Give thanks for technology that actually works

With an occupation that's immersed in solving problems, it's not a bad idea to contemplate now and again what goes right

As we close in on the end of 2013, I think it's a good idea to give a nod of thanks for certain things that we take for granted or even completely overlook: the gear we run that works tirelessly and without fail.

So much of IT involves problems -- problem software, problem hardware, problem firmware, problem users, the list is endless. We generally approach each day as triage, whether we're building new infrastructures and surmounting problems inherent in that process, or we're fighting fires with existing infrastructures and components, trying to get everything back to normal. We write code to deal with big problems, and we encounter smaller problems while we're writing that code. It's the nature of the game.

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When your head is down, it's easy to miss what's going right. For instance, I was doing some minor work the other day, pulled a version on a core switch, and happened to note that the uptime was two-and-a-half years. The switch's redundant companion had been up for the same length of time. They were last restarted due to a very lengthy power outage.

I've encountered switches with uptimes pushing six years before, and servers with uptimes that also measured in years. Though you could definitely argue there are security issues relating to the fact that these systems had not been upgraded with newer, potentially more secure code, the fact is in an occupation that so predominately deals with problems, these devices have been performing flawlessly for years and not causing problems.

I'll probably stop shy of personally professing my gratitude to pieces of hardware and software, but in some ways, I'm grateful to systems that are put into place and require next to no care and feeding for long stretches of time. The counterbalance, of course, are systems put into place and require constant attention due to faulty designs, faulty software, or junk hardware. They serve as stark reminders of just how chaotic and impossible IT would be if they were the rule and not the exception. (NB: If they are the rule and not the exception, you may want to read my post last week on fragile networks.)

It's important to be able to rely on servers, switches, routers, firewalls, storage, and the software that runs on and between them. If you can't, there's no sense in keeping them around. By and large, these systems are reliable and stable.

Admins who've been in this game for more than a few years can easily recall a time when that simply wasn't the case, when the PC computing era was fraught with instability and inconsistency, when we had to reboot a Windows NT server just to change an IP address or because it suddenly blew up for no apparent reason. Those were the days when the mainframe crew would just laugh and shake their heads. No, we're in a very good place now, far better than those times.

Maybe in this season of offering thanks and giving presents, taking a few minutes to reflect on how much actually goes right in your infrastructure is a worthy investment of time. There will never be a shortage of problems to deal with, and sometimes they can seem overwhelming, but at the end of the day, what we have built works.

This grand global computer network that runs on blips of electrons and streams of light connects people, places, and things, allowing all manner of enhancements to our lives. That is obscenely cool.

This story, "Give thanks for technology that actually works," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Paul Venezia's The Deep End blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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