AppFog lets you pick your cloud, (almost) any cloud

For companies wanting to put their workloads on a public cloud without having to sweat the details, AppFog has a bold proposition.
AppFog’s platform as a service, available as of late Wednesday, abstracts out the tweaking and tuning of cloud servers, databases and storage. And, if you want to run your work on Amazon(s amzn) and then move it to, say, Rackspace(s rax), or Microsoft(s msft) Windows Azure, or the HP(s hpq) Cloud, you can do so with the click of a button, according to AppFog CEO Lucas Carlson.
The Portland, Ore.-based company, which started out as a PHP-specific PaaS called PHPFog, has broadened and adjusted strategy in the past year, adding support for Java, .NET, and Node and other popular languages and deciding to restructure its foundation atop standard Cloud Foundry(s vmw) technology. That means it can run across the major public clouds, now supporting the aforementioned Amazon, Rackspace, Microsoft and HP offerings with more to come. “We will be adding them like mad — we’ll have an all SSD cloud soon,” Carlson said.

AppFog makes big cross-cloud promises

“We become your front-end to cloud. We took a standard Cloud Foundry API and delivered that across all the public clouds,” Carlson said. The resulting PaaS has been put through its paces by 5,000 beta testers including the City of New York and 40,000 developers, he said.
This is a tall order. But so far, Matthew Knight, founder and CEO of Merchpin, a beta tester for the past four months, is impressed. Merchpin ran its e-commerce app on Amazon’s infrastructure before AppFog but got bogged down with infrastructure fussing they had to do. “We were building our application and also having to deal with maintaining our servers. It was a pain. AppFog fixes that,” he said. That and its tight integration with MongoDB, Merchpin’s database of choice, makes implementation and deployment extremely easy.  He said that AppFog will cost more than Amazon alone but only in dollars. “When you factor in man hours, it’s much less expensive,” he said.

Lucas Carlson, CEO AppFog

Companies can go to AppFog’s site to set up a free account with 2 GB of RAM. Yes, it distills out all the other confusing pricing units listed by the public cloud providers. No need to worry about instances or storage type or database choice. AppFog prices on RAM requirement only.  Monthly plans with additional RAM are available: 4GB for $100; 16GB for $380 and 32 GB for $720. AppFog will bill the customer for the entire infrastructure stack, including the backend cloud, giving it pretty good account control.
Merchpin ran its application on Amazon before and after moving to AppFog so Knight has not tested its promised easy push-button cloud migrations. But, if it lives up to its billing, it would interest many companies looking into multi-cloud solutions, a trend that Carlson has done his best to promote. If AppFog really can move applications from cloud to cloud as advertised, it will be a huge draw.