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2019-09-07 | Software | Intro Wander

Everybody wants to know the answer to the question "Are we down?”. This could be anything from systemic collapse to the ability to take credit card charges. From an IT perspective, this leads to the desire for dashboards that have green and red notifications indicating the health of various systems. In reality, though, health is always in transition, rarely pure green, and not even a yellow indicator is enough to guage accurate system health.

Systemic health is determined from multiple sources. The closed-world assumption of system health with known states like red, green, and yellow, is less helpful than the open-world assumption. Modern systems constantly converge on a better set of states when operating well, using a variety of sources to assist in the definitions and movement. This variety of sources itself is often in transition.

Consider the global socio-environmental-economic system that we are part of. From a human perspective, the system is “down” in varying degrees, and from no particular measurement. We have an intuitive idea that we are participating in a system that is collapsing in some ways, experiencing explosive, positive growth in some ways, and in other ways the state transition is unclear. Generally, in a complicated system, rather than being down, resilience of the system is a more accurate characterization of the health of the system. Not only are the readings of the system diverse and conflicting, but resilience is a disposition that is only apparent via stressors to the system. This makes defining green, red, and yellow states prior to system failure impossible by definition.

At the same time, there are also reasonable binary states for system components. Can a web server accept connections over HTTP? Is the packet loss over a network connection less than 90% over a particular interval? Is the level of smoke from a forest fire considered lethal for a healthy human in their twenties at a particular longitude and latitude? Is water available from a public water spigot? Is the water temperature over a three day interval in a river too hot for salmon to spawn?

What we end up with as we face our predicament is a need for collaborative, open, ever-changing response network and knowledge base, facilitated by unencumbered transmission of information and verification of source integrity. Tributary Software creates the software and designs free of charge, as a tribute to Yggdrasil, the tree of life which captures us, spellbound through all worlds.

Tags: mcj