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author: Wes Mason
title: "Island Life: How we built and deployed the Honshū way"
Honshū, or Honshuu, is the largest island of Japan. It is also the
codename for the complete rewrite of of a large distributed SaaS
product that has been over a year in the making, embracing a service
orientated architecture similar to those popularised by Amazon and
Netflix. At the heart of Honshuu is the idea that every service is an
island. Any island can talk to another, using strict traditions and
customs (REST API), and almost any island can communicate freely with
the wider world via intermediaries and guardians of custom (API
wrappers, thin layers, and load balancers). Each island *is* the main
land, looking after it's own concerns, only caring that other islands
*can* communicate with it, but not what goes on outside.
This is a *cultural shift* away from other ways of working more than
technological. Knowing when to spin out a new "island" and making sure
it can be communicated with in the same fashion as it's neighbours,
from common build strategies regardless of base technology, to
involving ops as a guiding principle from the very first steps as to
how an island should be built.
In day to day practice this means several stand ups (or Google
Hangouts) between developers and teams, and maintaining dependency
maps between services (islands) and their REST API specifications
(like trade agreements between islands), but despite overheads the
payoffs in scaling and maintainability can be huge.
Wes Mason
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