On the Lambda

Programming, Technology, and Systems Administration

On the Lambda

Tracking through Lightspeed: Complexity vs Reliability

December 18th, 2017 · No Comments · networking, non-computer, servers

If you haven’t yet seen “The Last Jedi” and don’t want part of it spoiled, you may want to give this one a pass. I’m going to focus on how a scene from the movie relates to current technology.

In the “The Last Jedi”, part of the plot revolves around trying to shut down a tracking mechanism on the main First Order ship. There’s a whole scene about how this important specially-protected “A-class” process could be reset at a single breaker. I don’t remember the exact details, but what sticks out is that such important process would have such a simple point of failure. In talking about the movie with non-technical people, bring up the scene and this always bothers them. Even programmers and networking pros are bothered by this.

Here’s the thing: I’m not. This may be the plot point that makes the most sense to me of any. Rather, my personal grudge against the plot (I liked the movie, btw) is making us sit through Finn’s whole side adventure at all if it’s going to (spoiler) come to nothing? (And, yes, I know there are several others reasons for those sequences, but it seems like it belongs in the novelization rather than the movie). But the easily breakable critical process? That I totally get.

You see, this would not be first the time an outage is caused by the very system put in place to improve or ensure High Availability. Far from it. You see, complexity and reliability are in direct opposition. Whenever you add complexity in order to improve reliability — and all high available systems do this — you need to step back and look at the new risk you’re about to introduce, and then make very sure the gains will be worth it. Most often there’s risk you haven’t even begun to identify yet.



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