Pagoda Box Is Easier Than Amazon Web Services, But More Customizable Than Heroku

I’ve had a sense for a while that infrastructure-as-a-service (like Amazon Web Services) and platform-as-a-service (like Heroku) are converging. Developers love the idea of using a PaaS to speed up provisioning and deployment, but don’t necessarily want to completely give up control of their environments. One sign of this convergence is Pagoda Box, a PaaS that provides a deeper level of control over infrastructure while still abstracting away all the hard stuff.

A big selling point is the slick dashboard with simple point-and-click management tools and real-time monitoring of everything going on in your virtual infrastructure and your estimated monthly bill based on your current usage. It also features analytics that co-founder Tyler Flint says can be used to predict when you need to add more capacity before your site goes down.

Flint says that one customer was able to put a front-office secretary in charge of scaling systems, because all she had to do was watch the dashboard and add or remove capacity as demand ebbed and flowed.

The service runs on SoftLayer‘s physical infrastructure, and gives customers a choice of environments. For example, you can run in a traditional multi-tenant cloud instance, or you can reserve your own unique bare metal server.

At the moment it only publicly supports PHP, but other languages, including Ruby and Python, will hit general availability soon.

It’s quite the underdog company. While PaaS competitors like Heroku and Joyent are massively bankrolled, Flint says Pagoda Box is bootstrapped. It’s based in Idaho, far away from the traditional business hubs. But Flint says the company already has over 8,000 customers. Some of them are using the free tier, but there are some big name paying customers, including Canon, HTC and Green Peace.

It sounds like it’s doing great so far. I have two concerns: 1) Whether these are the specific infrastructure issues developers want more control over. 2) The company could be muscled out by the larger players. IaaS players are adding PaaS or PaaS-like features (for example, Amazon Web Services Elastic Beanstalk and Tier 3’s PaaS) and PaaS providers are launching IaaS services (for example, Microsoft Azure and Google).

But Flint is confident in the technology and, most of all, the service’s user experience. Keep your eye on this one.