I had a conference call today with founder and CEO of dotCloud, Solomon Hykes. I have recently written about the new generation of PaaS vendors who don’t lock customers into a programming language or into the vendor’s infrastructure and dotCloud is one of those newer companies with that forward thinking vision. For those of you not familiar with dotCloud, they are a fast rising award winning startup out of the valley who started in 2010 and have been winning awards and customers at a rapid pace including both the People’s Choice and the Judges’ Award at the GigaoM Structure conference in 2011.
Take a minute to watch Solomon describe how the dotCloud PaaS makes life simple on developers by taking care of all the infrastructure and stack management so the developers can focus on building their business applications.
During the overview part of our discussion, Solomon proudly declared that dotCloud was one of the first PaaS vendors to support multiple stacks. He said at the time that was a very unpopular approach that many of the vendors scoffed at, but now most are playing catch up and trying to support numerous stacks like ruby, python, php, node.js, and others. As an architect, I can tell you that in my vendor assessments I only included vendors that support multiple stacks. It is very rare that you find an organization with only one programming language. Even many startups including both of the ones I have worked with have had different technologies on the front end than they had on the backend. This is often not by design but simply how companies evolve over time.
Today, dotCloud runs on top of AWS. I asked Solomon about their plans to run on any cloud. He said that they are architected to be infrastructure agnostic meaning they are not tightly coupled to an IaaS provider’s APIs. However, their current priorities are focused on expanding the feature set of their current AWS implementation. When the customer demands increase for multi cloud vendor implementations, their architecture will support the development effort to meet those needs. We both agreed that the demand for that is coming over the next year or two. I believe that 2013 is the year where enterprises really dive into the cloud and most enterprises don’t trust the public cloud as do startups, SMBs, and cutting edge architects. So there will be an increase in the demand for hybrid PaaS capabilities but right now customers are still trying to figure out PaaS in general. The good news is dotCloud is not locked into AWS and can make the move when the demand is there.
We also discussed database as a service capabilities. dotCloud offers DBaaS for MySQL, Mongo, Postgres and Redis. I have worked in many environments where tons of resources and project dollars are spent managing the infrastructure supporting the database and the database software itself. Having access to APIs for your database needs without all of the hard work of managing and scaling the database is more than a welcomed feature for many developers. Although there are tons of databases out there, I think dotCloud’s choices of databases to support are good one since those are the most widely used databases in the cloud today.
We also discussed what many people call “plugins”. Plugins are really SaaS solutions integrated with the PaaS software. For example, software like New Relic for monitoring, Loggly for logging, and many others are strategically integrating with many PaaS providers to make it easier for developers to use these products as services. The beauty of this platform is that developers are not forced to use the plugins and if they want to manage their own monitoring software like Nagios or if they already have a logging strategy or a preferred caching strategy, they can still manage and maintain all of that independently on AWS.
Pricing for dotCloud is reasonable and they do offer a free tier for those who want to explore. There is also a nice cost estimation calculator on the dotCloud website where you can estimate your monthly costs. It was great talking to Solomon.The dotCloud team has accomplished a lot in two short years. This space is in its infancy and they are in a good position to grab a lot of market share in the upcoming years. There is a lot of competition out there though. You have your first generation closed PaaS solutions like Force.com, Google, and Microsoft that will always attract developers. But as people become more experienced in the cloud they will soon understand that an open PaaS solution that supports multiple stacks and runs on any infrastructure is the way to go. Even big vendors like Heroku who has a huge customer base is still focused solely on AWS. Companies like Engine Yard, AppFog, Openshift and others are all competing with dotCloud for market share in the ever growing and exciting PaaS space.
I am meeting with Solomon again during my upcoming trip to San Francisco. If you have any questions for dotCloud send them my way.