Heroku adds Clojure to its mix, targets enterprise apps

Salesforce.com GM of Platforms (and former Heroku CEO) Byron Sebastian

Platform-as-a-Service pioneer Heroku has added support for the Clojure programming language to its offering. Heroku, which was acquired by Salesforce in December 2010 and remains wildly popular among web developers, spent years officially supporting only Ruby applications before adding support for the Node.js framework in late May.

Supporting three development options might not appear like a big deal for programmers who do their cloud computing with Infrastructure-as-a-Service providers such as Amazon Web Services, but it is. Platforms as a service have been notorious for supporting only single programming languages and/or application stacks, and for being opaque. But that has been changing lately thanks to providers including Google App Engine, DotCloud and Microsoft Azure, and thanks to projects such as Cloud Foundry.

Heroku gives details on the how and why of its Clojure support on its corporate blog, but Co-Founder Adam Wiggins explained Clojure thusly in an e-mail to me:

Adding Clojure takes Heroku to yet another level with support for complex application types, particularly those with high concurrency or complex business logic. … It has the power of a functional language combined with the correctness and rigor you’d normally expect to see in a strongly typed language like Java. And, because it runs on the JVM, now Clojure developers have native access to the plethora of Java libraries available.

Clojure also tries to make it easier to write multi-threaded applications that utilize the full power of multicore processors. Long story short: It’s a nice language for doing enterprise-type applications in the cloud.

For Heroku, Clojure represents the furtherance of its mission to make its platform as robust as possible for a wide variety of developers. In May — and to much adulation — the company expanded beyond Ruby to support the Node.js framework. As part of its Celadon Cedar release, Heroku simultaneously rolled out a slew of new features designed to give developers more flexibility in the types of applications they can run on Heroku, as well as more insight into how their applications are running.

As Heroku CEO Byron Sebastian explained to me in April, and as he told me and Om during a fireside chat at last month’s Structure conference, large-enterprise interest has been picking up since Salesforce.com bought Heroku in December. Enterprise developers and their bosses demand certain features that Heroku and many of its fellow PaaS providers couldn’t (or didn’t) deliver in the early iterations of their offerings, but we’re witnessing those hurdles falling fast.

That means PaaS won’t be the realm of just web and mobile developers for long.

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