Is this too complex?

July 25, 2021

I made a comment in Reddit and I want to blog it here as well. Because my sentiment toward someone claim that we have unnecessary complexity usually goes like this.

Disclaimer: All I want to say here is more often than not, people deemed system to be “too complex” based on their familiarity and skillset. And I think that is very unfair.

Re: Back to the ’70s with Serverless

Original reply

I don’t really understand how managing VPS can be simpler than Serverless. What is the definition of complex?

I can deploy my apps into Serverless within few minutes. And with VPS, I need to ensure I have the right version of Linux, dependencies installed with correct versions and proper resources (CPU, Ram, Disk) + uptime monitoring.

I can manage VPS dependencies and stuff with some tools like Ansible, but how it that provide a better feedback loop? It’s so slow compared to Serverless.

If you are already familiar with all Linux commands, concepts, and toolsets, everything I mentioned will be easy and “feel simple” to you. But that is easy, not simple. And it applied only to you.

Even if we don’t go with Rich Hickey’s definition of simple, you still need to take a layman’s perspective if you want to claim a system is easy. I would like to see how fast junior developers can get VPS up and running with the same quality as Serverless.

Sometimes I feel like an old programmer complaint goes like this:

  • Senior: Back in the day, everything was simpler with stack X
  • Junior: That is interesting. Let me learn X.
  • Senior: You need to read this big book, and it takes a year of experience
  • Junior: Wait, but how can X be simpler than new shiny toy A that I can learn and get it run within 10 minutes?
  • Senior: You lack fundamental young Padawan. Once you dig into X long enough, you will understand how good X is.
  • Junior: Wait, are we still talk about how X is simpler than A?
  • Senior: Kid these days… so entitled and soft.

Maybe this is a classic case for the (curse of knowledge)[].

By the way, I am also a fan of Erlang/Elixir ecosystem, but I strongly disagree with “running Erlang cluster is simpler than Kubernetes”. For a start, there are very few resources online. I figured out how to do Elixir code hot-reload using edeliver and I cannot even find out how to do some simple stuff until I dig into some kind of hidden Webboard and mailing group.

Funny enough end, I found it easier for someone like me, without years of OTP experience, to run Elixir apps in Kubernetes cluster and achieve hot-reload from K8S stack. Of course, this is conceptually sucks since I am fully aware that OTP is much more potent and powerful than Kubernetes in many things. But in the end, I have some apps to deploy.

I want to point out that the resource I found when I googled “Hot Code Reload Deployment Elixir” ended up recommend me to not fully rely on it. So while I agree that Erlang and OTP is technically way more powerful and more amazing than new shiny toy such as Kubernetes, I strongly disagree with it being simpler.


Hi. I'm Chris.

A product builder, specialize in software engineering
I am currently working at ThoughtWorks