This is a topic of conversation that has come up a lot recently, both at work and whilst updating the computers for family members, so I thought I would write something down.
I don’t think people realise how much work it takes to stand still in the technology world.
When we think about the pieces that make up your typical on-prem web application running on virtual machines, what does standing still mean? To me it means the following.
- Database : A regular patching cycle for the database and the operating system it sits on. Also, upgrades/rebuilds as required.
- Application Server : See database.
- Web Layer : See database.
- Load Balancer : Regular patching of the appliance, and replacements/upgrades as required.
Now multiply all that up for all the projects you are working on. That represents a substantial amount of work, whether you call is Business As Usual (BAU) or Internal Projects. What’s worse, there is no “visible benefit” from this work. Most users won’t have a clue it is happening, as they won’t get a new screen or a new widget to play with. It’s pretty much invisible, but it has to happen, just to remain static.
At this point I can hear people saying, “But standing still is literally doing nothing, so what are you talking about?” Well, if today I have a fully patched system using supported versions of all software, to stand still I have to remain on a fully patched system using supported versions of all software. If that means upgrades or rebuilds of kit, so be it.
Remember, if I do nothing at all, I’m no longer standing still, I’m moving backwards!
Think about that for a second. To stand still I’ve got to learn all the new stuff so I can upgrade to 19c and get long term support for my databases, even if I didn’t want to. Same goes for other products. Even if I use none of the new features. There is a big investment needed by a company, and for you personally, just to stand still. Now breaking new ground, well that’s a whole different ball game… 🙂
So what are the solutions:
- It helps if you recognise the problem in the first place. Far too many people think doing nothing is standing still, when it’s not.
- Automation will help you stay on top of things. Reliable and repeatable processes make keeping things up to date a lot simpler. Automated testing is the icing on the cake here.
- Cloud? Platform as a Service (PaaS), when it is done right, can help you keep on top of things. Having a service where you don’t have to worry about OS, DB and app server patches, because it’s all handled by the platform is a big bonus.
Some related posts:
3 thoughts on “Technology : You have to keep working just to stand still!”
It’s like the saying attributed to Laozi: “Learning is like rowing against the current. If you stop it, you drift back”
Especially minor systems with “older” technology stacks are prone to this failure.
Fortunately I’m working in the finance industry where being on supported versions is a precondition for certain certifications. Therefore argumenting for an update/upgrade is usually easy.
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