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Nitin Borwankar
Works at Numeri.cc
Attended IIT Bombay
Lives in sf bay area, usa
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Nitin Borwankar

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thought this was pretty funny - a meerkat getting drowsy and falling asleep
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He must be at the same musical I was at.....
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Nitin Borwankar

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An interesting conversation has been evolving on Twitter about the antifragility of server systems, DevOps etc.
The link below is one thread but there are a number of other threads so please dont take the one below as the only one.

https://twitter.com/nntaleb/status/368820666767650816

 It was getting too long for Twitter, so I'm expanding on some thoughts here.

The desirable situation is similar to what happens in a human body, where weaker cells or bad cells die off leaving stronger ones.  This is an antifragile system where stressors make a system stronger.

The discussion is about analogies in the server and DevOps space.
Current  server systems are robust but not antifragile. Robust systems resist external force to a point but then collapse completely.

Antifragile systems adaptively get better with each external stressor.
The problem with applying this to server systems is twofold

a) There is no underlying statistical  model or underlying set of properties which admit of a statistical distribution where some part of the population may be considered "good" and the others "bad".  In fact in a server farm (whether in the cloud or not) all servers are started up with identical properties, intentionally.

It is therefore, IMHO, no way to assign a "goodness"  measure to a server and cause it to be "killed" off to improve the health of the larger  population of servers.

b) servers themselves do not adapt in the presence of external stress, in a way that changes their responses in future.  This is not how they are currently designed.  They are much more like bricks than human cells.

IMHO, there needs to be a layer in addition to existing server architecture that uses machine learning to do two things. But before I go there I want to say that the goal of this is not "finding bugs" as Netflix's ChaosMonkey does.

 It is to adaptively change parameters of the system so that with each stressor it becomes more resilient to future stressors. 

The problem IMHO is that we don't think of server populations as set of  properties that are random variables in the stochastic process sense, we think of each server as an identical copy of the other.  And a server is either up or down.  In our mental model there is no smooth transition where the server gracefully degrades, learns from the stress and the next time degrades less.  We want this second model where we think in terms of graceful degradation (smooth metric) rather than up/down (discrete metric)

The question is then threefold

a) What knowledge (attributes) do we want to extract, from the current  stressor, and from the current response, which might be useful in creating an adaptive loop.

b) what parameters in the server do we adjust after a stressor event, so as to degrade less in future.

c) how do we assign degrees of goodness(continuous metric) so that we can use certain servers preferentially over others .

Nicholas, Adrian,  et al - hope this makes sense.  Hard to do this on Twitter.

Nitin.

P.S.
I am not sure the "killing off bad cells" analogy holds in a cloud but may hold in a non virtualized hardware server farm where some servers may have worse hardware.  The virtualization in a cloud, IMHO, spreads "badness" in ways that might make the above discussion inapplicable due to the non-localizability of "badness" to a particular server even if said server is made to look more like a cell not a brick.
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Cricket is a lot easier to understand than Baseball
As the game Cricket becomes more visible on the global stage I've seen more articles by American authors who tried to get the hang of it and got all mentally tangled up in the really fringe details. So right here right now I'm going to explain the core similarities and core differences between Cricket and Baseball. Before I begin it's important to know that there are 3 major forms of Cricket and the one I'm going to talk about is the T20 or the Twenty 20 format. Once that is understood the others become easier to understand.

Core Similarities

* There are two teams with batters, pitchers/bowlers and fielders.
* Batters try to hit a ball thrown at them by a pitcher/bowler
* Fielders try to catch the ball in the air or stop its progress.
* When the ball is in flight, batters try to score by running between markers.
* At the end of the game the team with the most runs wins.
* A batter is "out" when they hit a ball in the air and it is caught by a fielder
* There is a "special" fielder who is positioned right behind the batter called a "catcher" in Baseball and a "wicketkeeper" in Cricket
* A batter is out when they run and don't complete the run before a fielder throws the ball back to a marker before they get there ("marker" = Base in Baseball, Stumps in Cricket)
* When a ball is hit all the way to the edge of the field without hitting the ground the it counts for multiple runs (anywhere between 1 and 4 in Baseball, 6 in Cricket)

Core Differences

* Cricket is played on the strip of ground called "the pitch", with a batsman/batter at each end. Baseball is played around a diamond shaped playing area with bases at the corners.
* In Cricket batters bat in pairs and run between the two ends of the pitch. When they safely exchange positions it's scored as a run. In Baseball a player runs around the diamond and when all foir bases are traversed it's a run.
* In Cricket the each end is are marked with three wooden sticks called stumps or wickets. Forcing an out is often referred to as "taking a wicket". In baseball there is a single home plate.
* In Cricket the strike zone is explicit and consists of the wickets, in Baseball the strike zone is implicit and left to umpire interpretation.
* In Baseball an innings is three outs and there are at least 9 and possibly more innings in a game
* In T20 Cricket an innings is 11 outs - the whole team bats, then the opposite team bats.
* In Baseball a pitcher can continue to pitch through the whole innings, in Cricket bowlers get a limited number of pitches.
* In Cricket bowlers bowl 6 piches at a time, then switch bowlers. The next bowler bowls from the opposite end of "the pitch".
* In Baseball the ball is pitched full toss always, in Cricket almost always the ball is bounced off the ground and this is used to gain advantage via bounce, spin and swing of the ball. While the ball can be pitched full toss in Cricket, almost always this is less attacking than a ball bounced off the ground.
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Part of +Neal Ford 's new functional programming video series for O'Reilly 
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Leo, our 6 month old German Shepherd
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Sammy dog beautiful
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Nitin Borwankar

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What makes a good engineer?
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Yeah but what problems you can solve is limited by the basics you have. IMO being good with Math is a necessary basic.
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Have him in circles
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software developer, manager
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  • Numeri.cc
    Founder, 2012 - present
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    software developer, manager, 2012
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Sql/NoSQL/Nodejs hacker, Sports fan, Data/math/science geek, passionate about data privacy, gamification of data
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Fan of the TV show Bones.  Also any somewhat wacky or eccentric show or person.  But it/they must be intelligent - else it's just weirdness.
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  • University of Southern California
    Appl Math, Pure Math
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