Can CodeCatalyst Fulfil the Dream of Cloud-Based Development?
Reviewing my new favourite AWS service
Back when it was announced, I could see that it had amazing potential! At the time, I thought to myself, "If this works, if it's true to its promise, it will allow us to do everything on the cloud! We could build entire applications on the cloud. No need to run anything locally".
Could CodeCatalyst be the means by which my long-held dream of total cloud-based development is finally becoming reality?
My experience so far
My overall impression of CodeCatalyst is that it's very powerful and feature-complete. This is remarkable considering that, as a product, it is still in public preview.
From a feature set perspective, I have not yet come across anything that a) is missing, or b) could have been done better.
I do, of course, have some constructive criticism.
The first criticism is that, at the moment, CodeCatalyst seems to be only available in the
us-west-2 region (Oregon). This means that for me, being based in the UK, it's just not as responsive as it could be; even small things seem to take an extra moment.
This, I'm sure, will be easily fixed when the service goes out of preview and is launched in different regions. I also realise that for people on the US west coast, this is a non-issue.
The other piece of feedback I have is not, strictly speaking, about CodeCatalyst. It's about Cloud9.
Now, I know that the CodeCatalyst team have gone to great lengths to integrate CodeCatalyst with the main IDEs, including Visual Studio Code. And if that's what you want to use, that's great!
But I can't help but think that using Cloud9, a web-based IDE, would really deliver on that cloud-based development dream! I mean, why go to the bother of setting up a local IDE with SSH tunnels and whatnot when you can do all your work on the cloud, without ever leaving your browser, from any machine?
So I've been forcing myself to use Cloud9 and, I have to say, it's not fun. I sometimes get frustrated and I'm like "Okay, that's it. I'm going back to Visual Studio Code!". But then I persevere because I really want it to work for me!
Overall, Cloud9 is not actually terrible. It's a decent IDE, it's just not amazing.
I wish the Cloud9 team could take a look at Visual Studio Code, and straight-up copy everything that VS Code is doing right. Don't even try to be original here. Give us a solid web-based editor that does all the things we love about our local IDE.
Cloud9 just feels like a neglected product at the moment.
It gets worse. The version of Cloud9 that runs within CodeCatalyst has even been deprived of some features that are available on standard Cloud9!
This is a big deal because I have no way of seeing my frontend changes in real-time. It makes that whole side of development pretty much unfeasible.
So here's where I think CodeCatalyst should go next: it should double down on Cloud9 and bring it to feature parity with VS Code.
Until then, people will be forced to use CodeCatalyst with their local IDEs. This is not the worst thing ever, of course, but it's not ideal.
I am not usually that impressed by an early iteration of an AWS product. They can be quite rough, especially from a UI and usability standpoint, even when the features are all there.
Not so with CodeCatalyst: it’s easy to use, and the UI is clean and sensible.1
I also really like the pricing model.
There's a generous free tier, so if you use it for something like a side project or even a small company project you could probably get away with not paying anything.
After that, it's $4/user/month.
Considering that it replaces GitHub, Jira, and whatever CICD platform you're using, it's quite amazing.
By adopting CodeCatalyst, developers can enjoy a unified platform with everything they need to get their job done. And, in the process, the company is likely going to save money too.
I am a big fan of CodeCatalyst. I will continue to use it and root for it, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it improves over time.
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