Creating too Big to Fail Apps

April 1, 2009

I can’t help it. I read Steve’s post too big to fail on brip blap and I immediately apply its principle to life as a developer. The focus is about breaking down “too big to fail” life events into smaller more manageable components that are less likely to wreak havoc.

Too Big to Fail

How is this relevant to anything in the world of software development?

1. System Design

When designing systems, separate components by logic functionality. Systems that are responsible for continuous database queries, should not be tied to a web site that serves content, such as in Simulate a Windows Service using ASP.NET. While this idea may be good in theory and for any shared hosting environment when you can’t install or run services on the server, the potential that a deadlock or frozen thread occurs will increase. If that occurs, you can kiss all of your active user sessions goodbye.

2. Application Design

Separate application logic out so that when one component gets changed, it doesn’t force a complete rewrite. Websites and web services should not tie directly to the data layer. Design N-layer systems (read the differences between N-Tier and N-Layer applications) so that there are no direct dependencies on lower-level technologies being used.

Maintainability in separate components increases as the number of layers does. Take this in moderation though, too much loose-coupling in your layers, leads to overkill and needless complexity.

3. Class Design

When designing classes, follow the Single Responsibility Principle (SRP) of the S.O.L.I.D Class Design Principles. If your class has more than one reason to change, then it may be “too big to fail”. The below example helps:

public class Worker


    public string GetTaxRate() { }

    public void Save() { }

    public string GetId() { }


The above breaks the SRP because any minor change required to one of the three purposes of this class causes the whole class to change:

  1. The process to calculate the tax rate of the employee
  2. Database Schema that matches to the Worker
  3. Employee Id that is used. SSN today, numeric number tomorrow

Any single change impacts the class which is responsible for three very different purposes. While this is not “too big to fail”, the class is “too big for its own good”.