It was a multimillion-dollar client/server implementation project, complete with high-priced consultants, new hardware, increased bandwidth and eventual deployment to 16,000 worldwide users. With 300 pilot users and four new servers, the new software seemed to be working well. Then, one morning, the software on one of the servers stopped running.
Luckily, the server supported only a handful of pilot users.
I figured that either the software had abended or there was some configuration or operational item that we had overlooked.
Twenty minutes later, I got a call from the data center. The software log explained the shutdown: The 120-day trial period for the software had ended. Someone had mistakenly installed evaluation software into a production environment. This was no time to lay blame; we had to act. We had three other similarly configured servers, and they were supporting 300 users.
We confirmed that there was almost no way to tell if you were running the softwares evaluation version or full release, since the version number and splash screen are identical in both. The only indication that you were running the evaluation version was a small entry in the installation log.
Armed with this, we saw that two of the other three servers were also running 120-day versions that were about to expire.
The consultants believed that we could safely install a full production version over a 120-day version and that the installations existing setup and configuration would be retained. They were correct, and the only outage that the other users suffered was the time required for a reboot.
The problem was caused by nothing more exotic than using the wrong CD when the servers were initially configured.
No one involved in this incident will ever again casually insert a CD into a drive without giving it a second look.
Sure, we could have avoided this entire minicrisis with a little more attention to detail. But speaking of attention to detail, I have to say to the software vendors: Would it kill you to warn us when expirations come up?