Terminology

A guy at work laughed at a term I used. I called room where all the servers are installed “the machine room”. Its a term I learned in 1979, back at my first full time computer job, at the Northern Illinois University data center, 1979-1981. I’ve never put much thought into any of those kinds of terms I’d been using, Machine Room, Data Center, Computer Room. What else do you call that room? The last one, computer room, seems the stupidest, if you ask me. Machine Room probably sounds more like there are multiple types of machines, could be a manufacturing facility. But universities completely understood back in the 1960s that computers were just machines. Well, I’m old school, and will no doubt continue to use “Machine Room” in the future.

We have lots of technical terms we use to identify hardware, some more specific than others. Server or host could be almost anything. Physical server, virtual server, Linux VM, Windows AD server – from time to time, any combination of traits are necessary.

So many terms we use at work that probably sound like gibberish to my relatives, but are basic business application building blocks these days – ESBs, Gemfire, Tomcat, and stuff like that. I always think about how my “aunt” Linda would react if I posted this where she would see it. Linda has to react to every post she reads. She loves some things, she doesn’t understand some things, she laughs at others. I love Linda. But any time I posted anything nerdy, she’d always post how she doesn’t understand what I’m saying. As if I’m going to be able to train her to “get” everything I learned over the past 40 years, but in a paragraph or two.

Changing The Topic

That was one of the reasons I wanted OUT of the WAN world. It was such a small niche of an employment market. You were locked into working only for large corporations, forever, because small companies don’t use WANs, or just hire consultants or contractors to build and manage their solutions. WANs are highly technical, and I excelled at it, but I was younger, and more willing to work extra hours and not get paid for it. Like I said, I was younger and stupider. I let the company take advantage of me, but I learned a helluva lot, much that still benefits. I hated not being able to explain to anyone what I did at work that day. WAN work is lonely work.

-UNIX work isn’t that much better these days to be honest, but there are still more small companies looking for good Linux engineers than there are small companies looking for WAN architects. The new hotness in town is “cloud computing” aka “DevOps”. Oooh, they made up a new term, everybody be scared. DevOps is a philosophy, wherein you design automated solutions, using cloud tools, giving you access to wonderful tools like auto-scaling load balancers and cloud databases. Some people choose one cloud, and get stuck paying for all the custom specialized features that cloud offers. Others try to stay generic, and use multiple cloud vendors in parallel. Either for different applications, or to stay cloud agnostic.

Knowledge of cloud agnostic deployment tools, such as Terraform, are the newest new hotness in cloud town. Tools like terraform lets you deploy apps, version updates, infrastructure upgrades, all automatically, no matter which cloud provider you choose. You can run three pods of app servers, running on three clouds, maybe serving different customers, or maybe different geographic regions of the world. They work with all the current major clouds, AWS GCP, Azure, Digital Ocean, RackSpace, etc.

Open Source Software Idea

If I could suggest a globally useful Doctoral Thesis idea to some brilliant college student, I’d wish them to design a fast, open source, auto-scaling, tcp/http(s) load balancer. It should use plugins for different load balancing and auto-scaling algorithms, and come with the usual basics. It needs to support a rest api for monitoring and management, and support various logging output options.

The world needs freedom from AWS’s clutches, and too many businesses don’t support the open source projects that support the tools they use freely. If I could fund a startup, that’d be the one I’d back for winning. Launch an open source load balancer that works on all clouds, including internal, offer free basic round robin, least connections, load balancing functions for free. Let the community help you find the weaknesses, offer suggestions from other professionals on features or options needed. Offer tech support contacts for professional businesses that want 7×24 support from someone, and customized load balancing plugins for paying customers. Businesses love paying for support contracts.

It would seem a load balancer that could handle operate at the HTTP layer, routing sessions to various of URIs based on more complex algorhythms, so static content is handled by cluster 1, and functions a-z are handled by the cluster indicated in the customer record in the system db.