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Cobra strike - 100 milliseconds to understanding new architectures

I've written many times now about NoSQL architectures and the rise of whole new species of data stores as the software of the Facebook age. But what's going on here, really? As Ian Fleming wrote in Goldfinger:

"Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it's enemy action."

I've probably written a dozen of the same pieces now on "new software architecture," so let's 1) take a look at what this is all about, and 2) let's see if we can see where it's all headed.

We see so many new components (Hadoop, NoSQL, Sphinx/SOLR, Node.js) with seemingly nothing to link them, other than as different exotic beasts in the new-software zoo. There are some fundamental truths behind why Mutual of Omaha's Software Kingdom is featuring them now, and Google has the answer. Not "Google the search engine" ... but Google the company.

Robin Bloor put a nice light on this back in 2009 with Why Google Won In The Search Market. In that post, Bloor might have been thinking of Google VP Marissa Mayer's famous ...Users really respond to speed... quotation when he wrote:

We can normally react to a stimulus in the 140-200 millisecond range, which is great news for cobras, because it takes a cobra about 100 milliseconds to bite. To put it another way, if a cobra is within striking range and it decides to bite you, it’s too late to stop it. If the mouse pointer moves more than 100 milliseconds after you move the mouse, it feels slow.

That brings me to the fundamental truths of modern software that link all the beasts in our zoo and point the direction ahead. They are:

  • In a high-resolution, handsetted, wifi'd world the distinctions blur between Enterprise software, Desktop software, and Handset software. It's all just software, delivered as a service everywhere
  • If your software can't respond in about 100 milliseconds you're dead. Down to 100ms the faster cobra always wins.
  • If you can't make down to 100ms, it doesn't matter how "good" your architecture is. It fails.

These three rules explain a lot about what's going on in software today. In my next postings we'll do a quick tour of the zoo with these new perspectives, and introduce a really neat package that is a harbinger of where this all is headed.

I've got 911 on speed dial. ~ Douglas Coupland