PermaLinkThe Haunted Directory Catalog
08:22:55 PM

The archiving product I work on relies on a directory catalog that is pulled onto our archiving servers from the Domino Directory of our customer's mail domain. I have some code that processes the data in the directory catalog database. It doesn't work directly with our customer's Domino Directory data because our customers are a lot more comfortable with letting us use the standard Domino dircat process to read their Domino Directory than they are with letting our custom code read it, and for other reasons that I can't really go into here.

A few days ago I was testing my code and I was using one particular archiving server in a large test network. This network consists of 20 mail servers, an archiving server that acts as the hub, 10 additional archving servers that are configured for a production.workload, and one additional archiving server that I use as a testbed and for some monitoring tasks. The hub runs the dircat task to maintain the directory catalog, and all of the other archiving servers have a replica of it. When I tried to test my code on the testbed server, though, I was quite surprised to find that the directory catalog database was empty! I checked the hub, and it was empty there, too.

So, naturally I rmanually loaded the dircat task to rebuild the directory catalog, and I saw it get populated with more than 140,000 docments -- exactly what I expected. I issued a pull command from the testbed server, and I saw that nothing happened. I cleared replication history, re-issued the pull command, and then I turned my attention elsewhere for a while. When I came back to it, I found nothing in the directory catalog database on the testbed, and... the replica on the hub was empty again! I asked around, and nobody had deleted anything. I checked replication logs, and I found no evidence of a mass deletion occurring on any of the servers -- though admittedly my check was pretty cursory.

For my next attempt, I once again re-populated the directory catalog by running dircat manually, and this time I deleted the replica on the testbed server and created a new replica stub for it. I issued the pull command, and again turned my attention elsewhere. When I came back, I saw that the documents were in the replica of the directory catalog on the testbed server, but about ten minutes later they were gone! And they were gone from the hub, too.

The next step was to set ACLs so that only the hub had Manager access, and all the other servers only had Reader access. This stablized the situation on the hub, but after another round of clearing history and doing replication around all of the spokes... none of the other servers had any documents in their replicas of the directory catalog!

I decided the doggone thing was haunted.


My colleagues and I thought about it a little more, and the only reasonable explanation seemed to be that the dircat task must re-use UNIDs, and there must be deletion stubs for all of the documents in all the replicas except for the ones on the hub and on the testbed server, so someone (or something) must have deleted all the documents from the directory catalog at some point. Nobody admitted to being the someone, though. I confirmed this scenario by running a bit of code that purges (and counts) all the stubs. Even after that I had to clear replication history, but the documents did replicate to all the archiving servers after I did that.

My conclusion is that deleting documents from a directory catalog will haunt you. Don't do it. Delete them only from the source database. Set your ACLs for directory catalogs as restrictively as possible to prevent it from happening accidentally. Perhaps this is well-known to those of you who do Domino administration full-time, but it sure caught me by surprise.

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Comments :v

1. Bill03/25/2010 05:07:12 AM

Very odd. I thought UNIDs used current time as a component.. Re-use of UNIDs therefore only hurts if you roll server time back (never do is).

Curiouser and curiouser..

---* Bill

2. Vitor Pereira04/01/2010 05:07:32 AM

Ouch! Ain't that fun!

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