I Always Have a Backup Plan

June 20, 2008

It was the day of the big secret meeting. All my vice presidents were there except for the unix system administrator. He was a strange man, always wearing that robe, with the long beard and long hair. He considered himself some sort of wizard, and after the conflict last month when we decided to switch all our servers over to SoftLayer, I really didn’t want him involved in the meeting I called today. You see, I called it so I could announce my plan to switch our servers over to Windows. My goal was really to get rid of him; he’s the only one who ever managed to thwart my plans.

Just as I finished that thought, he burst through the door, trailing a long ribbon of old-fashioned printer paper behind him. “How dare you have a systems meeting without me!” he intoned, dropping his stack of papers on the conference table in front of me. A quick glance at the stack tells me that he has printed out operating statistics for every version of Unix and every version of Windows going back to 1985. I didn’t have time for this. Luckily, I always have a back up plan.

Turning away slightly, I quickly activated a program on my Blackberry. You see, yesterday I had written a few custom programs that utilize the SoftLayer API to control a variety of our services. Within moments, a confirmation had appeared on my screen. All of our web traffic had been redirected from our load balanced main servers to our tertiary backup server. In the middle of the work day, that means it was only a matter of minutes before our bandwidth would be exceeded on that server. I allowed the sysadmin to begin his presentation, confident that he would barely get past the 8086 before disaster stuck.

I was right! Within minutes, an email arrived notifying us that we were nearing the bandwidth cap on the hostname last_resort. Panicked, the sysadmin left the meeting. Quickly I summarized my plans to the other VPs, we all voted unanimously for Windows, and I retreated to my office. Shortly after sitting behind my desk, my door burst open. Framed in the light from the hallway, his long shadow washing over me, stood the sysadmin, slowly twirling his staff. “Do you think you can stop me with a simple change to our load balancer? I was configuring load balancers when you were still on dial-up! Now, you will listen, AOL user, and you will see why Unix is your only choice!” Of course, I had a backup plan for just such a situation.

I dove out the window next to my desk, landing nimbly next to my secretary’s bright pink LeBaron. I had made copies of all her keys months ago in order to utilize her unique vehicle for any necessary escapes. I quickly tapped out a text message to Michael in SoftLayer sales. We have a standing agreement that when he receives a message from me containing only the word DAWT, he is to send the best sale at his disposal to my sysadmin. As I drove past the front door of the building I saw him running toward the car. He pulled out his Blackberry in mid-stride and suddenly stopped dead. “Free double RAM AND double hard drives!? IMPOSSIBLE!” he screamed, and I managed to swerve around him and escape. As I drove away, I thought about my secretary. When she first started here, I had convinced her that if her car were ever stolen, the best plan of action would be to change the building security policies so that only my badge could open the doors. I hoped I didn’t need to make use of that plan, but the sysadmin has proved a worthy adversary.

Unbelievable! Even with my masterful backup plan, he was still following me. I saw his battered VW Bus merge into traffic behind me, his vulture-like shadow looming behind the wheel. I sped up until we were both racing down the road, weaving in and out of the other vehicles. Finally we passed a police car, and my next plan sprang into action. I knew that standard procedure was to radio in the vehicles you were pursuing, and I knew my friend Joe was on duty today. Joe knew that if he ever received a radio call about a business man in a pink LeBaron being chased down the highway by a wizard in a VW Bus, he was to call off the police and park a fire truck at a certain intersection. You see, I had hired an actor to pretend to be a corporate Psychiatrist, and learned that the Sysadmin had an irrational fear of fire trucks. Why? Because it always pays to have a backup plan.

I angled toward the intersection and managed to squeeze past the truck just as it pulled up to block the street. I heard the squeal of tires as the sysadmin slammed on his breaks and reversed wildly behind me. Now that I was free, however, I couldn’t return to the office. Luckily I was prepared for just such an eventuality. As I drove to my next location, I quickly used my Blackberry to shut down one of our production web servers. I knew that it would be 20 minutes before the monitoring system would officially declare the server “down,” so I had time.

I made it to my secret office above the video arcade not long after. Before leaving the car I collected the grappling hook and rope from a secret compartment in the door, then went inside. I walked in to the darkened room and immediately noticed something was wrong. My security system wasn’t beeping! The door slammed behind me and the sysadmin boomed out “NO PLAN CAN DEFEAT ME, MORTAL!”

“I’m ALWAYS prepared!” I shot back, and quickly glanced at my watch. It had been 19 minutes and 45 seconds since I shut down my server, the timing was perfect! The sysadmin walked toward me, twirling that staff. Just as he was about to reach me, his blackberry beeped. Pausing to check, he let out a stream of curses and then lunged at me, but I had already rappelled down the side of the building and made my escape.

As soon as I reached the car, my Blackberry alerted me that the server I shut down was back up. How!? The sysadmin must have his own API programs! I cringed as I activated my final backup plan: a program that constantly shut down all our servers. Let’s see him handle that! I took the direct route back to the office, past the still-idling fire truck. I threw Joe a wave, knowing that I’d owe him a big favor for this, and rocketed back to the office. I knew that he would be right behind me, but hopefully with all our servers offline he won’t beat me to my destination. Also, once I made it into the building, the security system wouldn’t allow anyone in behind me. I would be safe!

I raced into the building, looking frantically around for the sysadmin, but he was nowhere to be seen. Finally! I had defeated him! I walked calmly to my office and opened the door, only to see HIM, climbing in through my window. I had forgotten to close it when I escaped this morning! I quickly opened the secret panel in the wall next to the door and put my finger on the red button.

“WAIT!” cried the sysadmin. “We need to put our differences behind us. Our plans have almost destroyed our servers!”

“What do you mean?” I demanded. “They’re fine!”

“No, they’re not,” he said in a sad voice. “You see, I always have a backup plan, and I knew that eventually someone would attempt to power off our machines, so I wrote a script to constantly turn the machines on!”

“B-but…” I stammered, “but I wrote a script to constantly turn them OFF”

“I know” he said, “and the constant power cycling has corrupted our data base. We need to set aside this silly feud and fix it.”

“Don’t worry, dear end user” I proudly proclaimed, “I always have a backup-“

It was right then I realized that in all my planning, I had never actually created any backups.