One thing that drives Jeff Dean's Google innovations, Necessity

Google's Jeff Dean spoke at GigaOm Structure.  Many of you probably don't know who Jeff Dean is, so let's start with who Jeff is referring to a slate article.

The programs that Dean was instrumental in building—MapReduce, BigTable, Spanner—are not the ones most Google users associate with the company. But they’re the kind that made Google—and, consequently, much of the modern Web as we know it—possible. And the projects he’s working on now have the potential to revolutionize information technology once again.

Jeff Dean is among the most valued contributors.

But a great software developer can do in a week what might take months for a team of 10 lesser developers—the difference is exponential rather than marginal.

Dean is amongst those who think about performance.

And as a Ph.D. student in computer science, he worked on compilers, programs that translate source code into a language that a computer can readily execute. “I’ve always liked code that runs fast,” he explains matter-of-factly.

The GigaOm post on Jeff Dean is here.  I got a chance to chat with Dean a bit and one of the points he shared in our conversation and repeated on stage is the necessity of systems he built.

I think one of the things that have caused us to build infrastructure as we were often doing things out of necessity, so we would be running into problems where we needed some infrastructure that would solve that problem in a way that could make it so that it can scale to deal with larger amounts of data or larger amounts of requests volumes and all of these kinds of things. There’s nothing like necessity of needing to do something to cause you to come up with abstractions that help you break through the forms. So map reduce was born out of needing to scale our indexing system.

"Necessity is the mother of invention" is a well known term.  How many times are there features that people really don't think are important.  Optional, take it or leave.  They are not a necessity.  To develop a feature of necessity, something everyone will eventually use is a challenge and comes with looking at the big picture and spending a lot of time thinking before coding.  The Slate article closes with...

If Dean has a superhuman power, then, it’s not the ability to do things perfectly in an instant. It’s the power to prioritize and optimize and deal in orders of magnitude. Put another way, it’s the power to recognize an opportunity to do something pretty well in far less time than it would take to do it perfectly. In Silicon Valley, that’s much cooler than shooting cowboys with an Uzi.

You can watch Jeff Dean in this video.  For those of you who don't have the time or patience to watch the whole video, the one thing I got out talking to Jeff and watching his talk is his focus on the necessity of things that Google needs to do in its infrastructure.  And, as others I know who have talked to Jeff, he is a nice guy who just happens to be Google employee #20.