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“Working knowledge” is a critical dependency

Computer system administration entails the configuration, maintenance, monitoring, and troubleshooting of hardware and software systems.

The principal objectives of the system administrator are to ensure the correct functioning of each of the system's parts, to ensure the availability of system resources to authorized users when they are needed, and to safeguard the information assets that are stored in, or pass through, the system.

Special computer administration tools exist to support each of these objectives, with many of these tools providing detailed and precise inspection of system resources. But a system administrator's ability to meet his principal objectives are dependent upon both the availability of diagnostic tools and his working knowledge of the system's configuration.

Working knowledge is the critical dependency addressed by the V language. In this context, working knowledge is the amalgamation of the administrator's training and experience; plus any formal component or package documentation that is available; plus, very often, the anecdotal experience of others working with similar systems.

Accurate knowledge recall

The problem that V addresses, is the system administrator's limited capacity to retain and recall his working knowledge of the system's correct configuration. Each of us is limited in what we can remember, how long we can remember it, and how accurate our memory is.

And this last point about accuracy is critical, because accuracy is not optional:configuration syntax is both exacting and unforgiving.

Configuration omissions can cause sub-systems to become completely inoperable; and configuration options that are not missing, but are simply wrong, can create latent problems that only manifest themselves much later. Even worse, in some cases, configuration mistakes can cause systems to work as expected—but for the wrong reasons, adding false information to the system administrator's working knowledge.