Data Intensive Maps

an amusing cherry on top of a great book

Posted by Daniel Serrano on November 4, 2020

In Designing Data Intensive Applications, a great book by Martin Kleppmann, each chapter starts out with a fun map. It’s a distinctive and fun way to break the usual boring tone of entering a new monotonically incrementing chapter.

The book reads like a mix of a distributed systems bible and a (quite large) pocket book for the majority of your state-of-the-art solutions for designing applications for massive scalability. It lays out general concepts and then goes in deep on different specific technologies. I see myself returning to it in the future when I face some issue that I hope I’m smart enough to pattern-match with the kinds of problems at hand in the examples in the book.

When I was reading through the pages of this great book about some of the major challenges of (and solutions to) designing highly scalable and reliable systems, I was always interested in zooming in the map ahead in my Kindle. Each map has quirky bits related to the chapter you’re about to dive into. Some that stuck were “Mount Consensus” in Chapter 5, “Harsh winds of reality” in Chapter 8; “Forest of logs” in Chapter 11. The list goes on. 😂

Anyway, I went digging and Martin Kleppmann has actually wrote about how the maps came about. He explains how the Tolkien-esque style design was eventually (consistently 😬) illustrated by Shabbir Diwan, Edie Freedman and Ron Bilodeau. Its final form was inspired by ideas from readers wanting to have auxiliary flowcharts or diagrams explaining the themes in question. From there, he started to think of mind maps, geographic maps, family trees and the “wonderful map of Iceland, with Mount Hekla spewing fire”. The end result is a fun visual collection of distributed systems concepts and technologies.

You can easily find the individual maps online (Martin Kleppmann and O’Reilly were kind enough to have them up for free in high resolution). The JPEG in the cover of this blog post can be accessed (4.52 MB) here. There was even a Kickstarter campaign for printing a poster of it!

If you want to access a very unoptimised version of the same map that’s clickable to zoom on each chapter, you can do so (~15 MB) here.

Good readings! 🤓