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Google’s Kelsey Hightower provides tips on how to centralize and evolve your IT practices




Commentary: It may not be possible to do it like Google, but there is one important way for others to emulate the success of its engineering.

Image: metamorworks, Getty Images / iStockphoto

The problem with enterprise IT consistency (that is, implementing a single software stack throughout the organization to disrupt order) is that enterprise IT is not static. Because technology is not static. In an interview with Comcast’s Chief Software Architect, Jon Moore, Google’s Kelsey Hightower said, “Most organizations learn over time, so everything we build today, [default stack] We will branch based on new learning. ”

So how do companies need to standardize to reduce costs and increase productivity? You don’t, Hightower said. At least not once. “Standardize as much as possible, but allow things to fall apart, and then restandardize them as we follow the evolutionary path.”

But how do you standardize it? That is the problem.

See: Top 5 Programming Languages ​​for System Administrators to Learn (Free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Some things are indisputable

Of course, not everything needs to be in flux all the time.As Moore pointed out, some areas of IT “have very well-understood features that everyone needs … much the same. [with plenty] In such areas, individual teams do not have to “grow” to borrow the Hightower phrase. Company-wide consistency in such areas means that people can move between teams and continue to use the same tools. , Like the CI / CD system, which I used before.

While some people and teams may still prefer to go their own way, companies can find it difficult to branch systematically. Hightower mentions Google’s own internal IT practices and explains:

[At Google] There are many things in common that took about 20 years to get. Everything to prepare something in production, there are a lot of frameworks that are part of its delivery pipeline. These are less controversial areas. Inside there is one main build system called Blaze. And maybe you’re going to use it. Because the bar is so high because you need to have a build tool inside Google, someone said, “Yes, do your own thing, but it must. These 75,000 Thing, knock yourself out. ”

In places like Google, they have a strong attraction because they have centralized many things that make it easier for developers to be more productive throughout their organization. (High Tower: “I can run all unit tests, know who owns it, and recognize the correct sequence of events to get changes and make sure all integration tests are run. I will. “) No, there is no. You must comply with this standard, but Google does not allow you to compromise security elsewhere in your organization, so you must either clear the “75,000 things” above or accept Borg as is.

This does not mean that the team will continue to do the same forever. As Hightower went on, different teams can use custom workflows to stitch together their internal default tools. There is plenty of room for experimentation and innovation in such workflows. It is important for large organizations to define interfaces between systems to ensure interoperability, rather than defining every bit of software or hardware available.


Having a monorepo like Google Three (an internal Google tool that companies use to host code and documents) doesn’t work for all organizations, but it’s centralized to make life easier for everyone. Having a system is of real value. Getting there isn’t about the CIO declaring that he should use Java. Instead, Hightower said companies need a “true commitment.” The effort probably doesn’t start with 100 engineers. Instead, it starts smaller-perhaps a few engineers building tools that make others productive. Over time, the gravitational pull of such a centralized system grows in parallel with how easy it is to build in a company-specified manner.

Moore added that it makes sense for this central team to issue chargebacks for their work, allowing them to fund growth while taking responsibility for the teams they serve. (“Their funds increase in proportion to the amount they are used”). In this way, the standard grows in the tissue without calcification.

As Hightower pointed out, it is correct and appropriate for standards to evolve in response to changes in technology and industry. But it also makes sense that its liquidity flows from a solid core. This can be counterfeited by companies with low initial investment. Start small and make your developers productive in-house and make sure your concentrated investment grows because of its usefulness, not the executive-level fiat.

Disclosure: I work for AWS, but the views presented here are mine.

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