This paper makes a first step in understanding a fundamental question of configuration design: "do users really need so many knobs?"

To provide the quantitatively answer, we study the configuration settings of real-world users, including thousands of customers of a commercial storage system (Storage-A), and hundreds of users of two widely-used open-source system software projects. Our study reveals a series of interesting findings to motivate software architects and developers to be more cautious and disciplined in configuration design. Motivated by these findings, we provide a few concrete, practical guidelines which can significantly reduce the configuration space. Take Storage-A as an example, the guidelines can remove 51.9% of its parameters and simplify 19.7% of the remaining ones with little impact on existing users. Also, we study the existing configuration navigation methods in the context of "too many knobs" to understand their effectiveness in dealing with the over-designed configuration, and to provide practices for building navigation support in system software.
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