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Robust Ruby PaaS Cloud Launched

Engine Yard launches cloud-based deployment platform service

Engine Yard is working to make life easier for Ruby on Rails developers. The San Francisco-based application automation and management start-up rolled out two new products on Monday with an eye toward the cloud.

Ruby on Rails is a Web programming framework that's rapidly emerging as one of the most popular ways to develop Web sites and Web applications. Popular Web 2.0 applications like Twitter, Hulu and Scribd are built using Ruby on Rails, and Ruby usage has increased by 40 percent in 2009 alone, according to Evans Data. Even though only 14 percent of developers are using Ruby, Evans predicts 20 percent will adopt the technology by 2010.

Engine Yard is preparing for Ruby growth in the next 12 months and beyond with its latest offerings: Engine Yard Cloud and Flex. Engine Yard Cloud is a services platform that leverages 100 man-years of experience deploying, managing and scaling some of the world's largest Rail sites and makes that know-how accessible to companies looking to run Rails in the cloud. Meanwhile, Flex is a cloud service plan for production-level Rails applications.

Tackling Tough Issues

What Engine Yard is, in effect, taking Ruby a step beyond application development. These new tools tackle tougher issues like deployment, maintenance, scalability, uptime and performance -- skills most developers either don't have or don't want to acquire. Cloud management solutions abound, but Engine Yard charging forward with a platform to specifically address the needs of developers building applications in Rails.

Unlike an infrastructure cloud, Engine Yard Cloud provides application-aware auto-scaling, auto-healing and monitoring and a highly optimized, pre-integrated Rails runtime stack. Engine Yard Cloud is also backed by 24x7 Premium Support from Engine Yard. It runs on Amazon EC2 infrastructure cloud.

Pricing for the Flex Plan starts at $349 per month. Pricing for Engine Yard Premium Support starts at $475 per month. Engine Yard Cloud will be generally available in August.

"Companies like Amazon and Rackspace are doing a good job at the hardware resource provisioning level," said Tom Mornini, CTO of Engine Yard. "But they don't actually help you with assembling your raw virtual machines, storage, object stores and file systems into an application architecture. Engine Yard Cloud is the layer on top of the hardware that helps you get from raw resources to functioning application architecture."

Under the Hood

With its Flex plan, Engine Yard Cloud serves customers running production applications that want to leverage the on-demand flexibility of a cloud but also need application-level scaling, reliability and support. With developer features like automated deployment from source check-ins, handling rapid application changes driven by agile development is easier for developers.

Behind the scenes, Engine Yard Cloud is automatically scaling applications. Engine Yard can

Engine Yard Cloud is the layer on top of the hardware that helps you get from raw resources to functioning application architecture.

come to the rescue of a site that's under stress or low in memory by adding more application capacity on the fly. Here's how it works: Essentially, the technology provisions a new Amazon virtual machine, lays down the operating system, lays down Ruby on Rails, lays down the source code, hooks it up with a load balancer, and assembles the monitoring so the developer -- who is not a systems administrator -- doesn't have to.

Engine Yard Cloud also offers reliability features to make sure sites don't go down, such as an automatic database replica and an auto-healing capacity in case a server fails in the application tier. Engine Yard Cloud even offers what it calls "one-click cloning" that lets developers duplicate production sites -- even if they are running 15 or 20 or more servers -- in order to perform testing or stage new code.

This is all coming together for integrated app-stack in one cloud automation. I expect this will also be of interest for private clouds. And I'm hip to the notion of personal cloud as a means to ease the deployment of robust apps.

Competing in the Cloud

On the Ruby front, Engine Yard has a strong position in the market. Engine Yard's competitors are Joyent, Rails Machine, Devunity and RailsCluster, among others.

But Engine Yard isn't just competing with vendors in the Ruby space. It's competing with other platforms. Google App Engine is doing something similar for Java. Microsoft is shipping Azure in November. Even if Engine Yard dominates on the Ruby front, there's still a battle for market share in cloud platforms.

BriefingsDirect contributor Jennifer LeClaire provided editorial assistance and research on this post. She can be reached here and here.

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