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Ex-Google Engineer Blasts Google's Technology 158

Posted by timothy
from the or-is-it-just-sour-grapes dept.
lee1 writes "Dhanji R. Prasanna, an engineer who recently resigned from Google, describes Google's famous back-end infrastructure as a collection of obsolete technologies, designed 10 years ago for building search engines and crawlers. He blasts MapReduce and its closed-source friends as 'ancient, creaking dinosaurs', compared with outside open source projects like MessagePack, JSON, and Hadoop. He also criticizes Google's coding culture, which has become unfriendly to hacker types due to the company's enormous size." I suspect that most people would be happy to have company infrastructure problems as pressing as Google's, though.
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Ex-Google Engineer Blasts Google's Technology

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  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @06:03PM (#36394184) Homepage Journal
    This guy seems to have never lost his academic mindset, it's not at all surprising, or bad really, that Google is keeping around old technology. Guess what, they have this thing called operations where they pretty much have to be up 24x7 so that they can serve customer requests. They cannot just start dumping infrastructure that:
    a) work and
    b) they have invested significant amounts of money in
    just because some new technology came around. If everybody in industry did that, it would be absolute chaos and nobody would be able to get anything done. This is just as true in computers as it is with steel mills.

    Now compare this with academia, where they have no real customer base to speak of. They can constantly push the boundaries, try new technologies, change their infrastructure etc. That seems to be where this guys mindset remains.

    Note that I'm not bashing academia as being out of touch with "reality" or anything like that, the entire POINT of academia is to push these boundaries, industry exists to take these advances, combine them with their own, and then deploy them in an operationally efficient manner.
  • Seriously? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fyzikapan (1223238) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @06:09PM (#36394250) Homepage
    10 year old tech? My last job was using a bunch of stuff originally built in the 1970s! This guy needs to get a grip on reality. You don't throw out something that works, even if it's a bit kludgey sometimes, simply because there's some fancy new thing.
  • by back@slash (176564) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @06:17PM (#36394346)

    Was going to post something similar. I've observed that at some point most developers go from "must always use the latest and greatest" mindset out of college to "if it ain't broke don't fix it" mindset that comes with a few gray hairs. Just like any company Google would need to justify the cost of upgrading to newer technologies against any new capabilities the technologies would enable to either save costs or drive new revenue. If that cost can't be justified they could be running on existing technology for a long time (of course ensuring that you can hire people that know enough about these technologies is another story..)

  • by beelsebob (529313) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @06:22PM (#36394406)

    To be honest, it sounds like a guy who thought that he knew best, and wanted to just mash bad code out... Google told him to write good code or fuck off... he chose the latter.

  • Re:Translation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by maxwell demon (590494) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @06:47PM (#36394694) Journal

    Seriously, I read "resigned from Google" and had to take a few minutes to get my mind around that concept. Especially if he was a coder. They treat coders like demi-gods.

    Well, maybe that's the problem: He didn't want to be treated as mere demigod. :-)

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @06:56PM (#36394776) Journal

    The fat is that Google's products, by and large, work. If the whole damned thing is floating on top of Pentium IV's with 2gb of RAM, or whatever, does it matter? It's a moronic position, and clearly one formulated as an excuse to show how superior what he's doing is. What a prick.

  • Make Money Fast (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Animats (122034) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @07:12PM (#36394952) Homepage

    I think I see what he's getting at. In the past few years, a few people have gotten rich doing something really dumb, but popular and scalable. Angry Birds, Farmville, and Twitter come to mind. (Not Facebook; there's a lot of heavy machinery behind the scenes making that go.) Google hasn't been doing that kind of thing. Some people think that's a problem.

    In reality, Google has exactly the opposite problem. They've been frantically introducing cool "products" that don't make money. Meanwhile, quality has slipped over at the search engine, which generates almost all the revenue.

    Basic truth: ads on a search engine are presented when someone is actively looking for something relevant to the ad, which means there's a reasonable chance of a sale. Ads on almost everything else are annoying interruptions. Google is in a really good business, one much better than "social". It's worth bearing in mind that Facebook only generates about 15% of the revenue of Google.

    So having APIs which let people do quick little apps isn't going to affect Google's bottom line much. Sorry, hacker types.

  • Re:I wonder (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kjella (173770) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @07:26PM (#36395090) Homepage

    Ideally you'd pick the best solution for the problem every time. The problem is then that you end up with very many solutions, and you need ideal people who understand all of them.

    Methodology is a way of narrowing down the variables, here we do it this way and that's what you need to learn too. That way developers become more flexible and components more reusable.

    Then you go too far and try banging the square peg in the round hole. Obsession is not good. Total lack of methodology is not good. As usual the answer is somewhere in between, that kind of fuzzy answer nobody really likes.

  • Re:Haha (Score:4, Insightful)

    by shutdown -p now (807394) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @07:51PM (#36395308) Journal

    My thoughts exactly. He sounds like someone in academia land - the same guys who think that most industry players are dinosaurs for not using Haskell and similar bleeding edge stuff.

    In truth, all big players have to be reasonably conservative in the adoption of technology, because otherwise the risks become unmanageable. For example, Google standardized on Java, C++ (or rather a fairly conservative subset thereof), and Python - all mature, established platforms. On the other hand, Google does actively participate in development of those; not sure about C++, actually, but they definitely have a strong presence in Java development process, and Python - well, Guido is a Google employee. And then there is experimental stuff, such as Go, being slowly adopted.

    Few companies can boast being that far ahead from the bulk (think of all the companies still on Java 1.4 for in-house development, for example). If he's not content with this arrangement, then he shouldn't work for a company of that size in the first place. Find some startup where they can implement crazy ideas just like that, just to see if it works or not (and possibly fail if it doesn't, but on that size, who cares?).

  • by t2t10 (1909766) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @08:23PM (#36395540)

    Google has had a number of failures, and they do seem to have a hard time pushing out obvious updates and improvements to many of their products. Think about what it says if a company with 26000 employees can't keep a services like Wave going and instead suffers the embarrassment of killing it off three months out of beta.

    The reason you still see so much tech coming out of Google is because they have hired a large chunk of the best coders in the world. Google has so many good employees and so few core products that it can be argued that they are actually not working very efficiently.

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @10:30PM (#36396264) Journal

    The big lead isn't the equipment. It's the AdSense algorithms. This guy is blowing smoke out his ass.

  • by kangsterizer (1698322) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @10:40PM (#36396320)

    Does it matter?
    The point is, Google was once pushing technology. And now, they are not, at least, in these very fields.

    None of your I-like-Google post goes against what the guy says. In fact, you're supporting his claims.

    Neither are bad things - but I can understand an engineer who wants to use the latest tech or invent new innovative tech instead of using 10 year old stuff.

  • by Idbar (1034346) on Friday June 10, 2011 @01:11AM (#36396986)
    And the only thing that comes to my mind is: If Google manage to get its revenue and performance from ancient technology, I don't even want to imagine what they can do if they... well, upgrade.
  • by MrAngryForNoReason (711935) on Friday June 10, 2011 @07:22AM (#36398452)

    I think this is the lesson we can all learn from Facebook. To succeed a technology doesn't have to be particularly well built or ambitious in solving problems. It just has to be easy enough to use that everyone can understand it and use it without too many problems. Facebook has so many users because it can be summed up in very simple terms, 'it's for sharing photos with your friends', 'it lets you see what people are doing'.

    Google Wave may have been a technological marvel and a solution to all kinds of problems but when it launched no-one knew what it was for, so nobody bothered using it.

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