Dealing With System Sprawl

Charity Majors has a simple (but not easy) solution to system sprawl:

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

The company is growing like crazy, your engineering team keeps rising to the challenge, and you are ferociously proud of them.  But some cracks are beginning to show, and frankly you’re a little worried.  You have always advocated for engineers to have broad latitude in technical decisions, including choosing languages and tools.  This autonomy and culture of ownership is part of how you have successfully hired and retained top talent despite the siren song of the Faceboogles.

But recently you saw something terrifying that you cannot unsee: your company is using all the languages, all the environments, all the databases, all the build tools.  Shit!!!  Your ops team is in full revolt and you can’t really blame them.  It’s grown into an unsupportable nightmare and something MUST be done, but you don’t know what or how — let alone how to solve it while retaining the autonomy and personal agency that you all value so highly.

I hear a version of this everywhere I’ve gone for the past year or two.  It’s crazy how often.  I’ve been meaning to write my answer up for ages, and here it (finally) is.

I like the solution:  embrace the sprawl but make the default a stable set of well-supported systems with reasons for people to want to start there.  Read the whole thing.

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