IT Operations as a Competitive Advantage

Operations is a competitive advantage… (Secret Sauce for Startups!)

The example above is the tale of two Web 2.0 startups scaling to 20 systems during their first three months. The first team starts writing software and installing systems as they go, waiting to deal with the “ops stuff” until they have an “ops person”. The second team dedicates someone to infrastructure for the first few weeks and ramps up from there. They won’t need to hire an “ops person” for a long time and can focus on building great technology.

In my experience it takes about 80 hours to bootstrap a startup. This generally means installing and configuring an automated infrastructure management system (puppet), version control system (subversion), continuous build and test (frequently cruisecontrol.rb), software deployment (capistrano), monitoring (currently evaluating Hyperic, Zenoss, and Groundwork). Once this is done the “install time” is reduced to nearly zero and requires no specialized knowledge. This is the first ingredient in “Operations Secret Sauce”.

This is a nice short article discussing startup IT operations. On that topic it is interesting. It is also a good example of how a bit of up front planning can help any organizations. Make plans on realistic options – which often means not expecting everything to be perfect. Expect to have to make do with fewer resources than you would like but are what you will likely have… At work, I use subversion, Ruby on Rails (and practice continuous build and test – I’ll take a look at cruisecontrol.rb) and we are setting up Capistrano. I’ll let our system administrator know about puppet (it looks useful) and take a look at the monitoring options (we have something in place now, I forget the name).

Related: Better and DifferentThe IT Iceberg SecretSub-OptimizeIf Tech Companies Made Sudoku

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