It’s not rocket science..

IWGRKTG_2You hear this phrase all the time. Hey guys, we just need to hook it up to the other system and write a bit of code.. it’s not rocket science.

Funny. I was talking to an ex-rocket scientist a little while back and he confessed that it wasn’t that tough. They have an enormous firework with a closed loop control system. Written in PASCAL.

Yeah, I’m sure he was oversimplifying but when I think about systems running at Internet-scale it does seem an odd comparison. We have to service millions of users – with a sub-second response time – anywhere on the planet – and store all their data. If one part of a rocket fails, it’s pretty catastrophic and that’s it but we get stuff failing all the time and we have to deal with it.

In fact, when we were working with carriers I got the impression that each subsystem failed at least once a year. Imagine the thousand or so major components,  subsystems, cables and servers that are required to connect you, on your mobile, to your mum at home. With those odds I’m amazed AT&T can keep a voice call up at all..

So then, next time our engineers are designing a system for 25,000 requests per second and has to run in multiple datacentres and cost less than a bag of chips and be ready for next month’s launch we’ll have to switch metaphors. It’s not brain surgery chaps.

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