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“Lesser Software:” Blaming Legacy Software
January 3, 2017
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A Shelf, a Stock Room and a Warehouse

A shelf, a stock room, and a warehouse.

Those are pretty familiar concepts to just about everyone who has ever shopped in a store and/or placed an order for something that’s not currently in stock.

That is how we should talk about technology.

O Clarity, Clarity, wherefore art thou, Clarity?

When the S3 outage with  Amazon Web Services (AWS) happened earlier this week, that’s the analogy I was using to explain to a number of people about why their favorite apps and sites were feeling a little clunky, or not responsive at all.

Yet, not ONE article I read, even in non-technical media, bothered to explain, in layman’s terms, what S3 was. They took AWS’s stock language – pardon the pun – and failed to add any clarity about what was going on.

Those of us in technology should always take the opportunity for teachable moments. Too often people think we are stiff, barely-human droids, that speak in jargon.

They don’t see what it is that fascinates us about technology, and why we devote a large portion of our personal and professional lives to it.

They may also fail to see what opportunities may exist for them, or some young person in their family, as they contemplate career possibilities.

Here’s the way I explained what S3 is, how it’s relevant to the world, and maybe you can pass on this same simple story to someone who may be interested in technology, but is overwhelmed by technical jargon.

The Shelf

When you walk into a store, the merchandise is often on a shelf. The things that they sell most often are right by the entrance. If the store they want to entice you to buy are right by the checkout counter. It just makes more sense to have some items right at the ready.

For the internet, when you visit a website, you expect to see their logo right away, not 5 minutes after you get there.

As a result, all the bits and pieces you initially see when you go to a site, or open an app, will come from a rapid-acess area, such as a store shelf.

In this case, those companies are renting shelf space from AWS. It is far cheaper than using their own computers to handle massive amounts of traffic from users around the world.

The Stock Room

Occasionally the store manager wants to replenish the shelf – that’s normal. The stock room is their back up plan for when things on the shelf get depleted.

Or, it can be where they store things, so that the shelf isn’t cluttered, or because that shelf space is a little more expensive.

One reason people or companies may use AWS is to create backups. You probably use a service to back up your computer’s important files…At the back end of that is probably AWS.

The Warehouse

A store can’t possibly keep all its good in one location.

That’s why they have warehouses, including for items that they rarely sell.

It will take a little time to get things from the warehouse, which is why they have shelves in the store, and each store has a stockroom for items they don’t sell as frequently.

Bringing it All Together

Amazon is like a store. They are the middleman that software companies use to deliver their goods to you: your music, your favorite downloads, and whatever else you buy from them.

Where Amazon had a problem, is when the shelves started falling apart, they did not have a way to put the shelves back in place in the timely fashion that customers have come to expect.

In the grand scheme of things, you don’t hear about Amazon, or Amazon Web Services (AWS) because those services do what they need to do in the background, with hardly ever a blip.

Pass it On

Did you like the story?

You may have your own way of explaining what S3 is. If so, I’d love to hear your version.

If not, be a hero, and share this post with your non-tech friends.

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