What gaming consoles can teach enterprises

The rare but wise IT architect willing to take lessons from video games will find insights well worth appropriating

Depending on the altitude from which you view them, game consoles such as Sony's PlayStation 3, Microsoft's Xbox, and Nintendo's Wii can look like anything from brilliant works of high-integration engineering to metaphoric exemplars of efficient large-scale architecture. The rare but wise IT architect or development lead willing to take lessons from video games will find insights well worth appropriating.

From packaging to play, video games and consoles are all about the players, some of whom are brought in early and often for test-drives. In games, as in IT, designers and developers are blind to flaws users spot in a heartbeat. Losing sight of the user during development, and keeping them out of the feedback loop, is a surefire recipe for unproductive and readily ignored apps.

The gaming industry also makes a strong argument in favour of flipping the concept stage of your design process on its head. Before the first logic gates are laid out, every possible source for game and console design inspiration is explored. Form usually follows function, but sometimes it's appropriate to let form shape function. Many user-facing apps that start life as code would fare far better if the first step in their evolution had been to create a GUI prototype. After all, much like gamers, users who are captivated by the software they use are motivated to attain higher levels of competence, translating into more time spent with the software they're paid to use and less time trying to escape from it with IM and surfing.

Another takeaway worth nothing is that game consoles never get attacked by malware. In the main, even when they are visible to the Internet for community gaming, no malicious effort survives a reboot. IT can easily borrow this lesson. Marking a file on a hard drive read-only is merely a switch that a cracker or in-house thief can flip at will. But if you store privileged executables and exploitable configuration files, or an entire VM image, on read-only or write-once flash or optical media guarded from physical access, even a cracker that knocks down all your walls can't create a back door.

But can't somebody boot with an altered copy of the DVD? Think like a game console engineer and solve that problem yourself.

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