6 More Cloud Platforms You Don't Know About (But Should)

Make sure you know all your options before you pick a cloud provider. Here’s six more up-and-coming cloud computing platforms that should be on your radar

Maybe you’re running an enterprise IT shop and want to offload system administration costs and hassles to someone else’s datacenter. Maybe you’re running a small or mid-size business and don’t want to sink capital into building out datacenters, yet still want the flexibility to grow without worry. Or maybe you’re launching a startup, don’t have the funds for your own servers and want the flexibility to use your preferred server environment.

In all of these scenarios, moving your apps to the cloud makes a lot of sense. Earlier this year we took a look at five smaller cloud platform providers you might not have heard of yet. Well, the cloud services industry has taken off and there are a lot more options to look at today.

Of course, the big players in cloud platforms — Amazon Web Services, Google App Engine, Microsoft Windows Azure, IBM and Oracle — remain the same.

But variety is the spice of life, they say, and the wider cloud provider landscape has no lack of variety. Offerings vary from bare server instances that you need to build out and mange yourself to rigidly integrated hosted versions of the vendor’s existing products.

Whether you want the assurance of working with an established brand, the hand-holding of a full-service shop or the ability to build what you want, how you want it, there’s a provider out there for you. Here are a few more cloud platform providers that may not be on your radar yet. Each one has a unique take on cloud hosting that you’ll want to evaluate when planning a cloud development project:

  • Engine Yard is one example of the new generation of “platform-as-a-service” cloud application hosts. Engine Yard’s AppCloud and xCloud services specifically target Ruby on Rails developers. You get built-in support for popular Rails frameworks, the ability to deploy directly from source control and elastic scalability to grow with demand. AppCloud is designed for developers, application owners and Web development shops who can manage instances on their own. xCloud offers the ability to handle specialized data services, along with more deployment and support services from the Engine Yard team. Supported data stores include MySQL and PostgreSQL.
  • GoGrid offers a unique hybrid hosting service that lets you provision both scalable pay-per-use virtual cloud instances and physical dedicated servers on the same network. For example, you might want to keep a secure back-end data store on a dedicated server while enabling your front-end application scale as needed in the cloud. GoGrid has both Windows- (Windows Server 2003 and 2008) and Linux-based server images to get you started, along with scalable virtual RAM, hardware load balancing and cloud storage options.
  • Heroku, like Engine Yard, is a platform-as-a-service provider focusing their offerings for Ruby on Rails, Rack and Node.js app developers. Heroku employs what it calls “dynos,” which are individual processes running your application code that can be spread across multiple servers for scalable performance. You also get full integration with git for code source control and automatic deployment directly from your repository. Heroku offers a robust API for managing apps via REST or from the command line.
  • Hosting.com leverages VMware’s hypervisor virtualization technology to provide a range of cloud services. While their Cloud VPS service is more of a traditional fixed-resource host offering, the Cloud Enterprise, Cloud Dedicated and Cloud Private services all offer on-demand resources with varying levels of hardware and management support. Choose your OS (several flavors of Windows and Linux), database (SQL Server, PostgreSQL or MySQL), Web server (IIS or Apache), application and frameworks. Hosting.com will have your environment built and online in minutes.
  • Joyent offers a SmartDataCenter solution of their own design. Your application code runs within elastic SmartMachines, which in turn run on Joyent’s proprietary SmartOS and virtualization layer. The SmartDataCenter stack is simpler than other traditional virtualization stacks, while providing great flexibility to tune the resources available to apps running in the environment. Joyent SmartDataCenter is also available to service providers as a foundation for building their own cloud offerings. If you’re interested in Node.js development, note that Joyent’s Ryan Dahl manages the Node open-source project and, as a result, there’s a lot of support for JavaScript and Node.js application development built into the Joyent offerings.
  • Skytap takes a slightly different angle on enterprise cloud computing. Their services focus on simplifying your experience as either a sysadmin deploying and managing enterprise systems in the cloud or as an end user using those services from anywhere in the world. Skytap offers cloud infrastructure services for Windows, Solaris and Linux that let you deploy existing or new application deployments to their scalable cloud. Their Cloud Automation Platform and self-service solutions let you access server management resources remotely via HTTPS and VPN gateways employing role based permissions that let you control the security and usage of resources.

As you can see from the cloud providers highlighted here and in our previous roundup, cloud computing is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. That is, after all, one of the major selling points for moving to the cloud. Whether you need the ability to scale application processing, access bigger and bigger data stores over time, use the development tools of your choice or just offload datacenter worries to someone else, there’s a solution out there for you.