Guess What? Technology is not easy

It might seem that way because of how ubiquitous it is, but technology is not really easy.  Lots of time has been spent trying to hide the core complexity so that every day users can better experience and manage high-end technology, but at the end of the day, the complexity remains somewhere.

We’re almost at the end of 2011, and the two things that stand out to me from a technology standpoint are:

  • The magnitude of information security issues that were surfaced this year
  • The magnitude of infrastructure and service outages that were manifested this year

And don’t think that there’s no relationship between them.

This week alone, we’ve seen some really rough days for the technologists, public relations team, and senior executives and RIM and Apple.  Google and Microsoft, among others, have also had some issues with their infrastructure over the past few months.

While it might seem like to good time to make fun of the companies involved, or mock them for poor leadership, or suggest that these examples underscore the unworthiness of hosted computing (and cloud computing in particular), it might be more prudent to take a step back and recognize that technology is hard.  Seriously.

And it’s not getting any easier. Even when very smart people in large IT teams with sizable budgets and a decent amount of time for planning are involved.  And trust me when I say that there is *never* enough planning time allocated for these sorts of things.  Technology failures are not always about greed and cutting of corners.

imageThe full scope of complexity of any moderately sized data center is not properly appreciated. And, while things mostly work as they should ~80% of the time, there are occasional issues about ~19% of the time which are either addressed by redundancy of equipment or the quick work of the technology team.  Because the minor issues and so-so problems are handled reasonably well, folks start to feel that they have a solid grasp of everything.

And they do – right up until that a special 1% scenario hits.  At that point, there are lots of people working furiously to address problems that defy explanation while the whole world watches and says, “What’s wrong with these morons!  This should never have happened!”

Sure, there’s always something that can be done better, but the pressures of budget, time and workload often conspire against the best of intentions, because it really isn’t easy, and not everything can be tested in advance.

It’s always important, as a technology professional, to develop and routinely implement a solid methodology for operation that will allow you to be most effective in good times as well as bad.  Mistakes will happen, but with a good process and lots of practice, your execution need not suffer, and you need not succumb to the complexity that is out there (and growing).

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