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Hackernoon logoIs AWS CodeStar a Threat to My Startup? by@scott-anderson

Is AWS CodeStar a Threat to My Startup?

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@scott-andersonScott Anderson

Amazon recently unveiled their newest offering aimed at shortening web-apps’ time to market. AWS CodeStar streamlines the app creation and deployment process for web developers deploying to AWS.

Many of my friends and colleagues know I’ve spent the last 7 years of my life in the Platform as a Service (PaaS) industry. Over the last two years, I’ve been part of building Nanobox, a micro-PaaS (μPaaS) that allows you to easily spin up local development environments and deploy apps into production. As people have heard the news about CodeStar, I’ve been asked more than once — “Does this mean Nanobox is done?”

TL;DR — Haha, absolutely not.

Competition is Healthy

Any economist will tell you that competition is not only healthy, but essential to pushing an industry forward. It drives companies to innovate; to find competitive advantages in their given market; to find better solutions to problems in their problem-space.

Would Apple have been named the most innovative company year after year if Microsoft’s dominance of the consumer-computing industry in the 90s hadn’t forced them to innovate? Would Microsoft be pushing new, self-produced hardware if the market-dominance hadn’t shifted in Apple’s favor? I would argue, “No.”

Why do you always find a Lowe’s within shouting distance of a Home Depot? Why does any McDonald’s seem to be accompanied by a Burger King or a KFC.

(I’m in the US. These comparisons may not apply where you live.)

The answer is simple — This “co-location” benefits everybody; both the vendors and the customers. Customers have options and can choose based on their own experience and/or research. Competitors are on hand if a vendor is unable to fill the specific needs of customers. It’s a win-win.

The same is true for Nanobox and CodeStar. We’re both trying to solve many of the same problem(s), but in different ways.


When a company as huge as Amazon introduces a product or service that solves the same problem you’re trying to solve, it validates your whole reason for existing. If Amazon is willing to invest time and money into solving it, then it really is a problem.

Amazon Shifted the Conversation

Not only did Amazon validate the problems we’re solving with Nanobox, but they completely shifted the conversation around them. If I had summarize what Nanobox does in a nutshell, it boils down to this:

Nanobox automates the tasks normally performed by DevOps engineers.

This inherently assumes the tasks performed by DevOps engineers can and should be automated. I should make clear that neither I, nor Nanobox, claim to be the “DevOps killer,” and I’m sure the folks behind CodeStar would say the same thing. But, we are hoping to make it easier.

As a small startup, convincing the industry we have a place has been challenging, especially in the DevOps community (understandably so). But when Amazon came along and “said” the same thing we’ve been saying — these tasks can and should be automated — their “weight” changed the conversation overnight.

Here’s some quotes from the CodeStar announcement thread on Hacker News:

That sound you hear is thousands of Ops Engineers’ future prospects falling further and further into question.
It’s becoming hard for me to justify staying in the ‘DevOps’ space with amazing solutions like this coming out regularly from AWS … It’s tough, because I can see that this is genuinely moving the industry forward, but it’s also negating the need for skills I’ve worked for over a decade to build. I guess this is what carriage builders felt like 100 years ago.
- AlexB138 on Hacker News
This may also mean that I will never have to touch devops again. I may never have to use Terraform, Kubernetes, Docker, CoreOS, and all that other stuff…
- nathan_f77 on Hacker News
Wasn’t/isn’t it always just a matter of time, for most small/medium sites, until someone hides all of the complexity behind a nice, smart interface and leave very little for people to do?
- petra on Hacker News

But, I actually agree with ShakataGaNai:

If anything, I think its good for DevOps. CodeStar could mean less hacked together junk at the get go. So when the real DevOps gets hired, less to cleanup and unf’k.
ShakataGaNai on Hacker News

With Amazon throwing their weight behind the same problems Nanobox is trying to solve, it’s a lot easier to convince users we have a place, which is great for us.

The Challenge

Honestly, the only thing I worry about with the CodeStar announcement is making sure Nanobox is in the conversation and the differentiation is clear. We’re a small team with limited means but that doesn’t mean we can’t be the “Burger King” to CodeStar’s “McDonald’s”. If we’re in the conversation, there are gains to be had.

But, I guess that’s the challenge for any startup.


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