The Tractor versus the Bucket Brigade

The Tractor versus the Bucket Brigade
October 19, 2010 Derek Fournier

I am a technology person. I have been ‘into’ technology since I was a kid but made a living at it since 1990. Chances are that if there is a gadget out there, I have two of them! So when I saw the older gentleman at the patch get the tractor and trailer I thought, “Hot Damn! Now we’re cooking with gas!” What I saw next was the flow of the offloading become totally interrupted. The two lines that we had supplying the split bucket brigade now had multiple interruptions as people had to pull out the larger pumpkins to be handed over to a separate team to load the trailer that eventually would be hauled by the tractor to a pallet after having people move to allow it passage.

This is like most SAP deployments I have ever seen (tongue only partially in cheek). Technology being implemented poorly for good reasons to bad ends triggering a larger cost and a negative ROI. Sadly, the wheelbarrow that was implemented fell right into the same bucket. What this pointed out (beyond the stupidity of my gadget buying) was the amazing efficiency of the bucket brigade. As I watched our lines efficiently and rapidly moving the gourds, I was taken by the parallels to movie-based descriptions of nanotechnology and a project I remembered from Microsoft over a decade ago. BIG

Billions of Interconnected Gadgets (BIG)

As computing moved from the server oriented architecture to more service oriented architecture (re-read that line to make sure you are on the same page) the need for more robust and redundant systems drove a core requirement for services to be flexible, adaptable, performant and scalable. So on this particular project team, the idea of web servers that monitored the services they provided rather than the hardware they sat on and formed a mesh of interconnected services that could be profiled in each of the ways I mentioned above started to gain some significant mindshare.

As I watched our bucket brigade I started to marvel at how a simple, fundamental process like that could really soundly kick the ass of the tractor/trailer and wheelbarrow and how that application of easy to use, fundamental tactics used in concert for scalability has direct impact to our large projects. Rather than constructing amazingly complicated decision trees and state machines, by keeping the activities focused clearly on the results (in this case, turning one way, receiving the pumpkin and turning to hand it to the next person) and by breaking the tasks into very discrete and simple processes, you can scale a project or job rapidly and efficiently.

Just like the bucket brigade.

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