AppHarbour is the new kid on the block providing Platform as a Service (PaaS) backed by the resilience of Amazon's cloud platform. For some time they boasted it was "Azure done right" a very large claim to make.
In this post I will introduce the platform and give you my initial thoughts on the product.
How does it work?
AppHarbour directly integrates with a choice of source control and upon check-in it can pull the latest code base, build, run unit tests and deploy, all from the off.
AppHarbour provides integrations directly into various source control providers including Codeplex, Bitbucket and GitHub.
For other source control providers an API is available to allow custom integrations.
On top of this a web interface is available that allows you to scale and rollback applications as required.
A free version is available to get running so it's a good place to test and try new ideas. The paid versions offer varying degrees of storage and worker processes so can accommodate the most demanding web applications.
What will AppHarbour do for me?
The main benefit of the system has to be the one touch deployment, the automation process of build to deployment allows for a high degree of confidence that what's deployed matches source control.
No matter how many nodes are required to run your application deployment is dealt with.
Another nice feature of the whole process is that rollbacks also become a breeze, have you released a version that's got a show stopping bug? rolling back to the previous version becomes a simple click in the web interface.
Something that's particularly nice is the provider market place, from here there are many additional options that can bolted onto your account such as Memcache, Raven DB and SQL Server.
Each of these features also has a free option so you can try before you buy, something I find very useful.
The marketplace is also open, so new providers should have no problem integrating into the platform.
As with anything in the cloud there is a significant investment when deploying to any cloud infrastructure and AppHarbour is no different. AppHarbour is still new so doesn't have the backing that other cloud platforms have from the likes of Microsoft and Amazon, so the resilience isn’t as evident.
The top level package at the time of writing is $199. This gets you 4 workers and IP based SSL, comparable services could be provided elsewhere for less, but I believe the benefits of the platform can outweigh this cost.
After a relatively short time the benefits of the platform quickly become apparent. Using naming conventions for solutions allows control over the application being deployed. Within a single solution, using a SQL Azure backend, I had a project that could be deployed either to Azure or AppHarbour with almost all deployment hassle removed and with the lowest plan being free it’s certainly worth a look.