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AppFog dev cloud envelops Ruby, Node

PHP maven takes fight to Heroku

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This summer, PHP Fog changed its name to AppFog, vowing to expanded its "platform cloud" beyond PHP. And now it has.

On Tuesday, the Portland, Oregon-based startup announced that its online service – a means of building, deploying, and readily scaling applications – now handles Ruby and Node.js as well as PHP. "We've spent a year perfecting the user experience for platform-as-a-service on PHP," AppFog CEO Lucas Carlson tells The Reg. "Now we want to deliver that same experience to the Ruby and Node communities."

Late last month, the company unveiled a new beta version of its PHP service based on VMware's open source Cloud Foundry platform, and this same beta handles Ruby and Node as well. The company's original PHP service – launched well before the arrival of Cloud Foundry – is a separate offering, and in the future the outfit will move its entire operation to VMware's open source platform.

The Cloud Foundry platform already offers support for Ruby and Node, but AppFog's service adds a user interface layer atop the platform and a layer beneath it that interfaces with Amazon's EC2, where the service is hosted.

In expanding to new languages, AppFog is following the same path as the rest of the rest of the big name platform clouds. The Salesforce.com-owned Heroku has moved beyond Rails to Clojure, Node, and Java, while the San Francisco-based Rails cloud EngineYard is on its way to PHP. Microsoft Azure and Google App Engine have long supported multiple languages, and Google recently added a runtime for its own Go programming language.

"Platform-as-a-service started out with people making bets on individual languages, and people were wondering whether every language would require its own service," says Carlson. "But now we're all headed in the multilingual direction. Everyone will support the same languages. So now the question is: What's going to make the difference [between services]? We've believe it's user experience."

When it comes to Ruby, Carlson boasts, the general design of AppFog's new service will give Heroku "a run for its money". Unlike Heroku, he says, AppFog's service provides greater insight into what computing resources you're paying for. "On Heroku, you buy 'dynos', and it's not clear what those are," he says, referring to the individual processes that run on Heroku. "With AppFog, you're buying virtual machines, so it's clear what you're getting and what you can do with them."

With these virtual machines, he says, you can amortize your costs. You can spread hundreds of applications across a collection of virtual machines, he says, or you can use them for a single application.

Now that it has added Ruby and Node, AppFog plans to embrace .NET and other enterprise languages. According to the company, about 20,000 developers have used its original PHP service to deploy about 10,000 applications. ®

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