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Alaska and Dell team on $38bn bungle

When storage specialists attack

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A database service call went rather awry when a network specialist accidentally wiped a hard-drive containing Alaska's $38bn Oil Fund. The multi-billion-dollar boner was performed under the watchful eyes of a Dell storage specialist working on a remote desktop session, a report obtained today by The Register has revealed.

In June, Alaska's Department of Revenue attempted to fix errors reported in its Dell/EMC storage system's processors. (The department used a cluster of Dell servers running MS SQL 2005 connected to Dell/EMC storage boxes with approximately 3TB of space.) The technician given the fix assignment — who mercifully is kept anonymous but herein known as Johnny McBunglepants — was advised by the Dell specialist to unbind then bind the two partitions (LUNs) that were corrupted after a first attempt to correct the error failed.

Unfortunately, neither administrator managed to correlate which data partition corresponded to which drive letter on the server and moved some files — notably containing 800,000 PDFs of Alaska's applicant information for an oil-funded sales account — on to the doomed drive. Both the Dell specialist and McBunglepants missed the error.

McBunglepants's attempts to restore the database from tape were thwarted when he realized the primary filegroup (MDF) of the 2006 PDF database had not been selected to be backed up. Because a check box had not been placed next to the .MDF file restoration was futile. The department worked over the weekend to restore file groups for 2000-2005 using an older backup MDF file, but was unable to use it for the 2006 file group.

Four seasonal employees returned to work in the summer and over a period of 2.5 months rescanned the nine months' worth of documents lost, which the department keeps on hand at least one full year. The gaffe ended up costing the department more than $200,000 to fix.

Publicity of the multi-billion dollar wipe certainly shouldn't put a spring in Dell's step, which has recently run into hard times and has been giving a hard push on their professional services.

Alaska's Department of Revenue has since added additional disk storage for a total of 7TB of space making for easier database tests and restores. They now have a team of IT staff to review and certify backup logs daily and review all database properties, backup procedures and scripts monthly.

The department has also created a formal written backup plan should McBunglepants strike again. ®

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