoring people, mitigating risk, and integrating technology to drive innovation and maximize business results. He creates competitive advantage for organizations through effective IT leadership: implementation of processes and controls, and architecture of robust business solutions.

Mr. Baker has successfully led a number of high-performance technology teams in designing, deploying and maintaining secure, cost-effective computing environments for well-known companies, including Warner Music Group, The Princeton Review, Bear Stearns, About.com, and Lewco Securities.

For over a decade, Andrew has exhibited thought leadership on technology and business topics via mailing lists, technical forums, blogs, and professional networking groups, along with contributions to podcasts, webinars, and over 20 technical/business magazine articles. He also serves on several boards and committees for non-profit organizations, and within the Seventh-day Adventist church.

His personal interests include Astronomy, Basketball, Bible Study, Chess, Comics, Computers, Family Life Ministries, Reading, Strategy/Role Playing games, and Professional Networking...

A summary of Andrew's current résumé is available here, and he can be reached on a variety of social and professional networks, including LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.