Heroku opens iPhone-style app store for developers

A new virtual cloud marketplace from Heroku allows software platform makers to offer their wares directly to Heroku users.

Thriving Web development cloud platform Heroku has launched what is arguably one of the most unique iterations of a cloud service to date: an automated, do-it-yourself partner program for makers of other software platforms to embed their programming capabilities into Heroku's Ruby Platform as a Service (PaaS).

In other words, firms that offer online services with an application programming interface (API) can sign up, read the documentation, integrate their API with Heroku's and sell their particular application capabilities direct to Heroku users that are writing their own Web applications. This is all without any negotiations, agreements (except an end user licensing agreement) or revenue-sharing arrangements. It's a virtual marketplace that puts efforts like Force.com or the Intuit Partner Program to shame.

It's really closer to the iPhone or Android App Store model, where small groups of developers download Apple's software development kit and toil away to make something compatible and attractive to smartphone users. Vendors work within the bounds of Heroku's technology to make their service available as a plug-in module for coders, who tap services almost like phone apps, and the vendors see revenue from that. Of course, Heroku isn't Apple, so that's a huge plus in the eyes of most developers.

Where Heroku is aiming new partner program
"This is more than Heroku having a partner announcement and bunch of press releases saying that our technology's been tested; it's actually deeply integrated," said Heroku CEO Byron Sebastian.

He said Heroku now had a separate developer's portal for those who wished to put their programming tools and services on Heroku. Heroku handles the billing, and the money (and responsibility to maintain services) goes to the vendors. Users still pay for Heroku resources, of course.

Sebastian said the aim was to create a low-intensity, highly automated and neutral bazaar of API-based services. Vendors are required to go through a standard "alpha, beta, general availability" production cycle to prove their offerings can work, and Heroku won't provide promotion or play favorites. Vendors get very little help, he said, but they pay next to nothing in return. Byron said that the Web development world had come to expect instant-on, rapid provisioning, and automating a partner program was a logical next step.

"Our opinion that this is really where the future is going," he said.

Carl Brooks is the Technology Writer for SearchCloudComputing.com.

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