There has been a request among our silent readership for more puff pieces on what it’s like inside of a young startup. As we don’t have enough fans to alienate even one, I bring you another tale from Los Angeles’ answer to the coal mine.

 

Let’s get the illusions out of the way. There is no garage (this is LA, garages cost more than office space). There are no curiously beautiful people frolicking around industrial spaces filled with large partitions in primary colors. None of us are using illegal drugs to push through the long nights.

 

Mostly, we sit around and write code. Often, we talk on the phone about the code we’re writing. Occasionally we eat. Often burritos. Sometimes Korean. We’re going to have sushi when we make our first dollar.

 

Let’s take a recent day in the life example. Late the previous night (around 10pm) we discovered a very strange bug. A bug that made no sense. We started working on it. Through the evening, one by one we dropped off, the last of us stopping at 1am. Forget it. We’ll figure it out in the morning.

 

So, the next day rolls around and the entire team gets together to squash this increasingly frustrating bug. Morning passes (quickly, we start late). The hours keep going by. Nothing is making sense. The same code works on one box while not on another. It sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t. Tensions are rising. Elaborate schemes to track it are constructed…and die at the hands of this still invisible bug. It’s mocking us. Our tests increasingly include references to massacres and “The Shining”. Finally, we put all of the changes we’ve been trying together back into the original version of the configuration and the bug goes away. We all basically collapse in relief/disgust. That section of code still makes us shiver.

 

So there you have it folks! Drink in the startup life. I hope it lives up to your vile fantasies.

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Amazon’s EC2 has the potential to change the entire delivery of both commercial and open source server-based software. The key cost for most deployments isn’t the software licenses, it’s the server setup and configuration. Trying to meld together the hundreds of pieces necessary for a functional server while maintaining security and performance is a frustrating and thankless task. Most importantly, it’s an expensive task (very expensive even if you get it right and even more expensive if you get it wrong).

What if server software were available as packaged units, all the pieces already confirmed to work together? I’ve seen efforts at this with one-click install packages and distros set to install full stacks. But an AMI (Amazon Machine Image) could go even farther. No physical server setup to worry about. No hardware differences. A controlled environment. It wouldn’t be hard to extend this to the point where it’s not much more difficult than setting up a desktop app.

In fact, it could be easier. Go to Amazon, buy the software you want, they automatically load up an EC2 instance, and your service is ready. This could be a fantastic deal for software developers, users, and for Amazon. SaaS (software as a service) is capturing a version of this, but for the cases where a company wants to run their own setup or needs their own servers, the field is wide open (and, of course, all of those SaaS vendors need a place to run their software…).

Of course, this goes from being a cool service to potentially dominant at the point that there is competition pushing the whole game forward. To that end, Amazon has a huge interest in making the AMI format standard. At the point that tool vendors can target the AMI format and other services can deploy AMI’s, there will be enough development to lock this in.

If they pull this off, Amazon will be in a position to be at the core of server-based software development and deployment for at least the next 5 years. I think I can safely say that no one expected Amazon to be the company with the best chance of pulling that off.

Hello world!

January 8, 2007

It is my great pleasure hereby to inaugurate the official Postful startup blog. May it bring many, many insightful posts and many, many visitors in the upcoming year.

Postful is a Los Angeles-based firm of diligent programmers lucubrating on this Friday night over code, coffee, and copy.

And in the upcoming weeks we promise that a reasonable degree of excitement (and a nifty product) will be revealed here.