One of the most interesting companies to demo their wares at this year’s Web 2.0 Expo was Bungee Labs, who were showing off their Bungee Connect system for the first time. Their goal is to deliver both development and deployment of web applications using the software-as-a-service model, with everything happening in the Web browser (they support IE, Firefox, and Safari in their initial release).
Bungee’s development platform joins a growing list of web-based tools for quickly, conveniently, and cheaply developing and deploying webware. Here at Web Worker Daily, we’re bullish on tools and infrastructure that will bring web tycoonhood within reach of the masses; Bungee looks like a strong contender in that category.
The system is able to build some pretty impressive applications; you can see some in action in tutorial videos on their web site. With easy data binding, synchronization between multiple forms, trivial API use, and a very rapid (no-compile) debugging cycle, Bungee is able to deliver mashup applications quickly. You’ll definitely need to understand the plumbing of the web (this is not a tool for end users), but a developer who knows what they’re doing should be able to be very productive with this system.
Although Bungee is planning a fairly long beta period (they’re going into closed beta this month, and planning to launch in November), they’ve already got their pricing structure worked out. The IDE will be free to use, and beta deployments (limited by the amount of traffic and number of users) will also be free. It’s only when you turn on a live deployment that you start incurring charges, at $1 per “computer-network-interaction hour”. What this boils down to is charging for CPU and network time; a heavily-used application might end up costing you $3-5 per user per month.
Free system, zero-footprint tools, reasonable deployment prices – what are the downsides? There are two major areas where developers should exercise caution. First, moving into a browser-based IDE currently means leaving your entire toolchain behind: the version control story is weak, and other tools from testing harnesses to documentation builders are nonexistent. Bungee’s team recognizes these shortcomings and they have plans to fill the gap eventually, but if you’ve ever been among the first developers on a new platform you know it will be a while before the tools catch up.
The second area of potential concern is the fact that Bungee applications are currently inextricably tied to the Bungee infrastructure. Although the combination of Akamai delivery and Amazon flexible provisioning, along with multiple data centers, should make this infrastructure extremely reliable and robust, you are putting all of your eggs into a basket that you can’t easily get them out of. Again, there are plans for some sort of future application export, but they won’t be in 1.0; you need to do your due diligence and convince yourself that you trust Bungee and their slate of VC investors to stay in business.
Overall, though, I’m impressed with what I’ve seen here. It’s difficult to be 100% certain without having test-driven it myself, but based on unscripted demos, they appear to have nailed the IDE experience very well. And the set of capabilities and APIs they’re targeting are clearly core to many of today’s web applications. It looks to me like Bungee-based development will be a way to get from zero to “deployed” in record time, and that’s the sort of competitive advantage that developers need to keep an eye on.