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Heroku has released the public beta of a platform API to help its developers build apps and services that sit on top of its PaaS, which in turn sits on Amazon Web Services.

With the platform API, Heroku is letting developers "automate, extend and combine Heroku with other services," the company wrote on Thursday. This lets you build a service which sits on a platform (Heroku) that sits on a virtualized infrastructure cloud (Amazon).

Potential use cases include automating workloads, combining Heroku with other services, and building apps for controlling Heroku environments from smartphones and tablets.

A handy way of thinking about this is that Heroku is a pilot fish to Amazon's great big shark, and now Heroku has made an API available that could let developers build little complementary Heroku fish.

"Someone developing a self-hosted blog could create a tool to automatically build up all the required settings for a blog into a user's account. Or someone running a continuous integration server could use this to manage test runs on Heroku or [deployments] based on passing tests," Wesley Beary who heads up Heroku's API team, told The Register via email.

"IDEs can use the API to provide insight into the running version of the code as you edit it," he says. "You can also build tools to help you bootstrap apps or ensure apps match your expectations (especially across environments, like staging vs production)."

The API uses HTTP and JSON to transfer data. Available methods include DELETE, GET, HEAD, PATCH, PUT, and POST, with comprehensive documentation available.

"Previously our API was focused on providing for our internal needs as we developed toolbelt and dashboard. As a private, undocumented API falls short of external needs, we have iterated toward a better designed and documented, supported way to extend and build upon Heroku platform primitives," Beary says.

The availability of the API follows Heroku's recent expansion into Europe via renting resources in Amazon Web Services' major European data center hub. Amazon operates its own platform-as-a-service via Elastic Beanstalk, which is handy for developers building apps within an IaaS-heavy environment, but has fewer features than Heroku for those devs who want to stay away from infrastructure entirely.

As computing is steadily being abstracted further and further away from underlying hardware, companies piggybacking on the growth of megaclouds are in a bind – do they keep on automating the middleware and management and hope Amazon doesn't clone their service, do they keep on fleeing up the stack, or do they become brokers and manage other clouds?

With the public API, Heroku is trying to run up the stack and maintain developer loyalty in the process. ®

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