Monday, January 12, 2009

Ruby and Python as Cloud Lingue Franche; Ruby/Rails on 10gen

Not sure how this one slipped past me, but 10gen announced support for the Ruby language and most of the Rails framework APIs on their open-source cloud service last month.

This addition is great news for 10gen and for cloud computing (the hosted-application-platform flavor, not the hosted-hardware/datacenter flavor).

For 10gen, support for a well-known API and app model is a huge bonus, which makes it easy for people to move an app into the cloud without learning and coding to new APIs, and also lowers the perceived "lock-in" involved, should the move not work out.

Their original JavaScript platform approach, as I've written before, is problematic not only because folks are unlikely to have meaningful (for their business) apps lying around to try mounting in the cloud, but more so because there is no standard server-side JS API set. A half-dozen companies offer a JS app server or cloud and they all have different platform APIs for even the simplest things, such as reading HTTP request variables, or deleting a session.

10gen takes a big step forward, joining Stax, Heroku, and morph labs in supporting Ruby on Rails in the cloud.

This move also reinforces another emerging trend: Ruby and Python serving as lingue franche for cloud app stacks. While many cloud offerings support JavaScript or other languages, Ruby and Python seem to be emerging as the ones with broadest support: 10gen will support both; AppEngine supports Python and a language-to-be-named-later; Stax supports both; Azure will likely support IronRuby and IronPython (some Python apps can already work in Azure).

Of course, the language is only half of the battle -- there are the APIs to deal with as well, and issues will typically arise where the impedance mismatch is highest with cloud-related infrastructure. E.g., cloud databases are mostly non-relational and don't support SQL ... so an ActiveRecord or SQLAlchemy API won't work on 10gen's 'grid database' (a reasonable tradeoff for simpler scalability.)

Even so, it is starting to appear as though one could write a lot of core business logic using, say, Python, and expect it to run unmodified on most vendors' clouds. Not a bad position to be in for the Python folks.

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