As the fog begins to lift from the world of cloud computing the classification of cloud services is becoming clearer. Whilst the likes Salesforce and Google Docs set the running in the Application space (Sofware-as-a-Service), and Amazon was the clear leader in cloud infrastructure (IaaS), the most interesting area (at least for me) is the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS).
PaaS has been around for a while, and offers some compelling advantages over IaaS for the software development community. Virtualisation (the basis for IaaS) might be cost effective, but from the point of view of the software developer it’s still an O/S. PaaS removes much of the boilerplate code that developers have to write, and can make architectural decisions around scaling and performance redundant (the platform providers do the hard work, you just have to follow the rules.)
The two leading offerings at the moment are Microsoft’s Azure (.NET based) and Google’s AppEngine (Python or Java). There are a couple of Ruby offerings (Heroku and Engine Yard), and a new arrival with Djangy.com (Python / Django). The obvious missing link is a PHP-based PaaS offer – the LAMP community is now behind the curve where it once led (most early EC2 adopters were touting their LAMP credentials).
Now, where could a PHP service come from? What we need is a company that has experience running a global infrastructure, supporting well-understand PHP web-frameworks (documented and preferably OSS) and looking to encourage the army of keen LAMP developers out there to stick with the stack, and not migrate to Python / Ruby (or heaven forbid .NET!)
Facebook have just posted an update on their developer support blog (here), and PHP isn’t in it – it’s all about Facebook apps and integration. It would be nice to see them being a little more ambitious – they are the obvious choice, and integrating things like HipHop, Hive, Scribe, Tornado, Memcache, and of course Cassandra, they would have an incredibly compelling service on offer.