What is Cargo Cult Systems Engineering?

What is cargo cult systems engineering?

Cargo cult systems engineering: vestige stanzas are included in a given configuration file for no functional benefit. Such irrelevant, or environment-inappropriate, stanzas exist either because the systems engineer was not given sufficient time to analyze every line of configuration or because the systems engineer failed to understand why the lines were included in the template (or working system) he/she copied from. Some businesses are not supportive of systems engineers spending time analyzing every stanza (because of business reasons that mitigate the problems or due to sheer market pressure).

This term is an off-shoot of the Steve McConnell term "cargo cult software engineering." (This is taken from his website here.)

Some proofs-of-concept scripts and step-by-step directions include "cargo cult systems engineering." This does not mean that they are useless. They may serve a practical goal (of illustrating an application of a technology) as opposed to a "best practice" goal. Some "best practice" achievements are not as secure or as performant as other solutions. Certain I.T. projects necessitate scrutinizing individual configuration files. Such projects include hardening systems (given the number of recent hackings that have brought negative publicity to companies), optimizing performance (for high volume websites or busy transactional databases), reducing the footprint of files (e.g., in Docker containers), and others to save money as inefficient operations in public clouds can be very expensive.

The term "cargo cult systems engineering" helps acknowledge the complexity of the I.T. world. Many generalist professionals (including competent ones) may rely on solutions from the internet without understanding what each character means or does. It seems the DevOps movement embraces deviation from "best practices" as it accepts fuzzy logic and transdisciplinarity for rapid development of software or platforms. One potential benefit transcending specializations is the adoption of bleeding edge security practices. This can mitigate the negative effects of a "move fast and break stuff" culture.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *