My Case Against Maintenance Windows

This is a semi-serious, semi-joking post.

Earlier this month, Seth Godin, one of the leading thinkers of our digital age, wrote a post titled Do ads work?

If the local bank were offering a sale on dollar bills, ninety cents each, how many would you buy? Most rational people would say, "I'll take them all please." Especially if you had thirty days to pay for them. So, why, precisely, do you have an ad budget? If your ads work, if you can measure them and they return more profit than they cost, why not keep buying them until they stop working? And if they don't work, why are you running them

Some of you may recall my love towards parallels between IT and other disciplines. If we twist these words a bit, we get this:

So, why, precisely do you have specific maintenance windows which are the only times when changes in production are allowed - don't they just unnecessarily delay the changes that inevitably are going to be made? If the changes you are about to make work, if you can measure them and they improve your product more than they cost, why not keep making these changes until they stop working? And if they don't work, why are you making these changes?

I know it’s a stretch but worth thinking about nevertheless… Release often FTW.

Categories: fun |

Comments (1)

Jeannie Jakobsen // 21 Mar 2009

We have specific maintenance windows for our cloud app so our customers can plan around it.

It is generally very helpful for them to know that every Monday night from 11-11:30PM (PT) and every Thursday night at the same time, our API's will return an ERR_IN_SERVICE response (and part of our return XML suggests a next retry time in minutes 10).

Our UI provides them with the equivalent (though friendlier) message.

With two maintenance windows per week, it gives us an opportunity to release often enough to satisfy most customer requirements for features and fixes.

With a half-hour service window, we chunk up functionality so that it can be deployed and verified in that time span.

(On rare occasion, we need to release a larger build. Then we call [with at least a week's notice to customers] for a longer maintenance window on Saturday night.)

I appreciate your attempt to analogize application releases to Seth's example of ad spend, but (as you can no doubt tell from the gist of my comment), I don't think the analogy holds.