Former competitors Microsoft and the Engine Yard development platform moved closer together last week with Engine Yard's announcement that a version of its platform will run on Microsoft's Azure cloud by the end of the month.
Engine Yard was an early platform-as-a-service (PaaS). It hosted the platform in its own data center when it was founded in San Francisco in 2006. Two years later, it moved to Amazon Web Services with a managed-service component available on what is now the Terremark cloud unit of Verizon. At the end of July it will be available on Azure as well.
Before the Engine Yard agreement, Azure had been primarily focused on Microsoft's .Net languages, such as C# and JScript, and was limited in its support of open source scripting languages. The one it chose to support was PHP. Engine Yard becomes available on Azure at the end of July.
That might provide more competition for its .Net languages, but it also has the potential to bring "a whole new set of developers" to the Azure platform, Gaydos said in an interview. Any time a platform in the cloud can attract developers, it increases the chances that those developers will deploy their applications on the same cloud. Microsoft has done what it could to attract Windows developers over the last three years; now it's branching out to the Web, mobile and other app developers that it may not have connected with so far.
[ Want to learn about Oracle's investment in Engine Yard? See Oracle Stakes Claim In Engine Yard PaaS. ]
Another sign of the unlikely nature of this alliance is the fact that an early investor in Engine Yard was Amazon.com. In November, Oracle announced it was an investor also, without disclosing the amount. Microsoft becomes the third major company to see the value in the PaaS firm.
CTO Rob Walters, who joined Engine Yard June 11 from Sungard, said it's not unusual for developers who like to use Engine Yard to contract to produce applications for firms that are basically all-Microsoft shops. When the application is done, it helps Engine Yard's business if the app is easily deployed in a Microsoft compatible environment. Azure is based on Windows Server and Hyper-V, and Azure workloads can be managed through a user's familiar System Center management console.
"Everyone knows that if a developer gets into a cloud environment like Azure, the chances of the apps being deployed there for production are very, very high," Walters said in an interview. Microsoft and Engine Yard will work together to make sure standard Azure services, such as load balancing, are available to Engine Yard users.
Not everything will be available on day one. As Engine Yard opens for business on Azure July 31, the only language available will be its most popular one, Ruby on Rails. The two firms are still discussing what services will be attached. Walters said additional languages will be added but couldn't say which ones. He refused to rule out Microsoft .Net languages.
It's the first time that Ruby and the many developers in the open source scripting language community have encountered Azure, which makes it hard to predict what they will want next. "It will be interesting to see what this combination wants to work with next," he said.
The Engine Yard platform automates steps in the provisioning and configuration of an application for a particular environment and speeds its deployment. Combining the plumbing of a development platform with the automated features of a cloud infrastructure should lead to new gains, the Engine Yard spokesmen said. "Not having (Engine Yard on Azure) limited us. Being able to develop on Azure opens up a whole new set of developers" for the Azure platform, said Gaydos.