IaaS, PaaS, SaaS and Infrastructure

Infrastructure is undergoing a significant paradigm shift. At my first job as a software developer, scaling our infrastructure meant buying a physical machine and installing it in a rack, setting up the system images and base software by hand, configuring the network using some shell scripts, and finally, making it available for developers to install software. Now, with the advent of cloud computing, the same capabilities — installing and running software — are available on-demand. [Read More]

Infrastructure in an Age of Commodities

Early computers were described using mathematical notation and theoretical constructions, which were then translated by enterprising machinists into custom built calculation engines. The first computer programmers using these machines built applications directly in hardware by plugging together wires and sockets in varying configurations. Even with these short-comings, the value of general purpose computing machines was evident. As companies began to realize the utility of computing, they saw computing as a means for differentiating themselves from their competitors. [Read More]

A Principled Approach to Architecture

A principle is a concept or value that is a guide for behaviour or evaluation. — Wikipedia This post presents a principled approach to architecture. These principles specify what I believe is important about architecture, without diving into any details about how an architect should work. No matter how an architect works day-to-day, by following principles, you can be sure you are providing value in the right areas. [Read More]

Functional Microservices

One proposed benefit of following a microservice architecture is that each service can be developed, released, and supported independently. In theory this allows development teams to work with less coordination and less overhead, leading to faster development times. In practice, this is difficult to achieve without some guidelines that make it work. The book The Tao of Microservices provides two such guidelines — transport independence, and pattern matching — that create an environment allowing you to compose services. [Read More]

What is CQRS?

Bertrand Meyer first introduces the principle of Command Query Separation in his book Object-Oriented Software Construction. The principle states that a well designed object should have methods that are either commands or queries. A command changes the state of an object, but does not return any data, while a query returns data and does not change any state. By dividing methods into these two categories, you will have a better understanding of what does, and what does not, change the state of your system. [Read More]

Ordered Messaging in an Unordered World

At Workiva, we’ve been using NATS to provide a highly-available, scalable message delivery service. The tradeoff for having these properties is that there are restrictions on the order in which messages are received by subscribers. NATS delivers messages from a single publisher in the order in which they were published. However, once you introduce multiple publishers, no such guarantees exist. Furthermore, even if messages are successfully delivered, they may not be successfully processed — if a subscriber fails to process a message correctly when it was sent, it may become out-of-order after retrying. [Read More]

Software Architecture as Business Analysis

Architecture is the bridge between (often abstract) business goals and the final (concrete) resulting system. – Software Architecture in Practice A software architect should act as a bridge between business stakeholders and technical stakeholders. To be this bridge requires understanding the business problem being solved, and being able to distill that problem into a technical solution that a software team can implement. In essence, the architect acts as a technical business analyst that helps to define the needs of an organization and recommend solutions that deliver value to stakeholders. [Read More]

Being Good Enough

Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without. Confucius We all want to have a perfect product, a perfect system, and a perfect development story. Unfortunately, reality is … reality. And it’s not perfect. One of the biggest struggles of engineering well is understanding the constant push and pull among the forces that govern the “rest of the business”, and governing your technological and development choices accordingly. [Read More]

Creating a Service Oriented Organization

The decision to build products using a service-oriented (or microservice) architecture has enormous technical and organizational impact that is reflected in everything from how teams write code, to how they communicate, to how the organization itself is structured. Given the breadth and depth of impact this decision has, it pays to reflect on why an organization chooses a service oriented architecture, how an organization can support such an architecture, and how teams and individuals can support the organization in successfully adopting a service oriented platform. [Read More]

Integrating Applications: From RPC to Messaging

When integrating two independent services you have two options: making a remote procedure call (RPC), or sending a message. Which should you choose? What is a Remote Procedure Call? An organization often needs to share data and processes between multiple independent processes in a responsive way. For example, updating a user’s name in a shipping system may trigger updates in a billing system. The shipping system could update the billing system’s data directly by modifying a shared database, but this approach requires the shipping system to know far too much about the internal processes of the billing system. [Read More]