Abletech is a Wellington, New Zealand based software development firm. They’ve been building web and mobile applications using ruby-on-rails for over 10 years. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with one of the founding partners, Principal Consultant Nigel Ramsay.
Covering everything from how Abletech is enabling eCommerce transactions thanks to their AddressFinder service, to being a Rails shop and how the company is helping organizations modernize their IT, here’s an extract of our conversation:
_ Hi Nigel, what can you tell us about Abletech? _
As co-founders, two out of three of us have a background in corporate banking. Back in the day, we were increasingly finding ourselves fighting against the tools being used (think back to big Java, IBM Websphere, et al), rather than spending our time creating good software. Ruby was in its early days, and here was this new, exciting technology that allowed us to start shipping code from day one, rather than month one. So we started the company as a rails development shop and have since evolved to grow our people count, and even acquired a company along the way.
Today, we’re a team of 25 with two core aspects to our business; there’s the Services side where we work on specialist projects like building custom API’s for government agencies and corporate clients. The other is the Product side of our business, where we sell our productized offerings AddressFinder and Watch My Gear, through SaaS licensing.
_ What are some of the projects you’ve been delivering on behalf of customers? _
Our AddressFinder product is an autocomplete address service that customers can embed in their website or CRM. It’s integrated in to hundreds of websites across ANZ, and is a critical part of the online shipping experience for customers engaged in ecommerce activities.
We’ve recently delivered some big development projects for a local, government owned bank over a period of 9-12 months. They were a Microsoft shop, and felt a little behind the times, surrounded by all these shiny new technologies. We were invited to come and work with them on a modernization project to help them become more agile, and realize their ambitions of moving to the cloud.
We also have lots of client relationships in place where we supplement their teams (either remotely or sometimes co-located) due to a skills shortage. We’ve done a sizeable amount of work for public sector organizations, who we’re finding often need the most help. In the absence of any competitors to push them towards innovating, we’re finding that despite the willingness, they’re faced with the most constraints.
_ What issues were you attempting to solve by choosing Cloud 66? _
It was triggered by our DevOps specialist resigning. Finding a replacement – especially given we were in a hurry, was proving to be very difficult. We needed a plan b, and around about that time, stumbled across Cloud 66. After giving it a go on smaller projects, we realized we had a solution to our hiring dilemma.
The net outcome has been that we haven’t had to re-hire our DevOps headcount, allowing us to outsource the real DevOps function to Cloud 66. As generalists, we’re pretty clued up as far as tech goes. The ease of use Cloud 66 has afforded us means we can focus on our core business, but also pick up operational skills to allow the rest of the team to grow their capabilities.
_ Talk us through what your current infrastructure set-up looks like. _
We have quite a typical Rails project methodology back-end. It’s a classic PostgreSQL database server, with ElasticSearch as our search engine. We make good use of Redis and Sidekick for background job processing. The interesting bit of our setup is how we’ve deployed it. We use Cloud 66 to deploy to 2 different locations. We ship it to the AWS data center in Sydney (our primary node) and have a replica back-up on the U.S West Coast with DigitalOcean.
Our Addressfinder rails app has high availability requirements. When we purchased the product off another company, it was in a rough state, so we’ve made a lot of investments in modernizing and bringing it up to date. It’s mission critical for hundreds of customers who require it to be on around the clock for data registration, shipping, or billing address completion.
We use AWS RDS, SQS queuing system, elastic cache and all their DNS services. We never wanted to have to figure out how we replicate this environment for our DigitalOcean replica by attempting to configure everything ourselves. One of the benefits of using Cloud 66 is having a lot of the provisioning done for us.
_ How else have you been using Cloud 66, and what are some of your favorite features? _
We’re big fans of continuous development, continuous deployment. There are a few functions like the auto deployment hooks we find very handy to have. Moving code from Git to Travis CI for automated tests and then depending on whether it passes, having the ability to ship it automatically with Cloud 66 is a killer feature. It’s easy to spin-up multiple VM’s and scale horizontally, while the speed of new stack availability is great.
We really like the constant innovation Cloud 66 brings to the deployment process, and the recent Let’s Encrypt integration is an excellent example of this. It’s one part of my day I don’t need to worry about anymore. Now, every 12 months, I won’t need to go get SSL certificates and put them in the right place. Cloud 66 will do that for me.
We think of ourselves as a small production company, and Cloud 66 lets us be really efficient. As we’ve grown and now expanded into Australia, Cloud 66 has supported us through this growth by offering everything we need to operate in multiple geographies and at scale. Our whole team now participates in managing our infrastructure, and gone are the days of being dependent on a single DevOps engineer.
Fantastic stuff. We look forward to an ongoing technology partnership as your business continues to expand and goes from strength to strength. Thank you for being part of the Cloud 66 Community.