For a few years now I have used the term “nerd knobs” to describe a certain class of features implemented in networking products. This may have created the (mistaken) impression that nerd knobs are part of the IT hero culture. From now on I’m calling them “Wanker Knobs.”
In most cases, wanker knobs are for experienced and knowledgeable engineers and architects to “solve” problems when an application, carrier circuit, or external network connection doesn’t quite fit into the way a network is supposed to work. Instead of pushing back to the business, we waste vast resources implementing risky solutions that solve the problem just this once ….
Just this once. Right.
- If your OSPF database is using too much memory, use a Totally Not So Stubby Area
- If your BGP outbound routing isn’t failing over correctly, implement a backdoor route
- When filtering by Access List isn’t enough, use a header inspection process such as NBAR to increase ACL functionality
- Use PBR or PFR to dynamically override the standard packet forwarding function
These ‘features’ are used to address niche problems or unusual use cases, avoid risky change, or to make use of expensive assets that aren’t ready for replacement.
Every one of these features creates substantial technical debt because they deviate from standards, are proprietary, or override normal operation, which causes operational problems.
Technical Debt And Being A Wanker
Technical debt happens in many ways, but the most common is when your only tool is a networking hammer and every problem is a nail to be solved in the network.
In fact, every wanker knob is a career-limiting move. When you implement a nasty hack, apply cruft, and kluge something, it becomes less reliable, less operable, and ever harder to change.
That’s not being a nerd. That’s being a wanker.
That’s why it’s wanker knobs from now on.
This article first appeared in Issue 18 of the Human Infrastructure Magazine at Packet Pushers. You can signup to receive the magazine by email and for free by subscribing here