April 7, 2011
Engine Yard is a Ruby PaaS offering that, ever since the Decemebr acquisition by salesforce.com of another PaaS Heroku, has been held up as the last-man-standing (at least when it comes to independent Ruby based PaaS providers). They recently introduced a free trial (as distinct from a freemium) strategy that allows users to get 500 hours of PaaS availability at no charge.
In light of the change, and having given a few months for the Heroku deal to settle in, I spent some time with Tom Mornini, CTO and co-founder and Mike Piech, vice president of product management and marketing from Engine Yard to get a general update and have a specific discussion about the free trial.
I started off by asking what the Heroku deal meant for Engine Yard – Mornini was very positive, saying that it really was a validation for the Ruby PaaS approach and has been net positive for EngineYard themselevs. I suggested that perhaps the free trial move was a way to lure some developers away from Heroku, in part due to the under-current of discontent at the acquisition. Mornini denied this – he was uick to differentiate Engine Yard’s free trial approach to the freemium approach of Heroku saying that they see Heroku as the “junk yard for applications” – that since it is free, developers just leave essentially dead applications in place because it is easier. in fact Mornini even quipped that Engine Yard previously referred to Heroku as their own trial account location, given that developers would try the Ruby PaaS concept for free on Heroku and then move to paid accounts with Engine Yard once the trial had been proven.
I then spent some time talking more about the developer ecosystem – Engine Yard are pretty damning of both Java and .NET, going so far as to say that they are both dead languages that will not survive the move to the cloud. I can’t say I agree with this contention – my friends at Expanz (among others) are doing some good work helping .NET applications (and developers) play in this brave new world.
Finally I asked what Engine Yard thought was the rationale behind the Heroku acquisition – if they were reluctant to criticize Heroku, they weren’t so reserved about force.com. Mornini suggested that the ApEx language specifically and force.com generally have been failures in the marketplace, used for little more than customization of salesforce itself. They also indicated some doubt as to how slaesforce would meaningfully integrate Heroku into what they’re currently doing – by way of proof they talked of some marketing messaging they had received as salesforce VCRM customers that was entirely ignorant of what Heroku really meant for salesforce.
In terms of the free trial – Engine Yard has done a good thing – I suspect this move will gain them significant customers and that will help build their credibility and mindshare going forwards.