Today we have a guest editorial from Grant as Steve is teaching a pre-con.
I’ve recently got my General license as a Ham radio operator. I’m working on getting ready to pass the exam for the Extra. Upon passing I’ll have access to all the frequencies open to amateur radio. The hobby is a lot of fun, but it’s also enlightening as a technologist.
There are amazing new radios, especially around the SDR, or software-defined radio, space. There are also a ton of digital transmission mechanisms with more coming out all the time. However, there are also a number of operators working on old, vacuum tube radios (boat anchors is the affectionate term), some of them using Morse code (CW being the appropriate term). That’s right, hundred year old tech is still alive and well (OK, mostly well), side-by-side with the most advanced tech possible.
All of which makes me think about technical debt. The concept is simple to understand. Choices you made when you designed and built a system may not have been perfect at the time. Over the years those choices begin to inflict more and more pain on you, hence, a debt you’ve built up and will have to pay off at some point. Frequently, refusing to upgrade to newer versions of software is lumped in to the technical debt discussion. However, I think we should be very wary of that.
Like an old CW radio, SQL Server 2000 may be working perfectly well for some people. It’s not seen as technical debt, or even a problem, because it does everything they need and it does it well enough for them. Yeah, there can be all sorts of issues tied to this (and as a consultant, I don’t know that I’d ever advocate for staying on twenty year old technology), but it’s working.
So, while I would personally still advocate to upgrade to newer versions of software (security, compliance, performance, the list of reasons why is long), I want to try to be understanding of why an organization may dig in their heels at moving to a newer version of SQL Server. Listening to people who’ve forgotten more about how radio waves operate than I’ll ever know, and their resistance to move to newer radios or digital communications mechanisms, I feel I’ve got a better understanding for exactly why not everyone is going to upgrade on the same schedule and some, may never upgrade.