Here's the secret sauce of Heroku: I know how to set up servers. I don't want to.
Paying for convenience is always a good business model.
I really wish that the Pantheon folks would scale up and open up their platform to generic PHP apps. It's everything I want setup and ready to go: Varnish, Apache, MariaDB, PHP5 APC, Memcached, Solr, Hudson all on one box, configured for dev, staging and prod environments, and managed via git and Hudson for deployments and automation.
Edit: Forgot to add that the best part about the Pantheon service is that while you can use it as a total SaaS like Heroku, it's also 100% hackable, you have root on the box, and can change anything that you want to, quite an amazing idea (have to see how their support issues pan out).
I imagine you could save a lot of money by optimizing apache/mysql rather than using the default configuration Heroku sets.
> I imagine you could save a lot of money by optimizing apache/mysql rather than using the default configuration Heroku sets.
I really doubt this, that's why. Their entire life is making reliable systems for applications. Mine isn't. They know waaaaay more about this than I do.
But I don't want to. Like Steve above, I can set up a server, but I really don't want to deal with that stuff. Heroku's value-add to me is that my time is better spent on being a software engineer than being an ops engineer. That value-add is worth the extra money.
it isn't as complex to deal with a php app, but it can be stressful to play server admin on an app that gets to be popular. simply not having to worry about setting up a server, optimizing it, scaling it, backing it up, etc. is just nice.
I'm not sure that I'd use it myself, because I'd like to spend to time to get familiar with EC2, but with shared hosting becoming a less reliable solution as internet traffic patterns change (and shared hosts increasingly go he commodity route) there's going to be a lot of PHP professionals (and PHP hacks, and non-programmer hacks using PHP systems) looking for a turn-key cloud solution, so I can see the interest in PHPFog.
TL;DR: There's large swaths of the PHP community that doesn't know how to make EC2 work, PHPFog is aiming to be their middleman.
Not to sidetrack the discussion, but EC2 has had persistent disk storage since the fall of 2008 ( http://aws.typepad.com/aws/2008/08/amazon-elastic.html ).
At the risk of putting this back on discussion though, from the outside EBS looks like a separate, but complimentary product for EC2, which will further muddy the waters for someone not familiar with Amazon's platform, which leaves room for a someone like PHPFog to swoop in as a middleman to provide a turnkey solution to the problem of getting PHP developers and Drupal/Wordpress site owners up and running in a scalable cloud environment. It's not that this is hard for someone to solves on their own, it's that for a lot of developers in the PHP Ecosystem there's too much inertia to get around to it.
Yeah, an hour or so? Seriously, I still don't get it. There is also this: https://hub.turnkeylinux.org/ from http://www.turnkeylinux.org/ guys. Haven't tried it myself yet, but I really like what they did with turnkeylinux images, they're absolutely amazing for what they are (time savers).
I think you misunderstanding may step from underestimating the time needed to make the right choice on an EC2 Cloud vs. Slicehost VM vs. Rackspace vs. Shared hosting vs. That guy with the space space in his rack for a PHP application.
For someone not up on EC2 they need to research what the difference between a Standard On-Demand Instance, Micro On-Demand Instance, High-Memory On-Demand Instance, High-CPU On-Demand Instance, Cluster Compute Instance, and Cluster GPU Instance is, and then decide which type of VM they need within that sub-group for their app.
Then they need to figure out where their application touches/stores items on the file system, and decide how they're going to restore that whenever they spawn/restart another EC2 instance. (file uploads, avatar image uploads, etc.) Lots of PHP applications make an assumption about about a readable/writable persistant file system (which, coincidentally, is why shared hosting is such a successful attack vector). The is where PHPFog having the Drupal and Wordpress installs come in handy, the implication there being they've solved that for you.
To get familiar with the EC2 infrastructure to make these choices, they need to make a $63/month investment or pony up the $227.50. Minor, but expensive enough that it creates inertia. If PHPFog gets their pricing right, or they have a compelling marketing pitch that this really is turn-key, they can capture a lot of mindshare right now, and possibly be a disruptive player in a segment of the shared hosting market that's been static for a long time.
None of the above is hard for a technically competent individual, it just takes time. It's plumbing, and (this is the important part), in the world of a PHP developer it's the sort of plumbing that up-till-now can be handled by a reliable shared host, or for larger companies/teams/apps, server operations folks who don't do application programming. That's why there's a lack of EC2 knowledge even among competent profesional PHP folks.
Add in all the people just using Drupal/Wordpress/Joomla/Magento/etc who aren't technically competent and you have a another market segment PHPFog could serve.
Are we looking at a $212 acquisition for PHPFog? Probably not. But that doesn't mean they can't be a successful company, or that they can't use a cash infusion to get the tedious-yet-requiring-a-brain work for getting default installations for all the popular PHP applications running.
I'd say that taking a 'Heroku clone' approach might work against them.
Their biggest feature may be the ability to easily install and deploy pre-existing PHP products like Joomla, Drupal, vBulletin, etc.
People that use these commercial PHP projects are likely to appreciate such a service for many reasons. In a way, they are capturing a lot of the value that cPanel offers.
The other neat (or annoying step) is that PHPFog goes the git route for handling your code. Just signing up and creating a site puts a default codebase for the platform you've selected into your git repo, and you just check it out, and commit to get started.
However, the point of these services isn't necessarily to save the developer from having to setup these environments, but rather it's to save the developer from worrying about having to setup a solid, scalable production setup. You still should have a development setup which lives somewhere other than Heroku.
Energy barriers seem to matter.
ETA: Let's have some fun and play with the tagline they have on their pricing page which is "Like Heroku, but better."
Like Heroku, but without ninjas and rockstars.
Like Heroku, but better, but less cool.
Q: "Please explain what your application does, without comparing it to anything"
A: "It's the Heroku of PHP".. No!
A: "It's like EC2, but preconfigured for PHP with less control".. No!
A: "It's like shared web hosting, but with better performance characteristics and somewhat more control".. No!
A: "You get a server on the internet, where you can install PHP stuff. Except you don't actually have a server, and it is preconfigured to automatically scale your app across virtual machines. It comes with a set of tools and scripts to make installing stuff easy, and you don't need to administer it. By letting us concentrate on system admin and scaling it gives you more time to concentrate on building your application."
Q: "Oh, you mean like Heroku, except for PHP?"
- "Youtube is the flickr of Video" - http://slashdot.org/articles/05/08/14/1320217.shtml
- "AdMob is the doubleclick of mobile" http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/techbeat/archives/200...
Who else would you explain it? PHP cloud hosting?
Peoples understanding of a thing is not always very high res. Take 'evolution by natural selection'. Some people understand the mechanics, consequences and how A leads to B quite well, some don't. People assciate all sorts of things outside of the mechanics with it: 'aha moment,' 'prototypical scientific theory,' 'gradual process,' 'controversy,' 'cornerstone theory,' etc. etc.
You can get at this fuzzy nebulae of meanings and associations via analogies: "Darwin of climate science," "Natural Selection of Geology," "Intelligent Design of Feminism."
A lot of people don't know exactly what Heroku is, they know it's getting a lot of buzz, have heard the praise, have heard customers staunchly defending the prices, etc. They might be inclined to check out a Heroku (or for example, app engine) for their language.
It's how TechCrunch is explaining what the site is.
PHP Fog is like Heroku for PHP. But better. We will provide simple one-click installations of some of the most popular PHP applications out there.
ETA: However, I do agree that "like Heroku for PHP" is a big difference from "is Heroku for PHP." My mistake.