After launching its AI-powered patent search platform, Amplified faced many of the same challenges familiar to other startups: silos between teams, a less-than-ideal production timeline, and more.
Fortunately, Amplified CTO Chris Grainger discovered the solution to many of those challenges early on: Start using Elixir.
In fact, Grainger liked it so much he moved his company away from other ecosystems to use Elixir—twice. He shifted Amplified’s front end from React to LiveView in 2020 then, just a few years later dropped Python in favor of Nx for the company’s machine-learning needs.
In both instances, not only did Amplified’s digital product improve, but Grainger’s team and the company’s working environment did too. After switching to Elixir from React and Python, Amplified cut its monthly server costs in half, sped up its production process, increased team cohesion, improved maintainability of its flagship product, and accomplished the same work with fewer developers.
5 Benefits of Switching to Elixir
- Server Costs
One of the easiest-to-quantify benefits of Amplified’s move to Elixir was dramatic savings in server costs: The company halved its monthly AWS spend. And Amplified isn’t alone in experiencing that benefit.
When Pinterest moved from Python to Elixir, it reduced its server use by about 95% and saved roughly $2 million. One Pinterest system that needed 200 Python servers now runs on just four Elixir servers, with improved performance and reliability.
Those server costs are thanks to Elixir’s efficiency and light resource demands. Elixir relies on lightweight processes and was purpose-built to handle large distributed systems. That means that digital products relying on it require much less additional hardware to scale for increased user needs.
One of the most impactful benefits Grainger saw after moving to Elixir was a breakdown of silos that dramatically slowed down Amplified’s engineering team.
This is a common challenge digital product companies face: Multiple languages for different aspects of the product mean multiple teams with different ways of working, different priorities, and less cohesion.
“(After switching to Elixir) we were building features left, right, and center where before we were struggling to even just get off the ground.”
- Team Cohesion
Just as his team moved faster after switching to Elixir, they also eliminated some of the friction that resulted from working in two tech stacks.
“I could observe the slowdown happening and start to see fragmentation and breaking apart of the team. It was still a young team, but (I was) starting to see it kind of break apart in silos,” Grainger said.
By eliminating React in favor of LiveView, Amplified removed that source of friction. Without the barrier between back and front ends, the development team now works within the same parameters and, without an API to maintain, Grainger’s team can spend more time on user-critical development.
With that improved team cohesion comes a real-world business outcome: It’s easier to maintain Amplified’s product.
Before the switch, Amplified devoted most of its development resources to simply building the product, without the time to focus on the data science that truly drove value for its users.
By working on the same things, the team can share utilities and knowledge with each other. And while it’s easy to say that simply working in the same tech stack would produce the same results regardless of language, Grainger specifically attributes the improvements to Elixir and LiveView.
“The things that you get with OTP, the things that you get out of the box with things like PubSub for having real-time updates on one of your colleagues’ computers when you make a change on your machine, and not having to pull down different tools to do all these different things. I definitely think that actually using Elixir specifically is the thing (that drives these benefits),” he said.
- Reduced Team Sizes
Just as Elixir slashed server costs, adopting it also helped reduce Amplified’s payroll. Before the transition to Elixir, Amplified needed a team of 12 developers. After the switch, however, Grainger found that he simply didn’t need to rehire after team members moved on to other roles.
Now just two developers do the same work Amplified used to need 12 to accomplish.
Elixir’s ability to handle huge amounts of data and scale easily makes it a clear choice for startups, mid-growth companies, or organizations launching new products.