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serverless and the last engineer

2016/07/07

I make it no secret that one of the most impactful essays on me the last 20 years has been Bob Lucky‘s essay about the last electrical engineer. And I have seen other computer scientists taking it into account too.

Ever since cloud computing caught on, it comes more and more frequently to mind, because I see that the abundance of computing power makes people think that they can get away without really thinking about the problem. After all, computing has become cheap, right? The prototype you’ve just rigged up costs $10 / month to host. Well scale on the other hand does not come cheap and it will bite you.

Now that “cloud” has become a commodity word, “serverless” is coming to dominate. Because you really do not need to buy your infrastructure since, you know, you can have a data center as a tab in your browser for half the cost. And you really now do not need old-school sysadmins, since you make people all work together and deploy stuff n-times a day (DevOps).  But hey, even that is complex, because you just want to write the damn stuff and not think on where it runs, or how the hell it is supposed to run on scale. You only want profit on scale.

So let’s go serverless. And in the process, let’s make the prophecy about the world needing 5 computers true. Only they are cloud / serverless providers (just count the big players) where for some engineers, paraphrasing a bit Bob Lucky, life will be:

Projecting the current trends, future applications will be serverless.  No one will have the foggiest idea what is on that cloud.  Somewhere in the basement of the serverless provider or its successor will be a huge computer file with the listing of that infrastructure.  The last engineer will sit beside the file, handcuffed to the disk drive like a scene out of “Ben Hur.”  That engineer will be extremely well paid, and his or her every demand will be immediately satisfied.  That engineer will be the last keeper of the secret of the universe: E = IR.

Bootcamps and other vocational training institutions will turn out lots of serverless programmers, so prepare at least to be able to tick the Steinmetz chalk mark.

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2 Responses to “serverless and the last engineer”

  1. kangelos Says:

    It is really a sign of abundance. Since cost is not an issue let’s not care and splurge. Once upon a time CFOs would count beans. If they did now too, the C[IT]O would be hard pressed to convince everyone about the benefits of serverless.

    • adamo Says:

      Well it seems that I still work with people that count these things. They never say no to a cost increase, but they always politely ask whether we can bring anything down. Not because $5 will make an actual difference. But because 100 x $5 servers may be a more complex solution to manage than the $500 cost implies.


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