Kill It with Fire Cover

Kill It with Fire

Manage Aging Computer Systems (and Future Proof Modern Ones)
by Marianne Bellotti
March 2021, 248 pp.

Download Chapter 2: CANNIBAL CODE

How to survive a legacy apocalypse

“Kill it with fire,” the typical first reaction to a legacy system falling into obsolescence, is a knee-jerk approach that often burns through tons of money and time only to result in a less efficient solution. This book offers a far more forgiving modernization framework, laying out smart value-add strategies and proven techniques that work equally well for ancient systems and brand-new ones.

Renowned for restoring some of the world’s oldest, messiest computer networks to operational excellence, software engineering expert Marianne Bellotti distills key lessons and insights from her experience into practical, research-backed guidance to help you determine when and how to modernize. With witty, engaging prose, Bellotti explains why new doesn’t always mean better, weaving in illuminating case studies and anecdotes from her work in the field.

You’ll learn:

  • Where to focus your maintenance efforts for maximum impact and value
  • How to pick the right modernization solutions for your specific needs and keep your plans on track
  • How to assess whether your migrations will add value before you invest in them
  • What to consider before moving data to the cloud
  • How to determine when a project is finished

Packed with resources, exercises, and flexible frameworks for organizations of all ages and sizes, Kill It with Fire will give you a vested interest in your technology’s future.

Author Bio 

Marianne Bellotti has worked as a software engineer for over 15 years. She built data infrastructure for the United Nations to help humanitarian organizations share crisis data worldwide and tackled some of the oldest and most complicated computer systems in the world as part of United States Digital Service. At Auth0 she ran Platform Services, a portfolio that included shared services, untrusted code execution, and developer tools. Currently she runs Identity and Access Control at Rebellion Defense. She can be found on most social networks under the handle bellmar.

Table of contents 

Chapter 1: Time Is a Flat Circle
Chapter 2: Cannibal Code
Chapter 3: Evaluating Your Architecture
Chapter 4: Why Is It Hard?
Chapter 5: Building and Protecting Momentum
Chapter 6: Coming in Midstream
Chapter 7:Design as Destiny
Chapter 8: Breaking Changes
Chapter 9: How to Finish
Chapter 10: Future-Proofing Conclusion

View the Copyright Page
View the detailed Table of Contents
View the Index


"A valuable addition to the literature on the topic, particularly for managers and senior contributors . . . Kill it With Fire is a useful and highly readable guide to solving these problems by leveraging the organization— the system around the system."
—Laura Nolan, USENIX

"Modernizing legacy systems is an increasingly common task for software developers. Kill It with Fire guides you through the ins and outs of these endeavors in an engaging way, diving into both the technical and social aspects that are crucial to making you successful when undertaking modernization projects."
–Damian Schenkelman, Principal Engineer, Auth0

"Kill It With Fire is incredibly well timed. For those alarmed by the provocative title, rest assured the only thing Bellotti advocates torching is the notion of torching itself. And while the book is written for technical leadership, her wisdom is something many nontechnical government leaders need to hear right now, lest they fall prey to the gaggle of advisers saying things like 'we just need to get them off the mainframe.' . . . Bellotti’s book could not have come at a better time, and while there are other factors in this equation, she outlines some of the most important."
—Jennifer Pahlka, Medium's OneZero

"When it comes to the right processes and thought patterns for successfully dealing with legacy systems, Bellotti's remarks are worth their weight in gold."
—Peter Schmitz, Heise Media

"A most excellent book for both engineers and managers alike."
—Michael Simons, @rotnroll666

"I am RIDICULOUSLY EXCITED to read this book!"
—Katie Sylor-Miller, @ksylor

Extra Stuff 

Read our Q&A with the author!

Check out Marianne Bellotti's article in BuiltIn and War on the Rocks

A Cloud Guru interviewed Marianne Bellotti

Government Technology interviewed Marianne Bellotti

Added to I Programmer's Book Watch.