ACM Queue - A Conversation with Phil Smoot - An engineer at Hotmail discusses the challenges of keeping one of the Web’s largest and oldest Internet services running 24/7.
In the landscape of today’s megaservices, Hotmail just might be Mount Everest. One of the oldest free Web e-mail services, Hotmail relies on more than 10,000 servers spread around the globe to process billions of e-mail transactions per day. What’s interesting is that despite this enormous amount of traffic, Hotmail relies on less than 100 system administrators to manage it all.
While I'm pretty sure that Google is many times larger than Hotmail, it's still incredibly impressive to run 10K servers. Reading this rather geeky article (the ACM is the Association for Computing Machinery, which I actually founded the NM Tech chapter of a few years ago) makes me appreciate how cool it would be to work in an environment like this. Google would be my absolute dream job in terms of working with huge server farms and the stuff you can learn in that environment. I've been doing mostly QA for about 2 years now after running an ISP for 5 years and I keep coming back to network administration as the thing that really excites me. I keep thinking of how I can build up my upcoming website if it becomes super popular and it hasn't even launched yet. That's why I'd love to work with Google. The world's largest distributed server farm, multiple applications running across it, by all accounts a group of the smartest people in the business; boy would that be fun and interesting. If anybody happens to be reading this from Google, I'd drop everything and come work with you guys in a heartbeat. I don't know if I'm smart enough yet but I'd jump in and learn what I needed to quick.

I've been trying to get my current job to think in terms of building out like Google does, using cheap servers and farming out pieces of computation to many servers rather than running a few big boxes. We're not at the point yet here that we absolutely need that kind of scale but it'll come I think, and that will be fun. One of our vendor's system falls down all the time and I keep telling our guys "We don't want to be the one being made fun of like we make fun of them." I've found I like QA and being involved in coding but this network/sysadmin stuff is really what gets my brain juices flowing.

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