What's the Problem?
The complexity and variability of Eclectic Systems
can make them difficult to administer.
Automated administration tools
can solve a large class of "expected" problems,
but the human administrator must be able
to "jump in" when things break.
Finding out the purpose, or even the format,
of a given file can be an exercise in frustration;
modifying files blindly can be a prelude to disaster!
And, although security concerns provide strong reasons
for administrators to keep versions current,
the difficulty of doing so is overwhelming to many.
Maintaining a truly robust and secure system
is such a time-consuming task that many administrators
simply give up on following patches and minor updates,
relying instead on occasional major updates (and luck).
The sheer scale of Eclectic Systems is a large part of the problem.
A typical system contains tens or even hundreds of thousands of files;
any number of other "packages" (again, drawn from a cast of tens of thousands)
may have been added over time.
Running systems thus tend to be both unique and complex.
No current vendors or projects
see this complexity and variability as "their problem".
As described in The Porting Matrix
each one solves the problems it must,
ignoring the total picture.
System administrators cannot be expected to remember all
of the details involved in a running system.
Good documentation helps,
but no static set of documentation can ever be complete or current,
given the dynamic nature of production computers
and Open Source
Only an integrated system
for System Metadata
tracking both the local system configuration
and the world of Open Source offerings,
can provide current and complete information.
Fortunately, such a system is quite feasible.
Unfortunately, it will require Real Work (TM) to create it.
-- Main.RichMorin - 16 Jun 2003