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6/28/2011
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DotCloud: The Cloud's New Developer Hotshot?

What does the winner of Structure 2011's startup competition have that Google App Engine, Force.com, and Heroku don't?

DotCloud, a platform for cloud developers, is the new kid in town, and it might get looked down upon by the established crowd.

Already resident on this block are: Google App Engine, a Python and Java platform; Salesforce.com's Force.com platform with its proprietary Apex language; and Microsoft's Windows Azure platform with Visual Studio tools geared to it. There's also Heroku, an agile cloud platform hosting 100,000 Ruby apps--it's now part of Salesforce. Don't forget Engine Yard, another Ruby platform, and PHPfog for PHP developers.

But DotCloud is different. Each of the players above tends to be language and environment specific. DotCloud is a generalist, bringing expertise in many open source components together with deployment skills for a broad set of languages, according to co-founder and CEO Solomon Hykes in an interview. They include Java, Ruby, PHP, Python, Perl, and the server-side JavaScript, Nopde.JS.

As another example, DotCloud will handle application connections to the relational database systems MySQL and Postgres; data caching systems Memcached and Membase; and big data systems Cassandra, MongoDB, Redis, Membase, Memcached, CouchDB, and Hadoop.

Hykes gave a four-minute pitch on his young company last week at the Launchpad startup competition, an annual feature of the Structure conference in San Francisco. In a field of 10 contenders, DotCloud won both the judges and audience voting as most promising startup.

The DotCloud platform lets developers assemble a software stack of their own preference, "one platform, any stack," said Hykes. He meant any open source software stack, and one example is the LAMP stack, with Linux, Apache Web Server, MySQL, and PHP. But DotCloud claims the integration skills on its 15-person staff to deploy many different stacks.

Hykes said DotCloud views an application as a set of services, not a set of modules of code. Developers upload their code to DotCloud where it's analyzed by its systems. The developer then assembles his DotCloud Build File, telling its form what services he needs within the applications. DotCloud has APIs that connect the application to various databases and other open source code components. By invoking the API, the DotCloud Build File will add an integrated service, instead of the developer needing to configure a database server or application server for a particular environment.

"Each time a developer uses a new stack, there's a constant weight of needing to configure it to work together for a new environment," said Hykes in the interview

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