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Java in the cloud: Google, Aptana, and Stax

Peter Wayner | April 22, 2009
Just as the megastars in Hollywood seem to find each other and fall in love, it was only inevitable that two of the greatest buzzwords ever hatched -- "Java" and "cloud" -- would meet and begin to breed.

The "My Cloud" tab is pretty much a fancy front end to the standard Linux server. In one tab, you can turn the server daemons (Tomcat, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Apache) on or off. If you want to add more computational resources, you can switch to another tab where the options let you choose one of four settings for disk space and RAM. The basic introduction setting includes 256MB of RAM and 5GB of disk space, billed at $0.027 per hour, a price that works out to $20 per month. If you want more, you can move a little lever that goes up to 2GB of RAM and 25GB of disk space for $0.359 per hour, or about $267 per month.

The service is just a pretty face on many of the standard VPS (virtual private server) tools out there, something that will be comforting and familiar to anyone with hard-won experience wrestling with the standard offerings. Access to the database is available on port 3306. Secure FTP and Subversion are also ready and running. If you want root, it's yours with a click. All of the log files are nicely presented in yet another tab. The system load and memory consumption appear in a dashboard-like tab. You never need to leave Eclipse/Aptana Studio.

While you're technically running on a single virtual machine, the servers have eight CPUs and they're set up to allow bursts of computation that can consume over 95 percent of those eight processors. This is more a nice feature that smooths bumps for occasional busy periods, not a way to get eight CPUs on the cheap.

Aptana Cloud is less revolutionary and more evolutionary. You can use all of the experience you have with the traditional tools again here. The buttons map pretty cleanly to the tasks that used to require Emacs in the shell and just simplify the process. If you need to poke around under the covers, or set up some other workflow, the opportunity is here.

Stax on Amazon EC2

While the other two solutions come built as plug-ins to Eclipse, Stax Networks offers a complete set of Web tools for creating and managing the projects. Everything starts with the Web. Then you download the source to your local computer for editing by invoking a command-line tool that handles downloads and redeployment. Then it's back to the Web for all of the management. I'm guessing you could switch from a single machine to a big, five-server cluster with just a few clicks at one of those computers they park in a hotel lobby to let you check in for your flight.

A wide variety of starting points is available from basic servlets to Apache Struts or Apache Wicket, all running on Tomcat. Stax also offers JRuby and Jython running on top of the same Java foundation. All can talk to MySQL databases running in the same cluster.


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