Axial operates a confidential online marketplace connecting buyers and sellers of privately held small and medium sized businesses. The platform is 100% software enabled and includes tools and recommendation engines to empower both buyers and sellers to discover, connect and transact with one another. By expanding the reach of both buyers and sellers and eliminating hundreds of hours of manual time spent pursuing an offline transaction process allows deals with the most merit to rise to the top. The platform goes beyond matching the correct individuals and focuses on facilitating success at many levels. A key example of this is the platform's ability to facilitate real human to human interactions with communication on the platform itself.
“Axial at its core is a specialized matching engine and communication platform.”
The ability for the platform to connect people on a deeper level is what has made it a successful medium for completed deals and a major contributor to democratizing capital markets. As Zach Werheim, Director of Engineering at Axial, puts it, “one big goal is to be able to help people where they need it — for those who, otherwise, would never be able to get it."
Zach is a prominent software engineer and tech leader who has led a number of engineering teams. He, along with the rest of the Axial team, were quick to recognize the rapidly evolving market conditions in the way people communicate. The mindset of their users was changing quickly, and it was critical to provide them with industry best practices and features.
The Axial platform has served their customers for over 10 years. In that time they’ve endeavored to maintain best practices while evolving with emerging technologies. Their philosophy of pushing innovation results in a couple of issues arising that the team must address.
1. Ensuring institutional knowledge isn’t lost over time.
2. Making it easy to adopt the newest best technologies.
3. Making their tooling accessible to their developers.
Applications being built and improved over the course of a decade are always at risk of institutional knowledge being lost. It is paramount that developer and operations workflows and processes are common knowledge and not siloed. Additionally, over the course of the last decade, there are a new set of tools and processes which represent best practices. A core facet of engineering at Axial is to adopt the latest best practices to empower their development team to perform at their highest.
Zach was on a mission to make it easier for their development team to adopt optimal tooling without silos and individual points of failure. This would empower their dev team to make the best technology choices while ensuring that the tool knowledge was collaborative and distributed. The solution was creating their own workflows meshed with the optimal tools for their day-to-day operations.
After evaluating multiple tools with limited success, the team came across The Ops Platform by CTO.ai. The Ops Platform allowed them to start building solutions immediately by creating and automating developer workflows. These workflows were sharable with the entire team and could plug into any specific developer tooling that was necessary. They did this via Slack workflows and the CTO.ai SlackOps capability. Axial built 3 initial Ops to empower their engineering teams right away: The Dev Op, The Vault Op, and The Cluster Op.
1. The Dev Op
The engineering team leverages VMs which run in AWS, which also run most of their services for development. Their Dev Command controls the state of their DevBox for AWS cost savings. When the development team isn’t active, it can easily be turned off or turn on, on demand. The team also implemented an automatic shut off. Because it’s built as an Op, the team can run these suites of commands directly from Slack and avoid having to interface with the AWS Console or other specific services.
2. The Vault Op
This simple Op provides a temporary Vault token for verified members of the team. These Vault tokens are used to run various commands to update Vault-based variables in test, staging, or production clusters, as well as various scripts that touch production.
3. The Cluster Op
When the team has code that is ready for more rigorous testing, the Cluster Op can control the serverless namespaces in Kubernetes and deploy to a cluster. This Op will:
- Turn clusters on and off.
- Deploy various code and services to the cluster.
- Refresh the database to test on appropriate data.
All 3 Ops were published to the Axial engineering team's Slack workspace and their CLI, allowing everyone to share in the benefit of automated workflows. The Dev Op specifically helped save on their AWS bill by making it easy for the team to activate development services only when necessary. Across the 5 DevBoxes, Zach is able to save over 12 hours of uptime per day, which equates to a savings of over $5,900 annually. The Ops Platform made it simple to build—not only to save money, but also to streamline development for the rest of the engineering team and save developer hours.
“Without CTO.ai, we would have to adopt the bare minimum tooling. Anything new would have to be written in a language our team was familiar with and we’d be running scripts manually. Having this technology available is going to make it easier to develop dev operations around new systems. It’s definitely going to be a big advantage for us going forward”
Zach plans to continue to build key Ops to empower the rest of his team. Specifically, a production release pipeline. In addition, there are a lot of fragmented utility scripts their team uses to run various operations. These scripts currently sit in a folder and eventually become outdated as infrastructure changes. “Opifying” these would allow them to be version controlled and give the entire team more visibility. Zach has also thought about ways to empower other departments of the organization with Ops. One of their next plans for Ops is to build an “extremely simple and impossible to screw up” SlackOp to empower their marketing department to perform an operation they would usually need the assistance of engineering for. This Op would be trackable, so the engineering team would have visibility into what is being run, but the marketing team would be unblocked to continue their tasks.
Adopting Ops has allowed Axial to immediately reduce their cloud spend, enable easier adoption of new technologies, and even open the door to empowering non-engineers to run operations. Ultimately, this allows the engineering team to focus on their core competency in the pursuit of their own market innovation instead of spending time and resources on infrastructure and tooling.
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