New technologies come and go all the time, and new fads come and go all the time. But some of them, when they are true game changers, do stick. Take virtualization, for example. Boy has it stuck!
One hotly-debated trend right now is, of course, the Cloud. What is the Cloud, really? Many people like to joke, it’s just someone else’s datacenter. Well, sure. But there’s more than that.
I’ve worked with several startups before, sometimes just as an employee, sometimes as a consultant, sometimes as the founder myself. Most of them revolve around web-based applications and services. And let me tell you, the Cloud is a game-changer, not just in cost, but in time, velocity, performance, and quality.
Let me explain why, as a series of anecdotes.
My first anecdote is starting a web-based application, maybe 10 or 15 years ago. When it was time to get the service and website running, we did the typical process at that point. Purchased rack space, purchased hardware, installed the OS (in this case it was Ubuntu LTS), installed the application stack, and so forth. It maybe took a week. It cost thousands and thousands of dollars initially and hundreds every month. Every day I had to worry about backups and downtime and patching and monitoring. If things were busy, the CPU pegged to 100% and it wasn’t very clear what we could do.
My second anecdote is starting a web-based application, maybe 5 years ago. When it was time to get the service and website running, we did the typical process at that point. Got an account with a cloud services provider, provisioned a virtual server, installed the OS (in this case it was Ubuntu LTS), installed the application stack, and so forth. It maybe took a week. It cost maybe tens of dollars per month. Every day I had to worry about backups and downtime and patching and monitoring. If things were busy, the CPU pegged to 100% and we could plan a server capacity upgrade, which took downtime and effort.
My third and final anecdote is starting a web-based application, maybe 1 year ago. When it was time to get the service and website running, we did something new and innovative. Got an account with a cloud services provider, and built the entire web stack using inherent services within the provider (i.e. serverless architecture). It maybe took a week. It cost maybe five dollars per month. Every day I had to worry about…nothing except my application.
Do you see the game changer here?
When people first start playing with the cloud, it’s still seen a just a huge hypervisor in the sky. I fell victim to the same awe. Not to sound too much like an old fogey, but I remember when getting a new Unix or Linux server running in the datacenter was a little bit of a big deal. I remember managing all the different websites and FQDNs as virtual servers all over the place. Getting a new server running was a big deal…it meant another chunk of compute/storage resources we could use to host services.
So that first time I was working with the cloud (Amazon Web Services in this case), I remember sitting there in front of the console and effortlessly launching maybe 10 Linux servers in a matter of SECONDS! With only a BUTTON PUSH! I could instantly see why this was going to be a game changer.
Incidentally, I remember having the same feeling the moment I realized virtualization was going to be huge. I remember watching vSphere and realizing that our nightly code builds and unit test runs could happen in a VM instead of my desktop, and why that was important (configuration and analysis). I remember seeing how we could segregate services into VMs instead of having to manage a bunch of services and website on the same physical OS install.
But that third anecdote above… That moment when I had a functioning REST interface, servicing a webapp, and that first week I was already in a production-ready state, was pretty significant. When I realized I didn’t have to worry about backups. I didn’t have to worry about patching. I didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night to make sure the hard drive wasn’t full or the CPU hadn’t spiked to 100%.
Even more amazing, when the site usage grew I didn’t have to worry about resource migration or rightsizing. It just happened automatically.
Even MORE amazing, that first year, the monthly bill never exceeded $20.
If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know by now that there are a couple of things that I regularly preach from a strategic perspective: velocity, and strategic alignment. Serverless architectures meet both of those goals.
Velocity: You can get new services and products released quickly. Strategic alignment: You can get updates to existing services and products deployed quickly.
But the final key point is this: You don’t have to spend any time on backend maintenance so you can spend more time on your strategic value, which is your service. You need to be focused on providing services to customers, which means getting products deployed, bugs fixed, and new features released.
I’m telling you…game changer.