Take aim

David vs Goliath – is cloud computing the new slingshot?

SarahGoff-Dupont
slingshot1

In a guest post, Atlassian’s Sarah Goff-Dupont discusses how budding startups can get the edge over their much bigger rivals with some simple steps…

In a guest post,  Atlassian’s Sarah Goff-Dupont
discusses how budding startups can get the edge over their much
bigger rivals with some simple steps…

That
software is everywhere is so commonly accepted that it hardly needs
repeating. (Oops, I just did anyway.) Take for
example, Getaround. To consumers, it’s a
marketplace where the car-having and the car-needing come together
to work out short-term rentals mano a mano. But the people at
GetAround aren’t running a car rental company. They’re running a
software company. And a small one, at that. They, along with loads
of other small firms and start-ups, are competing against giants in
their fields. Established, mature, enterprise-type companies that
not only have market share, but the capital and cash resources that
come with it, too. We’ll call them ‘Goliath’.

So what’s a young David-like up-start to do, armed only with a
brilliant idea, raw talent and a willingness to put in long hours?
How do they deliver quickly, and on a shoe-string budget? They
reach for the slingshot in their back pocket: cloud-based
development.

If there’s one lesson you couldn’t miss from our recent tech
boom/bust cycles, it’s that burn rate matters. So it’s no surprise
to see small new firms embrace the lean philosophy. And we’re now
at a point where that philosophy can extend to software development
tools of all stripes. Issues trackers, build servers, code
repositories, even IDEs are now available as pay-as-you-go
services.

“The maturity of open source software development tools
alongside the low cost and high availability of cloud-based
services have combined to level the playing field and change the
technology industry forever,” agreed Neil Butler, director and
owner of Clearvision, a leading software change and configuration
management consultancy based in the UK. “Small companies already
had bright ideas, focus and innovation but now they’re taking on
established giants by rapidly producing high quality software
solutions that are immediately available to a global audience.”

Instead of spending tens of thousands on hardware to host your
code, you can pay a much smaller amount each month for online
repository hosting — anywhere from $0 to $200, depending on the
size of your team. GitHub has become the darling of the open source
development community for this reason, while businesses are
gravitating toward Atlassian’s own Bitbucket for the free private
repositories. The same is true for less technical teams, too.
Instead of buying perpetual licenses for collaboration software
like a private wiki, you can use an online service that offers the
same content and user management capabilities. The savings are
realized right away, allowing companies to budget more for staff
and product development. 

“We’ve seen our customers reduce their overall cost of
development by 10 to 25 percent, not to mention the fact that they
are bringing the product to market faster and generating higher
revenue as customers are able to access the service immediately,”
continued Neil.

Using tools offered up in the cloud also encourages agility.
Because hosted development tools shelter their users from the
sys-admin burden (installation, upgrades, etc), users can focus on
getting their product to market, then responding to customers’
needs quickly. And platform-as-a-service providers like Heroku,
Amazon Web Services or MS Azure make it possible to spin up
environments in a few minutes, for just a few pennies an hour. The
feasibility of giving each developer a full environment to deploy
and test their changes means more innovation and fewer
defects. 

And speaking of developers, you may have noticed that companies
are struggling to fill all their openings. (Got a friend laid off
from a manufacturing gig? Get them into programming
classes now.) Cloud-based development tools give you the
freedom to look beyond your local area for candidates. No need for
them to be near a corporate network. They just log in to the tools
online, and go. So managers get to hire the right person for the
job. Period.

At the extreme end of the spectrum, some companies are even
choosing to forego a central office altogether. Cloud-based tools
allow them to work together even when they’re not in the same
room… which makes leasing a room in the first place less
important. Another cost-saving coup.

There are many providers of hosted development tools and other
complimentary cloud-based services that teams of any size
can get started with. Atlassian
OnDemand
 offers a full suite of development and
collaboration tools; Hosted
Projects
 and WushNet have similar
offerings. Cloud9 can round
out your collection with a browser-based IDE. Amazon Web ServicesHerokuLinode, and Microsoft’s Azure all offer
on-demand servers and infrastructure services.

The promise of controlled costs, higher product quality and
greater staffing flexibility make cloud-based development a
compelling option for small firms.  The next few years will
provide a fascinating spectators’ sport as they build rocks to put
in their new slingshots, pull back, take aim, and… pow.

Image courtesy of lovelihood

Author
SarahGoff-Dupont
Sarah has been working in software for over 10 years as a tester, automated test engineer, scrum master and now as a marketer for development tools. As a champion of Agile development and automation, she loves talking to developers about their triumphs and their frustrations, then blending those insights with her own experience and sharing it. It's all about making life easier for the nerds.
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