Cloud Computing to Get Easier for Ruby Developers

I’ve been looking at various ways to host a "cloud app," including setting up a server instance in the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (“EC2″) or signing up with a cloud management service such as RightScale or Ylastic.

To set it up myself or use a service such as RightScale or Ylastic, I am going to burn up hours configuring a server instance and doing system administration.

Yesterday Ezra Zygmuntowicz announced a new service from Engine Yard, called Solo, that’s going to make things a lot easier for me. It’s a service that creates and manages a host for a Rails or Merb app in the Amazon compute cloud.

This means I can sign up for the service from Engine Yard and get a control panel that lets me specify how much computing power and storage I need, specify or install any Ruby Gems I need, clone my app from a Git repository such as GitHub, set an IP address, and launch the app.

It eliminates a whole lot of system administration and gives me exactly what most Ruby web apps developers need.

Three instances of the app can run at once, for development, staging, and production servers. It’s configured for persistent storage, so you can shut down the server instance and bring it back up with all your data still accessible. The service will automatically back up databases, too. You get a choice of Nginx/Mongrel or Apache/Passenger for your web server. You can run the Rails or Merb application frameworks.

Basically this means I can write an app, host it in the cloud, and I don’t have to screw around with hosting and system administration.

The cost for Solo is a minimum of $129/month, which is a bit more than what I’d pay if I set it up myself with Amazon ($74/month is about the minimum cost of a month of running a server in the Amazon cloud).

The trade-off here is the internal cost of system administration.

Some people like to spend the time to be competent, knowledgeable system administrators. For cloud computing, I could tinker around with my own Amazon EC2 instance and pay only $74/month for the privilege. Just like I could sign up with SliceHost or some other Rails-friendly VPS provider and configure my own server for $20/month. That’s not for me. There are other things I’d rather be doing, like building a business. For my most recent startup client, we paid $1000/month for hosting from Engine Yard and I considered it a near-bargain compared to the cost of hiring or developing inhouse system administration expertise. For $1000/month, we got the equivalent of one $129 Solo account plus access to Engine Yard’s superb system support staff. With Solo, we’ll be getting Engine Yard’s hosting and system administration expertise packaged up as a utility service. We won’t be getting access to Engine Yard support via phone, email, or their ticketing system (support is only offered through an online forum). But I think this will work for me. It’ll cost a bit more than typical VPS hosting, but it’ll be in the cloud, it’ll be configured with all of Engine Yard’s know-how, and I won’t have to become a system administrator to run it.

Ezra says the service will be available on January 28th, 2008.

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