Welcome to “Serverless Superheroes”. In this space, I chat with the innovators, toolmakers, and developers who are navigating the brave new world of “serverless” cloud applications. For today’s edition, I chatted with Adam Johnson, the cofounder of IOpipe. The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
I had the great privilege of speaking at ServerlessConf in Austin a couple of weeks ago. The conference is a community event run by the fine folks at A Cloud Guru, but you’d never know that they do other things with their time besides plan conferences, because the logistics were practically flawless. Perfect size (about 400 attendees), great food and a cool venue near downtown Austin made for a fun couple of days. Both the quality of sessions and the technical chops of attendees seemed exceptionally high, leading to lots of thought-provoking content and productive hallway conversations. The only negative comment I have about the event was the pacing – the organizers found a way to cram forty sessions into just two days, and the human brain can only absorb so much information before starting to check out.
Fortunately, all the sessions are now available on YouTube for further review. Here are my top five takeaways from the conference, as well as a few of my favorite sessions.
1. In the land of “No Ops”, ops is still king
Creating an app with serverless technologies is superficially easy, but actually deploying, testing, monitoring and debugging that app in production can be a nightmare. Without insight into the underlying services, you have less control over what breaks and less ability to fix it, and the ecosystem of tools that might help is still pretty thin. Nobody puts their finger better on this problem than DevOps legend Charity Majors, whose session was a rambling, electrifying rant on the folly of assuming that “going serverless” means you don’t have to think about traditional ops considerations anymore. If anything, getting rid of the in-house ops team removes the veil between developers and their own code: if something you wrote stops working in production, you’d better be prepared to fix it yourself. Unless you’ve hit a problem in the underlying services, in which case your app is completely beholden to somebody else’s dev cycle – a very real possibility that is not to be brushed off lightly.
Do you think computer programming should count as a foreign language credit in US schools? New Mexico does. So do legislators in Kentucky and Washington and several other states, with more on the horizon as fears about US students’ STEM deficiencies increase.
At first glance, the idea of letting kids study Swift instead of Spanish may seem appealing. We all know computer programming is an important skill, so it would be nice if it was promoted from elective status in schools, and there are plenty of superficial parallels between code and natural languages: both come from large families, so picking up your eighth declarative programming language is a lot easier than learning your first; both have concepts of grammar, syntax and so on.
The ways in which this idea is terrible are also apparent at first glance, and agreed on by both linguists and computer scientists. A quick rundown of some highlights:
The letter finally showed up in my mailbox on December 7, 2015 – about eight months after the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) first noticed something weird in their database records, and more than twenty months after the hack began.
“Dear FORREST BRAZEAL,” began the letter, which went on to use words like “malicious cyber intrusion”, “Social Security numbers” and “theft of background investigation records”. The letter expressed sympathy for any “concern and frustration” I felt, mentioned that no misuse of my stolen information had yet been detected, and offered a link to some identity protection resources, just in case. For legal reasons, I’m sure, there were no words of apology in the letter.
When the OPM minions – those who haven’t resigned in disgrace – finish licking and stamping, more than twenty million Americans will have received this letter. It’s the latest fallout from one of the largest government data breaches in American history, affecting current federal workers, military service members, families and retirees. And, apparently, me.