Coming Soon, Free Hosting for Facebook Apps

[qi:012] If you are a Facebook app developer, I have some good news for you: Joyent, a Marin County, Calif.-based on-demand computing and web hosting startup, is going to start offering free hosting to Facebook app developers. The company, we are told, is going to offer its mid-tier accelerator offering, free of charge, and the announcement is going to come as soon as Tuesday.
According to AllFacebook, there are 7,782 Facebook applications, of which four have a million daily users, while 91 applications have been installed about a million times. The majority however have 10,000 or fewer installs. So there is a large number of app writers — especially those with 10,000 or fewer users — who could benefit from getting this service, which typically costs about $45 a month, for free.
The other upside to this offering will be the speed with which the applications will be served up. That is because Joyent (which is backed by super angel Peter Thiel, an investor in Facebook), has established a direct peering relationship with Facebook, and seems to have the official blessing of the social networking platform.
Direct peering means that there will be direct high-speed fiber links between Joyent’s data center in Emeryville, Calif., and Facebook’s data center in San Francisco, just across the Bay Bridge. The two data centers will be linked via multiple-gigabit-per-second fiber connections from Level 3 Communications (LVLT).
Facebook applications often time out because the site has optimized its pages to load in less than five seconds, and if any application slows down the process, it sort of moves on and loads the page without it.
Joyent hopes to make money when people upgrade to their higher-tier services. I don’t know how much they plan to charge, but I am guessing it is going to be a lot cheaper than what an app developer typically has to pay. Surj Patel had recommended using Amazon’s EC2 and S3 services as way to scale in our “Future of Software” series.
When it comes to scaling, Facebook application developers face a particularly challenging task. Unless you are big player with pre-negotiated prices (and discounts), such as, say, iLike or Slide, app developers face big bills, not just for hosting, but for bandwidth. Monthly transit costs alone can run into the thousands of dollars — so if you have a hit on your hands, your costs have nowhere to go but up.
Joyent, which up until recently was building its infrastructure using Sun Microsystems (JAVA) hardware, has started using Dell servers (DELL) running Open Solaris. Dell is said to be an enthusiastic backer of this new offering, and you can expect an announcement sometime on Tuesday — the same day that Facebook is holding a developer garage day in Dallas, in Dell’s home state of Texas.