In mid-2007, David Esser and David Sturtz set out to create RepairPal and build it into a complete resource for unbiased car repair information. "We wanted to provide the kind of information that you get if you could sit down with a 20 or 30-year auto mechanic veteran who's an expert on your car," said Esser.
That, combined with user ratings and reviews for repair shops, reliability ratings for specific vehicle makes and models, and an online system for managing and tracking all service on a car—eliminating that "shoebox full of receipts when you need to see what's been done"—was a tall order for any developer.
With Ruby on Rails, Esser's team got it done quickly and efficiently.
"We looked at Rails in comparison to other frameworks available, and we liked the fact that it offered a rapid, iterative approach that's more agile and flexible. It also let's us spend more time on the actual functionality and less time on the plumbing," he said.
Esser conceded that this was a risk on their part. "If we had started even just six months earlier, we wouldn't have gone with Rails. When we began our development around August 2007, Rails was just barely ready for prime time from our perspective."
Because Rails was still quite new, Esser experienced some difficulty finding skilled developers. It made sense, therefore, to partner with a PaaS provider focused on deep expertise and support, which would mean one less thing for Esser to worry about. RepairPal's first hosting partner, however, had technical challenges that made it difficult for them to provide support successfully. In October 2007, he made the decision to move their application to Engine Yard instead.
"In this industry, the vendors are saying that they'll be your PaaS provider and DevOteam. That's a very tall order and difficult to provide," said Esser. "Engine Yard delivered on this. They are, without question, our platform provider and support team. It's great for me to be able to offload that to them and they do a much better job at it than we ever could."
For the next six months, Engine Yard worked closely with RepairPal through development, staging, and finally launch.
"In the last three months, Engine Yard has provided excellent uptime. Engine Yard has been accessible and provides great customer service," said Esser.
Though Engine Yard is growing too, Esser has seen only a positive impact on the company's customer service. "It's really challenging for a company to start with great service in the beginning and maintain it through a rapid growth phase. That's where the risk is. Though Engine Yard has been hiring new staff, it's clear they're working on maintaining the same high quality level of customer support," said Esser.
In addition, Esser appreciates that Engine Yard has "really, really deep knowledge in how to scale Rails." Because the Engine Yard engineers are among some of the most technically savvy in the Ruby community, they're tapped into what's going on, what's new, and what's working. Esser appreciates the Engine Yard team's expertise, and his developers benefit from not having to do the research themselves. Despite growing traffic and a number of big publicity hits, the RepairPal site running on Engine Yard Cloud has had zero scaling or performance issues.
In the event of the rare outage, Engine Yard has exceeded his expectations. "I used to manage these kinds of systems myself, and I know how challenging and hard it can be to respond well to outages. When a company has an issue, you get a better perspective and more context to form an opinion because you're able to watch them handle the trouble. Engine Yard has done an exceptional job in responding to our needs."
For other companies considering Ruby on Rails, Esser recommends that they consider partnering with Engine Yard. "It's a much more cost effective solution. It really makes sense to deploy your awith a provider who is really in the know as far as how to make it scale," said Esser.
Industry: Consumer Services
Location: Emeryville, California, USA
Opportunity: Build and deploy an ambitious, content-rich application
Solution: Partner with Engine Yard to provide staging and deployment services as well as long-term Rails expertise and support.