Blacksmith - Serverless cloud infra for CI

How Blacksmith is Cutting CI Costs and Boosting Speed

What is Blacksmith?

Blacksmith is an innovative start-up founded in 2024 that aims to transform the landscape of continuous integration (CI) with its serverless cloud infrastructure. Based in San Francisco, Blacksmith is dedicated to enhancing engineering productivity by offering a solution that enables companies to run their CI processes up to twice as fast and at half the cost. The company was founded by three engineers: Aditya Jayaprakash, Aditya Maru, and Aayush Shah, all of whom bring a wealth of experience and expertise in systems and product development.

Why is Continuous Integration (CI) Crucial for Engineering Teams?

Continuous integration is a cornerstone of modern software development, allowing teams to frequently integrate code changes and automatically test them to ensure stability and quality. This practice accelerates development cycles, reduces integration issues, and helps deliver reliable software faster. However, as engineering organizations scale, the complexity and duration of CI processes tend to increase exponentially. This often results in prolonged CI pipelines, which can significantly hinder productivity and escalate operational costs.

What Problems Does Blacksmith Aim to Solve?

Blacksmith addresses several critical pain points that many engineering teams face with their CI processes:

  1. Slow CI Processes: As the number of engineers and the complexity of codebases increase, CI times grow quadratically, slowing down the entire development lifecycle. This sluggishness can lead to significant delays in software releases, impacting the overall productivity of engineering teams.
  2. High Costs: Traditional CI solutions offered by hyperscalers come with significant markups. Companies end up paying substantial amounts for CI compute resources, which can strain budgets, especially for growing organizations.
  3. Reliability Issues: To manage costs, many companies resort to using spot instances for their CI workloads. However, spot instances can be pre-empted at any time, leading to unreliable CI runs. Ensuring reliability on such instances requires significant engineering investment and effort, which can divert resources from core development activities.

How Does Blacksmith Deliver 2x Faster CI?

Blacksmith achieves remarkable performance improvements by leveraging high-performance gaming CPUs for running CI workloads. These CPUs offer superior single-core performance, which is particularly beneficial for tasks like code compilation, testing, and single-threaded runtimes such as Node.js.

In addition to hardware advantages, Blacksmith employs a software stack optimized for CI to further enhance performance:

  • Colocated Warm Caches: This setup results in significantly faster cache reads and writes, improving CI efficiency and reducing wait times for engineers.
  • Local NVMe-backed Filesystem: Provides highly performant disk operations, enhancing overall speed and responsiveness during CI processes.
  • Docker Layers Caching: (Coming soon) This feature will allow faster Docker builds by caching layers across all builds in a GitHub repository, reducing redundancy and build times.
  • Shared Volumes: (Coming soon) This feature aims to turn every CI run into an incremental build, further boosting performance by minimizing redundant operations.

How Easy is it to Transition to Blacksmith?

Transitioning to Blacksmith is designed to be as seamless as possible. Companies currently using GitHub Actions can integrate Blacksmith with a simple one-line change in their workflow file. This ease of integration means that teams can quickly start benefiting from faster and more cost-effective CI processes without extensive setup or modifications to their existing workflows.

Who are the Founders of Blacksmith?

The founding team of Blacksmith brings a diverse and robust background in systems and product development:

  • Aditya Jayaprakash: Co-founder and CEO, Aditya was previously an engineer at Faire, where he worked on search infrastructure and ads. As a founding member of the ads team, he played a crucial role in scaling the ads business from zero to significant revenue. He holds a degree in Computer Science from the University of Waterloo and a Master's degree from the University of Alberta, where he conducted research in Theoretical Computer Science.
  • Aditya Maru: Co-founder and Co-CTO, Aditya was a senior engineer at Cockroach Labs before starting Blacksmith. At Cockroach, he was part of the core database team responsible for implementing disaster recovery solutions. He holds a Computer Science degree from the University of Waterloo and brings deep systems knowledge to the team.
  • Aayush Shah: Co-founder and Co-CTO, Aayush previously worked as a software engineer at Superblocks and as a systems engineer on the replication team at CockroachDB. He was awarded the Spartan Award at Cockroach Labs for his critical role in securing the company's largest deal. Aayush also holds a Computer Science degree from the University of Waterloo.

What is Blacksmith's Vision?

Blacksmith envisions becoming the compute layer for CI, much like AWS EC2 is for general compute. While the company is currently focusing on optimizing CI for GitHub Actions, it plans to expand its services to other CI platforms such as BuildKite, GitLab, Jenkins, and more. By capturing a portion of the $10 billion CI compute market currently dominated by hyperscalers like AWS, GCP, and Azure, Blacksmith aims to offer a more efficient and cost-effective alternative.

What Sets Blacksmith Apart in the Market?

Several factors distinguish Blacksmith from other CI solutions:

  1. High-Performance Hardware: By using gaming CPUs, Blacksmith provides unparalleled single-core performance, which is crucial for many CI tasks that are CPU-intensive and rely on high single-thread performance.
  2. Optimized Software Stack: Blacksmith's software stack is specifically designed to maximize CI efficiency, with features like colocated warm caches and local NVMe storage that significantly speed up CI processes.
  3. Ease of Integration: With a simple one-line change in a workflow file, companies can easily switch to Blacksmith without needing extensive modifications to their existing CI setups.
  4. Cost-Effectiveness: By offering significant cost savings compared to traditional CI solutions, Blacksmith provides an attractive option for companies looking to reduce expenses while improving performance and reliability.

What Have Been the Early Results with Blacksmith?

Early adopters of Blacksmith have reported substantial improvements in their CI processes. The combination of faster performance, reduced costs, and enhanced reliability has enabled engineering teams to focus more on development and less on managing CI infrastructure. This has not only boosted productivity but also allowed companies to scale their operations more effectively. Testimonials from early users highlight the ease of integration and the immediate benefits seen in CI run times and cost savings.

How Can Companies Get Started with Blacksmith?

Companies interested in leveraging Blacksmith's powerful CI solution can get started easily. By installing the Blacksmith GitHub app and making a simple one-line change to their workflow file, they can immediately begin experiencing faster and more cost-effective CI runs. Moreover, Blacksmith offers a risk-free trial without requiring a credit card, allowing teams to see the benefits firsthand before making a commitment.

What Does the Future Hold for Blacksmith?

Looking ahead, Blacksmith plans to continue innovating and expanding its offerings. By incorporating more CI platforms and introducing new features like Docker layers caching and shared volumes, they aim to further enhance their value proposition. As they grow, Blacksmith is poised to play a pivotal role in transforming the CI landscape, making it more efficient, reliable, and accessible for companies of all sizes.

In conclusion, Blacksmith is a game-changer in the CI space, providing a much-needed solution to the challenges of slow, costly, and unreliable CI processes. With a talented team, cutting-edge technology, and a clear vision, Blacksmith is well-positioned to lead the way in this rapidly evolving industry. The company's commitment to innovation and efficiency makes it an exciting player to watch in the world of continuous integration.