Jesse Robbins at O'Reilly Radar has an interesting post today on data center operations as a competitive advantage for growing companies - as the "secret sauce" for startups. Many young companies put operations on the back burner during launch period. But in today's Web 2.0 world, an application can go viral overnight and quickly max out a brittle or under-prepared infrastructure. The post notes the overnight success of iLike, the Facebook app that is among the most prominent examples of a zero-to-60 web launch, gaining 50,000 users in its first 24 hours. That forced iLike staffers to go foraging for servers from other Bay Area companies. Jesse writes:
Many people think of Operations as "a bunch of boring work... which I'm hoping someone else is doing." It often takes less time to set up a development environment than the tools and infrastructure needed to test, deploy, monitor, and scale new software. The survival of most projects depend on working software, at least initially, and so if there is money or time many people will spend it on development. Unfortunately, people say they will "figure that ops stuff out soon", but what they mean is "when we're totally screwed!!!" It doesn't have to be that way.
To illustrate his point, Jesse shares charts comparing hours spent on operations for two Web 2.0 startups, only one of which focused on effective operations up-front.