August 28, 2019

Glasstower - A desktop app to manage your servers

Chris Hunt @Kode

I'm the admin for a site called fanart.tv. The site has multiple physical servers and multiple VMs and over the years these have been moved to a variety of different hosts, the details of which I had stored in a bitwarden storage vault.

One day I found myself trying to SSH into one of the servers to update the letsencrypt certificate which wasn't automatically updating for some reason and I was going through all the stored items trying to find the one which had the right details, trying multiple ones before I finally came across the right ones.

Normally this isn't an issue, I have the details stored in termius, so I can just login, but my normal machine was in for repair and you can't sync details between clients without paying $8.33 a month... $8.33 a month to sync details between clients... A netflix account a month to sync details between clients... no thanks.

Once I was finally in I had to try and work out what commands I needed to update the certificate, it was at this point that the inital idea for Glasstower was born.

The idea was for a desktop app that I could organise all my servers in, click into one and open terminals from there, save notes about the servers, create tasks that I could run on a server, and be able to sync details between clients.

Since then the app has been completely overhauled multiple times as I've wrestled about how to go about things, technical restrictions, and basic questions such as whether to create a SaaS or a paid product.

I started off designing it as a SaaS offering, all data was encrypted and decrypted locally on the client, and only the encrypted data was stored on my servers, with no way for me to decrypt this data, "awesome", I thought, "this is going to be great", but as I started building features and adding artificial restrictions I realised that it was morphing into something I probably wouldn't buy myself...

In the end I totally changed the architectural design, now everything is stored locally. I will eventually offer a service to automatically sync detail between clients but by keeping my servers out of the equation I can charge a fee for the product and have paid plugins for people who want the functionality of the plugin, without forcing people down a subscription route.

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