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Architecting cloud systems and the human side of DevOps deployment

This blog post is part of our Essential Guide: Guide to practicing cloud-native development

According to Adrian Cockcroft, VP of cloud architecture at AWS, one of the biggest challenges in architecting cloud systems lies in architecting the people side of things. Along with the work he does at Amazon, Cockcroft also played a key role in architecting Netflix’s cloud strategy. After Netflix’s rise to prominence, he would often give talks at CIO roundtables who invariably asked where he got all of the superstar engineers. “Well we hired them all from you,” he would respond.

Over the years, Cockcroft pondered what made Netflix so attractive to top talent. One element was Netflix’s very progressive open source program, which allowed developers to take pride by sharing with the larger community of developers. This also runs the danger of attracting recruiters who could lure away programmers.

Compensation and be financial or prestige

Netflix established a very aggressive compensation schedule to address this danger. Each year programmers are rated and compensation is based on what it would cost to hire someone with similar talents. This might not fly in many enterprises with a focus on percentage increases. “I don’t know of any other company that does this on an annual basis,” said Cockcroft.

Another good practice lies in establishing status for important talent by curating a circle of “distinguished engineers” or “fellows.” Once this circle is large enough, members can nominate others into this groups which becomes a sort of elite club. The way to enter this group is to provide value to other distinguished engineers. Over time these distinguished engineers get to know each other as a group, which builds cohesion and loyalty.

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