Friday, January 06, 2006

Start out Simple

One of the failings of modern IT infrastructure is that it's far too complex. Individual components are complex, and have complex interdependencies with other complex components. And some of us have to make sense of this mess every day.

Sometimes, complexity is unavoidable. That's OK. If it's a complex problem, then I expect some level of complexity in the solution. It would be better if the solution were simple, but we can't always have what we want.

Sometimes, new technologies come along that radically simplify the way that things are done. ZFS is one recent example - it takes away whole layers of complexity. But, as a rule, things get more complex over time as layer upon layer of cruft is added.

While you may need something big and complicated to solve the big and complicated version of a problem, does that mean that you need to be equally big and complicated to solve the little version of that problem? It seems that, all too often, you do need the big complicated version - with all its attendant hassles - to solve the little problems. Or, at least, that that's what we end up using.

I've always been opposed to this approach. I've always been in favour of starting off small and simple. I want to get something working, without delving deep into an impenetrable morass of configuration and tuning. Then, having got that to work (and, more to the point, having understood it), I can build on that foundation.

I've spent some time playing with the Java Enterprise System. And you know what? It's way too complex and hard to get into. I'm sure it can do wonderful things, but before it can do wonderful things I want it to do something. Anything, really - just to give me the sense of accomplishment that keeps me going to the next stage. I really can't see JES getting that much of the market, simply because most admins and organisations simple don't have the time and energy to invest in making it work at all.

Part of this is ease-of-use, but it's slightly different. It's really about the ease of getting started. And that's what complex technologies need to supply: an easy way in, to allow potential users to get started.

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