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Release It!, 2nd Edition by Michael T. Nygard

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Chain of Failure

Underneath every system outage is a chain of events like this. One small issue leads to another, which leads to another. Looking at the entire chain of failure after the fact, the failure seems inevitable. If you tried to estimate the probability of that exact chain of events occurring, it would look incredibly improbable. But it looks improbable only if you consider the probability of each event independently. A coin has no memory; each toss has the same probability, independent of previous tosses. The combination of events that caused the failure is not independent. A failure in one point or layer actually increases the probability of other failures. If the database gets slow, then the application servers are more likely to ...

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