A lesson in over-engineering

January 4, 2008

Over the Christmas break, my father and I were talking about interesting events in his life when he slipped into his office to retrieve some pictures.  He returned with the below collection of pictures his father took of the  as it came through little Avon, NY in November 1939.  This behemoth of a machine was designed to be a complete mobile living quarters and laboratory that could traverse wide open and frigid Antarctic continent.  It was so big, they had to drive it from the factory where it was built in Gary, Indiana to Boston where it could be loaded onto a ship for transport to Antarctica.  Thus the visit to Avon, NY and the picture taking opportunity by my father and grandfather in 1939.


The Antarctic Snow Cruiser in the Star Diner parking lot in Avon, NY during November 1939.

You may be wondering: "What does this have to do with SIP?"  Once you know the whole story of the Antarctic Snow Cruiser, you'll understand that this monster of a machine is a classic case study in over engineering that never did work.  After all the work that went into the design, construction and transport of the Snow Cruiser to Antarctica, it was a complete failure.  The combination of the immense weight and large tires made the Snow Cruiser virtually useless in Antarctica.  As a matter of fact, it was so incapable of moving in snow, that it got stuck during the process of unloading from the ship!  You can read more about the folly of the Antarctic Snow Cruiser on both Wikipedia and Joel Dirnberger's web site on the topic.

 I worry that we in the Telecommunications space are close to building our own Antarctic Snow Cruiser.  Every time I sit through a session on , I can see the Snow Cruiser spinning it's massive wheels in the snow.   I worry that so much is being invested in building the "unified application platform" that we'll never actually see it in use. 

Every day I work with customers that are developing applications, leveraging SIP to create powerful and useful applications, but without all the baggage that IMS carries.  How do they do it?  KISS  (Keep it Simple Stupid)  They use the SIP architecture to connect basic building blocks like media servers and media gateways together with their application.  This architecture gives the freedom to create applications and simplifies the effort to quickly deploy solutions - generating revenue.

The next time you start working on a new application - just ask yourself "will this just sit and spin it's wheels in the snow?"


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