My Head Is In The Cloud This Morning

Last week I posted the following to twitter:

      We’ve assembled 8 of the top developers we know and are talking about the future of the lamp stack

That was not entirely accurate. We put together an impromptu lunch last week and invited some of the top developers from our portfolio companies located in NYC to attend. We know a lot of great developers who didn’t attend the lunch. I wish they could have. Because it was fantastic.

We discussed the lamp stack (and derivatives) that almost every single one of them run their web app on. We discussed the scaling issues that they have all faced. And we discussed what we should be looking for in the future to make those scaling issues easier.

The first post (that I know of) that has resulted from that lunch is Alex Iskold’s cloud computing post on Read Write Web. For those of you who don’t know Alex, he is the founder and CEO of our portfolio company Adaptive Blue, he’s a great developer, and he also writes awesome blog posts at Read Write Web.

I dont’ want to summarize Alex’ post here because I think it’s an excellent discussion of scaling issues that the lamp stack creates and how cloud computing can overcome some of them for some companies.

Alex is a huge fan of relying on others to deal with the scaling issues so his company can focus on the application itself. Last year at our portfolio company offsite, when we were having a similar discussion, he said:

think about it, if you can’t trust Amazon to be up, who can you trust?

Of course, the day after our lunch last week, S3 went down for what seemed like the entire morning east coast time. Alex acknowledges that risk in his post and quotes my partner Albert Wenger who once told Alex:

We live in a stochastic world, but people fail to grasp it because all they experience is right now.

Alex argues that it’s time for startups to give up the scaling issues to the big guys and let them do what they do best. He says:

Every time we have an outage, like the one that happened on Friday,
people sit back and think: How can I possibly
rely on these guys? I bet I can just code this up myself and it will be
fine! For decades the software industry has been
suffering from the ‘I can do this better’ disease. We keep re-inventing
programming languages, we keep on re-writing the APIs,
and we keep thinking that we’re smarter than the guys who came before
us. 99.9% of the time we are wrong. The truth is that we cannot do it
better than Amazon. They spent a massive amount of money,
talent and most importantly time, trying to solve this problem. To
think that this can be replicated by a startup in a matter
of months, assembled, be cost effective, and work properly is just
absurd. Large-scale computing is an enormously complex problem, that
even the best and brightest engineers years to get right.

I think Alex is directionally correct. We are going to see more and more companies build and host their web apps on someone else’s infrastructure. It’s not going to happen overnight because I’ve never met a more control oriented group than software engineers. But it will happen and in the long run we’ll all be better off because of it.