Appfog (previous CloudAve coverage), the PaaS player previously known as PHPFog, today announced support for Ruby and Node.js on their platform. This is nothing new or surprising and I can even say that this completes the process of removing any differentiation in terms of language support among the PaaS providers (yeah, I know that there are still some with single languages but you got the message, right?). But I am still writing a post about this news because this also marks the beginning of next set of debates (hopefully but can’t be sure knowing the Clouderati community) in the space addressing the question “How will PaaS providers differentiate?”. Lucas Carlson, founder of AppFog, says user experience will be the differentiator.
AppFog began its existence as a PHP PaaS provider catering to the needs of the large PHP user base. With Lucas being an active PHP community member, PHPFog received instant credibility and even an attack by a kiddie hacker didn’t make any dent on the company. However, with the release of CloudFoundry, there was a shift in the PaaS space and almost every other PaaS provider was forced to change their business strategy. As a response to this shift, AppFog has reorganized themselves as a multi-language PaaS. Not only that, they are playing a major role in supporting PHP on the CloudFoundry framework. In the end, this multi-pronged strategy (more to come in the future) might help them navigate this competitive market segment. Last month, they secured an $8 million Series B led by Ignition Partners with participation from new investors Simon Crosby and Matt Ocko and previous investors, Madrona Venture Group, First Round Capital and Founders Co-Op. Frank Artale from Ignition joined the board.
Lucas sees the flooded market and thinks that they can win the game if they can offer better user experience for their users. In his point of view, user experience includes not just better UI but also an overall experience with better pricing and better support baked in. He is confident that his involvement in the PHP community and the involvement of their staff in other communities will help them offer better support than other players in the PaaS space. I am still not 100% convinced that user experience alone can be a winning strategy but after hearing about their roadmap, I am pretty confident that they can stay competitive in the coming years. Watch out for some interesting announcements from them this year.