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Joyent PaaS may turn Web app world upside down

Has the Platform as a Service world changed forever? A new service coming from Joyent may give stalwarts like Google App Engine a run for their money.

Cloud provider Joyent is launching, a Platform as a Service (PaaS) for Node.js. is powered by Joyent's Smart Platform infrastructure and works much like Google App Engine, Heroku, Engine Yard and other popular platform services out there. is a trial run for Joyent; it's online just for the weekend for the Node.js Knockout coding contest. Joyent CTO Jason Hoffman said in an interview that they have about 500 developers signed up to use over the weekend. He expects it will be fun, along with helping to prove out the idea of a node.js platform.

"We think this could be one of the biggest things in development in quite some time," he said, although he was careful to say that the project is definitely under development for the time being.

What Joyent's new PaaS means
So basically, who cares? It's an instance of an obscure coding engine that is hosted by a second-tier (cloud) hoster. That's not going to turn the Web application world on its ear, right?

Or maybe it will. Start here for a primer on Node.js. An outgrowth of Google's V8 JavaScript project, Node.js calls itself "Evented I/O for V8 JavaScript." Essentially, it makes it very, very easy to run so-called real-time Web applications written in JavaScript by staggering inputs and output requests from target and server asynchronously. Sorry, come again?

"Its orders of magnitude are more efficient," Hoffman said, than running a Web application the way its usually done. This is including Google App Engine or running optimized servers on Amazon Web Services, the company claims.

That means Joyent can give you ten times, or maybe 100 times (two orders of magnitude), the performance of your Web app for the same amount of infrastructure. Hoffman explains that Web applications are expected to do many, many things at once these days, and the bottleneck isn't servers or bandwidth; it's transactions piling up.

"Consumption of thread and synchronous I/O is ultimately the bottleneck," he said. Node.js attacks that problem, and Hoffman said the performance delta is comparable to writing direct to hardware versus using high-level, abstract languages. It's almost like coding "direct" to the internet.

"The degree of efficiency you get is comparable to native code [applications for devices]," he said.

What Joyent's PaaS will bring to the table
Practically speaking? Mobile apps ten times richer and more complex, and just as fast, on your smartphone. Real-time monitoring applications that take up a tenth of the space and resources than they did before, but are faster and have more information.

If what Hoffman says about Node.js and is accurate, Joyent may well be on its way to shocking the Web application world. There is no Web developer or mobile developer in the world who won't need to use this.

Of course, Joyent still has to pull it off. It's a small fry compared to its PaaS rivals, especially Google, and will need a lot more than cute demos and a good idea; globally distributed low-latency data centers and connections would be a start.

Carl Brooks is the Technology Writer at Contact him at

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