The lingering impact of infrastructure debt

Introduction

Technology debt, often associated with large corporations, is a hidden challenge that nimble startups face as well.

There are several variations of technology debt, such as software debt, design debt, security debt, personnel debt, and more.  Of these, infrastructure debt, or the burden of managing imperfect and misconfigured application infrastructure, may seem unlikely for a lean startup that may be only running one or a few applications.

In this blog we will explore its causes, its lingering impact, and methods that can be used to mitigate or eliminate it entirely.

What causes infrastructure debt in startups?

For a rapidly expanding startup characterized by breakneck speed, limited oversight, and constrained resources, the major causes of infrastructure debt include:

  • Rapid Growth: Startups scaling quickly often prioritize speed over optimization, leading to resource inefficiencies and misconfigurations.
  • Lack of Governance: Insufficient governance and monitoring can result in startup teams working with different vendors to procure software without guardrails.
  • Inadequate Planning: Failing to design cloud architecture with future scalability and maintenance in mind. 
  • Lack of Clarity on Shared Responsibilities:  In many cases startups presume the cloud vendor will shoulder key provisioning and integration responsibilities rather than the internal teams.

The impact of unchecking infrastructure debt

All technology debt is problematic, but infrastructure debt and its impact tends to linger longer than others given its ubiquity and the dearth of skilled resources to fix it away.

  • Overprovisioning:  By not fully understanding the computing needs of their organization, many startups may find themselves procuring too much or the wrong infrastructure components.
  • Security Vulnerabilities:  Poor infrastructure configuration leads to internal data management errors, misguided ingress/egress flows, and other missteps that lead to improper management of sensitive information.
  • Cost overruns:  Infrastructure debt requires skilled Cloud Architects to properly assess areas of inefficiency and they do not come cheap.  The cost of hiring, onboarding, and supporting a team of Cloud Architects can be steep for any startup.
  • Project delays:  A successful application would need a well architected infrastructure to run successfully and without one in place, a startup would be sacrificing precious time to market.
  • Inefficient innovation:  With a poorly architected infrastructure, many startups may find themselves unable to adopt new features and updates that their cloud vendors provide in future releases.

Managing and mitigating infrastructure debt

Infrastructure debt can prevent your application or service from performing how you intended, not only now, but also in the future. Here are some strategies and tools that startups can use to remedy this lingering challenge.

  • Regular Audits and Assessments: Conduct periodic audits to identify inefficient resources, unused services, and security vulnerabilities. Use cloud management tools and AWS Resource Tagging to stay on top of things. 
  • Cloud Governance: Implement robust governance policies to control resource provisioning, monitor costs, and enforce security standards. Leverage cloud-native governance solutions like AWS Control Tower to put this to action.
  • Resource Optimization: Continuously optimize your resources by right-sizing instances, using reserved instances, and auto-scaling components and serverless technologies like AWS Lambda to match demand
  • Automation: Automate provisioning, scaling, and configuration management to reduce errors and improve consistency with tools like AWS CloudFormation
  • Cloud-Native Solutions: Embrace cloud-native services and architectures to minimize technical debt associated with legacy systems.
  • Documentation and Training: Maintain up-to-date documentation and invest in training to ensure your teams can manage cloud resources efficiently.

Digital transformation provides many opportunities but failure to choose the correct components, integrate them efficiently, and continuously evolve them results in the accumulation of infrastructure debt that prevents startups from achieving success. 

Conclusion

Companies traditionally turned to a skilled team of Cloud Architects to meet this challenge but with limited time and resources, many are left without viable options. CloudKitect was developed with this problem in mind and our innovative solution aims to provide startups with a Cloud Architect as a Service, enabling developers to provision the infrastructure that they need, without the debt that usually accompanies it.

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