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Basecamp built MRSK to leave the cloud. Now any developer can use it.

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Macey Richards Mar 15, 2023

Despite declines in year-over-year growth, AWS and Google Cloud together generated almost $30 billion in Q2 2022 revenue. Not everyone is happy about that.

It seems like only yesterday that developers relied on co-located servers and VPS-es to host applications. Companies with descriptive names like Rackspace offered exactly what you think they might - space on a rack, in a datacenter, to host a server you either rented or owned.

That model had a few challenges. First, whether renting or owning, developers usually still had to front-up the purchase price of each server. Add setup costs, replacement hardware, time to keep everything up to date and secure. It's no wonder AWS took off like a rocket when it launched.

In 2006 AWS introduced - for the first time - a pay-as-you-use utility model for server capacity and bandwidth. You don't pay fixed costs for electricity or gas, so why pay fixed costs for servers? That was the theory.

Lately, though, a simple reality set in. At scale, the costs to "outsource" servers, bandwidth and maintenance to services like AWS often don't outweigh the cost of "rolling your own" and hiring a full time employee to manage it all.

37signals calculated they could save $7m over five years by taking exactly that approach. Along the way they built MRSK to facilitate the transition.

As David Heinemeier Hansson describes it "MRSK marries the procedural simplicity of Capistrano with the advantages of modern containerization techniques. It sits on top of basic Docker, and harvests all the benefits you get from isolated containers with a sliver of the complexity associated with most other solutions." In short - MRSK is fast and could save you money.

Thousands of developers seem to agree with his theory and approach. As of today MRSK earned over 3,600 GitHub stars. No doubt many of these are from the still vibrant Ruby on Rails community (Ruby on Rails was created by DHH). But still - that's a great start for a month-old project.

It remains to be seen what impact MRSK will have on AWS, Google Cloud, and the rest. Growth of these services is already slowing. Yet with plenty of belt-tightening going on MRSK might have arrived at a perfect time.

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