Programmers: learn how to “cloudify”

The blogosphere has plenty to say about cloud computing, but most content targets the business, CIO, or IT crowds. Information exists for developers who want to produce software friendly to cloud computing, but it’s more scattered, it’s vendor-centric, and it doesn’t match the SEO profile that obsesses much of the industry. As a result, I believe that many developers have only hazy ideas about how they can leverage the power of the cloud to provide radical improvements in scale, responsiveness, and connectivity for their customers.

This ought to change. Cloud computing isn’t just interesting to datacenter managers; it enables many new technological strategies. Cloud-savvy engineering can boldly go where no software has gone before—if we’re smart enough to take it there.

Clouds on the horizon… Photo credit: fir0002 |

On my company’s website, I’ve begun a new series of blog posts about how to “cloudify” your code and designs. Read the inaugural post, and check back on Fridays for new installments in the series. I’ll be making connections back to concepts here on codecraft, such as what the programming language of the future ought to look like, how to encapsulate for cloud, and so forth.

I believe that a competence with cloud–cloud-oriented programming, if you will–will be a checkbox on future tech resumes.

Courage Counts

If you’ve read Call it Courage, then you know the story of Mafatu, the boy who was afraid.

Mafatu grows up in Polynesia, surrounded by the ocean—but everything about the sea terrifies him, because he remembers his mother drowning when he was young. Determined to conquer his fear or die trying, Mafatu sets out alone in a dugout canoe, into the element that terrifies him most. He ends up stranded on an island that harbors cannibals. In one memorable scene, his faithful companion dog is endangered by a tiger shark; Mafatu jumps in the water and attacks with only a knife. When he kills the shark, he realizes that something fundamental in his heart is now different.

He still feels fear, but it no longer overpowers him.

He is free.

I’ve been blogging about the skills and mindset of effective software architects for quite a while now, but I recently realized that I’ve omitted the fundamental subject of courage.

image credit: nalsa (Flickr)

This is an important gap, because courage counts. The cleverest, most skilled architect or engineer will accomplish very little, at key junctures in a career, without it.

Symptoms of fear

In the past two decades, I’ve heard many people (myself included) make statements like the following: Continue reading

Why Cannibalism May Be Smart Business

Get out your fork. I’ve got a story for you…

Dig in. Don’t hold back. Photo credit: AleBonvini (Flickr)

At the beginning of 2005, Symantec acquired Veritas. Together, Veritas’s BackupExec and NetBackup products accounted for something like 70-80% of the world’s enterprise backup market. As I recall, BackupExec had annual sales of around $600M, and NetBackup was similar.

I worked for the only technology group within Symantec that overlapped the backup space at the time. We were making a disk-based backup product named LiveState Recovery; its revenues were in the tens of millions of dollars and we were growing at >100% CAGR.

Integration gets hairy

Our growth stemmed from the fact that we were approaching backup in a radically different way. Instead of capturing changed files and streaming them through a centralized media server to a tape library, we took disk images based on snapshotting technology. We were faster (many times faster, often); we had a distributed architecture that scaled out much more easily; we never missed a bit; we captured application state perfectly; we could mount backups or convert them to virtual machines.

As the acquisition finalized, Symantec charged us and the BE folks Continue reading