Heroku Lifts Ruby on Rails Development into the Cloud

Y Combinator startup Heroku, which has been in private beta since October, is coming out today with more details about how it’s out to ease the development and deployment of Ruby on Rails (RoR) applications.

There are two sides to Heroku’s offering. The first is a completely in-browser development environment where RoR programmers can build their apps instead of doing so with software on their own computers. Relative to other programming languages, Ruby and the Rails framework can be particularly onerous just to install and configure. Heroku wants both amateur and advanced programmers to get coding right away by making RoR development possible with any browser-equipped computer.

The second aspect to Heroku’s offering, which it is promoting with new materials on its website today, will allow RoR developers to not only build their apps with Heroku but to host and scale them there as well. Heroku is using Amazon Web Services to provide automatic scaling of its hosted apps and plans, like a utility, to charge premium users for the amount of processing power they consume. Even if you don’t want to build your app within Heroku, you can import it to (and later export it from) the hosting service to enjoy its automatic scaling capabilities.

For the time being, those who are interested in developing and/or deploying their RoR apps with Heroku can submit their names to a waiting list. Co-founder James Lindenbaum says that they are actually letting people into the site pretty quickly and are using the waiting list mostly as just a way to prevent an onslaught of new users.

A free version of Heroku’s hosting will be available to beta testers, with a premium version coming later that will remove Heroku branding, allow for custom domains, lift bandwidth and processor caps, and provide a set of advanced developer tools such as performance metrics and code optimization.

Heroku, while part of this winter’s batch of Y Combinator startups, has been in development since last June and has already attracted 2,500 users who have built about 2,000 apps. The three founders have backgrounds in enterprise software development and came up with the idea for Heroku when they witnessed the rising popularity of RoR for the enterprise but also saw the difficulties that many faced with the deployment of RoR apps.

For another company working to provide better RoR hosting, check out Engine Yard (discussed here) which provides a more hands-on approach.