What makes DotCloud so hot?

Structure 2011 LaunchPad winner

Now is a great time to be a software developer. Programmers can choose from a wide variety of open source languages, databases and frameworks when building applications, and there are lots of solid cloud-based hosting options available to run them on.

But that same level of choice makes it pretty difficult to be an IT manager. A system administrator’s job is to make sure all the elements of an application can run smoothly while being safe and secure. Often times, the more components an organization’s programmers want to use, the more difficult an IT manager’s job becomes. This is one major reason that programmers frequently complain of being held back by their company’s operations team.

San Francisco-based startup DotCloud aims to fix all that. Founded in 2010, DotCloud has developed a Platform-as-a-Service product that automatically configures the components for an application and deploys it to the cloud. What sets DotCloud apart is that it can configure applications stacks built using a variety of different components, from stalwarts such as PHP and MySQL to new kids on the block such as Node.js and MongoDB.

DotCloud provides IT administrators with “one place to manage and secure so that they can see what’s going on in their organization,” co-founder and CEO Solomon Hykes told me in an interview at the Structure 2011 conference held last month in San Francisco. “At the same time, developers can have fun, be productive and move fast.” The full video of our interview is embedded below.

Essentially, DotCloud has constructed an automated system that does all the work a company would typically have to get a highly paid system administrator to do manually. DotCloud also provides centralized monitoring, alerting, and control features to help the IT staff manage applications. Currently, DotCloud’s deployments run on Amazon’s EC2 cloud service, but the technology could theoretically be used as an abstract layer to run applications anywhere from Rackspace to a private cloud.

So far, DotCloud’s offering has proven quite popular. The company won both the audience and judge’s choice awards at Structure 2011; it has raised $10 million in series A funding from Benchmark Capital and Trinity Ventures; and currently counts Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang among its board members. But like any startup worth its salt, DotCloud is not without strong competitors. Since the company was founded, RedHat (s RHT) launched its own platform-as-a-service called OpenShift, and VMware (s VMW) debuted a similar offering called Cloud Foundry.

Hykes told me the new competition only serves to highlight the strength of DotCloud’s original concept. “When we started a year ago, there was one way to do platform as a service, and it was single-stack,” he said. “It’s really great to see validation and to see other players doing the same thing… we’re excited because we’re going in there ready. We’ve got a native multi-stack platform, we’re not bolting on top of an existing silo.”

You can watch my interview with Hykes here:

Image courtesy of DotCloud.