Monday, March 7, 2016

What the name "lightbend" means to me

I thought that it'd be useful to share my personal perspective on the meaning of our company name change. Here are the contents of an email that I sent out to everyone within Lightbend, and which was warmly received.


Hi fellow lightbenders,

I’m very excited about the Lightbend name, and want to provide my view on what it means to me.

About two years ago, I presented at YOW. YOW is a great conference with the characteristic that speakers get to talk to a cross section of our industry on three occasions: Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. One is therefore not preaching to the converted, but rather talking to what can be quite a hostile crowd!

My first talk was to a few hundred people in Melbourne - apparently the most hostile of the three cities. About ten minutes into the talk I had that sinking feeling that I’d lost everyone. My talk was about Akka streams and the importance of back pressure. Lots of blank looks all around. An interesting aspect of YOW is that you are scored by the audience. You guessed it, my scores were low.

Travelling up to Brisbane I felt that it was important to bring the talk back a bit. Instead of delving right into Akka streams, I felt that I should at least have a preamble around reactive streams and why we did that. The Brisbane talk went much better.

However given the nature of the questions asked after my talk I felt that I could do even better. So, for Sydney, my preamble included a discussion on “why reactive”. This set the scene for the remainder of the talk and my Sydney scores reflected that.

Coming away from YOW I realised how fringe Typesafe were - again this is two years ago. I certainly appreciated that we were not anything near mainstream, but really, we were on another planet compared to where the IT industry was at.

Roll forward to today and you can see that we’ve come a long way. We have done so without deviating on our mission from an technical perspective. I would tell people that if you want to understand anything about our technical direction then simply read the Reactive Manifesto. You'll then see our DNA blueprint; the very fabric of what we are. Taking that further and quoting Jonas Boner, “without resiliency, nothing else matters”. We have upheld the manifesto and, in particular resiliency, like nothing else matters.

And now we are seeing the industry finally come our way. To highlight a few points, the industry received our new name well, it is excited about Lagom as a microservices framework for Java and the enterprise leading Spring framework is effectively adopting the reactive manifesto.

This is where the lightbend name kicks in for me.

I see lightbend as the gravitational force that is bending the light beam representing the direction of the industry at large. Gravity bends light.

To use my earlier analogy of Typesafe being on another planet, two years ago, we were light years away from where the industry was thinking. We are no longer. We have pulled the industry to the way we think software systems should be put together and managed.

We are now at an interesting juncture. As the company expands as it needs to, it would be easy to compromise our technical mission in order to gain further traction. However it is now more important than ever to stay on mission.

We need to be brave and continue to be bold. The industry doesn’t need more of the same; it needs more companies like us.

Thanks for reading!

Kind regards,