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Not So Nice And Tidy

Assume we have a valuable, revenue-critical software system in operation. The figure below shows one nice and tidy, powerpoint-worthy way to model the system; as a static, enumerated set of executables and libraries.

Enumerated View

Given the model above, we can express the size of the system as:

size eq

Now, say we run a tool on the code base and it spits out a system size of 200K “somethings” (lines of code, function points, loops, branches, etc).

What does this 200K number of “somethingsabsolutely tell us about the non-functional qualities of the system? It tells us absolutely nothing. All we know at the moment is that the system is operating and supporting the critical, revenue generating processes of our borg. Even relatively speaking, when we compare our 200K “somethings” system against a 100K “somethings” system, it still doesn’t tell us squat about the qualities of our system.

So, what’s missing here? One missing link is that our nice and tidy enumerations view and equation don’t tell us nuttin’ about what Russ Ackoff calls “the product of the interactions of the parts” (e.g Lib-to-Lib, Exe-Exe). To remedy the situation, let’s update our nice and tidy model with the part-to-part associations that enable our heap of individual parts to behave as a system:

connectivity view

Our updated model is still nice and tidy, but just not as nice and tidy as before. But wait! We are still missing something important. We’re missing a visual cue of our system’s interactions with “other” systems external to us; you know, “them”. The “them” we blame when something goes wrong during operation with the supra-system containing us and them.

connectivity view

Our updated model is once again still nice and tidy, but just not as nice and tidy as before. Next, let’s take a single snapshot of the flow of (red) “blood” in our system at a given point of time:

Blood Flow

Finally, if we super-impose the astronomic number of all possible blood flow snapshots onto one diagram, we get:

Quag View

D’oh! We’re not so nice and tidy anymore. Time for some heroic debugging on the bleeding mess. Is there a doctor in da house?

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