This week, AppHarbor announced an add-on API that will provide a self-service portal for third-party service providers. This new release lets developers purchase cloud services through a single, easy-to-use interface and integrate additional functionality into the applications they build on the AppHarbor platform.
Unlike many other PaaS providers focusing on technologies like Ruby, AppHarbor works with Microsoft .NET, and the company makes the claim on its Web site -- Azure Done Right.
So I reached out to AppHarbor to find out more, and had the chance to speak to one of the company's co-founders, Michael Friis.
VMblog: Can you tell me about AppHarbor and how you came up with the idea?
AppHarbor is a Git-enabled .NET Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). That means we build, deploy and host .NET websites for developers. Developers can easily create an account and immediately push their code to AppHarbor. Their applications are then built by our platform and deployed to our managed IIS servers where it will have access to a fully compatible .NET and Windows stack including their choice of SQL Server or MySQL. We all have had experience working with .NET and have experienced the hassle that can sometimes come with .NET deployment. We wanted to create a platform that would eliminate that and make it as easy as possible for developers since they have enough to deal with.
We wanted to solve .NET deployment once: .NET PaaS that makes it easy to get started and without vendor lock-in.
VMblog: You have received funding from quite notable sources such as Accel Ventures, Ignition Partners, Salesforce and Y Combinator. What do you think attracted them to AppHarbor?
The PaaS market is rapidly expanding as cloud computing becomes more widely used by developers and enterprises alike. A recent analyst report forecasted the market would grow 10-fold by 2015. Additionally, the .NET ecosystem market is an estimated $580 billion. I think this accelerated growth in both technologies and the positive feedback we have received for our product encouraged VC interest.
VMblog: AppHarbor focuses on .NET unlike Heroku who focuses on Ruby, why did you decide to choose .NET?
.Net is a large, underserved market. .NET developers have had PaaS available to them for a couple of years in the form of Windows Azure, but at AppHarbor we are able to provide a new open ecosystem of add-ons that is unmatched by Azure. Our platform not only meets the needs of rapidly growing services but is also much easier to get started with.
VMblog: Accessibility and speed are crucial elements in application development. How does AppHarbor's platform make testing and deployment easier for users?
AppHarbor's platform gives .NET developers access to a Git- and Mercurial-enabled continuous deployment environment that supports a rapid build, test, and deploy workflow common to agile teams and startups. Our platform features automated unit testing which allows developers to test code before it gets deployed, eliminating the possibility of deploying code that breaks their site. Additionally, AppHarbor takes only 15 seconds to deploy new code versions, compared to 15 minutes like other solutions on the market.
VMblog: Within the next year, what do you see as the number one challenge for .NET developers?
For developers, we work in an industry that is constantly evolving. While we may not be able to tell the changes on a daily basis, it is easy to look back a few months and see that a lot of the things we do now, and the services we utilize, are much different than what we were using before. I think the biggest challenge will be having the access to tools and resources that can keep up with the rapidly changing area of web development.
VMblog: How does the newly launched add-on API differentiate AppHarbor from other .NET platforms?
It is really easy to get started as no code modifications are necessary. The AppHarbor platform also doesn't require plug-ins and re-architecting, unlike some of our competitors platforms. Our add-on program gives users access to a variety of best-of-breed services, eliminating vendor lock-in.