Infrastructure Tools To Help You Do More With Less

Danielle Gaither
by Danielle Gaither on February 20, 2023 7 min read

It’s no secret that economic times come in cycles. In leaner times, throwing money at the problems dev teams face might not be an option, so the ability to maximize resources that you already have becomes even more important.

At the same time, you don’t want to work your team members to the point of burnout, so adding the right tools to your workflow can help people work more efficiently without feeling squeezed. By the end of this article, you’ll know more about some affordable tools that could be helpful to your team. The tools might even pay for themselves with the labor hours they save.

When it comes to infrastructure, there are a lot of jobs to be done, and there are often multiple tool choices for each job. A solid understanding of your teams’ needs will allow any new tools you introduce to have the greatest positive impact. Of course, you also have to consider the limitations of your budget and available personnel, but starting from your needs ensures that your investment isn’t a solution in search of a problem.

Which Tools Solve Your Needs?

Infrastructure needs and problems like these are very common—and accordingly, there are many tools available that can help your team tackle them, even on a modest budget. Next, we’ll outline a few tools that address four common infrastructure needs. Because it can be instructive to see the solutions in action, we’ve included references to longer case studies that show how real organizations used them to address their real problems—including what results they got. 

Standardizing APIs Speeds Up Collaboration

It's one thing to say you want consistency across teams with API design, but another to ensure that such consistency actually happens. Fortunately, there are open-source tools that can help enforce your own chosen API style guidelines, as well as check for industry-wide style errors, a process known as linting. Stoplight's own Spectral can help with both of these tasks.

More specifically, combining Spectral with other tools has helped the company PagerDuty make their collaboration process more efficient and ensure that all teams are aiming toward the same goals. This improved efficiency has helped PagerDuty deliver new features to customers more quickly than they could do in the past, thanks to Spectral and other open-source tools. Our case study provides more in-depth information about PagerDuty's success.

API Gateways Improve Scalability

Where there’s pressure to get to market as quickly as possible, scaling considerations are not always high on the design process priority list. While such an approach can get a product to market faster, the burdens on servers can increase disproportionately compared to the user base over time.

Globo, a Brazilian media company, owns several media brands that had previously used differing approaches to API management. This led to fragmentation across the company, which in turn led to degraded system performance. The developer team worked with Kong to streamline their API processes, including adding API gateways. Kong’s tools created a more consistent approach to APIs and improved API performance. The relief this created for the team was substantial: tasks that had previously taken up to three business days can now be done in an hour. For details on Globo’s API transformation, check out this case study.

Another labor-saving API gateway option is Tyk, which can work with a wide variety of architectures, ranging from legacy systems to cutting-edge Kubernetes deployments. Tyk is an open-source API gateway that can handle tens of thousands of transactions per second and can work with REST APIs, GraphQL, and more with minimal latency. European financial services company Modulr, for example, uses Tyk’s API gateway services to manage millions of API calls per week with almost no overhead.

Data Management Improves Customer Experience

It’s not always possible to predict when demand for your platforms will spike. This is what happened to Washington Health Benefit Exchange, the online portal for finding health insurance plans in Washington state, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. To complicate matters further, many elements of their server infrastructure were nearing the end of their support lifecycles.

Washington Health Benefit Exchange worked with Red Hat and others to modernize its server infrastructure and data pipelines. A key element of the upgrade is Red Hat AMQ, which specializes in delivering information reliably to a variety of endpoints, including Internet of Things devices. By the time the upgrade was completed, onboarding was easier for both customers and new developers working with the system, allowing the Exchange to more easily scale application demand at a lower cost. Visit this case study to get the full story.

If your team does not need all the enterprise features that Red Hat offers, you might be satisfied with Apache Kafka, which is basically the engine of Red Hat AMQ, for data management support. Kafka is well regarded for its high throughput, scalability, and high availability, all of which are especially useful in real-time applications. Since Kafka is open source, its data stream processing functions and more are available for free.

Logging Enables Quicker Debugging

Logging is one of the most fundamental elements of software development, but it’s also often one of the biggest pain points. Many logging tools seem to take their own approach—which, on the surface, often appears incompatible with logging tools that other services use. However, log management tools have become more popular in recent years.

The team at ATLIST, a web-based travel platform, worked with Sematext, which specializes in logging and monitoring tools, to gain deeper knowledge of their application. When you are an early-stage startup like ATLIST, any insight into your code and its potential problems can be incredibly valuable. The ATLIST team found that effective logging saved them an effort by enabling them to improve their code more quickly. See the case study for more information.

FluentBit is another powerful log management tool on the market. It can both receive and send data in a variety of formats. FluentBit also offers automated event tagging to make filtering and other tasks easier to do more efficiently.

We’ve already mentioned Apache Kafka, another tool to consider in this area. Apache Kafka has powerful logging features along with its other data management tools, so if your team has pressing needs in those areas, Kafka might be a one-stop solution. A combination of features like this, if it matches your team’s needs, can solve two problems at once while also reducing the complexity of your implementation.

Time-Series Databases Help Teams Respond Faster

Time-series databases are popular choices when the specific time of an event is critical information, such as in stock trading or sensor data monitoring. If you need one, consider whether adopting a third-party database solution might save your team effort.

Retail operations also often make heavy use of time-series data, as is the case with Central Group, Asia’s largest retail company. Central Group manages a mix of retail stores, shopping malls, food outlets, and hotels. Working with QuestDB on a time-series database solution enabled the team at Central Group to see analytics in real-time that are used to trigger actions such as automated promotions, saving the human time and labor involved in making those choices. Learn more in this case study.

Graphite is another popular time-series database solution. It was originally developed at the travel company Orbitz and is now available under an open-source Apache license. Graphite’s main selling point is its ease of storing metrics and displaying them in a graphical format. GitHub, for example, uses Graphite to drive alerting systems, perform capacity analysis, and make its data accessible to more team members than it would otherwise be able to do.

Next Steps

Now that you’ve seen a sampling of tools that can help with your infrastructure needs, what’s the next step? Stoplight offers a variety of API tools, including open-source options, that help teams do more with less. Why not continue your exploration by signing up for a free Stoplight account today? We can’t wait to hear from you!

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