An introduction to immutable infrastructure

Why you should stop managing infrastructure and start really programming it.

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Immutable infrastructure (II) provides stability, efficiency, and fidelity to your applications through automation and the use of successful patterns from programming. No rigorous or standardized definition of immutable infrastructure exists yet, but the basic idea is that you create and operate your infrastructure using the programming concept of immutability: once you instantiate something, you never change it. Instead, you replace it with another instance to make changes or ensure proper behavior.

Chad Fowler coined the term “immutable infrastructure” in a 2013 blog post, “Trash Your Servers and Burn Your Code: Immutable Infrastructure and Disposable Components,” but others have spoken about similar ideas. Martin Fowler described phoenix servers in 2012. Greg Orzell, James Carr, Kief Morris, and Ben Butler-Cole, to name a few, have contributed significant thought and work as well.

II requires full automation of your runtime environment. This is only possible in compute environments that have an API over all aspects of configuration and monitoring. Therefore, II can be fully realized only in true cloud environments. It is possible to realize some benefits of II with partial implementations, but the true benefits of efficiency and resiliency are realized with thorough implementation.

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Defining front-end architecture

Raising the banner for a new discipline.

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In this excerpt taken from the upcoming book, Front-End Architecture: A Modern Blueprint for Scalable and Sustainable Design Systems, Micah Godbolt details the history of this new discipline and explains why it is such a vital role to embrace in our industry.

With the evolution of the web came changes to the roles of the modern web team. We went from a small group of generalist webmasters to a team of talented specialists. As each of these specialties developed, and members became more proficient in them, the web began to form a new set of roles… or disciplines.

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Golden opportunities for design lie in social-impact projects

Designers can find fertile ground in governmental, philanthropic, and health care domains.

Download the free report “Designing for Social Impact,” by Gretchen Anderson. Editor’s note: this is an excerpt from the report.

During the 2000 United States presidential election, product designers and developers discovered an uncomfortable truth about our nation. American democracy, long held up as a beacon for others to follow, was susceptible to “user error.” As the stories of hanging chads, bad ballot layouts, and unclear instructions unfolded, it became clear that the election process contained quite a few bugs from an end-user perspective. Dana Chisnell, the creator of Field Guides for voting, was inspired to fix such problems the best she knew how — by applying user-entered design practices. Until the 2000 presidential election, she pointed out, a “usable” ballot was one that was readable by the machines that count them. But the “hanging chad” phenomenon brought to everyone’s attention the role that user error (or rather, terrible design) can play in affecting outcomes and a nation at large. This is but one example of how the design of simple things has an impact far beyond its immediate surroundings. It’s part of a clear case that more comprehensive: thoughtful design can have more predictable, measurable effects on our world at large.

More and more, designers of all stripes seek projects and organizations that have a mission to serve the greater good at their core. Partly, it stems from an innate desire to use our skills to their highest potential. It also reflects broader trends in design and tools that make it possible for us to tackle problems that we observe in society, measure their root causes, and more quickly and efficiently test what works to create positive change. The inherent “usability” issues within the systems that surround social impact objectives are becoming more evident. Design increasingly has the ability to run programs at scale that address more systemic issues that arise from a lack of infrastructure or overly complicated regulation. Read more…

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The 11 deadly sins of product development

Creating great hardware and software means avoiding these product-killing pitfalls.

Save 25% on registration for Solid with code SLD25. Solid is our conference on the convergence of software and hardware, and the Internet of Things.


Editor’s note: This post is an excerpt from “Prototype to Product: A Practical Guide for Getting to Market,” by Alan Cohen.

Thomas Edison famously said that genius is “1% inspiration, 99% perspiration,” and his observation holds true for product development. Developing “genius-level” products certainly requires inspiration, but the bulk of the effort is more like perspiration: work that benefits from insight and cleverness, but is also largely about not screwing up. Most product development efforts fail. It’s been my observation that failures are not usually due to a lack of inspiration (i.e., poor product ideas), but rather from mistakes made during the “perspiration” part.

What follows is a brief catalog of the most popular ways to wound or kill product development projects. Most efforts that get derailed do so by falling into one or more of a small set of fundamental traps that are easy to fall into, but are also fairly avoidable. As an organizational construct, I refer to the specific traps as sins and the more-general negative impulses behind the sins as vices. And since these sins are often fatal, I call them deadly sins to remind ourselves of their degree of danger. Before we get into the specific vices and sins, let’s start off with the fundamental principle that lies behind all of these, a basic truth that largely determines success or failure. Read more…

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Consensual reality

The data model of augmented reality is likely to be a series of layers, some of which we consent to share with others.

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A couple of days ago, I had a walking meeting with Frederic Guarino to discuss virtual and augmented reality, and how it might change the entertainment industry.

At one point, we started discussing interfaces — would people bring their own headsets to a public performance? Would retinal projection or heads-up displays win?

One of the things we discussed was projections and holograms. Lighting the physical world with projected content is the easiest way to create an interactive, augmented experience: there’s no gear to wear, for starters. But will it work?

This stuff has been on my mind a lot lately. I’m headed to Augmented World Expo this week, and had a chance to interview Ori Inbar, the founder of the event, in preparation.

Among other things we discussed what Inbar calls his three rules for augmented reality design:

  • The content you see has to emerge from the real world and relate to it.
  • Should not distract you from the real world; must add to it.
  • Don’t use it when you don’t need it. If a film is better on the TV watch the TV.

To understand the potential of augmented reality more fully, we need to look at the notion of consensual realities. Read more…

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The new fintech: mobile, decentralized, and friction-free

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Dele Atanda and Mutaz Qubbaj talk about their startup platforms and the disruption in fintech.

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Learn more about Next:Money, O’Reilly’s conference focused on the fundamental transformation taking place in the finance industry.


In this Radar Podcast episode, I chat with Dele Atanda, founder and CEO of Digitteria, about the disruptive state of the financial tech industry, what he thinks is driving that disruption, and why smart data (as opposed to big data) is going to revolutionize finance. I also talk with Mutaz Qubbaj, CEO and co-founder of Squirrel, about about the Squirrel platform, accelerator programs, and how he views the big disruptors in fintech landscape.

We’ve started an investigation — and launched a new summit, Next:Money — here at O’Reilly to look into the disruption happening in the fintech industry, as burgeoning startups create services and products that threaten to disaggregate traditional finance incumbents. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with a number of fintech startup founders and will be featuring several of those conversations in upcoming Radar Podcasts.

Dele Atanda founded Digitteria, a startup developing sustainable identity and personal data management solutions for both consumers and enterprise. I asked him why the time is ripe for disruption — he pointed to the growing complexity of the landscape and compared the current state of the finance industry to the early stages of the Web:

There’s a significant increase in complexity, and in that complexity there’s a much more detailed and rich ecosystem. Banks, it’s difficult for them to be able to tackle all the ends and elements efficiently, so it’s interesting because it’s almost representative of, it’s lacking the evolution of the Web, but it mirrors it in very many ways. Initially, you had these monolithic sort of applications, or browsers, or services that tried to do lots of things, and then we moved into the mobile era where things became much more siloed and application centric, where you did one thing particularly well. That’s inevitably going to happen in the fintech space. They say that the currency of the industrial era was paper, and the currency of the knowledge era is the electron.

Money is primarily electronic now, so it’s inevitable that there’s going to become this confluence between the Web and finance in that regard. I think, of course, because of security, regulatory issues, and the cultural dimension of money, there’s been a lag and resistance. Now that the Web has reached a level of maturity that it can address those issues, I think that’s inevitable.

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