AppFog, previously known as PHPFog, rounds out its PHP, Ruby and Node.js platform-as-a-service offering with Java support today.
AppFog was founded last year as a PHP PaaS, but changed its name to AppFog in August when it adopted VMware’s Cloud Foundry as a layer of the PaaS. Since then, AppFog has contributed PHP management tools back to the Cloud Foundry project.
The Java PaaS space got crowded quick. Just a few months ago there were only a few players, including Red Hat OpenShift (formerly Makara), dotCloud and CloudBees. Now VMware, Salesforce.com (via Heroku), Oracle and IBM have entered the market. That’s a pretty formidable list of vendors to be up against, but AppFog CEO Lucas Carlson sounds confident about AppFog’s chances.
In an interview earlier this month, Carlson talked up the importance of building a developer ecosystem around the company. “That’s something that can’t be copied,” he said. Still, as a small company going up against many biggest names in technology, building an ecosystem isn’t always easy. Carlson said the stakes are constantly being raised in PaaS – at first it was enough to support a single language. Now companies need to support multiple languages. The next table stakes will be private PaaS capabilities – which a few providers such as IBM, VMware and CloudBees already offer – and the ability to seamlessly migrate to other clouds, a feature both Heroku and AppFog are already working on.
Carlson also emphasized that Cloud Foundry only provides one piece of the puzzle and there’s a lot of room for Cloud Foundry vendors to improve on the platform and differentiate. For example, Cloud Foundry only provides a command line and API interface – no GUI. There’s a lot of room to build a custom user experience on top of Cloud Foundry.
I agree with Carlson that language support is becoming table stakes. He and his company have their work cut out for them. AppFog has deep PHP expertise, but it’s hard to compete on expertise with Zend’s PHPCloud.com and Engine Yard’s Orchestra. Likewise, Engine Yard and Heroku have Ruby/Ruby on Rails expertise pretty much owned (though Carlson actually wrote the Ruby Cookbook for O’Reilly), and it will be hard to compete with IBM, Oracle and Red Hat on Java expertise. That leaves user experience and ecosystem, which Heroku is also owning right now. Still, PaaS is young and AppFog is smart and hungry.