Thursday, January 20 2005

Connect:Direct for Dummies

I’ve been roped into supporting a project that requires the use of Connect:Direct to transfer data to an external partner. This product is vastly overcomplicated for the use we’re putting it to, and the documentation feels like it was written as an ad for the vendor’s training courses.

I have no interest in becoming an expert Connect:Direct administrator. I want to do two things: configure the Unix command-line client to connect to our partner’s server, so that we can send a file to them, and configure the Unix server so that the partner can connect to us and send the processed data back.

This is turning out to be surprisingly difficult to do. A lot of it is the documentation, but a disturbing percentage of the problem is the near-total lack of information available from our partner. You’d think that a large company that required their customers to purchase and set up a specific software package (that they had no other use for) would supply a one-page cheat-sheet, but these folks haven’t even managed to cough up the userid and password we’re supposed to connect with. For more fun, they say there’s a guy in their security department who knows all about Connect:Direct, but he’s not allowed to talk to external customers.

So, anybody have a friend who knows something about this stuff? Bonus points if you can guess the name of the company we’re trying to connect to. :-)

Update: After giving up on their documentation and our partner’s knowledge pool, I opened a support case with the vendor. Their tech support called my office at 6am this morning, not realizing what time zone I was in. Fortunately, my office phone forwards to my cell, and I was actually awake at the time. Five minutes later, I not only had the original error message deciphered (XSMG242I, which can mean any of “bad permissions”, “config-file syntax error”, “missing remote record for local user”, and others), but had an understanding of their security and connection models that could not be obtained from their documentation. Thank you, Moniram. When our contact at the partner woke up a few hours later, we were able to successfully test file transfers in both directions.

I mentioned my intention to clean up my notes into a “Connect:Direct for Dummies” guide that could be used to rebuild our servers if I were unavailable, and our partner has expressed an interest in acquiring a copy. They’d like to help other customers cut down the setup time from weeks to minutes…