In my last blog I extolled the wonders of the $5 Raspberry PI Zero, a tiny compute engine with enough power to do a reasonable job as a platform for Layout-8000. Layout is no small program. It has a several hundred megabyte code image and can make good use of a gigabyte/gigahertz processor. I contrasted this with the the Sperry Rand Univac I I first programmed as a boy in 1958.
I wouldn't blame you if your next thought was "So What?'
Well, the theme of this series of blogs is "Smart solutions for doing more with less." Isn't the question then "What constitutes less?" Clearly the RPiZ is a candidate for "less".
Here's an example of the power of "less". Don't you love your GPS? If you had to scale up a Univac I to handle GPS what would it look like? The Univac I occupied a 25' by 50' room, 1,250 sq. ft. My back of the envelope calculation says a GPS made with Univac technology would likely need to be over 7 million square miles, about 1.84 times the area of the US. You wouldn't need to drag it around in your car, since it would cover the entire country almost twice over. (Two stories?)
Either machine could compute all computable functions by implementing a Universal Turing Machine, so mathematically, they have the same power. Practically, it isn't so.
Maybe, just maybe, you might now be thinking "Is all that equipment in my data center going to be as obsolete as that Univac I, and if so, when?"
If you want to do more with less, then bigger isn't better. It over commits you to technology that might be obsolete before you have even fully deployed the applications you are about to install to cost justify buying it. I've seen it numerous times; I'll bet you have as well.
One of the symptoms of this malady is a data center architecture that is so overly complex only someone with spiritual connections can maintain it. And that surely wouldn't be doing more with less.
I've questioned the architects of such systems pointing out security and vulnerability flaws. The answers I get are most disconcerting. "Oh, we will fix that just as soon as we deploy [another proprietary software tool]." Sorry, I don't get it. Good systems engineering is intrinsically simple and can be clearly explained to an interested non-specialist.
There is a second lesson that might be taught here. One of the best ways to do more with less, is to have others do it for you. Wherever possible newspapers should emphasize self-service. Ordering classified ads, retail ad space, bidding for premium locations, etc., let advertisers do it themselves. Check and approve an ad - let them do it themselves. Play the self service game over and over. Get systems that support it well. Mobile device support is critical.
This post's takeaways - bigger isn't always better and use self-service whenever possible.
By the way, if you are an SCS customer, I know you appreciate our new updated self-service support portal using Zendesk.
Richard J. Cichelli
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