Brev: Infrastructure-as-a-Service Co. Spins Up AI Templates
When Nader Khalil started his company, he wanted to make it easier for local businesses to get customers inside their stores, bars and restaurants. So he and co-founder Alec Fong launched a company that put tablets in Ubers and Lyfts that advertise local businesses. If the rider clicked on an ad — say a special on margaritas — their solution would reroute the driver to the advertised location.
“You are going out with friends for drinks, you see ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ margaritas, you tap the screen, you get a free drink, the bar owner knows his ad works and the driver got a tip — everyone wins,” Khalil said.
It was a great idea … in 2019. They had more than 400 drivers using their solution in San Diego. Then came 2020 and Covid. Their 400 cars went down to seven overnight, but they’d learned something important in that time: While setting all this up, the hardware was never as tricky as the software issues.
That led to a new direction and a new company for Khalil as CEO and Fong as CTO: Brev.dev, an infrastructure-as-a-service company, to simplify infrastructure for software development teams.
A Big ‘Add More RAM’ Button
Brev is like a “GPU in the cloud,” Khalil said. Brev works to automate usage, so developers aren’t stuck with a bill for time they didn’t use. For instance, it will turn off the machine if it’s not in use.
“These machines can be a few bucks an hour, so that can be pretty significant if you forget it for like eight hours,” he said.
It will also downgrade GPU if you’re not using it, essentially sending you to a cheaper machine.
“Then you go from a few bucks an hour to 10 cents, four cents an hour, something that’s kind of negligible,” Khalil explained.
Brev is a bit like a virtual machine, except it’s not. Run out of RAM on a virtual machine, and you’ll have to tear it down, spin up a new one, reinstall everything (such as repo clones), and then make sure the npm is installed, plus add any personal settings. It’s a lot to handle just to grab a bit more RAM. Brev lets you add more RAM from its cloud infrastructure — there’s no need to restart.
“You wish you had double the RAM. You can just go into your settings, add more RAM, and now you have more. We’ve joked about making a big ‘download RAM’ button,” he said. “We want to focus on finding the cheapest instances for you and finding and making the most delightful experience outside of that.”
It allows developers to use their own integrated development environment (IDE), including VS Code, as if it were on their own personal computer or laptop. It feels local but runs virtually, Khalil explained.
“I’m on the cloud computer,” he said. “So I’m not coding using local RAM or CPU. My fans are never going off on my computer. It stays nice and cool. My battery life lasts forever. Everything’s already installed, and I can just run everything still on localhost. It feels like I’m coding locally, but nothing actually runs on my machine.”
Templates for Running AI/ML
One of the emerging use cases the team has seen is for artificial intelligence/machine learning model deployment. AI/ML can take a lot of resources to run and playing with it can slow your computer down significantly, Khalil said. The team offers templates for deploying AI and ML models and software.
“Amazon, Google, Facebook, they all build a version of Brev in-house where they’re focused on these kinds of benefits because they really amplify as you get larger, [but] there’s also the the initial start, right?” he said. “So people starting new projects might look for something like a really quick template that can get them off the ground quickly rather than having to build a lot of the scaffolding themselves.”
For instances, Brev offers an infrastructure template for running Dreambooth, which was developed by Google as a way to fine-tune text-to-image models. The ML community began using Dreambooth to fine-tune Stable Diffusion models and generate samples of any subject.
“Every time there’s an exciting new AI model, we make a template for it,” Khalil said. “You can go to our docks, you can just click a button and run an AI model and be fine-tuning it yourself in like four minutes.”
The Brev template can get Dreambooth up and running quickly.
“I’m sure you’ve seen all the AI avatar apps — you can run that yourself on Brev,” he said. “We have the the AI model that lets you do that; all it needs is like 10 pictures of yourself. So you click a button on our docks. It’ll spin up the machine, install everything for you, and the guide on the docks tells you where to upload your photos and fine-tune the AI model.”
It’s pretty clear the Brev team had a good deal of fun tinkering with images of Khalil, which they shared on the site.
”By getting the dedicated resources, everything just runs a lot smoother,” he said. “My battery life lasts me like two days, you get about 115x internet speed increase when you’re using Brev because even if you don’t have fast internet, running commands and writing code doesn’t take a lot of bandwidth. But when an npm install happens, and it’s fetching a bunch of packages, that’s happening on a remote machine, so there’s like a huge performance boost by using something like Brev.”
Khalil is confident enough about Brev to provide his phone number out to everyone who registers for it.
”I actually give my phone number to everyone who makes an account, which I don’t know how sustainable that is,” he said. “Users text me pretty quickly when there’s an issue. And I actually really like that because it lets me keep my ear to the ground with the initial experience on Brev. So when I hear things, we almost immediately turn out a fix for it.”