Please hold your seat firmly, as I'm going to describe a situation so
horribly screwed up you'd probably want to leave I.T. for ever as soon as
you finish reading this post :-)
I'm also looking for some help, if anything at all can be done without
reinstalling everything from scratch.
First of all, the scenario: this big customer is an Italian government
agency where I was sent by my company as an external consultant, and where
lots of people manage things they don't have any clue at all about (and I'm
not talking only about computers here). There are about 600 users in the
main office here in Rome, together with a hundred servers (literally), a lot
of whose nobody is actually sure about what they're here for; there also
about 100 peripheral offices around the world, which usually have only a few
users and a local do-it-all server; the main office and the others are
connected via some VPNs.
The situation is almost hopeless: the network is *quite* confused and
definitely undersized, with even lots of 10 mbit hubs around; the desktop
computers are... well... not exactly top-of-the-line: the standard
configuration includes a P2-350 with 64 MB of RAM; the servers are simply
scary: you *can't* run a critical Exchange which stores top managers'
mailboxes on a box which has 256 MB of RAM and normally uses 370.
This was for the hardware; the software side is even worse: all those
machines run NT 4.0, with only some new desktops having Windows XP, and
every single server is also NT; Exchange, where it's used, is of course the
infamous 5.5 version. And yes, I know NT is Old, and Bad, and Ugly, and also
Unsupported (which is the worst of the four), but they're definitely *not*
going to do any migration until Windows 2042 comes out, so they'll have to
stick with it.
My only luck in this story is, I don't have to re-organize this chaos and
make it work; I'm only there to solve some specific problems, and the
current one is what I was talking about in this post's title.
Some guy who probably was more suited for farming
administration decided to implement e-mail for the peripheral offices, and
Exchange (or any analogous server-side software) wasn't take into any
consideration due to various reasons (like "I don't want to pay for it" or
"I love when a desktop's disk crashes and the user loses every message
together with his documents which of course weren't stored on a file server
in the first place"); I don't know what was chosen in regard to receiving
e-mails, but the plan for sending them is to have every user connecting his
mail client to the local server, which will then relay it to a main mail
gateway in the central office, which will (hopefully) send it to the outside
world; I'm not commenting on this, other than remarking that the sites are
linked via VPNs, so every mail will have to jump around the Internet at
least a couple of times before reaching its recipient; the main gateway
server will also be very happy.
Anyway, this was planned before I got there, so I can't change anything
about it; my role is to find a way to configure about 100 NT 4.0 servers to
properly relay Internet-bound e-mail to the main office.
To be more exact, this is not my role, since the configuration checklist was
already prepared; my real role is to find how to resurrect some of these
servers that are in conditions, well, critical.
The main problem is: these servers are of the do-it-all kind, so
domain controllers for the local office's domain, they host some application
back-ends, some of them also run Oracle DBs, and all of them have some
version of IIS, on top of which sits the corporate antivirus package they're
running; the reason I wrote "some version of IIS" will soon be clear enough.
The goal of this project would be to
properly configure the SMTP component
of IIS, installing it where it isn't installed; but there are basically
three states in which these servers can be.
Some of them, due to excessive luck, actually *have* the SMTP
installed and able to run when configured and started; these are simple, and
I'll leave them alone, hoping they'll survive long enough to relay some
messages before reaching the Big Domain Controller In The Skies.
On some of them, Something That Shouldn't Happen
actually happened: somebody
whose systems administration skills are roughly comparable to those of an
amoeba, a long time ago, installed Exchange for reasons which are now lost
in the fog of time, and then decided he didn't need it anymore, so proceeded
....no, the period isn't ending with "properly uninstall it".
It ends with "disable those services which looked Exchange-related,
physically remove some of the program files and databases and deleting
random Registry keys without having any clue at all about what he was
doing". If he had fired at the servers with a BFG 9000 he would have done
less harm to them.
Now, normally my opinion on Exchange 5.5 can be summarized as "a big load of
crap" (as opposed to, say, Exchange 2000/2003 which I consider good
products), but I know Microsoft managed to sell lots of copies of it, so
maybe it *is* good for something else than putting the installation media in
a microwave oven and watching the fireworks. Howewer, ripping its
installations away surely *isn't* the right way to use it, so something got
really, really screwed up in those poor servers, and that wasn't Exchange's
Obviously, the IIS SMTP service is not installed there, and it also refuses
to install, since it detects the mortal spoils of the dead Exchange and
states that, ah, it isn't going to run there if you don't remove Exchange
before; but you obviously *can't* remove Exchange, since it isn't no longer
there, and also can't reinstall it, since it's (partly) still there and its
own setup won't be able to run properly; so, while Exchange lies in this
sort of limbo screaming in search of its revenge, having the server relay
any kind of e-mail is definitely impossible.
Now, let's digress from this frightening topic and talk about the
status in which one of those servers can be found; and finally, here the
"some version of IIS" part will come back to haunt your dreams.
On some of those servers (where, incidentally, the
above mentioned Exchange
catastrophe can *also* have happened, making a not-so-small number of them
good candidates for euthanasia), IIS is not installed. Its place was taken
by its stripped-down version, the Personal Web Server 4.0. Now, there is
something really, *really* weird about this, since PWS comes with the
Workstation version of NT's Option Pack, as opposed to the Server version
which contains the "real" IIS; and the Option Pack for NT Worstation is
actually installed on those servers, even if *this program is not allowed
there*, and its setup refuses to install it saying "this is NT Server, use
the Server Option Pack instead of this one". I've tried this on a server in
a test lab for all the afternoon, with no results other than a great urge to
do some experiments with torture devices on whoever is responsible for this.
After having somewhat retrieved
interior peace, I was quite ready to
uninstall PWS (which, of course, doesn't have the SMTP component that now is
needed) and replace it with IIS, when the antivirus problem arose. That
software relies *heavily* on IIS, so heavily in fact that uninstalling IIS
will lead to having to re-install it, losing all the informations about its
clients in the process. Unless, of course, one can manage to replace PWS
with IIS while mantaining exactly the same web site configuration in terms
of permissions, virtual directories, file types and so on.
Oh, and did I say that *no one* of those servers can be
scratch, since all of them have some valuable data and/or are running some
programs which have been working for years, and nobody remembers anything
about how (or, for what it matters, why) they work and how to install them?
Ok, let's get to some
I need a way to:
1) Finally putting an end to Exchange's sufferings where its tormented soul
still resides altough it lost (parts of) its body. I.E. I need to properly
and totally remove it, its services and its Registry keys, in order to be
able to install IIS's SMTP where it's needed.
2) Replace the infamous PWS 4.0 with the a-little-less-infamous IIS 4.0
without losing the antivirus web site's configuration.
3) (Optional) Send a legion of very bad-tempered demons hunting the
(sub)human being(s) who managed to unleash such chaos, in the hope they'll
never be able to do it again.
Hope to get some help from you, and thanks for reading this post until the