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Release It!

Michael T Nygard
Published by The Pragmatic Programmers
326 pages
£ 24.99
Published: April 2007
reviewed by Alain Williams
   in the December 2007 issue (pdf), (html)

This book's subtitle is ``Design and Deploy Production-Ready Software''. The idea behind the book is that there is a big difference between having some code that works and computing system that will do the jobs that the customer wants.

Michael sees this as four cornerstones: maintaining system uptime, capacity, the environment that the software must work in and what happens after deployment. Each section starts with a case study -- a war story -- that sets the scene. This is analysed and what went wrong, and how it was discovered, detailed. Although specific problems are looked at the book draws out general lessons to be learned.

This is a book for those in producing big systems -- enterprise class. Systems that cost someone a lot of money if they stop for a day.

Stability is the first cornerstone, the story of how a failure in a database close brought an airline to standstill for 3 hours. Moral: you cannot eliminate all bugs, so the must be survived instead. This is explored in many ways.

Next is capacity: can the systems cope with the peak loads, how well does your system scale, even in the worst of circumstances. What does it cost to scale, where is the money best spent ?

Followed by how software is affected by other systems that it must work with, these have their own characteristics and developers must realise that although they didn't produce them their problems and quirks must be considered part of their problem. Security and administration are also looked at.

Finally topics on monitoring systems, and recognising that requirements change over time.

This is not a book to be read all at once, or last thing before you go to bed; if you do then you will learn the to avoid the illustrating problems; you need to use this book to learn a philosophy -- think out of the nice comfortable boxes that we get stuck into ``when we really understand a problem''; because a the same problem in a different setting has different subtleties.

An interesting read.

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