How KPN-FIX screwed me at my first job

Posted on Posted in Technology

Right out of the college, I joined an Internet service provider (ISP) in Mumbai as 3rd employee and the first technical employee.I still vividly remember entering the room with my VP of Sales sitting with his only staff.

As I greeted him, he told me that I was their first technical employee and that I’d be responsible for starting dial up internet services in the city of Mumbai! He then directed me to a large server rack having 15 or so Cisco Routers and other networking devices asking me to start the setup; Talk about the first day of your career in office.

Nevertheless, I began with the help of Cisco Manuals, got resources from my brother’s contact who was in the internet industry and viola; Six months later we had the dial up service launched to 50,000 people in Mumbai. This was when our team started to grow, and my bosses started joining!

Soon, our company had over 50 people in IT division to manage the infrastructure, and this included my bosses and team lead who were responsible for managing systems including mail server. I by then moved to software development but remain part of the same team.

KPN Fix:
Our ISP setup was using initial versions of MCIS (Microsoft Commercial Internet System), and my team lead was responsible for managing and upgrading the servers. The version of MCIS we had in production only supported single domain mail hosting and Microsoft released a patch, which was called “the KPN fix” as a was a way to enable MCIS multi-domain email hosting.

This was the time when marketing team started selling the multi-domain emails to our customers however the Mail group didn’t yet apply the KPN fix to enable the support. One of these days when the team leads who was responsible for patching the server was traveling to a remote location, a customer came to our office and started yelling and asking why her emails are not yet working and that due to this, she is losing business.

As no one was available to take the request, being the most senior tech guy in the company, the request came to me. I did the research and found out that the patch is still not applied. That said, I wasn’t aware of how the MCIS server functions or how the KPN fix work but the tasks had to be done.

Despite the odds of success I started looking for options on what could be done and my findings were not comforting. The patching had to be done on a live running server in the middle of the day and any wrong move or missed step will render 45000 people unable to use the internet, flooding customer service with calls.

Now it is important to highlight to few on how the patch worked. MCIS server supported only a single domain because the emails were stored under Windows folders with the name as email id. So if you have an email hosted with id as TEST for x.com, we couldn’t host the email for y.com with the same id as there would be a conflict in folder creation. KPN fix was a patch which in real time renamed the email folders to fully qualified names (TEST@x.com).

When I realized that applying the fix will RENAME real email box folders for 45ooo users in live production, I started sweating as I had never done it before on a live system. Eight months into my first job, here I was, shivering and sweating.

As there was no option to delay the patch, I had to take the plunge and I did. Like those hard memories never go away from your mind, I’ll always remember when I was going to press that dreaded “Enter” button to execute the final command.

Things worked out just fine after that, and we were able to host the email for the visiting customer giving me a reputation at work that I can solve any problem – lol.

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