(NOTE: when I reference “infrastructure” here, I’m referencing computing infrastructure. I don’t build bridges or roads. 😝)

We have a lot of tools to perform functions and provide information on our computing resources. Kubernetes, Terraform/OpenTofu, Prometheus, Grafana, IaaS (AWS/GCP/etc.), and lots of tools beneath them that implement the particulars. But what is the value that is being derived from the labor investment in these tools?

When I say value, I think it is informative to think of how Karl Marx framed two ways of considering value - there is a ‘use-value’, and there is an ’exchange-value’. For example, you can have a hammer, and it has a high use-value - it can help build a house, a boat, a crib, etc. That hammer may have an exchange-value that reflects how easy it is to replicate a hammer - $19.95. But, you can say that the same hammer shape but made with gold instead of iron or steel has a much greater exchange-value because it is made of gold - a highly prized metal, no matter what its shape.

Generally, when I help clients create infrastructure and deploy their software to it, I’m not creating a resource that has a high ’exchange-value’. So far, my clients have not been in the business of reselling their software engineering architecture. They may sell services that this architecture helps maintain - but that’s not selling the actual architecture to another buyer. What clients are generally interested in is will the use-value of the infrastructure we create together exceed the startup and maintenance costs it incurs? In an enterprise (small or large, for-profit or non-profit or worker’s cooperative or charity) - it is always relevant to ask: is it worth it?

“Is it worth it?” Many engineers lose sight of this simple economic question. My experience helps me to not lose sight of this. Do I like to play with computing technologies? YES! What my clients benefit from is that I like to play with elegant solutions and continually extracting more and more value from the infrastructure and keeping it in service for those who work within it is what makes my work rewarding.

Contact me today to get better use-value out of your infrastructure, improve the working lives of your engineers, gain insights otherwise obscured by overhead, and give your team more headroom to create the features your clients and customers desire.