On Wednesday I attended Seattle Tech Forum’s meeting on Platform as a Service. This meetup was sponsored by Cloudstack, Private Cloud Sales & Leasing, and Microsoft User Research.
Jeff MacDuff, CTO & CoFounder of Buddy.com, gave a talk titled “Not All PaaS Are Equal”. He began with the question “Why PaaS?”. Services like AWS and Azure make scalable infrastructure available, but it still takes a lot of work to deploy a cloud based service. Much of this work is redundant — implementing user accounts, messaging, geolocation, push notifications, etc. PaaS providers solve this problem by providing much of this functionality out of the box. This allows development to “go where the IP is” — if your unique value proposition is a killer game, you can focus your dev effort on the game, and use PaaS to deliver universal things like sharing, analytics, etc.
Beyond this, MacDuff’s talk was mostly a sales pitch for Buddy.com. Normally this bugs me. But in the case of Buddy, it was an interesting presentation on what looks like a really excellent service. In fact I might end up using Buddy for an upcoming project — although they are about to announce how Buddy will be priced, which will obviously be an important factor. Buddy gives you cloud based APIs for many classes of basic functionality, listed in the API Quicklinks section of their documentation homepage, or also visible in this gorgeous infographic:
Next we heard from Jawaid Ekram, COO & Co-Founder of Uhuru Software. In “How to bring best of Open Source and .NET together” Ekram gave an overview and demonstration of, you guessed it, Uhuru. Uhuru is a very flexible platform that helps .NET developers tap into cloud services in a platform and tool-agnostic manner. Ekram gave a demo of using Uhuru in Visual Studio to deploy an Umbraco installation with RabbitMQ as the backend.
Bhanu Mullapudi, Co-founder of PlayMySurvey.com, presented “Focus on Apps and Data and Leave the Rest to Pros”. Mullapudi was formerly a Sr. Systems Architect at Alaska Airlines. He talked about his experience at Alaska where he was part of their effort to try out Cloud Services. This involved creating a Facebook app that allowed customers to share their flight plans. He outlined some non-obvious costs of running in the cloud:
- Suspended VMs still cost you money
- Running Tests in the cloud costs the same as production use
- No static IP means no naked domains
- Denial of Service attacks costs you
- Polling the queue is a transaction and costs you — you have to design your API usage very optimally
Mullapudi also talked about how you still need to think through your backup strategy while running in the cloud. He played this video, which, though it doesn’t directly relate to cloud, is a pretty good cautionary tale of why you must be very careful about your backup strategy.
Finally, Mullapudi briefly demoed his product, PlayMySurvey, which is embeds survey questions into games on the theory that this will make more people complete them.
David Geller, CEO & Founder of Eyejot, shared “Eyejot’s Move to the Cloud: Simple Choices and Complex Solutions”. Eyejot is a video sharing app that has been around for a while, and for several years was self hosted. However, Eyejot was approaching 80% of their available storage capacity and faced large costs in expanding that storage. Moreover, they experienced an extended power outage in their office building which took Eyejot offline for an unacceptably long time.
So Geller began to plan to move to AWS. He tried to find a suitable consultant to help out, but was unable to. He did, however, find Scalr.net, a service that helped make deploying to and managing AWS much easier. Still, it took weeks to reliably move their 3TB of video data using rsync. There was also non-trivial rewriting and rewiring required to get Eyejot fully working in the cloud, including moving from MySQL to Amazon RDS.
Now, a year later, Eyejot is 100% cloud based, with 20TB of video data and growing. They’ve found AWS very stable, reliable, and of course, scalable. Their data center costs went from $3k/mo before the migration to $2k/mo on the cloud. Presumably they’ve also made more revenue as a result of being able to scale so much larger.
Finally we heard from Salesforce.com Technical Evangelist Bill Mariani in “How ISVs are using the Salesforce PaaS to drive revenue”. He gave a good overview of Salesforce’s properties, which include Force.com, Heroku, and Database.com.
In the Q&A we had a bit more excitement than usual. One of the questions from the audience was basically “why would anyone want any of your offerings, they are nothing”. The questioner was impolite, even aggressive. This provoked a fairly strong response from one of the speakers, who said essentially “I’m giving up my life to do this, so you can’t tell me I have nothing.” Afterwards I believe I saw these two conversing so I assume the questioner apologized. Anyway, it was an exciting way to end the evening.