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VMblog's Expert Interviews: Lightbend CTO Talks Microservices and Explains New Lagom Framework


Jonas Bonér is a Java programming pioneer, perhaps best known as the author of Akka, a toolkit and runtime for distributed, resilient applications on the JVM.  He's also the CTO and co-founder of Lightbend (formerly Typesafe) that he started with Scala creator Martin Odersky in 2011.  He knows a lot about building scale-out applications.  Lightbend just announced a new framework called Lagom that is designed for Java developers building microservices. 

Bonér is Swedish and Lagom means ‘just right' in Swedish.  I asked him to tell me more about the thinking behind Lagom.

VMblog:  What problem are you trying to solve with Lagom?

Jonas Bonér:  People want to move their application architecture from monoliths to microservices for all kinds of good reasons. But it's hard. Lagom makes it much easier. Microservices-based architecture itself is a simple concept; it advocates creating a system from a collection of small, isolated services, each of which owns their data; independently, isolated, scalable and resilient to failure. Services integrate with other services in order to form a cohesive system that's far more flexible than the typical enterprise systems we build today.

Traditional enterprise systems are designed as monoliths; all-in-one, all-or-nothing, difficult to scale, difficult to understand and difficult to maintain. Monoliths can quickly turn into nightmares that stifle innovation, stifle progress, and stifle joy. The negative side effects monoliths cause can be catastrophic for a company. Remember the Twitter Fail Whale? That was a monolithic Ruby on Rails app. Moving to a microservices architecture, and Scala, rescued them.

VMblog:  In your opinion, why aren't more organizations moving more quickly to microservices then?

Bonér:  Certain technical constraints held us back from taking the concepts embedded within the microservices term to the next level: single machines running single core processors, slow networks, expensive disks, expensive RAM, and organizations structured as monoliths. Fast forward to 2016. The technical limitations holding us back from microservices are gone. Networks are fast, disks are cheap (and a lot faster), RAM is cheap, multi-core processors are cheap, and cloud architectures are revolutionizing how we design and deploy systems.

Designing and programming software is fun and is why most of us entered the software industry to begin with. Microservices are more than a series of principles and technologies. They're a way to approach the complex problem of systems design in a more empathetic way.

Microservices enable us to structure our systems the same way we structure our teams, dividing responsibilities and among people and ensuring the people doing the actual work are free to own their work. As we detangle our systems, we shift the power from central governing bodies to smaller teams who can seize opportunities rapidly and stay nimble because they understand the software within well defined boundaries that they control.

VMblog:  It sounds like a more, almost humane, approach to software architecture.

Bonér:  As always, new challenges demand a new way of thinking and we have seen new systems emerge that are designed to deal with these new challenges, systems that are built on the Reactive principles, as defined by the Reactive Manifesto.

The Reactive principles are not in any way new. They have been proven and hardened for more than 40 years, going back to the seminal work by Carl Hewitt and his invention of the Actor Model, Jim Gray and Pat Helland at Tandem Systems, and Joe Armstrong and Robert Virding and their work on Erlang. These people were ahead of their time, but now the world has caught up with their innovative thinking and we depend on their discoveries and work more than ever.  

What makes microservices interesting is that this architecture has learned from the failures and successes of SOA, kept the good ideas and re-architected them from ground up using Reactive principles and modern infrastructure. Microservices are one of the most interesting applications of the Reactive principles in recent years.


Once again, thanks to Jonas Bonér, CTO and co-founder of Lightbend, Inc., for talking with

Published Tuesday, February 23, 2016 9:06 AM by David Marshall
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