I wonder if Joel regrets not going 100% open source. I guess the cost of Microsoft licensing for all that is still very cheap if viewed as the price of being featured in Bing searches.
* I am not a Microsoft Loyalist
* I don't make the technical decisions. Why would I? I'm the person who knows the least
* It is not necessary to use Microsoft licensing to be featured in Bing searches... that is possibly the most preposterous thing I have ever heard in my life
* Microsoft licensing is a rounding error, with the possible exception of SQL Server licenses
* Your bizarre personification of Stack Overflow as "Joel" is charming and quaint and completely obnoxious to the 20-odd people at Stack Overflow that actually do the work instead of sitting around browsing hacker news like I do
2) While it may be the case that it is not necessary to use MS technology to be featured in Bing searches, I think you (Joel) are among the more influential developers in the world and that your firm leverages Microsoft's latest technology was likely a factor in the decision to "feature" the results instead of simply displaying them first when they're relevant. Maybe I'm cynical but that seems like a smart marketing move on Microsoft's part.
3) My mention of license pricing was intended to include all licensing costs, including SQL server. I'd guess the cost of your setup as described would be about $150K in licenses... Perhaps rounding error but still a nice developer salary.
4) No disrespect or insult was meant by my comment. I started out using 100% Microsoft tools and technologies, and I've been intrigued to see open source projects start to offer compelling value and features. Mostly my comment was intended to express surprise that it's not simply a matter of "rounding error" costs to do a 100% Microsoft solution for a major site... and that things like Redis and Ubuntu are part of the reason that StackOverflow is as performant as it is.
I think I'll redefine my definition of success to include this. :)
I suspect the staff at Stack Overflow never blinked at using FOSS software. I suspect they said, "we need capability X, lets find the best tool to handle it".
I don't blame anyone for forming a stereo type on .NET devs, considering pre-ASP.NET MVC (years late to the game), there was no competing web framework to the anti-web state-heavy ASP.NET, simply because IMHO there was none sanctioned for use by MS. Sadly there is an inherent Microsoft culture that will only believe and advocate anything as long as they've read it on microsoft.com.
Despite their failed DAL's and poor application frameworks, Truth is IMHO Microsoft have created a superior development platform with C#/.NET and with VS.NET/R# by the C# devs side, it's one of the most productive ones to use.
Fortunately there are free-thinking pro developers, not constrained to think inside MS toolbox, who just want to use the best software they can use, regardless of the culture. Interestingly it seems a lot of the time C#/FOSS devs will independently come to the same conclusions on best-of-class FOSS software to use: e.g. nginx / redis / linux / naigos -- i.e. the best tool for the job.
StackOverflow is clearly one such 'pro-dev company' not shackled to the MS Platform nor will purposely/religiously maintain an anti-MS stance since they'll continue to use MS tools and products where they think to be highest quality (i.e. C# / IIS7 / SQL Server).
It's quite clear StackOverflow has a job to do, and they'll end up choosing the best tools they think to do it. I believe this pro-dev, high-quality culture is why they've become so popular, providing some of the most enjoyable website experiences on the Internet - all without skipping a beat, or with a hint of growing pains.
There's value in thinking inside the box - MySQL / PostgreSQL may not be the best in any category, but with inside knowledge of the internals, you may fine tune it to surpass any competitor in performance / scalability.
I can't find the project right now, but there was this one guy that made a plugin for MySQL which allowed him to get passed the query parser/optimizer and talked directly with InnoDB ... with the result being much better performance than Memcached; using InnoDB as storage. And because the Memcached protocol is public, heck, you could even have memcache-clients talking directly to your DB.
Not having loyalty to technologies or companies is pragmatic and kick-ass and makes you better in some ways - but it also gives you a wishy-washy attitude, and this outside-of-the-box thinking is actually inside-the-box from at least one perspective, as you'll end up jack of all trades, master of none.
And if you are going to master a piece of technology, which would you rather choose?
A proprietary piece of technology that's best in class for what it does, for which you don't have access to source code, and which might be discontinued after Microsoft invents this new / shiny and backwards incompatible alternative? Or an open-source alternative that's slightly worse in benchmarks or tools available or features - but that you can make it your bitch in any way imaginable?
Pick your poison.
Every community has strengths and weaknesses. IMO the big weakness of the .net community is also the worst thing about MS itself from a tech point of view - a real unwillingness to look at what everyone else in the world is doing. Because of that, you see this strange effect where enterprise trends seem to happen about 5 years later in .net then they do in other communities. For example, it is only extremely recently (like in the last two years) that it started to become normal for .net shops to use ORMs, and the hot debates over whether or not to unit test are just starting to die down. And it is really in the last year that the most bleeding edge shops have started to look at DCVS (the cutting edge ones are on svn, and the majority on a cvs type system).
And for the record, I don't think .net is a bad platform or anything like that. What I do think is that the single thing that could improve most .net shops is being more open to non ms technology.
I think this is a different issue. And this I think is true, but actually by design. It's funny because when I consulted I ran into the opposite problem. I'd go into shops and the devs wanted to do some cutting edge stuff. I usually came in and convinced them that this was a bad idea. :-)
The reason for this was pretty simple -- usually the stuff they wanted to use wasn't ready, and didn't match the culture of enterprise shops. For example I remember NHibernate picking up steam and lots of shops wanting to use it, but there were a lot of holes in it still.
And DVCS is another great example. In enterprises there is very little advantage of Git over SVN. SVN's offline support has been great for years now. I can add/revert without touching the network. And in the enterprise you don't have a model of "anyone pull down a branch". You want a very controlled version of the code around. Yet, again, a lot of .NET devs want to use Mercurial and my recommendation, in most cases, is that its not a good idea.
BUT source control is a great example where .NET devs have clearly not towed the line, given that I rarely see a shop using TFS. Everyone uses SVN or Mercurial. Just as no one used Source Safe in the past. If .NET devs just followed MS blindly we'd see all of these .NET devs using TFS and waiting for MS to make it better. Hasn't happened.
I sort of disagree on the DVCS point, just because the technology is so much better all around. If I start working on something, I make a branch for it. When I am done, I pull master, and rebase my topic branch back on top of the other work people have done. This allows for a few things.
1) If I get interrupted and need to work on something else, not only am I able to, but switching back to master, pulling, and branching again takes under 20 seconds and is 3 commands.
2) If someone else is working on the same part of the code base, I can pull their half done work from them directly if I need to, while keeping the mainline clean and in working order. Where I work we do pair programming, so this is really huge, any time we want to switch roles it is just a local commit and pull away.
3) no single point of failure. I don't know if this has happened to you before, but if your svn server gets corrupted, basically work completely stops until it is fixed. Reconstructing a recent version of your code base based on whats on dev machines is pretty much asking who was the last one to pull, because again, dev work doesn't mess with master since branching is so easy, so everyone should have a clean version of the mainline on their machines.
I think the advantages of DVCS are _way_ more obvious for open source projects, but you can see a lot of benefits using it pretty much anywhere.
First, in response to Joel's comment, obviously Stack Overflow is personified as "Joel", the same way Apple is "Steve" and Windows is "Bill". What I find charming is your personification of it as collection of individuals who are are equally invested... it must be ponies and rainbows over there.
What's pertinent about the comment and probably at the heart of his "fascination" (mine too) is how this product is held up as a poster child for ASP.NET MVC, without giving the "whole story". The is very common of the Microsoft evangelists. Let's be clear, I am not accusing Joel of being a "loyalist" I think he is probably only pinned as one because of these evangelists running around trumpeting the use of ASP.NET MVC for this successful site. The true MS loyalists will never read this article or decide that Stack Overflow just "doesn't know about" the correct MS technology stack that could eliminate his need for any Open source.
So that's what's "fascinating". That an ASP.NET MVC application did not stay inside the reservation.
As for the right tool for the job nonsense, let's cut the bullshit. We all make religious decisions when we "start" a software project. You build out an idea your excited about in a language/platform your excited about. What's interesting here is that the real world of success has demanded an open source stack... and it could very well be cost and not capability. You are in FANTASY LAND if you think you would be paying a "couple grand" in licensing to scale out to what Stack Overflow must need to run its service. Add about 3 more zeros to that guess-timate.
End of the day, I don't think anyone regrets not going 100% open source you build it in what your excited about. The story I would be most interested in is what performance/cost analysis was done that steered them in the technology directions they took. I think we could all learn from that.
* 10x Windows Server Standard R2 for the Web Tier (~1k per)
* 4x Enterprise OS (4k) for the DBs (were are going to give SO its own DB soon)
* 8 Sockets of SQL Server Enterprise R2 (27k) .
So 10x1000 +4x4000 + 8x27000 ~= 242k sticker price. Again people don't tend to pay sticker price for this stuff -- but this guesstimate is not $2 Million by any means.
I think you speak for yourself here. The fact that you can't even imagine that people don't make religious decisions at the start of a project is telling.
Do you use a binary blob NVidia driver on your Linux computer? Would that be a case of not staying in the reservation?
You're a Rails developer, aren't you? twitter was hailed for a while as validation for Rails and Ruby in general. That is, until they realized it wasn't scaling and had to use something else. Failure for RoR? I guess they weren't religious enough (as you say) to stick with what they had and gosh darn it, make it work at all costs. After all, you can run your blog on RoR, just like you can on MVC. If you imply that using Redis on Linux to scale invalidates MVC as a viable platform, how is using TokyoCabinet (or whatever) to scale RoR any different? Unless of course your argument is purely ideological.
We make decisions on what technology to use based on what we know. On our areas of expertise and knowledge. If we pay X for something, it's because we believe that X is a good price for what we're getting back. If we decide to use Y because it's free, it's because it works the same as Z, which is expensive or limited.
If there are "true" MS loyalists out there who make decisions based on their adoration of the company, then that's their problem. More power to them and all that.
And by the way, if you feel that this represents a form of "capitulation" for the MS stack, then you need to go talk to MS about it, not StackOverflow. Because they made their technical decisions based on practicality, not religion (as you say). And besides, if it's supposed to be so embarrassing, why mention it at all? No one is forcing them to disclose what platform they happen to be running their key value store on.
Couple grand = $2000
Add 3 more zeros:
Stackoverflow is paying $2 million in software licensing fees! Wow, using the Microsoft stack is expensive!!
That the opposite isn't generally true (a mostly FOSS project using Microsoft bits) is a testament to what's available on the FOSS side, of course.
Your use of the word "loyalist" implies some kind of blind joined-at-the-hip fanboysm is at play on Spolsky's brain. I think that's probably very far from the truth. Those of us who use and take advantage of Microsoft technologies are also quite capable of recognizing that some things are better done on other platforms. I.e., best tool for the job.