Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Now Available: Innovators Under 35 2013 See The 2013 List »

Jesse Robbins, 33

Fault-tolerant online infrastructure


Credit: John Keatley

In 2001, Jesse Robbins applied for two jobs: one as a Seattle bus driver and another as a backup systems engineer at Amazon called first, and in the decade that followed, Robbins transformed the way Web companies design and manage complex networks of servers and software.

A former volunteer firefighter, Robbins brought an emergency responder's mind-set to his work. He taught Amazon that with data centers distributed around the world, a massive shopping site, and intricate fulfillment operations, some unpredictable and spectacular failures were inevitable. Rather than try to defy that inevitability, Robbins says, he made it safe for Amazon to fail, building fault tolerance into its architecture. Then he tested the Web operations teams with live drills, knocking entire data centers offline. Customers didn't notice a thing.

After leaving Amazon in 2006, Robbins began blogging about his techniques. In 2007, he founded Velocity, now an annual conference, where fierce competitors such as Microsoft and Google share information about handling infrastructure problems.

In 2008, Robbins cofounded Opscode. Its main product, Chef, is an open-source programming language that automates management of cloud-based infrastructure. For example, one client used Chef to help scientists bring up and configure in 45 minutes a 10,000-­processor supercomputing cluster on Amazon's pay-as-you-go cloud, solve some difficult problems related to protein binding in eight hours, and then close out the operation, for a small fraction of what it would cost to build or buy time on a supercomputer. —Jessica Mintz

2011 TR35 Winners

Judd Antin (video)

Learning what drives online collaboration

Xiao Li

Anticipating what Internet users are searching for

Andrew Mason

Electronic coupons for localized online advertising

Chris Poole

Designing online communities for anonymous collaboration

Jesse Robbins (video)

Fault-tolerant online infrastructure


More Innovators Under 35: