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Ruby, COBOL jump on Amazon cloud

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Two different companies this week announced that they have created tools that allow for software written using two different application development environments - the relatively new Ruby on Rails and the relatively ancient (but still respected and used) COBOL - to be deployed on Amazon's Web Services compute and storage clouds.

The Ruby on Rails effort is being spearheaded by Engine Yard, a hosting company that was established in 2006 for the express purpose of hosting and maniacally supporting applications created using the Ruby language, an increasingly popular choice option for creating Web-based applications that dates from the mid-1990s.

Engine Yard's co-founder and chief technical officer, Tom Mornini, says that as of the end of 2008, the company had over 400 customers hosting more than 500 applications on the company's own internal cloud. Mornini says that this cloud is based on just under 200 x64 machines and runs somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 virtual machine images. The Engine Yard cloud was created with a modified version of Gentoo Linux, It carves up and virtualizes the servers using a customized version of the open source Xen hypervisor.

Not everyone wants to deploy applications on a single cloud, so Engine Yard decided that it should also facilitate deployments of Ruby on Rails applications on Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) processing utility and on its related Elastic Block Service (EBS) storage utility. (The offering does not make use of the S3 storage utility, which is a different storage utility). Interestingly, the Amazon cloud runs on Linux and Xen as well, both customized by Amazon in much the same way as Engine Yard has done for itself.

The resulting product, called Engine Yard Solo, is a non-elastic (meaning a single instance) of the Engine Yard Ruby/Rails environment that can be deployed on the EC2/ECB combo instead of on the Engine Yard cloud. On the internal cloud, Engine Yard sells scalable Ruby slices for $399 per slice per month, which includes expertise, tech support, and a database instance to support the Ruby applications. Engine Yard Solo will cost $129 per month for a single instance. The company passes through the cost of a small, medium, or large Amazon EC2 instance and related EBS storage to the customer. Engine Yard Solo will be available on January 28, and the company will eventually port its Ruby/Rails tools to other clouds. (Names were not given).

Engine Yard also said this week that it was open sourcing the management framework it created on its own to manage its own cloud under a project called Vertebra. The Vertebra framework is based on an XML-alike messaging protocol called Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP), and according to Jayson Vantuyl, one of the company's co-founders and its system architect, Engine Yard took XMPP as a base and then added security, fault tolerance, scalability, and policy-based management features so it could control Ruby on Rails deployments.

The Engine Yard founders have nothing against Amazon's cloud, but they say it has limits because Amazon tends to think of an instance as a complete software stack image. This is not what Engine Yard sees happening. "Applications will span images, and what the cloud providers don't want to think about is that applications will probably span clouds."

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