Where are the Rails infrastructure support firms?

November 09 Bullet_white By Derek Bullet_white Posted in Development, Business Bullet_white Comments Comments

There are no formal documents to sign if you and your spouse decide to have children. You don’t have to sit through an accreditation class. There is no credit check. You don’t need a high school diploma. Procreation can even happen accidentally.

A baby is a lot like a Rails application: the problem is caring for it, not creating it.

Five years ago, the typical Rails stack was just a couple of pieces: Apache/Mongrel, Rails, and MySQL. While Rails is remarkably similar to its original form even today, the stack around it is dramatically more diverse. We’re deploying to automated infrastructures, using NoSQL databases, messaging systems, queuing systems, and more. With the increased complexity of web applications, I’m surprised we’re not seeing companies dedicated to 24/7 infrastructure support: it doesn’t matter where your app is hosted, they manage it.

The need for Rails Daycare

Thanks to the maturity of the Rails framework, two developers can come together and give birth to a viable web business. However, once the application is launched, things get more complicated:

  • A diverse Rails stack – There are many promising, young technologies that can help solve big problems when used with a Rails application. However, it’s not easy finding people with first-hand production experience. There’s a good chance you’ll run into problems someone else has already solved. Spending time on constant plumbing challenges can be devastating to small teams.
  • 24/7 support – A small development team will have gaps in support. Developers sleep, go on vacation, and need downtime. Someone needs to be around that can bring your infrastructure back to life.
  • Different focus – Developers who launch web businesses are good at solving end-user problems. Spending more time in this domain and less time tuning MySQL is good for business.
  • Multiple hosting providers – If your infrastructure is spread across multiple providers, you can’t rely solely on your primary web host’s support team.

A solid business

An infrastructure support business seems to make a lot of sense:

  • Consolidated Tuning Expertise – If you’re supporting many production Rails deployments, dealing with scaling and performance is a part of your daily routine. You’re comfortable tuning: many developers aren’t. They just don’t do it frequently enough.
  • Increasing Diversity – The Rails stack is only getting more diverse. Understanding the stack options is a growing problem.
  • Efficent Staffing – Clients are unlikely to have emergencies at the same time.

So, where are the caretakers for this Rails business baby boom?

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