Sunday, October 13, 2019


There was a recent article in Quartz about Elon Musk’s quest for “undesign.”
When Elon Musk leads engineering meetings at SpaceX, he says, “the thing I am most impressed with is, what did you undesign?”

Which is to say, what complications did engineers remove? How did they simplify the vehicle?
Without getting sidetracked on Elon Musk, I really like his concept of “undesign.”

For most of my career I have striven for 2 sometimes conflicting objectives: scale and availability.

My experience is that complexity, particularly the associated boundaries, contribute to un-availability.

At first it would seem that even with the compounding of high availability, e.g. 99.999% and 99.999% you would still get 99.998% availability. But that's not the real world. Cobbling together the interconnects (boundaries) you will be lucky to get them to 99.9%. Then do the math. 99.999% x 99.999% x 99.9% gives 99.898%. You've gone from 5 9s to less than 3 9s.

Explain that to your boss.

When I was with a large Memphis-based logistics company, I would always choose simplicity.

That caused us to struggle with scale but that was easier to buy than availability. And the struggle with scale was easier to explain to management.

Take Elon’s advice to heart.

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