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AppFog now generally available – how does it slot into the PaaS puzzle?

Chris Mayer

Once one jumps, they all do – AppFog are the latest PaaS company to go GA, but how can they possibly separate themselves from the pack?

Room for one more? Another platform-as-a-service has been unleashed from its cage, roaring proudly about what it can do that others can’t. Normally, this would fall on deaf ears but when it’s the leading cloud cross-platform that becomes generally available, you can’t really not sit up and take notice.

The highly intriguing web, mobile and enterprise platform from AppFog has finally arrived, complete with a compelling pricing strategy. Already used by over 40,000 developers between them deploying more than 60,000 apps, the time was right to give it the green light after a very successful gestation period. but the crucial question is – how it can possibly stand out with so many competitors?

AppFog are attempting to differentiate themselves from the competition by only charging for the RAM you need. They’re also banking on AppFog doing to PaaS what Google did to email. By this, they mean they are going to give developers 2GB of RAM for free to do with as they please, – a tremendous gesture that might have ramifications across the market. By offering so much for so little, other PaaS vendors are going to have to offer similarly enticing value for money sharpish. Their move to commoditize cloud services like Google did with email is a bold approach, but it’s a gamble that might just pay off.

AppFog’s ace in the hole is the service’s ability to extend across different infrastructures, which is a great thing to have available should Amazon Web Services go down. This is done through VMware’s CloudFoundry, another PaaS which does the heavy working as a universal API. It’s an interesting link between the two, using CloudFoundry as a codebase. Essentially AppFog becomes the front end here, with a very nice looking UI.

It is AppFog’s simplicity that might win some people over, posturing itself as an everyman’s cloud, supporting Java, .NET, Node, Python, Ruby, PHP, MySQL, MongoDB, Postgres and more. Through their successful beta phase, they’ve built a reliable and performant PaaS primed to be reasonably scalable, which is ideal for startup enterprises.

AppFog is definitely targeting smaller and startup enterprises wanting to get their apps up and running in the cloud (and highly scalable) with the click of their fingers, as they claim you can deploy in 30 seconds to AWS, Rackspace and Azure. Its pick-and-mix approach to cloud is certainly business-friendly too, with most not wanting to be locked down in this respect.

Whilst AppFog won’t necessarily compete with the heavier duty Java platforms (OpenShift, CloudFoundry et al), its brash entry into the space could indeed have a knock-on effect in what they do and how they position themselves going forward. Some seeking a simple, cost-effective solution might just wander over to the Portland-based company from now on.

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