Software Stranded Me in New England for Four Days

Craftsmanship in software matters to our lives more and more every day. I am reminded of that now that I am stuck in New England for four days because of a glitch with Southwest Air’s backend systems.

The only thing we seem to know about the root cause right now is that there was an issue with a “router,” but who knows what kind? Maybe a network router or maybe it was an API router. Maybe the hardware burned up, but more likely it was some kind of failure deep in the software stack of the device. Worse, for some reason the fail over systems failed too. Southwest reportedly had to “reboot everything” to get the whole system up and running again.

How ironic it was that I was reading about SOLID principles (an important aspect of craftsmanship) in functional programming in the Providence airport as all hell was breaking loose around me. Little by little my phone kept buzzing, letting me know I was getting increasingly delayed and then finally cancelled. The system failure was so bad that they can’t get me on a return flight until four days later.

Only a few years ago Southwest was able to issue paper boarding tickets and recover with old fashioned manual systems. These days, the software is so deeply intertwined that the failure was more massive (almost 1,200 flights cancelled). There was no way to recover.

Getting it right in software is more important than ever. Craftsmanship is one way to do it.

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