Add some more extra redundancy again

It’s the season for coughs and sniffles, and last week I took my turn. I went to bed one night with a stuffy nose, and it got me thinking about software.

What’s the connection between sniffles and software, you ask?

Let’s talk redundancy. It’s a familiar technique in software design, but I believe we compartmentalize it too much under the special topic of “high availability”–as if only when that’s an explicit requirement do we need to pay any attention.

Redundancy can be a big deal. Image credit: ydant (Flickr)

Redundancy in nature

Mother Nature’s use of redundancy is so pervasive that we may not even realize it’s at work. We could learn a thing or two from how she weaves it–seamlessly, consistently, tenaciously–into the tapestry of life.

Redundancy had everything to do with the fact that I didn’t asphyxiate as I slept with a cold. People have more than one sinus, so sleeping with a few of them plugged up isn’t life-threatening. If nose breathing isn’t an option, we can always open our mouths. We have two lungs, not one–and each consists of huge numbers of alveoli that does part of the work of exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide. Continue reading

Convoys as a model for distributed architectures

It occurred to me this past week that convoys–especially the kind where truckers form and manage ad hoc communities through chatter on CB radio–are an excellent model for the sort of distributed software architecture that cloud-native software demands. In part 2 of my series of posts about how to “cloudify” your code and designs on Adaptive Computing’s website, I discuss the lessons that programmers ought to absorb from their role models in big rigs. Head over there and check it out.

Convoys require frequent, real-time, adaptive coordination by many independent actors. Photo credit: Sangudo (Flickr)

Stay tuned for further installments of this series each Friday. As I said in Part 1, I believe that a competence with cloud–cloud-oriented programming, if you will–will be a checkbox on future tech resumes.

Do Androids Browse (For Electric Sheep)?

The movie Blade Runner is based on a Philip K. Dick short story entitled “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Perhaps some new questions should be added to this classic…

In an interesting example of science fiction becoming reality, a group of researchers is now creating a sort of world wide web for the robots of the world. Whether or not androids dream, they may soon be able to use social networks for robots, and use public, internet-accessible resources to get their day-to-day work done. The initiative is called “RoboEarth“:

I believe this sort of technological evolution is the wave of the future. It represents a promising confluence of cloud computing, distributed architecture, big data, hadoop-like map-reduce, supercomputing, ubiquitous internet connectivity, and the every-device-has-an-IP-address promise of IPv6. It would be nice if my next Roomba didn’t have to relearn the floorplan of my house, but could simply download knowledge that the older model has laboriously developed. I’ll bet over the next decade, the market will discover hundreds of variations on that theme.

I just hope we’re smart enough to stop before robots start frittering away their time clicking cows on Facebook… :-)