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Friday, June 14, 2024

Review - Is System Design Interview - An Insider's Guide by Alex Xu and Shan Lam worth?

Hello guys, if you are preparing for System design interviews or Software Design Interviews, then you must have come across System Design Interview - An Insider's Guide by Alex Xu and Shan Lam, one of the most popular book on System Design after Designing Data-Intensive Applications by Martin Kleppmann. I first come across Alex Xu on Twitter when one of his image about how HTTPS works went viral. The image was quite detailed and presentable so I start following Alex and then I come across ByteByteGo, his online System design course and his book System Design Interview - An Insider's Guide

Since then I have read this book a couple of times already and learned a lot about System Design and concepts like Scalability, Caching, API Gateway, Load Balancer, Estimation etc. So much so that I decided to write a review about it.

Since the System design interview has become a crucial part of any Software engineering interview, be it for for beginner or experience developer. The "System Design Interview - An Insider's Guide" has become one of the most essential resource aiming to equip individuals with the knowledge and strategies needed to excel in these high-stakes interviews. 

As we step into this year, the question that comes into every programmer and developers' mind is whether this System Design Interview guide still  remains a relevant and valuable asset for candidates preparing for Software Engineering and system design interviews.

The short answer to this question is Yes, System Design Interview book is still relevant and definitely worth it for anyone preparing System design interview. 

The writing style, the interview question discussion, the System design framework and solution of popular System design questions like how to design rate limiter, how to design YouTube, and how to design a chat application like WhatsApp really makes it worth of your time and money. 

If you are preparing for System design interview, I highly recommend this book as well as his ByteByteGo online course which not just include content from both System Design Interview - An Insider's guide volume 1 and Volume 2 but also more resources which Alex add constantly. 

Now that the short review is over, let's deep dive into this book and System design interview in general to find more. 

System Design Interview - An Insider's Guide Volume 1 and 2 by Alex Xu worth it?

System Design Interview - An Insider's Guide

To understand the worth of the "System Design Interview - An Insider's Guide"  it's crucial to delve into the evolution of technical interviews. Over the past few years, companies have shifted their focus from assessing only algorithmic problem-solving skills to evaluating a candidate's capacity to design scalable and efficient systems. 

This transition reflects the industry's growing need for professionals who can not only code but also architect solutions that can handle real-world complexities. This become especially important in the era of Cloud Computing and Microservices. 

That's why it's extremely important for developers to learn System Design in depth and that's where book like System Design Interview - An Insider's Guide can help you. 

The System Design Interview is not a just test of coding proficiency; it's a simulation of the challenges encountered in building large-scale applications. From distributed systems to database design, candidates are expected to showcase their understanding of trade-offs, scalability, and the ability to make sound architectural decisions. 

The "System Design Interview" book  provides a comprehensive understanding of these intricacies, offering a roadmap for success in this pivotal aspect of technical interviews.

You will not just learn how to solve popular System design questions like how to design YouTube, How to Design WhatSapp, and how to design Rate Limiter but also learn about essential System Design concepts like Scalability, Load balancing, API Gateway, Caching and More. 

There are two version of this book, System Design Interview - An Insider's Guide Volume 1 and Volume 2 which was released last year. The volume 2 book adds more case studies and problems like designing a digital payment system etc. 

If you truly want to master System design topic for interview, I suggest you to go through both the version for more in depth learning. 
review of System Design Interview - an Insider Guide

What is best on System Design Interview Book? 

Here are a couple of things I really liked about this book:

1. Insider Insights
The guide is created by Alex Xu and Sahn Lam both of whom have battled it out in the tech giants. This insider perspective promises a real-world understanding of what's expected in system design interviews.

2. Comprehensive Coverage
It doesn't just scratch the surface; it digs deep into the intricacies of system design. From load balancing to sharding, it covers the A to Z of the design landscape, making sure you're not caught off guard in your interview.

For example, System Design Interview — An Insider’s Guide (Volume 1) provides solutions to 16 real system design scenarios, offering practical guidance for enterprise architects to enhance their problem-solving skills.

Along the way, the book covers diverse topics, from scaling user traffic to designing complex systems like chat systems and search autocomplete systems.

Similarly, System Design Interview — An Insider’s Guide (Volume 2) provides a four-step framework serving as a systematic approach to system design interviews. Detailed solutions to 13 real system design interview questions and most importantly over 300 diagrams offer visual explanations of various systems.

Along the way it covers topics like proximity services, distributed message queues, and real-time gaming leaderboards, among others.

3. Real-world Examples
Theory is cool, but how do you apply it? The guide throws in real-world examples and case studies, bridging the gap between conceptual knowledge and its practical application.

4. Diagrams
One of the main reason for me to read this book and enroll into ByteByteGo is the diagram which Alex and his team creates, like the one shown below. This kind of diagram really help you to understand the key concept in quicktime and enhance the learning experience. 

Is System Design Interview - an Insider Guide worth it

Also here is a 3-step guide from the book which you can follow while answering any system design interview question:
  • Step 1: Ask clarifying questions to narrow the scope and align on requirements because system design interview question intentionally open-ended and there is no right or wrong answer.
  • Step 2: Propose a high-level design and get buy-in
  • Step 3: Dive deep into the design, including rough calculations, system diagrams, and tradeoffs

While the book has many plus points which makes it one of the most popular tech book on Amazon and one of the essential resource for System design interview, it still have some room for Improvement like 

Keeping It Fresh.
Tech evolves very quickly and consider the first version of book was out a couple of years ago, does this System Design Interview book is still relevant?

Similarly, Tech interviews aren't one-size-fits-all, and the guide might be a bit rigid. Does it adapt to different interview formats and styles, or does it stick to a formula that may not resonate with every interviewer?

Overall System Design Interview - An Insider's Guide Volume 1 and 2 are still relevant and I highly recommend both these books to programmers and experienced developers who wants to learn about System design and Software design. You can also join ByteByteGo, the digital version of this book with a lot more content. 

Is System Design Interview Book worth it?

In the ever-shifting landscape of tech interviews, the question boils down to this: Is the "System Design Interview - An Insider's Guide" still a worthy investment of your time and effort ?  It's undeniably a robust resource. 

The insider insights, comprehensive coverage, and real-world examples make it a formidable companion in your journey to mastering system design. Solution of almost 30 popular System design questions and covering all essential System design concepts makes it worth it for all kind of programmers . 

And, all the diagrams 400+, and a new edition make this book even more worth it.  I also suggest you to join ByteByteGo, the digital version of this book and online platform for learning System Design, The course will definitely have more content as it's not possible to update the book every 6 month but you can add content on online course at any time. 

In short, System Design Interview - An Insider's Guide Volume 1 and 2 by Alex Xu is one of the best resource for System design interview and coming years and you should make every effort to read it before your interview. 

Further System Design Interviews Resources

If you are serious about System design interview preparation and need more resources to prepare in depth then here is the curated list of best system design books, online courses, and practice websites which you can check to better prepare for System design interviews. Most of these courses also answer questions I have shared here.

  1. DesignGuru's Grokking System Design Course: An interactive learning platform with hands-on exercises and real-world scenarios to strengthen your system design skills.

  2. "Designing Data-Intensive Applications" by Martin Kleppmann: A comprehensive guide that covers the principles and practices for designing scalable and reliable systems.

  3. LeetCode System Design Tag: LeetCode is a popular platform for technical interview preparation. The System Design tag on LeetCode includes a variety of questions to practice.

  4. "System Design Primer" on GitHub: A curated list of resources, including articles, books, and videos, to help you prepare for system design interviews.

  5. Educative's System Design Course: An interactive learning platform with hands-on exercises and real-world scenarios to strengthen your system design skills.

  6. High Scalability Blog: A blog that features articles and case studies on the architecture of high-traffic websites and scalable systems.

  7. YouTube Channels: Check out channels like "Gaurav Sen" and "Tech Dummies" for insightful videos on system design concepts and interview preparation.

  8. ByteByteGo: A live book and course by Alex Xu for System design interview preparation. It contains all the content of System Design Interview book volume 1 and 2 and will be updated with volume 3 which is coming soon.

  9. Exponent: A specialized site for interview prep especially for FAANG companies like Amazon and Google, They also have a great system design course and many other material which can help you crack FAANG interviews.

how to prepare for system design

image_credit - ByteByteGo

That's all in this review of System Design Interview - An insider's guide volume 1 and volume 2 by Alex Xu and Sahn Lam. In conclusion, the "System Design Interview - An Insider's Guide" holds a pivotal position in the arsenal of resources available to those preparing for technical interviews. It's solution of popular System design problem and its framework to answer any System design question is definitely two of the most important takeaway from the book. 

Other Programming and Books and Articles you may like

Thanks for reading this article so far. If you like these best System design interview books then please share with your friends and colleagues. If you have any feedback or you think a good software design book is missing from this list then feel free to suggest in comments. I will include them as well. 

P. S. - If you are preparing for Software developer interview then you must prepare for System design questions, same with Machine learning engineers, they also need to prepare for System design questions like recommendation system etc. For such things, I highly recommend you to join Grokking the System Design Course on Design Guru its one of the best place to learn System design for interview. 


Anonymous said...

Hello Javin, can you please advise whether I should join ByteByteGo or buy their books? As you said the ByteByteGo contains more content and it also have all the chapters from both System Design Guide Volume 1 and 2? Though I found buying books cheaper then their online courses, what do you suggest?

Anonymous said...

Hey Javin, what is difference between ByteByteGo Newsletter on substack and their online course? Since their Newsletter cost $15 per month while course is around $50 after discount for year, which one would you recommend?

javin paul said...

Hello Anonymous, Newsletter is like weekly does of articles and information about System design on your email but their online course is a structured way to prepare for System design interviews. If you want to learn System design by yourself and have little time as your interview is coming up then you should join ByteByteGo course but if you want to keep yourself updated with System design topics, then Newsletter is better option.

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