Dedicated vs. Cloud vs. VPS vs. PaaS – a value comparison

Dedicated vs. Cloud vs. VPS vs. PaaS – a value comparison

I find myself increasingly evangelizing for awareness of infrastructure and ops practices because I believe that such awareness (or lack thereof) has cascading effects for application architecture and, ultimately, company success. Understanding the relative value of platforms can keep you on a path of rapid execution. Misunderstanding or neglecting it can get you into very dire situations.

I see many teams break out their applications into services prematurely, with immense consequence in terms of cognitive overhead and loss of velocity. Typically the decision is a consequence of a perception that they have hit a performance ceiling, when in fact they are still on some relatively weakly-provisioned PaaS.

I want to do a detailed value comparison to aid others in making informed infrastructure decisions.

How to mess up DevOps: working at the wrong level of abstraction

How to mess up DevOps: working at the wrong level of abstraction

There is a story I’ve seen unfold enough times to find disappointing:

A tech company gets its product off the ground with a small handful of developers and a user-friendly fully hosted Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solution like Heroku.

The company’s product is a success. A huge one! The company raises money, they scale the team, they iterate. One thing that doesn’t change is the PaaS. It’s working for them. Maybe not as well as they’d like but well enough to keep up with the roadmap.

At some point, costs get way out of hand. The once $1k/month bill has exploded to $40k/month. On top of this, developers are sick of hacking around arbitrary constraints of the PaaS. They learn of the dramatically better performance they can achieve at lower cost if they take greater ownership of their infrastructure.

An intro to Encrypted Secrets in Ruby on Rails

An intro to Encrypted Secrets in Ruby on Rails

Rails 5.1 introduced Encrypted Secrets to help simplify the management of your application secrets (things such as service credentials and the secret_key_base). This article details the feature and its usage.

Why Encrypted Secrets?

Since Rails 4.1, the framework has given you the ability to centrally store secrets in the config/secrets.yml file. The glaring shortcoming of secrets.yml is that the file actually is in no way secure, and you cannot actually safely check it into version control with any production credentials. The convention for production credentials was always to load them within secrets.yml but from the host environment.

Que: high performance background jobs with fewer moving parts

Since the introduction of ActiveJob in Ruby on Rails 4.2 many years ago, it’s been a foregone conclusion that most Rails apps will need to rely on a job queue of some sort. At a very minimum you’ll probably want to use a queue to take necessary slow-running tasks like email delivery outside of the request lifecycle.

Mike Perham’s Sidekiq is probably the most widely-used and de-facto choice for many teams. There is, however, another queueing solution that I want to highlight because, for many apps, it cuts down on moving parts while increasing both integrity and performance (with a couple compromises that should be well-understood).

Caching strategies for Rails 5 applications

Caching strategies for Rails 5 applications

One of the tremendous benefits of building with a high-level framework like Ruby on Rails is that you are afforded both mental space and an abundance of tools to optimize your application with a thoughtful caching strategy. Caching can be done at several levels in the stack and I wanted to provide an overview of the most common caching strategies for Rails applications and the tradeoffs inherent in each.