Monday, June 24, 2013

Are Your Systems as Hard as Glass?

I have to admit to loving all three Jurassic Park movies, possibly because there was absolutely no chance of it being real. There is a kind of appeal to seeing a live Brontosaurus, or a Triceratops, or a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Appealing..., from a suitable distance of say … 100,000,000 years.

That being said, there is one scene in JPII that just kills me - and I mean that in the best, Alfred Hitchcock, sort of way. I love it. I love that it scares the bejeebers out of me. But, I think it scares me because I’m an Architect.

The scene involves our heroes trapped in an RV and a pair of ornery T-Rexs that are pushing them off a cliff. I have no idea why these carnivorous thunder thighs seem to be ornery, or why anyone would park an RV next to a cliff in a driving rainstorm. Why, I wonder, does it always rain at night on the Jurassic islands? Maybe that is why the T-Rexs are ornery.

As it happens, the double jointed RV ends up with the back half dangling off the cliff, and our leading lady lying on the back windshield. As she begins to slowly push up to her hands and knees, we can see the window glass begin to crack beneath her.

This is what sends a quivering serpent of fear up my neural net. Glass. Cracking glass. Is it strong? Well, in a rigid sort of way, yes it is. But, glass is also very fragile. Strong and resilient is good. Strong and rigid is bad. Glass is strong and rigid - like many of our computer systems.

Glass is strong to a point, but when it breaks there is no “managed landing”, no recovery, no gracious shutdown. Furthermore, any element of a structure that is depending on the glass (now broken) for stability - also immediately fails. Glass has many qualities to be admired, but as an I.T. professional, we must avoid any solutions that mimic the rigid inflexibility of glass.

By comparison, wood is much more resilient. It bends, wobbles, splinters, and even when it breaks leaves lots of connective tendrils on which related structures can depend.

When designing corporate I.T. systems for resiliency, think wood, not glass. You just never know when a nighttime deluge will cause a pair of ornery T-Rexs to go all visceral and invade our sovereign data center.

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