No, you don’t have to run like Google

Years ago, Google struggled with how to pitch its cloud offerings. Back in 2017 I suggested that the company should help mainstream enterprises to “run like Google,” but in a conversation with a senior Google Cloud product executive, he suggested that the company shied away from this approach. The concern? That maybe mainstream enterprises didn’t share Google’s needs, or maybe Google would simply intimidate them.

For the mere mortals that run IT within such mainstream enterprises (read: almost everyone), fear not. It turns out there are many things that Google might do that make no sense for your own IT needs.

Just ask Colm MacCárthaigh, AWS engineer and one of the authors of the Apache HTTP Server, who asked for “examples of technical things that don’t make sense for everyone just because Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook” do them. The answers—excessive uptime guarantees, site reliablity engineering, microservices, and monorepos among the highlights—are instructive.

Excessive uptime guarantees

“Five or five-plus nines availability guarantees,” says Pete Ehlke. “Outside of medicine and 911 call centers, I can’t think of anything shy of FAANG [Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google] scale that actually needs five nines, and the ROI pretty much never works out.”

I remember this one well from the variety of startups for which I worked, as well as when I was at Adobe (whose service-level commitments tend not to be five nines, but are arguably higher than necessary). Are you going to be OK if the multi-player game goes down? Yep. What about Office 365 for a few minutes, or even hours? Yes and yes.

Site reliability engineering

A bit of a spin on devops (though it predates the devops movement), SRE (named in multiple replies to MacCárthaigh) came out of Google in 2003, and was designed to infuse engineering with an operational focus. A few core principles guide SRE:

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