Forget Fragile: The Future of Tech Means Failure … Maple Leaf Own Goal

August 4, 2022

Canada presages the future. Syrup, uranium mines, tar sands, and Rogers — The backbone of Canada. Maybe I should not include Rogers in the list after reading “How a Coding Error Caused Rogers Outage That Left Millions Without Service.” I learned:

a coding error was introduced that triggered a cascade of events, resulting in a massive outage that left millions of Canadians without cellphone, internet or home phone service for at least a day. The shutdown of one of Canada’s dominant telecommunications networks created widespread chaos.

Now Rogers is not along with the own goal problem. I noted “Major Microsoft 365 Blackout Raises Tough Questions for Software Giant.” And lest we forget “Google, Oracle Cloud Servers Wilt in UK Heatwave, Take Down Websites.”

I know I have heard presentations in which really rich people have explained that chaos creates opportunities. These people should know. I was an advisor to an individual who had at one point more than $9 billion. (Alas, he has been removed from the hockey game of real life. Maybe a rest home near a lake? I have lost track of the wizard.)

Yep, chaos, disruption, problems that scream for solutions. An investment wonderland, but what about those who simply empty the trash in wonderland?

The future, it appears, rests with individuals who are responsible for a single keystroke. Put the == in the wrong place and one does not output user satisfaction. According to the Rogers’ story, one gets no emergency phone service, no WiFi (pronounced in some parts of Canada wee fee which I love), dead Interac debit machines, and – of course – no phones. (Teens with Rogers mobile services were apparently unhappy.)

And the promised fix?

This Sunday [July 24, 2022], in an open letter to customers, Rogers CEO Tony Staffieri vowed to invest more in testing, oversight and artificial intelligence to improve the reliability of the company’s networks. He put the price tag of the changes at around $10-billion over three years.

Yeah, smart software and oversight. By whom? GenXers and GenYers? Perhaps the tooth fairy?

Several observations:

  1. The cloud services like Rogers apparently believe their own marketing babble about fail over, redundancy, and uptime. Belief is, as the article makes clear, is not reality in the zippy world of big time telco clouds and services.
  2. The idea that the best, the brightest, and the smartest technical professionals work tirelessly to keep the service online earned an F as in Failure. No front row seat in the advanced class for these whiz kids.
  3. The customers who missed tornado warnings, a report about a dangerous person, or what to pick up from Canadian Tire en route to the the campground in Saskatchewan were in the communications dark.

Net net: Big companies forget the statement”

For want of a shoe, the horse was lost. For want of a horse, the rider was lost. For want of a rider, the battle was lost. For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost, And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

The nail was a single error in a single line of code. Thus, the future: Chaos or opportunity. You choose. I am glad — thrilled, in fact — that I am old and will miss the future. Have fun!

Stephen E Arnold, August 4, 2022


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