What is a Cloud Development Environment? Is it better than localhost?

February 20, 2024

Christian Sendler

Director of Product Strategy & Operations

February 20, 2024

Share your Social Media

In a cost-conscious market, getting the most out of your current development team is key. Engineering organizations looking to improve productivity and developer experience

Should seek efficient ways to streamline their work processes. One such way is the transition to cloud-based development environments. But what exactly is a cloud-based development environment and how does it differ from traditional localhost environments? In this article, we will dive into the basics of cloud-based development environments, explore the characteristics of localhost environments, compare the two, and discuss the challenges and benefits of making the transition from localhost to the cloud.

Table of content:

  • Understanding the Basics of Cloud-Based Development Environment
  • Diving into Localhost Environments
  • Comparing Cloud-Based and Localhost Environments
  • Making the Transition from Localhost to Cloud

Understanding the Basics of Cloud-Based Development Environment

Before we delve into the specifics, let's define what constitutes a cloud-based development environment. Simply put, it is an Internal Developer Platform (IDP) that enables developers to build, test, and deploy applications without the need for physical infrastructure or local installation. By leveraging cloud computing resources, this approach offers flexibility, scalability, and accessibility that traditional localhost environments cannot match.

Defining Cloud-Based Development Environment

A cloud-based development environment is an on-demand, pre-configured instance with all tools, libraries and dependencies ready-to-code, eliminating the constraints of physical hardware and enabling a more collaborative and agile development process.

Key Features of Cloud-Based Development Environments

Cloud-based development environments offer several key features that set them apart from their localhost counterparts. Firstly, they provide on-demand resource allocation, allowing developers to easily scale their infrastructure based on project requirements. This agility ensures optimal performance and prevents downtime during peak usage periods.

Secondly, these environments offer seamless integration with popular development tools and platforms, such as Git repositories and continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines. This integration simplifies the development workflow and boosts productivity, enabling developers to focus more on coding and less on infrastructure management.

Thirdly, cloud-based development environments prioritize collaboration. They enable real-time collaboration between team members, facilitating code sharing, documentation, and project management. This streamlined collaboration accelerates development cycles and promotes knowledge sharing within the team.

Lastly, they give platform engineering teams better control and visibility to the usage and cost, while ensuring proper security and compliance. 

Benefits of Using Cloud-Based Development Environments

The advantages of utilizing a cloud-based development environment are manifold. Firstly, these environments eliminate the need for local installations and hardware setups, allowing developers to work efficiently across different operating systems and devices. This cross-platform compatibility enhances productivity and flexibility.

Secondly, cloud-based development environments provide automatic backups and version control, ensuring that valuable code and project history are always safeguarded. This reduces the risk of catastrophic data loss and facilitates collaboration by enabling rollbacks to previous versions.

Additionally, the on-demand scalability of cloud-based environments allows developers to easily accommodate fluctuating workloads, ensuring optimal performance and minimizing costs. Developers can provision resources as needed, rather than being tied to fixed hardware capacity.

Diving into Localhost Environments

Now that we have explored the fundamental aspects of cloud-based development environments, let's turn our attention to localhost environments. What exactly is a localhost environment and how does it differ from the cloud-based approach?

What is a Localhost Environment?

A localhost environment refers to the traditional method of development where all coding, testing, and hosting activities are performed on a local machine. In a localhost environment, developers typically set up a local server, such as Apache or Nginx, on their computer to replicate the web server environment for testing and debugging purposes.

Characteristics of Localhost Environments

One of the primary characteristics of localhost environments is their self-contained nature. Developers have complete control over the infrastructure and can fine-tune it according to their preferences. This level of control can be beneficial for certain types of projects that require highly specific configurations or specialized hardware.

Furthermore, localhost environments offer superior performance in terms of latency and response times since all operations are performed locally. This advantage can be particularly crucial for time-sensitive applications or projects that involve large data processing requirements.

Disadvantages of Localhost Environments

The main disadvantage of localhost environments is that many resources required for proper development environments, such as databases, compute or storage, either consume significant hardware resources, require unique hardware or are difficult to emulate on a local machine. Think about the resources required to replicate a production database locally or run a workflow that requires GPUs.

Moreover, restarting a local machine, many times requires starting many of these services again, not to mention that updating these libraries might take a lot of time and require reconfiguration once 

Comparing Cloud-Based and Localhost Environments

Now that we have explored the characteristics of both cloud-based and localhost environments, let's compare them side by side to gain a better understanding of their strengths and limitations.

Performance Comparison

While historically localhost environments provide superior performance in terms of latency and response times, cloud-based environments today offer not just scalability and the ability to handle large workloads, but also latency that is on par with localhost. 

Moreover with cloud-based development environments compute resources as well as caching organizations see a 1.8x-2.5x improvement in build time according to Uber’s benchmarks

Figure 1: 1.8x improvement over laptops for average builds (in seconds)

Security Aspects

From a security perspective, cloud-based development environments often offer robust security measures, including data encryption, access controls, and regular vulnerability assessments. However, localhost environments provide developers with complete control over their infrastructure, allowing them to implement security protocols tailored to their unique project requirements.

One of the benefits of cloud based development environments is the ability to standardize access and provisioning, which means more control over the environments. 

Cost Implications

Cost is a crucial factor to consider when choosing between cloud-based and localhost environments. Cloud-based environments typically involve recurring operational costs based on resource usage and service subscriptions, while localhost environments require upfront investments in hardware and maintenance. Project budget, scalability needs, and long-term sustainability should be factored into the decision-making process.

A big advantage of cloud based development environments is the ability to monitor and manage cost.

Figure 2: Devzero’s central cost dashboard


Maintenance Implications

While each laptop might have a different configuration and update cycles might be dependent on the individual developer, cloud based environments run on a standard configuration and, assuming you are utilizing GitOps, every update is seamlessly deployed across all environments. 

Making the Transition from Localhost to Cloud

As developers increasingly embrace the advantages of cloud-based development environments, the transition from localhost to the cloud becomes an essential consideration. Let's explore how developers can successfully navigate this shift.

Preparing for the Shift

Before migrating to a cloud-based development environment, it is crucial to thoroughly assess the project requirements, scalability needs, and potential challenges. Proper planning and resource allocation are vital to ensure a smooth transition without disruptions to ongoing development activities.

Challenges in Transitioning

Migrating from localhost to the cloud can present various challenges, including adapting to a new workflow, learning new tools and services, and ensuring seamless integration with existing development processes. It is essential to provide adequate training and support to developers during this transition phase to minimize the impact on productivity.

Tips for a Smooth Transition

To facilitate a smooth transition, developers should consider gradually migrating different components or functionalities one at a time. This phased approach allows for thorough testing, minimizes the risk of unexpected issues, and helps developers adapt to the new environment more effectively. Additionally, fostering open communication, collaboration, and knowledge sharing within the development team can significantly contribute to a successful transition.

In conclusion, cloud-based development environments offer a range of benefits, including flexibility, scalability, and collaboration capabilities. However, localhost environments still have their merits, particularly in terms of customization and performance. The decision to switch from localhost to the cloud depends on project requirements, budget constraints, and security considerations. Making the transition requires careful planning, addressing potential challenges, and providing necessary support to the development team. By embracing the advantages of cloud-based development environments while mitigating any associated challenges, developers can unlock new levels of productivity and efficiency in their workflow.

Get started with DevZero today.

Say goodbye to localhost limitations in less than 5 minutes.

Get Started