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Infrastructure for internal tools.

Internal Tools
Our review

What we like

Internal tools as code - write scripts, workflows, dashboards, custom UI for internal tasks. UIs are built using React. Connects to resources like databases & APIs. Provides infrastructure for logging, permissions, approvals, notifications, etc. Supports multi-step tasks & scheduling. Supports local development and self-hosting.

What we don't like

Limited language runtime support (TS, JS, Python, Shell, Docker). The UI doesn't support dark mode.

Reviewed: 2023-04-06

Developer Interview

With Josh Ma, CTO


What is Airplane and why did you build it?

Airplane is a developer platform for internal tools. The idea is that we provide developers with a host of primitives---services, SDKs, etc.---to build internal software faster.

I consider "internal tools" to be a somewhat awkward way to describe the space, even if it's the best we have right now. Most software is actually internal. Whether it's a silicon valley startup or some real estate company in the midwest, companies need software for the work that they do - they need internal tools. So really, I think of Airplane as a business tools company. We let people build tools faster, and our goal is to power as many of the business tools out there as possible.

The reason why we started comes from a few areas. My co-founder and I both come from an enterprise SaaS background. I was CTO at Benchling, which was in the life sciences, but ultimately built enterprise SaaS primitives, just specialized for biology. My co-founder Ravi previously co-founded and ran the go-to-market side at Heap. Both of these companies developed all sorts of tools to run their core product, but even then we noticed how manual everything felt. Which was ironic, given the software nature of the companies.

When we started looking at startup ideas, we talked to about 40-50 engineering friends of ours, engineer managers, and we just asked them what tools they were building or what they wished they had. We weren't on the "internal tools" path yet. We were trying to solve problems for engineers because we liked building for engineers. The pattern of a script runner actually was the first thing we came onto. And we started exploring the idea of, "Hey, what if you just could run scripts, but like in a hosted fashion, what does that look like?"

And the more we played with that, it was like, "Oh, actually this is like building Lambda for internal tools." We're creating a way to make it easy to code and push a function, but then wrap UI, permissions, notifications, authentication, logging, and all that around it.

Engineering Profile

Platform for internal tools.

Airplane is a platform for engineers to quickly build internal tools that power recurring workflows within their organization. Our mission is to streamline internal workflows that support, operations, engineering, customer success, sales, and other teams need to do on a recurring basis.

What are some recent examples of interesting development challenges?

We’re basically building our own auto-scaling, serverless runtime for tasks, for Airplane scripts. That involved figuring out the model of the control plane and data plane, and figuring out the APIs between things. Working on load testing this was a fun project that had tangible metrics as we saw latencies decrease.

Closer to the front end side, we’re building authoring experiences for people in the browser. This involves building an IDE in the browser. How do you apply Airplane-specific semantics to build an IDE? Can you write something, see the preview; can you live-test it in your browser; can you collaborate with others? Building a better authoring experience is something that we’re pretty excited about starting.

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