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Infrastructure Management

Mission-critical IT systems don't always need the latest tech

Earlier this year there was a fuss amongst IT commentators when it was shown that the British Royal Navy's new warship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, was apparently running Windows XP. Scorn was poured upon the ship's designers and engineers, and parallels were drawn with the USS Yorktown, which had to be towed back to port after its critical systems running Windows NT failed.

Amid the noise, there was some speculation that the Windows XP image was just a cheeky spoof to fool journalists. Perhaps it was actually a screen-saver for Linux... or Windows 3.11. Regardless, the Ministry of Defence stated that XP would not be used when the ship is operational.

But does this matter? Is the age of the software or hardware important in such projects? To answer that question, some context is required.

Despite the best of intentions (see the first resolution in this article), I've failed to stop collecting vintage computers. But this affliction means I get to see a section of the IT industry that most analysts and journalists don't. It's a section that's not new, trendy or ground-breaking, yet it demonstrates the truth of the old saw: if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

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Alex Cruickshank

Alex Cruickshank has been writing about technology and business since 1994. He has lived in various far-flung places around the world and is now based in Berlin.  

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