Engine Yard (previous CloudAve coverage), one of the earliest PaaS players, today announced the launch of Engine Yard Platform Services. This is a partner program with more than 40 cloud vendors offering their services for Engine Yard platform. This is more like an appstore for Engine Yard Platform customers so that they can easily use these third party services with their applications. Engine Yard Platform Services will be available in the near future, as soon as they work out some of the logistics.
Engine Yard for beginners
Engine Yard is a Platform as a Service Provider (PaaS) offering Ruby on Rails and PHP for applications developers. Originally, started as a Ruby on Rails PaaS player, Engine Yard allows Ruby on Rails applications to scale seamlessly in the cloud without any worries about the nuts and bolts of the underlying infrastructure. However, unlike Heroku, Engine Yard also offers developers deep control at the VM level as some of the applications may have to interact with the underlying infrastructure. Engine Yard has developed an open source reference architecture that contains technology components with parameters for scalability, performance and reliability.
This, in turn, gives developers complete control over the platform underneath their applications, taking away some of the risks usually associated with loss of control in PaaS solutions like Google App Engine and Heroku. Application tier in the Engine Yard platform is stateless and uses a scale-out approach. The application state can also be persisted to an in-memory cache or other data stores. Unlike Heroku or Google App Engine, the distinction with the infrastructure layer is more blurry in the case of Engine Yard. Clearly, their target customers are developers who want control under the platform layer.
Recently, they acquired a European PaaS provider called Orchestra, a PHP PaaS player. With this acquisition, they now offer platform solutions for both Ruby on Rails and PHP. For the time being, these two services are kept independent but the acquisition is clearly a reaction to the industry trend where all the major players are moving towards multi-language support.
Their customers range from web startups to enterprises and some of their customers include MTV, Groupon, Get Satisfaction, Frontpoint Security, Kickstarter, Path, etc.. Many of their customers have selected Engine Yard platform for scalability and ops cost reduction.
Engine Yard Platform Services
Engine Yard Platform Services launches with a large catalog of global partners that provide application solutions and applications-as-a-service, cloud stack extensions and add-ons, development tools and services, management and operations utilities, and security. There are two tiers of partners. At the basic level, Engine Yard lists some of the partners with whom they just have a business relationship. When an Engine Yard customer signs up for these partner services, they are taken to the partner website and a direct relationship is established with them. The other set of parters offer a deeper integration with Engine Yard platform using the Platform Services API.
With the Engine Yard Partner Services API, partners will be able to quickly and easily set up their services within the Engine Yard platform, and customers will be able to choose and provision partner services for their applications from within the Engine Yard dashboard. Customers will benefit from the simplicity of adding services, exclusive promotions, and hassle-free service updates. Billing for service usage will be conveniently included on each customer’s unified Engine Yard monthly invoice.
Services that will be available within Engine Yard Cloud include: Brighter Planet, CloudMailIn, Logentries, MailGun, MongoHQ, MongoLab, New Relic, OneSky, Papertrail, PubNub, Scout Monitoring, SendGrid, SimpleWorker, Xeround, and others. Services available from Partners include: 10gen, AirBrake, Appcelerator, AppFirst, Assistly, Blitz.io, Braintree, Cenzic, Chargify, CloudFlare, Cloudkick, DNSimple, DocRaptor, Dynect SMB, Exceptional, IndexTank, InfoChimps, Janrain, Loggly, LucidWorks Cloud, Postmark, Pusher, SauceLabs, SpacialDB, StatsMix, StillAlive, websolr, Zencoder, and Zendesk.
Meh, Heroku has been offering Addons from the beginning. How is this different?
Yes, Heroku has pioneered the idea of add ons for PaaS for a very long time. In a way, Engine Yard is catching up with this idea only now. But, it should be noted that Engine Yard (and for that matter almost every other PaaS provider) has been supporting many different third party services including some database services on their platform for a long time. By offering the appstore type of service, Engine Yard is making it easier for their customers to select different services to work with their applications. Plus, this arrangement adds some clarity to the business relationships Engine Yard has with their partners and opens up an opportunity to bring in more partners.
However, there is a difference between Heroku Add-ons and Engine Yard Platform Services. As Heroku platform is a bit more “restricted” than Engine Yard platform, these add-on services should meet some requirements to work on the Heroku platform and the partners have limited freedom with their services (if someone from Heroku is reading this, correct me if I am wrong). Since Engine Yard platform is more flexible, partners get a much better handle while working with the platform. On the other hand, with Heroku, the partners have to just give them a configuration file and they can be part of their Add-ons. As Engine Yard exposes their platform to partners through an API, it gives them an opportunity to tightly integrate the services the way the partners deem fit. But the integration involves a bit more work on the partner side compared to Heroku platform. These are some of the differences that comes to my mind while thinking about how these two platforms handle the partner services. In short, these are just two different approaches to solving the same problem and both approaches have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Even though it may be a bit late in the game, this move by Engine Yard prepares them to handle the tough competition they face in a crowded PaaS space that includes Heroku, Google App Engine, Cloud Bees, Cumulogic, Cloud Foundry, OpenShift, Appfog, Active State, etc.. Unlike many other players in the field, Engine Yard is not spreading their wings into supporting many different languages (even though they have acquired Orchestra). They are singularly focussed on Ruby on Rails and PHP and want to be the goto platform for applications written on this framework. Personally, I feel that market conditions will force them to change their game in the future but they are doing pretty well right now with their focussed approach. In fact, they are open to change the strategy if needed in the future too and it will be interesting to see where they are one or two years from now. An interesting platform to watch.
Update: Engine Yard pointed out to me that they are moving in the direction of multi-language PaaS which can be seen from the tone of the revamped website.