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Engine Yard Sees Ruby As Cloud Springboard

Company executives tout the application platform provider's ability to quickly transfer customers out of the crashing Amazon cloud in April.

Providing programming platforms in the cloud, which seemed a little simple-minded when they first appeared--after all, programmers were already skilled at using the cloud, so how was the platform going to hold onto them--may not be so silly after all.

For one thing, everybody is starting to think it's a good idea. VMware is doing it with the Spring Framework and Red Hat is doing it with Ruby, Python, and PHP in OpenShift. Microsoft did it with Windows Azure and its .Net languages. And Heroku did it for Ruby programmers.

Another Ruby adherent in the cloud is Engine Yard, perhaps less well known than its larger San Francisco cousin, Heroku. Engine Yard is a pure platform play. It provides application building services on its site and, when an application is ready for deployment, it handles the preparation and delivery, either to Amazon Web Service's EC2 or Terremark, now part of Verizon Business.

Engine Yard hosts nothing itself. It depends on the public cloud infrastructure behind it. Nevertheless, Ruby programmers don't have to do anything to get their applications up and running in the cloud. Engine Yard handles all the details, and monitors their continued operation.

So what did the management of Engine Yard, a San Francisco-based cloud service for Ruby programmers, think last December of the acquisition of Heroku by for $212 million. "We couldn't be happier," said Tom Mornini, co-founder and CTO as he sat down for an interview at Interop 2011 in Las Vegas, a UBM TechWeb event.

"Five years ago, I said, 'Ruby is it,'" he recalled. He respects Python and knows programmers at Google like that open source scripting language. But he thinks he made the right call in betting on Ruby. "Python is going nowhere. You're not seeing the big moves behind Python that you do with Ruby. You're not seeing major new things in PHP. For the kids coming out of college, Ruby is hot," he said.

Mike Piech, VP of product management, gave a supporting assessment. Salesforce's purchase was "one of several moves validating this space." Piech is four months out of Oracle, where he once headed the Java, Java middleware, and WebLogic product lines. "I love being at Engine Yard," he said.

When asked what's different about Engine Yard, he succinctly answered, "Everything." Mainly, he's enjoying the shift from big company to small, with more say over his area of responsibility.

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