Back when computers were computers

Trying to learn new tricks, this old dog dove into Amazon Lambda today. Distributed, cloud-based programming is really something to wrap your head around if you grew up working “a computer” where most if not all the moving parts you needed to make your program run were on that computer. Well, that’s not how the kids are doing it these days.

So Lambda is cool because you only have to write functions and everything about being a computer: setting it up, maintaining it, and provisioning more as needed is abstracted away and handled automatically. But that does come at a price: your functions need to be completely and 100% stateless. Hmm, all that fancy automatic provisioning and teardown seems a bit less impressive in that context.

To tie all those functions into what we used to call “a program” you still need state, and you get that from the usual suspects: , S3 or a database of your choosing, DropBox, whatever.

Which, to me seems like actually, all that provisioning and scaling mumbo jumbo is not handled automagically at all. You still need to think about your database, how many copies you need to X transactions per second, etc. Except now you’re using a database when you might have merely declared a variable which would be stored in, you know, memory as long as the program was running.

So now everything is way more complex and about a metric gajillion times slower.

But this is the cost, I guess, of the future, where every application is designed to support 100 million users. I think it makes great sense for applications where those 100 million users’ data is interacting with each other. But for old-skool apps, where you’re working with your own data most of the time (ie, editing a doc) I’d much rather write code for “a computer.”



One thought on “Back when computers were computers”

  1. OK, I don’t have much to say here, since I haven’t given instructions to a computer through my own program for several decades, but I really wanted to keep up my comment streak.

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