Cloud-based Developer Tools Usher in Development-as-a-Service

Just when you thought you had mastered the alphabet soup of cloud services, along comes DaaS (development-as-a-service). Al Hilwa, program director for IDC’s Application Development Software research, explained how DaaS differs from the more established Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), with which it shares some elements.

“PaaS is about running (or deploying) application platform software in the cloud, namely middleware and databases,” he said. “However, most often the process of development, as opposed to deployment, is done on-premises, on a personal computer.”

This has been the case because tooling for developers has become extremely graphical and the process of composing and constructing applications requires considerable graphical support, Hilwa added.

“So far this has been considered the province of client devices with computing power,” he said. “However, as HTML5 becomes more widely deployed, it lifts the capabilities for browsers and makes it possible to have browser-based IDEs.”

Enter Cloud9 IDE, which recently made the bold claim that its Cloud9 platform is the first commercial DaaS. Until recently, creating a responsive, browser-based IDE that is as advanced as those that run on the desktop wasn’t possible, said Ruben Daniels, Cloud9 IDE’s founder and CEO.

“But with advanced, open-source browsers such as Chrome and Firefox, and their incredible advancement over the past decade — more than 3000 times faster — that has changed,” said Daniels. “Plus, bandwidth has increased throughout the world and it is enabling larger projects to be shared and synchronized across multiple devices.”

According to Hilwa, Cloud9 is one of the most advanced browser-based IDEs in the market today, but a number of other tools are available in the DaaS market. In particular, other browser-based IDEs worth keeping an eye on include:

Hilwa said DaaS reflects the reality that the deployment itself may or may not be done in the cloud, but that the development process takes place there.

“There has been some criticism that browser-based IDEs are nothing more than cloud-based text editors with syntax highlighting, and I guess to some except that may be true, but it is a very short-sighted view,” wrote Quinton Wall on the Force.com blog.

“Like many things in cloud computing, you need to change your thinking to truly take advantage of everything the cloud has to offer,” Wall added. “Take CloudNine [sic] for example, they [sic] have embraced developer collaboration by allowing you to edit directly from a GitHub repository, and chat and collaborate with other developers all without leaving the IDE. This organic collaboration for developers is huge, it is the way we work these days!”

Cloud9 and the DaaS IDE

An offshoot of Ajax.org, Cloud9 provides a cloud-based commercial IDE that allows Web and mobile developers to work together in remote teams anywhere, anytime. The platform’s NodeJS framework supports HTML5, Python, Ruby and PHP.

Cloud9 enables developers to start projects behind a single URL, share their code, and collaborate with co-developers anywhere in the world without having to install anything on the client. More than 30,000 developers around the world are using Cloud9 to build and collaborate on software projects.

“The platform runs in the browser and lives in the cloud, allowing development teams to run, debug and deploy applications from anywhere, anytime,” said Daniels.

The DaaS tool also offers syntax support for popular programming languages, as well as the ability to:

  • simultaneously collaborate on code and projects
  • run real-time code analysis
  • debug and test applications

It also includes HitHub, Bitbucket and Joyent integration. Cloud9 offers a free version and a premium offering that costs $15 per month.

Addressing the genesis of the platform, Daniels said the company saw the need for a cloud-based IDE for which Web development and JavaScript were the core focuses.

“We wanted to create an alternative to Eclipse variants and other Java or C++ IDEs, where extending and customizing applications is done in either Java or C++, and is generally very difficult to use,” said Daniels.

“We figured that if you develop Web applications to run online, why shouldn’t your application development be online too?” Daniels explained.

Recently, Cloud9 IDE raised $5.5 million in Series A funding from Accel Partners and product development software company Atlassian Software.

Daniels said Cloud9 will use the funds to add support for multiple languages, platforms and cloud/mobile SDKs.

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