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Heroku to simplify EC2 'complexity'

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Ruby hosting giant Heroku is letting developers roll Memcached into their web-based applications for fast performance and internet-size scale.

Heroku has released a Memcached add-on to its core hosting platform that runs atop Amazon's EC2, using start-up NotrthScale's Memcached Server.

The Ruby host picked NorthScale having abandoned an attempt to build its own Memcached offering that reached beta but was pulled. NorthScale is home to a number of core Memcached project committers and engineers who've worked on MySQL and Drizzle, while its Membase Server - a distributed key-value database - is in private beta on Zynga's FarmVille and Café World, close to the heart of Facebookers. Public beta is due by June.

Heroku is home to more than 50,000 Ruby applications and used by developers of all sizes including giants like US consumer electronics retailer Best Buy.

Memcached was the number-one requested feature by those who've built the 50,000 plus applications on Heroku. Three hundred applications have so far plugged into the add-on, which is run by NorthScale whose Memcached is also on Amazon.

API calls are passed between the Heroku and NorthScale services when a user wants to deploy Memcached.

NorthScale co-founder James Phillips told The Reg Ruby applications on Heroku that use the add-on would get snappy performance and long-term scale. Memchaced is supposed to provide an architecture of hosting frequently accessed and fast-changing data that's easier to build and manage than using the traditional approach of relational databases in massive, web-based systems with millions of users.

Further, the fact the service is provided as part of Heroku means developers don't have to get into the details of requesting a new EC2 machine, assigning a new IP address, loading the software on that machine or spinning up a SQL server instance from Amazon.

Heroku draws on the computing power of EC2, but sits above the service to provide two benefits: a simplified management interface for EC2 and a system of charging that's easier to understand then wading through and assembling the raw options offered by Amazon.

"You can add what you want without pre defining schemas to add more capacity or adding more boxes to the cluster," Phillips said, adding this meant Ruby developers can focus on the code and don't need to think like "an infrastructure guy". Or gal, we might add.

"Heroku is all about abstracting from the developer anything to do to with any infrastructure. You build the source code and upload it to Heroku and tell us to dial up or dial down."

Simplicity of service was one reason Best Buy partner Bust Out Solutions picked Heroku in the first place to host its application for the retailer. Bust Out Solution build IdeaX, a social networking service for customers to share, discuss ideas and vote on ideas.

Bust Out Solutions said in a reference on Heroku's site EC2 was too expensive and complex to manage, which is why it picked Heroku. So much for the cloud being the answer to all our data-center headaches. ®

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