Toilets and Your Systems

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Today we have a guest editorial from Grant Fritchey as Steve is away on his sabbatical.

There is no way in the world that simply flushing the toilet could sink a ship. Right? Well, actually, yeah, it not only could, it did. Not a ship in this case, a boat, but, yes, flushing the toilet did sink this U-Boat. However, it wasn’t simply the toilet that brought down, literally, this submarine. It was a combination of bad design, poor training, and gross operator ignorance. Does that sound familiar? Yeah, to me too. I’ve worked for that company, several times.

When we start designing systems, whether we’re talking at the macro scale of building out your data center, or at the micro scale of creating a new database, we’re starting from a particular set of knowledge. We may be great at what we do, or not. However, no one knows everything. Further, we make compromises to the design, whether to offset costs, increase speed of delivery, who knows. Then, requirements change over time, and we introduce more compromises. Suddenly, here we are, standing in front of the systems equivalent to the U-1206 toilet, and we need to flush.

Let’s add to the fact that maybe your organization hasn’t had a data specialist for a long time, if ever. So, others fill in the gaps. I became a DBA that way and I know a bunch of others who followed similar paths. Now you’re standing in front of your toilet, uh, I mean database, and you need to flush, oh, wait, tune a query, run a restore, whatever. Yet, you haven’t done it before. The senior person you do have is either unavailable, or you never had a senior person. So, you’re going to try the valve alignment/database restore on your own. Where is all that water coming from?

One of the reasons I love history is because it really does teach us so much. We do need to think through our systems, databases, code, what have you. Is the system overly complex? Can we simplify it? If we can’t, do our people know enough to deal with the system as is? Do we have training in place to ensure that people are ready? Can we get our people to a less ignorant state before they flush that toilet and sink our figurative submarine?

 

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