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Zalando’s Tech Radar, a base to guide technology choices

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The technical teams of the Zalando e-commerce group have built up a Tech Radar of languages, frameworks, infrastructure software and data management that they master internally. Regularly re-evaluated, this graphic tool accompanies the choice of tools for new projects. Its code is delivered to GitHub to allow any organization to create its own Tech Radar.

Les différentes technologies expérimentées par Zalando sont réparties en quatre cercles concentriques. (Crédit : Zalando)
The various technologies experimented by Zalando are divided into four concentric circles. (Credit: Zalando)

Inspired by the Thoughtworks Technology Radar, the engineering teams of Zalando (the German e-commerce brand) have built their own technological radar, the result of lessons learned from their own experience. This synthesis, originally designed to guide technology choices internally on new projects, is also offered in a version accessible to all offering a reflection on developments around the tools of development, infrastructure and data management. It has been produced and maintained for several years by the Zalando Technologists Guild, a group of senior engineers who devote part of their time to updating it.

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The technologies taken into account include four categories, frameworks, languages, infrastructure software or data management software, which Zalando’s Tech Radar(see the July 2020 version) spreads over a target consisting of 4 concentric circles. In the centre, the first circle called Adopt brings together technologies well mastered by Zalando. These are recommended to the company’s internal teams for wide use, on a large scale. Typically, there are Node.js, ReactJS or scikit-learn in frameworks, Docker, Kubernetes or Nginx in infrastructure, Go, Java, JavaScript or Python in languages, or Kafka, Elasticsearch or Cassandra in data management. The second circle, called Trial, concerns technologies that worked successfully in a first project to solve a real problem. These are more risky and may have some limitations, engineers will be able to pass on their experience. Zalando places Akka-Http and Angular in the frameworks, Failsafe in infrastructure, GraphQL or Kotlin in languages, Airflow or Google BigQuery in data management.

The ones that still need to be evaluated and the ones that are reserved for the existing

Under the name Assess, the third circle of Tech Radar refers to promising technologies with obvious potential that deserve to be invested in prototypes but which present higher risks. They are often very recent and the engineers who know them are few. We see Aurelia or Vue.js in the frameworks, AWS Lambda in the infrastructure, R in the languages and AWS Kinesis, Yarn or -curiously – Hadoop in data management. Finally, the fourth circle, Hold, brings together technologies that are no longer recommended for new projects, but that can continue to be used for existing projects. This is where Zalando places AngularJS 1.x and BackboneJS on the frameworks side, Drugs on Infrastructure, Clojure, Haskell and Rust in languages and, finally, CouchBase, HBase, MongoDB, MySQL or Oracle DB in data management.

The decision to place a technology in a circle or move it from one circle to another is the result of proposals that are discussed and voted on at guild meetings, Zalando explains. This Tech Radar is based on the active participation and contribution of all the engineering teams of the German group specializing in the online sale of shoes and clothing. For teams that would like to create their own Tech Radar, Zalando has open sourceed the code to generate this graphic visualization

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