A support ticket first thing in the morning was bad. A critical support ticket, even worse. A critical support ticket for Xmain? Sara debated calling in dead, but too many people had seen her enter the building. With knots in her stomach, she opened the ticket and read the problem description.

No users at Hewville can open Xmain. They get an error saying it cannot connect to XM720H (not sure if this is a server name or what). Let me know if this is an issue you will be able to assist with or if you need more info. Thanks!

Sara relaxed; she’d read all she needed to know. This was a gigantic problem- the Hewville plant, their largest plant, couldn’t ship product and was essentially paralyzed while Xmain was down. It was not, however, her problem.

Xmain was an ancient VB6 application that did nothing more than mimic quality control mainframe screens in a Windows-y format. Ninety percent of its source code was comprised of procedures that logged into and queried mainframe servers- like XM720H. If everyone was getting the same error about a particular server, the problem was probably with said server. Sara fired a quick email to the ticket sender. Hang tight- I have to forward this to the mainframe team.
PC Load Letter
The phone on her desk rang, displaying a Hewville number. Sara let the call go to voicemail. Emails from Hewville users piled in, their red exclamation points like blood spatter across her inbox. With cynical veteran wisdom, she ignored these as well to look up the on-call person for the mainframe team. Wilma was green on Lync, so Sara pinged her there first.

Hey! Everyone in Hewville is getting a connection error from XM720H when they try to open Xmain. Can you check if the server is down or something?

IS THERE A TICKET FOR THE ISSUE?

Sara knew she wasn’t being yelled at. The entire mainframe team had pressed their caps lock keys once in 1972, and hadn’t touched them since. Yeah- I’ll forward it to-

“Sara? You hear about this Xmain issue in Hewville?”

She turned and found her boss leaning into her cube. “Yeah. I-”

“It’s down for everyone. The plant manager’s getting antsy and roping in a bunch of managers here.”

“Yeah, actually it’s-”

“There’s a conference bridge number listed in the ticket. I need you to jump on there, settle some nerves.” He smiled. “You know how it is.”

“It’s almost definitely not an Xmain issue,” Sara said. “I’m-”

“Could you jump on there and let them know you’re working on it? They need to know we’re not leaving them hanging.”

They need someone to yell at, more like, Sara thought. “The mainframe team’s working on it. There’s really nothing I-”

“No, that’s good! Tell them that!” Her boss backed out of her cube. “Thanks!”

Once he’d disappeared from view, Sara indulged in a huge sighing eyeroll. She finished forwarding the ticket to Wilma, then dialed into the bridge.

The conference call automoton dumped her onto the line mid-harangue. Angry voices tripped over one another as each vied for its turn at Conference Call Tough Guy. Sara had no room to introduce herself, so she sat back and waited for her cue.

“Where the hell is IT on this?!” someone eventually cried.

There it is! “Hello? This is Sara from IT. I’m the support contact for Xmain.”

She tried to plow on, but someone else butted in. “I hope you realize with Xmain down, we’re dead in the water here. We can’t make product and we can’t ship! Trucks are just sitting here. They can’t move! They’re backing up at the loading dock! We need you to understand how important this app is to us! We someone working on it day and night, until someone dies if need be!”

“Well… all Xmain does is give you a window into the mainframe,” Sara said. “For now, you could have your mainframe operators enter data directly-”

“Why’s it not working?”

Workarounds need not apply. Got it. “No other sites are having problems this morning. We think the problem’s with a particular mainframe server in Hewville. I have a mainframe person looking at it right now.”

“So when’s it going to be back up? We need an ETA.”

“I have no idea how long it may take,” Sara replied, “but whenever I have more information, I can let you know.”

“Fine. Stay on this call and speak up once you have something.”

Sara muted and doffed her headset. Repeated hails of panicky flak over the elderly app’s quirks had long ago eroded any sympathy she’d once had. She dug into to the work she’d originally hoped to get done that morning, continuing to ignore Hewville calls and emails.

Far faster than she’d expected, an IM came in from Wilma. THEY'RE ALL SET.

Awesome- thank you!! What was wrong? Sara typed back.

THE PROBLEM WAS NOT WITH THE SERVER BUT WITH THE SPOOLER. A MAIN PRINTER RAN OUT OF PAPER THE NIGHT BEFORE AND THE SPOOLER FILES REACHED THEIR MAX. AFTER MORE PAPER WAS ADDED TO THE PRINTER AND MORE SPOOLER SPACE WAS AVAILABLE THE SYSTEM FUNCTIONED CORRECTLY.

There were dozens of printers at the plant, but the mainframe stored the print jobs in a single queue. The one paperless printer must have so many jobs backed up that the exceeded the space allocated on the mainframe. Sara gaped at the IM, then smiled as she reached for the unmute button. How often did one get to inform a plant manager that a single printer running out of paper had shut down his plant?