Make Systems More Biological

We believe that environmentalism in computing is more than just making servers more efficient. It is in a way of thinking about your infrastructure in a biological sense. What is a biological system anyways and how can we apply it to computing? What are the differences between a biological system and what we are trying to do?

Biological systems have the following:

  • Multi-cellular organisms which we will consider in our case have periods of activity and periods of rest.
  • Most make decisions based on learning and the environment that they are in.
  • Evolving in different ways. Need to constantly be adapting to different situations.
  • They interact with the environment and adapt as the environment changes like when the seasons change.

So how can we apply this to computing and IT infrastructure? First lets cover how we are moving in a lot of ways to biological like systems anyways.

  • SOA. Service Oriented Architecture is moving us from a monolith everything contained in one mono-cellular organism to multi-cellular organisms with each "cell" doing specific work and which can adapt independently.
  • A/B testing. A lot of companies engage in A/B testing to build out and test different features to figure out which ones are the best. This is an adaptation at the organization to customer level. However, A/B testing can go further.

How can infrastructure be more biological?

  • A/B testing can go further than customer facing. Each service can have A/B testing to instrument and test different infrastructure patterns. Figuring out which message queue to use for your use case? A/B test it. Algorithm? A/B test it. Sometimes what you expect and what the result is changes as you grow and the best way to do this is to test it.
  • Efficiency. An organism is not meant to be the most efficient. There will be waste but whereas a organism might store unneeded energy as fat IT does not. It constantly returns it as heat. So we need to move systems to result in less heat and be more efficient.
  • All parts of the organism have to work together. A system is not the sum of its parts. A system has to work together to function effectively. If you think of yourself as an example. If you broke a leg the other parts of you might not function as the system loses equilibrium.
  • Breathe. When you exist you take on more air into your lungs. Breathing and the heartbeart is the underlying drummer that keeps everything in tune.