Vercel’s Turborepo: “Never do the same work twice"

Jared Palmer, Director of Frameworks and Developer Tools at Vercel on Turborepo

Jun 12, 2023

In this interview, we spoke with Jared Palmer, Director of Frameworks and Developer Tools at Vercel and learned all about Turborepo, a build system for JavaScript and TypeScript, and discussed the advantages of monorepos.

International JavaScript Conference: What exactly is Turborepo and what can it do?


Jared Palmer: Turborepo is a high-performance build system for JavaScript and TypeScript that’s changing how teams collaborate and work. With Turborepo, developers can create a clear workflow for complex tasks. 


Some of the benefits of Turborepo include incremental builds, remote caching, and optimized task pipelines. Thanks to its capabilities, which can boost build speed by 85% or more, teams of all sizes can now sustain a fast and efficient build system that’s scalable as codebases grow. 


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International JavaScript Conference: What are the disadvantages of monorepos? How can Turborepo help?


Jared Palmer: Monorepos are used by some of the largest software companies in the world. Unfortunately, monorepos have historically been very difficult, time-consuming and expensive for companies to adopt if operating at a smaller scale than the giants like Google and Facebook. 

Turborepo is solving this gap. By taking the lessons and development workflows from the giants of the Web and bringing it to open source for every developer, regardless of company size, Turborepo is lowering the barrier for entry and unlocking monorepos for all. By abstracting the complex configuration needed for most monorepos into a single cohesive build system, Turborepo provides a world-class development experience without the maintenance cost. 


International JavaScript Conference: Why did you choose Rust as the programming language to build Turborepo? Where does it excel in this case?


Jared Palmer: At the heart of Turborepo is a very simple idea: never do the same work twice. With this in mind, below are the main strengths that led us to select Rust:

  • Prioritization of Correctness over API Abstraction: Rust’s type system and safety features allow the placement of guardrails in codebases, enabling developers to encode constraints that catch errors at compile time rather than at runtime. This reduces the number of mistakes, which is especially vital for user-facing software.
  • A Strong (and Growing) Ecosystem: Rust sports a growing ecosystem of high-quality crates, several of which make interfacing with code written in C easy and idiomatic. This lets Turborepo make use of the best implementations available, without being restricted to one ecosystem, sacrificing internal developer experience, or forcing changes on unrelated parts of the codebase.
  • Alignment with Turbopack: As Rust is already utilized by Turbopack, our incremental bundler, aligning Turborepo to the same programming language enables both to share development and maintenance of common utilities, thereby enabling faster ships.
  • Developers Want to Write Rust: In 2022, [a StackOverflow survey](https://insights.stackoverflow.com/survey) found more than 80% of developer respondents want to continue using Rust. 



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International JavaScript Conference: What is the performance of Turborepo like? Do you have any benchmarks?


Jared Palmer: Turborepo can boost build speeds by 85% or more, enabling teams of all sizes to maintain a fast and efficient build system that scales as codebases and teams grow. In fact, since Turborepo joined Vercel, the Remote Cache total time saved is currently 55 years and growing quickly. 


International JavaScript Conference: Could you tell us more about remote caching and its benefits? How does it help with scaling?


Jared Palmer: Turborepo’s remote caching capabilities allow developers to share a remote build cache with their teams and CI/CD for even faster builds. When a team member is on the same moment in git history, remote caching identifies the necessary artifacts (such as build and log outputs) and reuses them across machines in external CI/CD and during the Vercel build process. This speeds up workflow by avoiding the need to constantly re-compile, re-test, or re-execute code if it is unchanged.


International JavaScript Conference: How does Turborepo work with Vercel? And what exactly is Vercel?


Jared Palmer: Vercel is the cloud platform for frontend developers, changing the way teams develop, preview and ship software to evolve the frontend experience for businesses across the globe. It provides the speed and reliability innovators need to create at the moment of inspiration, unlocking developer potential to go from idea to global application in seconds. With Vercel, customers like Under Armour, Nintendo, The Washington Post, and Zapier are empowered to build delightful user experiences on the Web.

Vercel has made its CLI open source and available for everyone to use. In combining Turborepo’s capabilities with Vercel’s infrastructure, Vercel is changing how teams collaborate and work and providing a world-class development experience, from the power of remote caching to the unlocking of monorepos for all Vercel customers.

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