What’s the Buzz About the Local-First Software Movement?

The local-first software approach is driven by the goal of giving organizations more control, security and optimized performance for their data and computing processes.

Cloud

The local-first software conversation isn’t new; it’s reemerging after years on the sidelines. Its core principle is enabling collaboration and file sharing through software that keeps user data stored locally on devices like computers and phones rather than piped through centralized servers. This approach leverages innovations like conflict-free replicated data types (CRDTs). Decentralized data synchronization technology allows multiple local file instances to be automatically merged and updated across devices without requiring a cloud service to coordinate and manage user changes.

For users, key benefits include increasing privacy by keeping data locally, avoiding recurring fees for cloud storage and enabling uninterrupted functionality offline or in areas with poor internet connectivity. For developers, local-first allows more user-focused and responsive software without the overhead costs and complexities of integrating with cloud service backends.

While the idea first made its way into developer conversations in 2019 through a popular white paper, local-first software principles have gained renewed traction in recent years at major developer conferences like Strange Loop. The term has also found new life in online forums like Hacker News. New startups such as Pushpin and Fission are building early local-first productivity and collaboration apps. And even the likes of Apple have started incorporating local-first data synchronization underpinnings into some of their products and services, as Wired recently reported.

Interestingly, the local-first software movement shares some notable parallels with the growing enterprise adoption of hybrid cloud strategies combining on-premises data centers with public cloud services. At their core, these parallel trends are driven by the goal of giving organizations more control, security and optimized performance for their data and computing processes. This emerging alignment is particularly evident in a few key areas.

Data locality and reduced latency

Organizations have funneled all their data into centralized public cloud repositories for too long without fully considering data locality implications. But for specific operational technology workloads like manufacturing and utilities infrastructure monitoring, having data residency much closer to the point of origin is crucial. It enables real-time processing and analysis to ensure seamless operations across geographically dispersed areas, especially in areas with limited internet connectivity.

The shift toward hybrid cloud configurations with on-premises and edge computing resources aligns with the core principles of local-first software development. Rather than having user files and application logic tightly coupled to cloud services, local-first apps keep all the data residing locally on users’ devices, providing a smooth, ultra-low-latency experience unrestricted by internet connectivity issues.

For mission-critical industrial workloads, organizations can’t accept the potential lags and disruptions inherent in routing all data processing through remote public clouds. Instead, a more balanced approach calls for making calculated decisions about where to store and process different data types based on requirements like use case characteristics and data sensitivity.

Optimized spend

The other force driving hybrid cloud adoption is the need to rein in runaway public cloud operating costs. While the public cloud model provides unmatched flexibility and scalability, it has become far too common for organizations to treat cloud as a seemingly infinite resource. The result? They overlook that costs continually rise as their workloads and storage needs grow.

For large enterprises, the conventional “cloud simplicity” mindset of going all-in on public cloud services becomes fiscally unsustainable in the long run. Local-first software developers see that avoiding total dependence on cloud service providers enables more innovative, user-focused products aligned with customer needs.

Enterprises are now applying that same philosophy, leveraging hybrid setups to make more intentional determinations about which workloads require public cloud resources versus which can run within their own optimized data centers or private clouds.

At their core, both the local-first software approach and the hybrid cloud trend stem from the realization that transformative, impactful technology does not have to be solely centralized under someone else’s roof. The key is optimizing across the key variables of latency, security, cost and end-user experience — strategically building organization-specific solutions using the best available tools and infrastructure approach rather than taking dogmatic, one-size-fits-all views.

Bala Ramaiah

Bala Ramaiah is the CEO of ISSQUARED, which he founded in 2010. His broad and rich exposure to IT infrastructure management, architecture and security with a hands on approach has helped set a clear vision for the company. Prior to founding ISSQUARED, Bala held leadership roles at Exodus Communications and Amgen. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Physics from Delhi University, where he graduated with honors, and a Master’s Degree in Computer Science from California Lutheran University.


Bala Ramaiah is the CEO of ISSQUARED, which he founded in 2010. His broad and rich exposure to IT infrastructure management, architecture and security with a hands on approach has helped set a clear vision for the company. Prior to founding ISSQUARED, Bala held leadership roles at Exodus Communications and Amgen. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Physics from Delhi University, where he graduated with honors, and a Master’s Degree in Computer Science from California Lutheran University.