Running Lean

There aren’t too many successful companies out there that don’t carefully, even obsessively, monitor their bottom line. Those enjoying success that don’t watch out for money sinks are doomed to collapse as soon as the wave of luck they’re riding crashes into the shore. Between the popularity of middleware providers and cloud hosting, all kinds of opportunities for cutting costs exist!

In the past, I’ve prided myself on being able to build complex systems that meet all their requirements by leveraging as much open source software as possible. Any time a company shells out licensing fees for a piece of middleware that has a mature OSS solution, I die a little inside. Sure, developer time isn’t cheap, but it certainly seems that investment will be amortized over time compared to ongoing annual licensing fees. Worse, some licenses are only for a small number of hosts, meaning that when you scale for success, that licensing leech is going to scale right along with you. Rolling your own means those license dollars are instead being reinvested in your developers’ skillsets and potentially killer secret-sauce tech!

With the mass adoption of cloud hosting for software over the last few years, developers have begun to face some new constraints in system architecture and general best practices. Specifically, due to the pricing structures of cloud providers (ingress / egress data charges, persistent storage charges, instance RAM / CPU costs), taking special care with how cloud resources are used can really net some huge savings. In a series of upcoming posts tagged with ‘running lean’, we’ll explore some of the obvious and not-so-obvious tricks one can use to cut costs with cloud providers.

Why Bother?

Well, not every tech company has deep pockets, or a fortune 500 parent. For all the scrappy startups out there, running on a shoestring budget means that every dollar counts. There are plenty of places where money will just bleed out if it isn’t watched!

What if your company saved enough to hire on an additional developer or two? Suddenly, your business savvy team is now in an even greater position to react to market changes or changes in competition. Maybe cutting down on operating costs substantially allows your profit margin to increase, causing an increase in perceived value when you start courting buyers.

Finally, it’s just the right thing to do. Every time resources (time, money, energy, etc) are squandered, the Gods of Efficiency weep silently in their efficiency caves.

A Preview of Things To Come

Here’s a high level tour of the class of things we’ll be exploring:

  • De-allocate your resources when they aren’t in use
  • Keep your work where it’s cheap
  • Scour the GitHub and OSS communities when you need some middleware
  • Lock down your resources so miscreants can’t rack up your service bill