What If Engineering Build Tools Lived in the Cloud? Introducing Toolchain

February 1, 2020

The progress in software development toolsets over the past decade has been stunning. Microservices, continuous deployment environments, Git, new IDEs and so on. Now it’s build systems’ time. And Toolchain is here with the first truly cloud-centric build environment.

Who: Toolchain is being built by a spectacular team of brilliant engineers led by Benjy Weinberger and John Sirois. We’ve known Benjy for years across his leadership positions at Google, Twitter and Foursquare. In him we see a CEO who doesn’t just care about his product and his business but his team and culture. John’s history of contributions also spans Google, VMware and Twitter, as well as the open source community, bringing with him an appreciation of the humans behind the software that’s evident in his ongoing mentorship of less experienced engineers.

What: A modern build system for engineering teams! What does this span? Well, as outlined in Toolchain’s Hello World blog post:

The process of transforming the code you write into software that runs correctly involves iterating over many linked steps, such as resolving dependencies, generating code, compiling, type checking, testing, finding errors, bundling, and more.

These processes form the build. The tools that perform them are build systems.

How: Again, referring to their Hello World, “Toolchain leverages the Pants build system’s brand-new "v2" execution engine, written in Rust, which models build steps as standard Python 3 async coroutines with no side-effects. This leads to consistent, deterministic builds, and is a precondition for reproducible builds. This addresses the flakiness and fragility concerns that plague builds today.” Toolchain is now in private beta for Python builds, with support for JavaScript, Java, Scala, and other languages to follow soon.

Why: Because build tools have not kept up with the trends in modern software. New programming languages and frameworks, containerization, microservices, the growth of open-source software, and the democratization of software development all have contributed to making current build systems flaky, slow and unreliable.

If Toolchain sounds interesting to you, they are hiring engineers (remote candidates welcome) and talking with more engineering teams about joining the Toolchain beta (just email beta@toolchain.com).