I've really been enjoying messing around with ruby and rails lately and all the new side projects I've been tackling are written in ruby. Trouble is, I can't actually launch any of them on the hosting provider that I use, hostgo (not strongly recommended; look elsewhere), because they don't let me run rails or ruby.
I'd just about decided to find a Rails-ready instance on EC2
and start deploying my apps there. Until today.
Today Google App Engine was announced and I spent all morning daydreaming about how I could easily deploy stuff with it, and have a great excuse to play with a new platform to boot. That is, until I read the documentation
closely and saw that the sandbox environment runs Python. Darn.
I'm still very excited about the idea. Al3x has a good post
about the benefits and drawbacks.
It's good to see the bar continuing to be lowered. Used to be that in order to have a blog you had to start an account with a hosting company, register a domain, and install MT or WP. Now, anyone is about 30 seconds away from a new blog at blogger. Likewise, if you wanted to create a web app you had to have a hosting account, create a database on it (at least they have an admin panel), and start writing. Now, with EC2, S3, App Engine, Scalr
and so on, the hard work of setting up a database and finding a hosting provider is getting further abstracted away.
There are two good things happening here. App Engine and Scalr and EC2 are making scaling a more manageable problem, but they're also first steps in making it really easy to launch an application for the first time, without having to deal with the sysadmin-style stuff. We're closer to being able to write code on your local machine and push a button to deploy it live, no need for setting up an environment on some host, it will all be abstracted for you into the cloud so you can focus on creating something innovative.
We are also seeing more building-block type applications, like Ning, that are trying to abstract away the code-writing in addition to the sysadmin-ing.
There are a lot of people with creative ideas. And there are some people with the technological fluency to use unix, install databases, and write code. Innovative startups used to happen at the intersection of those two groups. These new tools make that second skill set a lot less necessary. And the first skill set will become a lot more valuable.