The Rise of the Organic Network: Technology Must Learn the Lessons of Nature
Networks within an enterprise tend to start off their lives as fairly simple structures, but over time they grow in size, scope and overall complexity. In fact, today, most large network and application infrastructures are incredibly complex and sprawl across the globe, making it ever harder for overworked information technology (IT) teams to pinpoint and troubleshoot issues when they arise with traditional approaches. When outages occur, and they inevitably do at the most inopportune times, business owners become frustrated, and IT teams scramble to identify the root cause and to shore up the network and application infrastructure to prevent future outages from occurring, but they inevitably occur again. It seems to be a cycle that is destined to repeat itself again and again, with no end in sight.
There has to be a better way forward that breaks this reactive and repetitive cycle. What if the technology could mimic and learn from a resilient system? What if we could vaccinate the infrastructure against outages? We might still experience an initial outage, and the pain associated with it, but future outages would hardly be felt. What if we could create a system that could take a punch and roll right along?
It turns out that mother nature has already created such a system: us. The human body is incredibly resilient and is built with redundancy. In the technology world, we have the opportunity to learn from the natural world and the paradigms it offers to help us solve problems.
For example, just 25 years ago, in the United States, four million people got chickenpox. Of those, as many as 18,000 were hospitalized with up to 150 deaths each year, usually in young preschool-aged children. A vaccination was developed and today the scourge of chickenpox has been eliminated. A simple injection enables our immune system to squash future bugs. So, why can’t our infrastructure do the same?
The human body has much to teach us about protection and resilience. Did you know that the collarbone exists so that it can break? It absorbs shocks on impact so that the force of the impact is spread out to limit the damage. As humans, we also have built-in redundancy with two eyes, ears, lungs, kidneys and hands. When we are deprived of oxygen, the body starts to adjust immediately. For example, the diving reflex is the body’s physiological response to submersion in cold water and includes selectively shutting down parts of the body in order to conserve energy for survival. The human body has a low latency queue built-in. When we confront an immediate danger like a car coming straight for us we switch to using the sympathetic nervous system. Our eyes and ears send information to the amygdala, which is an area of the brain used for emotional processing, and our fight or flight mechanism kicks in.
Originally posted on Forbes.com.