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  • Julie Liu

Defining the System Boundary. It Matters.


HUH? Did I lose you already? Well, that definitely lost me. But hold on, it’s not that complicated.


Think about your emotions, your physical body, your finances, your time. You have personal boundaries. Everyone does. Your boundaries are the limits you set in order to keep yourself sane and stable. Your boundaries protect you. Occasionally you loosen your boundaries. You let your friend work you up into such a frenzy you can’t sleep, you stay up a little too late on a work night, you spend a little too much on a pair of shoes, maybe you even drink a little too much.


Now think about the consequences you suffer when you loosen, or altogether set no boundaries? You may feel tired, exhausted, depressed, taken advantage of, sick. You might find yourself facing legal issues, totally broke, in the hospital, and nearly dead.

Just like us, digital systems also need boundaries.


Every digital system has “critical pieces” similar to your heart, mind, and body. System boundaries define where the critical pieces of the system exist and where the digital data (just like blood) can flow to and from. These system boundaries allow the system engineers to set limits. These limits help keep the system safe. Like us, when these boundaries are poorly defined, too loose, or too restrictive, the system becomes unstable, fatigued, and may even die.


And what does an unstable system look like to you? Have you ever been to the DMV, and after waiting in line for hours for an appointment you made months prior, for a license renewal you absolutely need today - thus the planned appointment, you are told their systems are down and you have to come back another day sometime in the future but because their systems are down nobody knows when, it could be tomorrow, next week or next year, just keep checking back on the website which currently is down.

Maybe the DMV system was trying to do too little. Maybe it took on an insurmountable task above its capabilities and was trying to do too much. In any case, the system is down, and you are frustrated. Define your system boundaries, otherwise you might find yourself waiting at the DMV, indefinitely.