Facebook has plugged its developer site into Heroku, giving coders direct access to a "platform cloud" where they can deploy, host, and readily scale their Facebook applications.
According to Heroku founder Adam Wiggins, this is a first for both companies. "We've spent the past four years building a platform for instant deployment," he tells The Register. "Now you can create a Facebook app, and inside Facebook's interface you can click a button to use Heroku as a external provider. It provisions an account for you, sets up the app, and deploys it."
The rub is that all apps deployed in this must be written in Ruby on Rails, Node.js, Python, or PHP. Heroku began life as a Rails cloud, but it has since floated a beta service that handles other languages as well. Python and PHP only just arrived on the service, due at least in part to requests from Facebook. The two languages are the most popular among Facebook app developers, says Wiggins – and, famously, Facebook itself was built with PHP.
Outside of Facebook, the Heroku "Cedar" stack beta also handles Clojure and Java, which was just announced as an option last month.
Heroku is just one of many platform clouds that have popped up across the net in recent years – including Google App Engine, Microsoft Azure, AppFog, and VMware's Cloud Foundry – and most are moving towards a multilingual arrangement. AppFog began life as PHP Fog, but after moving to a new service based on VMware's open source Cloud Foundry platform, it has embraced both Ruby and Node.
The differences are in the details. Heroku prides itself on being a more mature platform than, say, Cloud Foundry. "We're the oldest service," Wiggins says. "We're running more applications and bigger ones." Cloud Foundry was open sourced in April, and though VMware and AppFor are running services atop the platform, both are still in beta.
Though Heroku's Facebook hookup marks the first time the platform cloud has connected with a third-party service in this way, Higgins says the news has sparked multiple inquiries from outside shops about similar arrangements. ®