This CEO explains how his DevOps startup runs 15,000 clones each day and helps developers release code faster

  • The six-year-old startup Platform.sh allows developers to "clone" the applications they're building so they can test them in real-time and release code more efficiently.
  • Platform.sh CEO and co-founder Fred Plais says this can be a massive cost savings for developer teams.
  • Platform.sh is also an all-remote company, but this helps the team collaborate more efficiently, Plais says.

Everyday, a small company most people have never heard of creates 15,000 clones.

These clones aren't the clone troops of Star Wars or the mice experiments of research labs. They're clones of applications that developers have built, and a company called Platform.sh runs thousands of them each day. Through cloning, Platform.sh CEO and co-founder Fred Plais hopes Platform.sh can make the lives of developers less stressful.

Started in Paris five years ago, Platform.sh has raised $41.2 million from VCs and signed on customers including Pinterest and Johnson & Johnson. The company is among a crop of startups focused specifically on developers that have seen a surge of interest and VC dollars in the past year.

Plais' service is focused on helping developers at one of their most stressful moments: the stage when they are about to release the code for their application.

"This is when things break, when Twitter gets on fire because applications don't work anymore," Plais told Business Insider. "We've removed it. Now it's not stressful anymore to just deploy. Deploying becomes a super easy thing to do. We wanted to serve developers like us and help them be more efficient and less stressed during the day to day."

Platform.sh completely clones these applications that developers are building so they can see how the new features or bug fixes they built work, testing them out in real-time before they're released to the public.

Developers can drop their code into the Platform.sh environment, describe the databases and other services they're using, and then Platform.sh will take care of managing the code.

This way, developers can release code faster and more often, updating the code every time they find a bug, rather than releasing only once a month or a few times a year and spending time fixing bugs after a release.

"What you want is to be able to test something, and once it works, it will be able to work in the same way," Plais said. "If you're happy with the results, when you deploy you'll know for sure it works."

Read more: Investors are betting hundreds of millions of dollars that startups like PagerDuty, GitLab, and CloudBees can change the way software gets made

On top of that, this can save developer teams massive amounts of money, especially on infrastructure, Plais says. They can focus more on solving problems for their customers and releasing code and spend less time on manual IT operations like managing and securing.

"When we look at the metrics, the level of cost savings an impact on their platform and their business is crazy," Plais said.

"It was one of the best management decisions I made"

It took about two years to build the product, and the team launched Platform.sh in 2015. Now, it supports apps written in Java, PHP, Python, Go, and more. And it just released a new management console that shows developers how their software runtimes are working with the data services they're using, such as databases and search.

Within the company, Platform.sh made a major change of its own three years ago. The company's operations are now completely distributed, with most of its 120 employees working remotely. Plais estimates that only about 10 employees go to an office everyday.

One challenge is making this remote culture work, as the team operates in 12 time zones and 14 different countries.

"That was a big change," Plais said. "I absolutely don't regret it. It was one of the best management decisions I made...We made it necessary for the company to operate this way. We had to reinvent ourselves. It's very doable and you can collaborate efficiently, but you have to have the mindset."

To communicate better, employees write everything down. This way, they can document what they're doing so their teammates in other regions have a clear understanding of those decisions. In addition, Platform.sh relies on digital tools like Slack, Zoom, GitHub, Jira, and Salesforce.

This helps them collaborate more efficiently as they carve out a new tool for developers to use. Plais says he hasn't seen any other tool like Platform.sh, although the closest competitor is Heroku, which allows developers to build and run applications on the cloud. However, he says developers turn to Platform.sh for its specific cloning abilities.

"We're feeling optimistic," he says. "We knew we were onto something meaningful. We're onto something big."