A lot has happened in the 11 months since I wrote my first blog article on dotCloud. There was an Egyptian revolution, a royal wedding, a new iPhone and iPad, Osama bin Laden was killed, and on a more personal note, I left my job at CashStar and I now work for dotCloud. In the grand scheme of things, my job change was nothing compared to those big events of the past 11 months, but it was pretty big for me.
I had worked for CashStar.com for over 3.5 years, and I was there from pretty much the beginning, so it was hard for me to walk away. When I started doing research on PaaS’s over a year ago, I did it so that I could learn more about how these systems were built, so that I could take that knowledge and bring it to CashStar to improve our infrastructure there.
A funny thing happened as I was doing my research, I started to really love the technology that went into making a PaaS, and over time, I thought that it was such a cool concept, that I wanted to know everything there was to know about them, so that I could build my own. After trying out all of the PaaS’s that I could find, and learning and blogging about them. I decided I would see what it would take to build my own PaaS. The first thing I realized is that there is a lot more going on under the covers then one might imagine, and this wasn’t going to be an easy problem to solve. If it was easy, then everyone and their brother would have one, but they don’t. There are a lot of PaaS’s out there now, but if you think about it, that is nothing compared to the number of web hosting companies.
After realizing that this isn’t something I was going to be able to build in a weekend, I kind of lost motivation. I have 2 kids and a job that was making me work a ton of hours, so the few extra hours I had in a day where spent hanging out with my family, and what ever was left over was spent playing one of my many sports, or getting some much needed sleep. So, for a while my dream of making my own PAAS faded for a little while, but it never disappeared.
As fate would have it, a few months later I ended up talking with the dotCloud guys, and next thing you know they made me an offer to join their company. After talking it over with my wife, I decided to go for it. Since dotCloud is based in San Francisco, I’ll be working from home in Maine, and telecommuting to work each day from my home office. I have been working for dotCloud for about 5 weeks so far, and it has been awesome. I have learned so many new and cool things in the past month, it has been great. The dotCloud team is top notch and I can’t wait to learn even more from them.
My title at dotCloud is Site Reliability Engineer. You might have never heard about that title before. To be honest I had never heard of it before myself. My primary goal is to make sure that the dotCloud platform is as stable and reliable as it could be. One of our goals is to automate everything, so that if something fails, we have a process that will notice this, and auto correct it for us. Since dotCloud is build on top of Amazon EC2, things can happen at anytime, and they do. So when they happen, we need a self healing platform that will fix itself when things break in the middle of the night. If it doesn’t fix it self, someone will need to be woken up to fix it, and no one wants that.
Another one of my goals is to make sure that dotCloud is the best developers platform available. I want to make it so that developers can do what ever they want to do, and if they have any issues, give them the tools they need to solve their own problems. If they get stuck, we will be there to help them through their problems, via IRC, or email support.
Every developer writes code with bugs, and if you find one that tells you otherwise, they are lying. dotCloud allows developers to see all of their application and system logs easily, and also gives them direct SSH access to the containers where their code is running so that they have the ability to see why something isn’t working. Most PaaS’s don’t provide this, which makes it harder to figure out why the code that you wrote isn’t working the way that you had planned.
One of the cool things that dotCloud does is that they are heavy believers in dog fooding. They encourage employees to use the platform as much as possible, and it is amazing to know that a lot of dotCloud runs on dotCloud. This helps smooth out all of the different developer pain points, and makes for a better platform overall.
They also listen to what their users have to say, and take it to heart. If you have used dotCloud in the past, and were turned off for some reason, you should come back and try it again, it has changed a ton, and the issue that you might have had a while ago, might no longer be there. If you are still having issues, please tell us, because if we don’t know that it is an issue for you, there is no way we can fix it.
One of the first things that I noticed when I joined was the support that they offer, it is unbelievable. I get an email for every single support ticket that is created, and the responses. I have learned a lot just by reading those emails. We get tickets for everything from sticker requests all the way to “my website is having issues, can you help”. Each day there is at least one engineer dedicated to answering support tickets, and that is all they do for the day, everything else takes a back seat. The same people who are building dotCloud are the ones answering your questions, so when you get an answer you know it is coming directly from the source. Most tickets are responded to and closed really quickly. It wasn’t always this good, but it is something they work on improving all of the time, because they realize, that it is important to have a quick and helpful support staff around to solve your problems when you have them.
Now that I’m on the inside, I can see and hear about all of the cool new things they are working on for the future, and I’m really excited. If you are a developer and you haven’t tried dotCloud yet, or if you have tried them a while ago and you haven’t tried them recently you should check them out. What are you waiting for it, is FREE, it won’t cost you anything to try it out, and you never know it might change your life.
One of the sad things about working for dotCloud will mean that I won’t be able to blog about the PaaS industry that much anymore. I’m going to try and avoid doing it, due to the conflict of interest. I will keep around my old blog post so that everyone can benefit, and I’ll try to keep them up to date, but besides that I won’t be writing about anything unless it is really cool.
If you have tried out dotCloud, let me know what you think, and let me know if there is anything we can do to make it better for you.