Deploy Rust Code Faster
— Infrastructure is hard and costs time and money. There must be a better way.
I've come a long way in my tech journey, from dealing with bare metal servers to exploring the world of cloud computing. Initially, it seemed so straightforward – spin up a server, deploy a container, and you're done. But as I delved deeper, I realized that the ease of infrastructure is not as simple as it appears.
Cloud providers offer a multitude of tools, each with its own learning curve:
- Google Cloud / AWS
- GitHub Actions
If you're adventurous, you might even venture into managed Kubernetes services like EKS or GKE. It's tempting, with just a few clicks, your application is ready to roll. But the reality hits when you start juggling monitoring, logging, security, scaling, and more.
Soon, you find yourself unintentionally leading a DevOps team instead of focusing on your product. You hire more staff to manage infrastructure while your competitors are shipping features and growing their user base.
The cloud promised to make infrastructure easy, but the array of tools and services can be overwhelming. Even if you don't use them all, you must be aware of their existence and learn the basics. The result? Your focus on the product diminishes.
I appreciate dealing with infrastructure, but I also love delivering a product. Sadly, many companies waste precious time and money on infrastructure, repeating the same mistakes.
What if there was a way to eliminate infrastructure concerns altogether?
Serverless architecture seems promising - no servers, no containers, just pure business logic. However, it's not without challenges:
- Cold start times
- Lambda size limitations
- Memory issues
- Long-running processes
- Debugging complexities
- Lack of local testing
Serverless has its merits for certain use cases, but for larger applications, you might still need some servers.
Platforms like Heroku and Netlify introduced a third option – managed services that handle all infrastructure for you. No more infrastructure concerns; you simply push code, and it deploys. What's great about these solutions is their deep integration with specific programming language ecosystems.
I was looking for a platform tailored for Rust developers, aiming to provide a top-notch developer experience. I wanted deep integration with the Rust ecosystem (serde, sqlx, axum,...).
A while ago, I came across Shuttle while trying to find ways to make my Rust development workflow a bit smoother. It’s a tool that kind of just fits into the existing Rust ecosystem, letting you use cargo as you normally would, but with some of the infrastructural heavy lifting taken out of the picture. Now, it’s not a magic wand that solves all problems, but what I appreciate about Shuttle is its simplicity. You’re not thrown into a completely new environment with a steep learning curve. Instead, you stick to your Rust code, and Shuttle is there in the background, helping manage some of the server-side complexities. So, in essence, it’s about sticking to what you know, while maybe making life a tad easier when it comes to deployment and server management. It’s not about a revolutionary change in how you code, but more about a subtle shift in managing the background processes that can sometimes be a bit of a headache.
Until now, I built two smaller Rust services with Shuttle: Zerocal and Readable.
Shuttle takes your Rust code and with very few annotations, it can be deployed to the cloud. The developer experience is pretty close to ideal given that provisioning and deployment are usually the most painful parts of building a service.
Instead, it's just a matter of adding a few lines of code. See for yourself. The boilerplate just vanishes. What's left is the business logic.
Zerocal was the first project I deployed on Shuttle. The principle was very simple yet innovative: encode calendar data directly into a URL. This means creating an event was as straightforward as:
This would return an iCal file, that you can add to your calendar. Here's how you create an event in the browser:
I tried building this project on Shuttle when they were still fixing some things and changing their APIs here and there. Even with these small issues, it was a good experience. In just a few minutes, my app was up and running.
Here’s the code to start the service including the axum routes:
I don’t really need Zerocal for myself anymore, so I’m hoping someone else might want to take it over. I think it could be really useful for sharing invites on places like GitHub or Discord. If you want to know more about Zerocal, you can read this detailed breakdown.
This project deeply reflected my personal preferences, as I like simple apps that solve a problem. With just a sprinkle of annotations, my code adapted smoothly to Shuttle's environment. Initially, I had my own local mode, which allowed me to run the app on my machine for testing, but I found no need to maintain that because Shuttle’s own local mode works just as well.
While developing the app, there were some bumps along the road. Service downtimes required some code revamping. Yet, Shuttle's evolution simplified parts of my process, especially when it introduced native static file handling.
Before it looked like this:
Now it’s just
To understand the intricacies of this project, here's a more comprehensive look.
Initially, I was concerned that annotating my code for infrastructure would cause vendor lock-in. I wanted to retain full control over my project. Want to move away? The Shuttle macros get rid of the boilerplate, so I could just remove the 2 annotations I’ve added and get the original code back. Shuttle's code is also open source, so I could even set up your self-hosted instance — although I wouldn't want to.
Infrastructure may seem easy on the surface, but maintaining it involves various complexities and costs. Updates, deployments, availability – it can be overwhelming. Each hour spent on these tasks carries both a direct and opportunity cost.
Infrastructure can be a maze, and Shuttle seems to fit well for those working with Rust. I'm thinking of trying out a larger project on Shuttle soon, now that I've got a decent understanding of what Shuttle can and can't do. If you’re considering giving it a shot, it's wise to check their pricing to ensure it aligns with your needs.
Be mindful of the real cost of infrastructure!
As I've mentioned before, it's not just server costs, but a lot more. The biggest factor will probably be human labor for maintenance and debugging infrastructure and that is expensive. If I were to use infrastructure as code, I'd be spending many hours setting up my infrastructure and a lot more to maintain it and that can be expensive, given today's salaries.
Even if it was just for a hobby project, it would not be worth the trouble for me. I’d much rather work on features than the code that runs it all.
Thanks for reading! I mostly write about Rust and my (open-source) projects. If you would like to receive future posts automatically, you can subscribe via RSS or email: