Pandacraft’s developers get back their autonomy with Artifakt
Pandacraft is a monthly subscription kit for kids aged 3-12. Pandacraft’s mission is to help kids nurture their creativity and develop the soft skills they’ll need in tomorrow’s world. With a growing business and a small development team, they needed to optimize their infrastructure and the time spent on managing it. This is why they started using Artifakt four years ago. Using Artifakt, Pandacraft’s developers have been able to accelerate their process when building and maintaining their web app infrastructure, while allowing more autonomy to each team member.
We talked with Thomas Sérès, CTO at Pandacraft since 2013 on his experience using Artifakt.
While looking for a cloud hosting solution, Thomas found out about Artifakt and was immediately interested in the potential of a PaaS solution. Pandacraft and Thomas’ team have been using a cloud hosting solution (AWS) since 2013. Between 2016 and 2018 they chose to assign the management of the whole infrastructure to an external company (in the traditional way) which led to a lot of frustration—mostly with how time-consuming every infrastructure change was. Pandacraft and Thomas’ team have been using a traditional hosting solution so far which led to a lot of frustration—mostly with how time-consuming every infrastructure change was.
The typical process to change something in the infrastructure was: “I would need a fix or a change in my infrastructure. I would open a ticket, the response was usually slow, sometimes taking a few days. Then it would often go back and forth between my team and my hosting provider, as they wouldn’t always understand the issue right away. I would even sometimes have to explain how to fix it. I would end up in a very awkward situation where I would have more expertise than my hosting provider support”, says Thomas.
Another point of frustration was him being the only person in contact with the hosting and the one responsible for communicating all his team’s needs. That was acting as a constant blocker since Thoma’s team was completely dependent on him to communicate their needs and asks.
The lack of developer autonomy was most evident during product releases. With no DevOps experts in the team, they relied entirely on the CTO—i.e. Thomas. For each new development, Thomas was the only one with access to their server and was the one responsible for the deployment. This involved packaging, running the required scripts or updating the database if necessary. Organized around a two-week sprint, they were limited with the number of releases that also limited the number of hotfixes.
In case something went wrong while deploying to production, rollback was done manually.
And as already mentioned, each change in their infrastructure was tedious—Thomas had to always open new tickets and the pricing would go through the roof. While they had to prepare any modifications way ahead, he had a hard time predicting his costs.
The hosting provider was showing limitations to the ambition Thomas had for his team. With Pandacraft expanding its business, new features were required. This implied releasing more often, especially for bug fixing purposes. Their infrastructure was evolving with time and having control over it was crucial in becoming more agile in their development.
Thomas was looking for a solution that would allow him and the team to accelerate their releases, regain control over their infrastructure while giving the rest of his team some autonomy.
Pandacraft started using Artifakt in 2017 and they recently migrated to the latest version of our PaaS solution that supports an increased number of runtimes and is now fully Dockerized.
Their deployment pace increased from day one. While Thomas emphasized that “Artifakt integrated fully with our former process”, it definitely helped him increase time-to-market and deployment of new features.
Developers can now create their code and fully master the deployment process across different environments like staging and production. Every team member has access to the console and is empowered to release their work in full autonomy, without the assistance of their CTO.
How did they make it work? They connected their git repositories to Artifakt and created two environments—a staging environment that allows them to test their code in a sandbox and a production environment where the latest changes are pushed live for the user to interact with. As Artifakt offers ISO-prod environments, deploying from staging to production doesn’t create any surprises. What you see is what you get. And when there are issues, a hotfix can be released when needed.
The game-changer was the number of deployments completed by the Pandacraft team. They release multiple times a week, with bigger releases every two weeks at the end of their sprint, and hotfixes every other day. Each team member completes their own deployment directly from the Artifakt console in a few clicks. Rollbacks are also automated and every deployment notifies the rest of the team directly through Slack. “Although we always communicate about new releases, even if someone isn’t in the loop they know about it”, said Thomas.
Something that is new for him and his team is the monitoring feature. “Artifakt monitors requests, compute, storage, and a number of malicious attacks prevented. This gives me a nice overview. It is new compared to the previous Artifakt version and something we didn’t have with our previous traditional hosting provider. I look especially at the number of requests coming from my API to check if they make sense.”
Today, the Pandacraft team uses Artifakt on a daily basis. They deploy up to 30 jobs (build, deploy, create SSH user, rollback, etc.) every week—all of it in full autonomy.
Their infrastructure manages almost two million requests per month, with a success rate of 99.94% and a web response time of 416ms.
The future seems bright for Pandacraft! And there are a few projects coming ahead that would truly benefit from using Artifakt. One of the upcoming projects is the complete redesign of the Pandacraft website—both frontend/UX and backend. As they already have an infrastructure that works for them, instead of rebuilding everything from scratch, they will duplicate their current environments directly from the console. While their autonomy is almost fully guaranteed with Artifakt, the application experts of our Customer Success Team are ready to assist them just in case any questions or issues arise.
Thomas’ work has definitely been facilitated by Artifakt. In his own words: “I don’t know what my budget would have been at the very beginning of Pandacraft. Often you’re a bit hesitant to spend and want to go for the lowest cost. Knowing what I can do and how my team works now, if I went back in time, I would go for Artifakt. Having Artifakt from day one would have facilitated my life as a CTO. I wouldn’t have gone through all the steps and headache I’ve been through.”
Ready to try Artifakt?