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InfoQ Homepage News Heroku and Morph AppSpaces: two new solutions to Rails hosting

Heroku and Morph AppSpaces: two new solutions to Rails hosting

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AppEngine made a big splash this week, offering a simple and easy way of running web applications written in Python. But the Ruby community doesn't have to wait for Google, it has its own solutions for easy deployment. We take a look at two new ones, which  build on the common foundations Rails developers are used to.

Heroku and Morph Labs are Ruby on Rails hosting providers, offering a complete environment for running Ruby on Rails applications. Compared to traditional hosters, they don't just give you a server but offer some interesting tools and interfaces to make your live easier and relieve you from all the hassle of installing, configuring, managing and securing a server. Both are using the Amazon EC2 grid computing technology to run the applications, so you don't have to worry about scaling and performance issues either.

Another important feature Heroku and Morph Labs accentuate is the painless deployment you get. Deploying a new application is a matter of a few minutes: watch the Heroku instant deployment demo and the Morph eXchange deployment in 6 minutes demo to see how easy it is.

Both offerings seem to be very much alike. InfoQ talked to representatives from both projects to get some more information.


James Lindenbaum explains the unique features of Heroku:

Heroku is hands down the easiest deployment platform for Rails apps. No humans in the loop, just drop in your code and you're up and running. Heroku handles everything, from version control and collaboration to auto-scaling (built on top of Amazon's EC2). We offer a full suite of tools for developing and managing your app, through either the web interface or our new external API.

An very interesting feature of Heroku is its browser-based development environment. It is based on the experiences made with Gyre, whose developer Adam Wiggins is also part of the crew behind Heroku. So if you need to make a quick change or addition, you can just use your browser and edit all the source code of your running application and automatically deploy it afterwards. Of course, using the browser IDE isn't the only way to access Heroku's services, there's also the Heroku API and the external Git access.

Asked about their target audience, James replied:

Honestly, almost everyone who wants to develop or deploy Rails apps should use Heroku. About a third of our users are beginners (many of whom haven't written a web app before at all), and they love it because they can get up and running instantly. Another third of our users are more serious Rails developers, who just don't want to deal with the hassles of setup, configuration, and deployment. We have started to offer features for this group over the last couple of months, and thousands of these users have been happily banging away on our private beta. The last third of our users are really hardcore Rails developers. We've just begun to offer features for this group (the API, external access to Git code repositories), and have many more to be released in the coming months. It's this hardcore group that has accounted for the largest part of the load on our platform over the last 6 weeks.

Heroku doesn't have a launch date yet:

We don't have a specific launch date, it's more about maturity. We are very conservative when it comes to platform stability, so we won't launch until we feel satisfied with the breadth and depth of use the platform has been put through. We have over 8,500 developers now, who've created almost 9,000 apps. Usage has increased dramatically over the last couple of months, and we've only released a tiny portion of the features we have planned.

Morph eXchange

Morph eXchange is a portal into Morph Labs' Software as a Service offerings. The Morph AppSpaces can be found in their DevCenter. We asked Macel Legaspi from Morph Labs about the characteristics of their offering:

Morph AppSpaces are a Platform as a Service for Ruby on Rails applications. The Morph AppSpace provides all of the technology and infrastructure needed to deploy, deliver and manage a web application written in Ruby on Rails. Each Morph AppSpace provides a highly available, fault tolerant environment for a web application. Load balancers, distributed application servers, integrated web delivery stacks, security and managed backups are all part of every Morph AppSpace. A Morph AppSpace subscription is near nirvana for a Ruby on Rails web application developer. The Morph AppSpaces run on top of the Morph Application Platform. The Morph Application Platform brings together a collection of open source technologies and Morph intellectual property to provide the Morph AppSpace environment. The Morph Application Platform uses cloud computing including Amazon EC2 and Amazon S3 to provide computer power and online storage as needed by the Morph AppSpaces.

We also wanted to know which audience the service is targeting:

The Morph eXchange is targeted at users of Software as a Service. Currently the subscriptions available are mostly targeted towards the developer or the independent software vendor. As the Morph partner community grows the number of subscriptions available on the Morph eXchange will grow.

The Morph eXchange subscriptions have just launched and are available since 3/31/2008. For detailed information about the pricing, please visit the Morph Application Platform pricing table on their website.

Heroku and the Morph AppSpaces reduce the effort of deploying and maintaing an application considerably, letting the developers concentrate their energy on the development.

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