Heroku will unveil tomorrow the commercial version of its Ruby-focused cloud platform, which — in a world full of management interfaces, configuration files and provisioning policies — virtually eliminates the need for a user to do any of the associated grunt work. It’s a process the San Francisco-based startup calls “provisionless hosting.”
In Heroku’s cloud, deploying web applications becomes a trivial process, where developers can forego the busy work of configuring app servers and databases, and of allocating resources to each component. As co-founder and CEO James Lindenbaum explained, while he applauds the work being done to improve the management layers of existing cloud offerings, “We think that’s actually the wrong direction. We think this stuff shouldn’t be so complicated.”
Heroku achieves its mission by utilizing code management tool Git. Developers simply create a code repository for Heroku, push their code to the service and Heroku takes care of the rest. The platform consists of open-source, best-practice-proven web architecture pieces that are captured in a read-only, high-performance copy of a user’s application used to create new application instances in less than two seconds, according to Lindenbaum, vs. a few minutes for most new instances on Amazon EC2. Instead of having to be able to predict load a couple of minutes out, “We can assume that the traffic you’re gonna have two seconds from now is basically the same as the traffic you’re gonna have now,” he said.
It’s worth noting here that Heroku is built on EC2, but Lindenbaum claims that its architecture provides far higher performance because it was built from the ground up to take advantage of EC2. And while he calls Amazon the most viable option available today, he told me that there are many advantages to cross-cloud deployment, and that, “[T]here are other very compelling solutions out there today that we’re looking at.”
Heroku offers a “one-stop shop” style of pricing, though everything about the platform is open (unlike Google’s App Engine, which requires users to write specifically to Google’s infrastructure) and users could at any point move their apps to another cloud that supports Ruby. (The company also notably signed on to the much-maligned — and much-supported — Open Cloud Manifesto.)
It’s too early to tell how Heroku will fare in the real cloud computing marketplace — the one where users actually pay — but the simplicity of its platform bodes well for success. Heroku attracted 25,000-plus applications and 23,000-plus users during its beta period, and that number should grow as Ruby, also known for being user-friendly, gains popularity. By focusing on developers, who appreciate Heroku’s model because it allows them to spend the entirety of their time on application improvement, Heroku should be able to infiltrate enterprises from the ground up.