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The Mystery of the Dead Carrier Pigeon

Ah! Now that I have got your attention through a blog post titled like a cheapo thriller novel, I promise you that this post will not disappoint. Well, a few days ago, a relic of the World War II era - a wartime carrier pigeon - was found in the chimney of a home in the UK. It had its vital, secret message still attached to its foot.

Code breakers in the Intelligence center struggled hard to decipher the message and finally succeeded. The message comprises of  27 five-letter code groups. The message turned out to be far more important than what one of the commenters humorously put up - "send help please I am stuck in a chimney somewhere in Surrey"

In large enterprises, we keep running into dead carrier pigeons - applications that are still running with no information on the source code or applications running perpetually and causing significant trouble when something stops working suddenly.

We had a weird incident recently with one of our clients where an integration interface stopped working suddenly. The middleware servers with their listeners had been running for several months without any outage or issues and so had this particular interface. The interface suddenly stopped working and troubleshooting was very much akin to deciphering the secret message that the pigeon carried. Investigation quickly revealed that all was well with the middleware infrastructure. Somebody then fished out a document which was a few years old and talked about the interface specifications. We dusted off the document and got cracking - analyzing logs, message signatures, etc. Trouble shooting for a couple of days led us to the root cause of the issue and we got things working again. 

We had another incident with one of our clients last month - the one is fairly common ... application binaries without relevant source code being available!

As enterprise modernize and transform, portfolio assessment and application decommissioning exercises become critical and throw up a lot of such interesting anecdotes.

Carrier pigeons meanwhile have had a long history before being decommissioned ... being used as messengers during conflicts, for getting advance information to aid trading decisions and for exchanging other important messages. There are ideas underway to re-commission passenger pigeons!

What are some of the interesting scenarios that you have encountered in this regards?




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