Something I’ve been toying with for a while is a community led cloud platform. The idea of an AWS alternative that’s built, managed and maintained by developers. Why would you even do such a thing?
Cloud platforms have become pretty pivotal to how we operate businesses day to day, but as developers its still a pretty terrible experience. What’s worse is this idea that you’re locked into to something so profit centric and totally outside of your control. AWS is the super giant of clouds that is primarily targeted at enterprises rather than the users it was geared towards to begin with i.e the developer. This shows in the current UX.
A recent discussion with a frontend engineer led to how it took two weeks to setup a DynamoDB table just to get his app running. This is pretty bad. Any experienced AWS senior eng will tell you right now, how this should take no longer than a few minutes. And while that might be true for them there’s a whole different demographic who are having a different experience.
I think it speaks to why we’re seeing so many offshoots for different parts of the AWS stack. Yet how do you commit to the next hyperscale VC funded startup that might die off in an instant? Who’s to say they’re still around a year or two from now or that experience won’t also suffer as they start catering to the enterprise to makey money.
All of this sort of highlights a problem. We’re not seeing a great alternative to the cloud providers of today. While we can build a superior dev UX, it will always suffer from the same problems, the need to make money.
My own experiences with M3O mirror this. In the pursuit of raising the next round or trying to become profitable we started to do things that were in total opposition to serving the existing user demographic. The reality is you need time and space to cater to those users and building something lasting. I’m not saying creating a real business and becoming sustainable isn’t important, but when it’s in the pursuit of VC funding or in the shadow of the existing cloud providers, it makes things really tough.
But these experiences and some passing of time has given me the opportunity to think about it and what I’ve realised is we need something that’s squarely aligned with the community and the users themselves e.g developers. I think there is some sort of opportunity to build community led infrastructure and a developer first platform where the goal is not to maximise profits but to actually serve the developers needs first. This means being really thoughtful about the overall experience and working really hard to maintain that, all the while being funded by the community itself to do so. Yes there’s some element of needing to keep things a float, but that doesn’t mean we need 80% margins to do it. We just need to do enough to fund a team and the infrastructure that everyone else uses.
Seeing things like Let’s Encrypt really become a vital piece of infrastructure for the world makes me think the same can be done for other parts of the stack. What made Let’s Encrypt work though, I guess was that it was entirely free and has survived on the good will of the people.
Maybe we need to do the same for the cloud?