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Grails Gains Cloud Hosting with Morph AppSpace

by Cleve Gibbon on Jul 25, 2008 |
Morph AppSpace is a cloud-based platform for hosting web applications. The latest release has added support for Groovy and Grails. The Morph AppSpace platform exposes virtual compute environments known a cubes that are pre-configured application stacks tailored for hosting web applications. Users sign-up for a Morph AppSpace subscription and can create cubes on-demand. The Morph AppSpace platform is responsible for maintaining cubes and provides web-based tools to facilitate in the scaling, management and monitoring of hosted web applications. InfoQ caught up with David Abramowski, CEO of Morph Labs to get some more details around it's recent move into the Java space.

David started by stepping through the key features of Morph AppSpace:

The top "feature" is that we provide an end-to-end managed service for web applications, changing the paradigm around hosting. Morph AppSpace combines technology, processes and people together into an on-demand service for a web application. Developers deploy their application to a Morph AppSpace and it is live to the world in a matter of minutes. No longer do developers need to think in terms of servers or software stacks, they think in terms of application delivery.

Looking a layer deeper into the features I would say that what makes us special is that we provide a fault tolerant environment based on standards and open source technologies. We provide web-based interfaces that provide integrated features like web statistics and performance statistics that let the developer better understand how their application is behaving. We also have a unique approach to data protection where we keep data safe by continuously streaming it to physical storage.

Morph AppSpace is not an application programming model for delivering scalable web apps. Engineers at Morph AppSpace reiterated that the platform is programming model agnostic. Developers are still responsible for knowing how to design, build and assemble scalable web applications. Once the web application has been packaged, the platform provides tools to assist in the downstream activities associated with deploying and managing it within the cloud.

InfoQ asked David what the benefits are for an organisation thinking of using Morph AppSpace:

The main benefit is taking advantage of Morph's expertise in running and managing a world-class web application environment. By deploying applications to the Morph AppSpace, companies can eliminate the need for servers, web hosts, consultants/employees to do system administration tasks (like setting up operating systems, architecting high availability or dealing with server level security). Each Morph AppSpace is like having an external IT department that is solely focused on keeping the web platform up-to-date and running at optimal levels.

Also, given that hosting is a crowded marketplace, how does Morph AppSpace compare to other companies such as Heroku, RightScale, Mosso:

Each of these companies you mention targets a different need. From what we have seen with Heroku, they are still in the early exploratory phases with their solution. They have a beta version of an online web editing tool for code development and the ability to deploy the application created there to a pre-configured web stack running on Amazon EC2 where it currently mingles with other applications.

Rightscale is what we consider a Cloud infrastructure management company. They provide the tools necessary to manage a farm of servers in the Cloud. It is still up to the user of RightScale to figure out how they are going to use those servers, install software and manage the entire environment. Rightscale products streamline the process of bringing new servers online and configuring those servers with pre-defined packages or scripts to load software or data.

Mosso is an advancement on hosting, leveraging features of the cloud. The overall paradigm is still based on hosting web sites, yet Mosso handles several of the system administration tasks for the user. This is a different view of the world than we take at Morph. Our focus is on web applications and the infrastructure needed to properly run and manage that application.

Morph AppSpace removes the need for system administration, add statistics and provides prebuilt stacks for specific development scenarios. However, exactly what value add does Morph AppSpace when contrasted with the services offered by EC2. David summarised with the following:

Amazon EC2 provides a developer with servers while Morph provides the developer with an application environment.

He continued with the following transportation analogy:

Amazon EC2 is like getting an engine, a set of wheels and a chassis. Yes, you could assemble these into transportation, but do you really want to spend your time doing that? And do you have the skills to do it? On the other hand, Morph is a car. You just get in and drive to work. Now apply this to applications.

At the heart of the platform is the Morph AppSpace cube. A cube's application stack is comprised of the Jetty web container that has been pre-configured with 256Mb RAM. Out-of-the-box support for MySql, PostgreSQL and email means that these jars are baked into the application stack. However, the ability to fine-tune the JVM is not there yet. Moreover, a cube's application stack is pretty much closed to any sort of modification.

When asked what's next for Morph App, David responded:

We continue to work to simplify the environment and integrate with as many 3rd party development tools as possible (currently we have plug ins for deploying via Eclipse, Maven and Ant). We have just added MySQL support along with the availability of Java/Grails environment.

Morph AppSpace has a subscription-based pricing model. There are eight different types of subscriptions where price varies depending on the number of cubes, size of database, required bandwidth and file storage. Subscription payments can either be made daily or monthly.

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