Imagine you are developing a web application based on a typical modern technology stack. In essence, the goal is to create something that receives requests from the network, processes them, and responds to them with some kind of structured data. It can be a fancy HTML webpage to be displayed in client’s web browser or it can be a raw text object to be consumed by another application web API. Have you ever wondered what exactly is going on behind the scenes? What is happening between the moment when the code you wrote is executed and the moment when electrical impulses jumps the network cable sticking out of that metal box in the data center? Let me take you on the journey along numerous layers of abstraction in modern software stack that must be bypassed to make things happen.
There and Back Again: Abstractions
Programming is all about abstractions. We endlessly put one layer above the other in order to deal with tremendous complexity of software and hardware. Often, we ignore most of the layers to focus on solving the actual problem at hand. In principle, sending a JSON object over the network might seem like an easy task with modern tools and frameworks. You generate the project, tweak just a little bit here and there, write one method with few annotations and there you go, it works. But the engineering problem of making this possible in an easy, fast, secure, reliable, scalable and manageable way is gargantuan. Looking at the big picture, it’s probably an effort of hundreds of thousands of software developers, architects, electronic and electrical engineers, computer scientist and mathematicians, spanned over several decades of work. All that, to let you do the job in a single pomodoro.
Of course, to develop decent software, you don’t necessary have to understand exactly how all this works, it’s probably not even possible for a single human being to grasp all that in every detail. I believe however Read the rest of this entry »