Monday, November 19

1 is a Beautiful Number

1 Machine
1 Person
1 Day
1 Document

That's all it takes to deploy a large commercial web-based application I designed seven and a half years ago which today is still running and serving millions of pages a day for a dozen of clients so large and well-known I'm contractually prohibited from disclosing their names.

Every time I hire a new developer, their first day on the job is spent building the system from scratch on their workstation: 1 machine, 1 person, 1 day, 1 document. The most recent hire set a new record and had his system operational by lunchtime.

I attribute this accomplishment to mainly two mantras: "no fringe tools", and "the build document must stand alone".

No fringe tools means we don't use the latest and greatest one-offs or widgets just because we can. The old cliche of "the best tool for the job" breaks down when you have thirty jobs and thirty tools to master and maintain. If one tool does five jobs "good enough" then you've saved yourself a headache in staffing and training and documentation and licensing and on and on and on.

The build document is the bible in my organization. My colleagues know that I'm not one for formal documentation in most cases, but the build document is the exception. That sucker is kept up to date (the responsibility of each new hire that has to follow it) and it's kept simple. It doesn't gloss over any details and it doesn't defer to other documents. When it starts getting too long, too verbose, including too many diagrams and appendices, it's time to simplify.

So what inspired this burst of braggadocio?

By contrast, a friend's organization is currently deploying, or attempting to deploy, a web-based application with a nearly identical feature set which thus far requires nineteen separate physical servers for operation. Configuring this beast has required the consultation of three separate agencies (including the vendor). And, the grunt work of actually installing it, setting it up, and getting all the pieces to communicate and play well together has required the coordination of a half-dozen people from five different departments.

As I type up this rant, it's late into the evening, and the e-mails are still flying, and the system is not yet churning, and all I can think of in the back of my mind is, "1 is a beautiful number."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As one of the people not working on the one, but the many, I'd settle for even 2 or 3 right now.....