So, why Joyent? I have known Joyeurs like Jason, Dave, Mark and Ben since back when the “cloud” was still just something that you drew up on a whiteboard as a placeholder for the in-between crap that someone else was going to build and operate. But what Joyent was doing was very much what we now call cloud computing — it was just that in describing Joyent in those pre-cloud days, I found it difficult to convey exactly why what they were doing was exciting (even though to me it clearly was). I found that my conversations with others about Joyent always ended up in the ditch of “virtual hosting”, a label that grossly diminished the level of innovation that I saw in Joyent. Fortunately for my ability to explain the company, “cloud” became infused with much deeper meaning — one that matched Joyent’s vision for itself.
So Joyent was cloud before there was cloud, but so what? When I started to consider what was next for me, one of the problems that I kept coming back to was DTrace for the cloud. What does dynamic instrumentation look like in the cloud? How do you make data aggregation and retention scale across many nodes? How do you support the ad hoc capabilities that make DTrace so powerful? And how do you visualize the data that in a way that allows for those ad hoc queries to be visually phrased? To me, these are very interesting questions — but looking around the industry, it didn’t seem that too many of the cloud providers were really interested in tackling these problems. However, in a conversation at my younger son‘s third birthday party with Joyeur (and friend) Rod Boothby, it became clear that Joyent very much shared my enthusiasm for this problem — and more importantly, that they had made the right architectural decisions to allow for solving it.
My conversation with Rod kicked off more conversations, and I quickly learned that this was not the Joyent that I had known — that the company was going through a very important inflection point whereby they sought a leadership position in innovating in the cloud. To match this lofty rhetoric, the company has a very important proof point: the hiring of Ryan Dahl, inventor and author of node.js.
But Ryan says all that much more concisely at 21:40 in the talk: “there’s this great thing in Unix called ‘processes.’” Amen! So node.js to me represents a confluence of many important ideas — and it’s clean, well-implemented, and just plain fun to work with.
While I am excited about node.js, it’s more than just a great idea that’s well executed — it also represents Joyent’s vision for itself as an innovator up and down the stack. One can view node.js as being to Joyent was Java was to Sun: transforming the company from one confined to a certain layer into a true systems company that innovates up and down the stack. Heady enough, but if anything this analogy understates the case: Joyent’s development of node.js is not merely an outgrowth of an innovative culture, but also a reflection of a singular focus to deliver on the economies of scale that are the great promise of cloud computing.
Add it all up — the history in the cloud space, the disposition to solving tough cloud problems that I want to solve like instrumentation and observability, and the exciting development of node.js — and you have a company in Joyent that I believe could be the next great systems company and I’m deeply honored (and incredibly excited) to be a part of it!