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Shane D.

Behind the Scenes: Building a More Reliable Evernote

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Hi All,

An app is only as good as the infrastructure it’s built upon. And we’re doing our best to make sure Evernote’s foundation remains solid.

In this installment of Evernote Behind the Scenes, CEO Ian Small chats with Ankur, a senior engineer at Evernote, about the work he and his team are doing to manage the vast network of servers underpinning Evernote.

By improving how data is stored and retrieved, they’re ensuring a more stable and reliable service for everyone!

 

 

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Cool.  Would explain some of the speed improvements, I have seen anyway, on IOS in the last few months.

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I'm enjoying this web series but I would have enjoyed this one more with significantly more technical details.

I also would have appreciated some forward looking information. For example, what challenges are the infrastructure team looking to tackle next? Are there additional user facing features which will be made possible in the future due to this change (or other planned infrastructure changes)? Such as syncing improvements? Etc.

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Nice presentation. And good to give some of the applause to the guys who oil the wheels behind the scene.

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Thanks for sharing.  Please keep doing so.

I'm glad to see you guys fixed this design flaw.  But I have so say that it was very predictable, and the solution is decades old design technology.  Use of replicated databases to reduce loading has been used for decades.

@Ian Small, one thing I have noticed over the last 10 years that I have been using Evernote, but particularly the last 5 years or so, is that it appears that the Evernote engineers and designers seem to be very young.  I've always wondered if there were any senior, seasoned, highly experienced senior engineers that were at least guiding the design process.  It seems to me that all too often the infrastructure and UI design seems to lack an understanding of, and appreciation for, time-tested techniques and technology.  No matter how smart, or how dedicated, a person is, there is nothing that truly replaces experience.

To be clear, I'm not saying that you should not have new blood, young engineers, who can push on existing technology and methodology.  I'm just saying there needs to be a balance, and that the voice of experienced engineers needs to be given due consideration.  I can clearly remember when I was a young engineer, I sometimes had what I thought was a great idea, only to find out later from the "old" experienced hands that the idea had been tried/considered previously, but didn't work for reasons I had not considered.  OTOH, I did have a few really good ideas that were fully embraced by the senior engineers, and were implemented with success.

But I wish you and your team great success.  We are all depending on it.  😁

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@JMichaelTX As of this moment, Evernote has its fair share of experienced engineers along with more junior engineers. For the multiple re-architecture initiatives that are currently in process, we have experienced engineers actively leading and contributing to these projects. We also have a team of the more senior/experienced engineers in the company that meet to review and discuss any new architecture projects. This has really helped to work through potential problems with designs or technologies earlier in the process.

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2 hours ago, Paul A. said:

I'm enjoying this web series but I would have enjoyed this one more with significantly more technical details.

I also would have appreciated some forward looking information. For example, what challenges are the infrastructure team looking to tackle next? Are there additional user facing features which will be made possible in the future due to this change (or other planned infrastructure changes)? Such as syncing improvements? Etc.

I think Ian's trying to strike a balance between providing details of our work and not going above the heads of our non-technical users. I was personally impressed with their ability in this specific video to explain in layman's terms the issues we're trying to address.

Overall, we're taking a system that has scaling issues and making it more robust. We're moving from a monolithic/sharded architecture to a microservice design to allow for scaling individual pieces of the system and getting rid of all single points of failure.

For syncing, there's definitely work being done there to make it much more reliable and real-time.

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13 minutes ago, Scott T. said:

JMichaelTX As of this moment, Evernote has its fair share of experienced engineers along with more junior engineers.

@Scott T., many thanks for a very thoughtful reply.  This is really good to hear.  It now sounds like you guys are on top of your game.

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50 minutes ago, Scott T. said:

I think Ian's trying to strike a balance between providing details of our work and not going above the heads of our non-technical users. I was personally impressed with their ability in this specific video to explain in layman's terms the issues we're trying to address.

Overall, we're taking a system that has scaling issues and making it more robust. We're moving from a monolithic/sharded architecture to a microservice design to allow for scaling individual pieces of the system and getting rid of all single points of failure.

For syncing, there's definitely work being done there to make it much more reliable and real-time.

Thanks for the additional details. I wonder if Evernote would consider doing more technical deep dives down the road for those users who are interested? There used to be a technical Evernote blog but it seems to have been phased out about 18 months ago. Good to see you participating in these comments and hope to see additional Evernote staff including senior leadership participate.

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1 hour ago, RavBoy said:

I put it down to my new updated laptop with latest 6-core chip, huge ram, and SSD.  But see now it was EN.

I would bet more on the new PC unless you are using On Demand Sync.  More time than not on the PC is not accessing the servers.  This should help a lot with mobile devices though, more paths to read something.  My view anyway, and I could be way wrong.

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26 minutes ago, Paul A. said:

Thanks for the additional details. I wonder if Evernote would consider doing more technical deep dives down the road for those users who are interested? There used to be a technical Evernote blog but it seems to have been phased out about 18 months ago. Good to see you participating in these comments and hope to see additional Evernote staff including senior leadership participate.

I'll ask around if anybody is interesting in reviving the blog and contributing.

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3 hours ago, Scott T. said:

I'll ask around if anybody is interesting in reviving the blog and contributing.

The old tech blog did make for entertaining reading. Not exactly in my wheelhouse, technically (similar to this one above),  as I am more interested in the UI that Evernote users face every day because it's closer to what I do, but I do like learning about the underlying underpinnings of what we see on our own devices. Today's video did seem a little prosaic / straightforward: the engineer finds the bottleneck, and remedies it; maybe more information about how the user store propagates its changes to its replicants. I guess since it's a lower frequency operation, it's probably OK to just send updates along immediately, but it did seem like a missing piece, and since it was pitched to a pretty non-technical audience, that part of the audience might might not have noticed.

In any case, I know you folks are up there listening. This time around, not much to talk about, but the prior video  on UI approach / changes is something that is great for getting feedback on, since we're more apt to have stronger opinions on what we interact with directly. I'm hoping for more videos along those lines.

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9 hours ago, Scott T. said:

I'll ask around if anybody is interesting in reviving the blog and contributing.

Yes please !

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This is just PR BS. Guys, you are so unprofessional amateurs. You talking in this video about reliability and in the same time without any testing you are releasing buggy as hell Android app that crashes every time.    

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29 minutes ago, Siberian said:

This is just PR BS. Guys, you are so unprofessional amateurs. ...whine, whine, whine

Of course the videos are PR.

No intelligent person would refer to the Evernote staff as "unprofessional amateurs"

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2 hours ago, Siberian said:

This is just PR BS. Guys, you are so unprofessional amateurs. You talking in this video about reliability and in the same time without any testing you are releasing buggy as hell Android app that crashes every time.    

No experience with Android.

The recent iOS issues got sorted out fine. Maybe the same guys are just now working on the Android client (hope so, a lot of forum traffic at the moment is angry stuff about the Android client).

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On 6/12/2019 at 3:00 AM, PinkElephant said:

Yes please !

+1 on this topic 

==>Overall, we're taking a system that has scaling issues and making it more robust. We're moving from a monolithic/sharded architecture to a microservice design 

That would have been a good line to add to the video to know that you are following this industry trend and give users visibility to this topic being a small step in a multi-year journey.

 

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On 6/12/2019 at 12:42 AM, Scott T. said:

I'll ask around if anybody is interesting in reviving the blog and contributing.

Please take a look at Fastmail and Todoist blogs for some inspiration :)

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Good news on the tech blog. There was a lot of interest and we have some people working on posts. I don't have a specific timeframe, but we should be able to revive it and post new content soon. I'll make sure we post to the discussion forum when we publish the new articles.

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On 6/13/2019 at 7:57 AM, PinkElephant said:

No experience with Android.

The recent iOS issues got sorted out fine. Maybe the same guys are just now working on the Android client (hope so, a lot of forum traffic at the moment is angry stuff about the Android client).

I use the Android app, there are no issues with the app at all in my experience it works well.  Never observed any glitches or sync issues on it, it works as you would expect it too.  Just someone trolling it seems.  

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If you read the forum, there is currently a high number of complains about the android app, mostly „freezing“ and „slow“. From the sources this comes from I seriously doubt „trolling“. Since the Android universe is much more diverse than Apple/iOS, it is probable there will be users that are affected, and others that are not, depending on device, OS-version and other apps installed (coming from multiple sources, not only the PlayStore).

Even when iOS and Android are different, there is one common denominator: Both work off the server, not like the desktops from a local database. So both rely heavily on permanent syncing. At least every time you open a note, this will be called fresh from the server (excluding the special case of offline notebook + being in flight mode).

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2 hours ago, wbutchart said:

I use the Android app, there are no issues with the app at all in my experience it works well.  Never observed any glitches or sync issues on it, it works as you would expect it too.  Just someone trolling it seems.  

This is not just trolling, per se. While the Android application isn't "crashing all the time", or at all, currently, a lot of folks -- myself included -- are experiencing a very noticeable slowdown accessing our notes, including notes that are in offline notebooks. This is a real problem that started with the last public release and continues with the most recent beta.

For reference: 

 

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