It's time to add another IT category to the official IT lexicon: software development and deployment as a service (SDDS). And this one's a keeper.
That's my conclusion after seeing a demonstration of Bungee Labs' new Bungee Connect offering, which combines the virtues of online web application development with a near-real-time test and debug capability and with a click-to-host service that -- now here's the rub -- costs the developer next to nothing to get into full production.
Here's an offering that recognizes that new business models that vastly expand the universe of web services players is what the web is all about. The company goes live today at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, the service allows beta access May 1. Developers may register to participate in the early-access beta program at www.bungeelabs.com.
The attraction is not just in the WSYWIG, drag-and-drop, rich Ajax interface creation ease (sans controls) for those familiar with scripting and web applications development. It's not just that said produced services, and aggregations of other services and objects, can be tested and debugged very quickly online. It's not just that the application can then be deployed at scale to the world instantly via a responsive grid.
No, the real innovation is how the Bungee Connect model provides an incubator, and -- in essence -- a business development partner to the developer so that they do not just create an application -- they can create a business. That's because the cost for the use of the tools, testing, and then hosting is free, and the subscription cost for the at-scale hosting only kicks in based on the use of the application by end users. Low use means low costs, and high use means a predictable measure of the proceeds goes to the development and hosting service.
The deal is based on a straight-forward quid pro quo: Bungee Connect gives developers and entrepreneurs the start-up support for free, no charge during beta, and then the business stays with Bungee as the grid services provider while the applications ramp up into a sustainable business, or a low-cost TCO service for companies. Bungee collects rent -- so to speak -- based on use of the underlying infrastructure. Pay as you grow.
The usage fees, billed monthly, will be based on infrastructure and utility computations that combine computing, storage and network interaction. The aggregate utility rate is expected to be $1 per computer-network-interaction-hour. That sounds familiar somehow.
What do you get for your buck? Typical commercial business applications are expected to consume between one and five interaction hours per user per month, depending on usage and each application’s run-time combination of web service access, application processing, and network interactivity, says the company's release. Before that fee kicks in, however, Bungee Connect automates SOAP- and REST-based web services integration, Ajax control programming, state management and instantaneous deployment -- all through an extensible, end-to-end environment delivered over the web: no install for developers, no installation of delivery infrastructure, and no client install for end users, says the venture capital-backed company.
Very, very cool -- not to mention highly disruptive on a variety of levels. Salt Lake City vicinity-based Bungee Labs has been stealthily combining the best of the Web 2.0 trends and innovations to pull together what may well become the best, fastest, cheapest way to create a vast ecology of new self-sustainable and perhaps healthfully profitable ecology of online services. And the tools also can be used to aggregate other existing pre-built or new services from the growing list of web services and services API providers. Bungee has its own runtime libraries of programming functionality, too.
Bungee Connect is already aligned with a solid core of such providers: Amazon, Google, Salesforce.com, Yahoo!, RealNetworks, Windows Live, PayPal, and eBay. Nice company that can become the company that you keep as a developer/entrepreneur to quickly and flexibly deliver to market what users need, want, and will pay for. Or perhaps you'd like to build something that, like honey for flies, brings in a ton of click-throughs. Well, okay monetize via online ads and pay Bungee the rent and the ad provider its vig. It's still a business, fast, fleet, and financially solid.
Then perhaps the SMBs and enterprises would like to rent these compilations. And there you go, rent them to the end users while building and hosting on Bungee Connect. Lots of business model permutations to explore.
Interestingly, Bungee is avid about keeping the developer's code and property under the developer's ownership, if they wish. Or they can opt to share via three different types of open source and hybrid licensing. Get viral, or get vicious -- whatever works for you and your customers, or your customers' customers, or your customers' customers' customers.
The on-demand app dev environment, joined with community-based development or skunks-works stealth, is deeply integrated with the deployment grid to automatically generate application state management. It also provisions additional infrastructure as needed, and also automates the fees and licensing -- while housing and protecting the developer's intellectual property. Later on, Bungee Labs expects to allow for importing and exporting of code assets, as well as use of UML and analytics. I'd like to see an Eclipse community mashup soon, myself.
The whole thing reminds me of Robert Duvall's character's trek from New York to LA in the first Godfather film where he encounters a certain late-night horse. This sounds like an offer you can't refuse, but in a much nicer manner; clean sheets, too.
"Ajax is just the beginning of the RIA story and Bungee Labs provides the rest of the solution with a web-based IDE, on-demand scalable deployment, a well-designed community model and a built-in component ecosystem with real-world licensing options,” said fellow ZDNet blogger Dion Hinchcliffe, also President and CTO of Hinchcliffe & Co. and editor in chief of AjaxWorld Magazine, in a release statement. “Bungee Connect is a surprisingly complete one-stop shop for the RIA development, deployment and operations lifecycle."
The Bungee Labs approach has been a solution waiting to happen. All the ingredients are now in place. This will provide the means to create and test RIAs for many facets of businesses -- large enterprises, SMBs, ISVs, other SaaS players, cottage-industry hacks-for-bucks. You name it. Bungee Labs is targeting this all at SMBs, but I see larger ultimate appeal.
When any of these organizations can outsource development, while retaining the developers and code rights, when they can partner with the best of the on-demand ecology of providers, when they can graphically layout pages and forms online lickety-split, and when the grid-utility model is made affordable by a no fees and no upfront investment basis -- well, then the whole thing begins to slide into everything-as-a-service mindset.
I expect that Bungee Labs' offerings will be one of many similar approaches that slash development and deployment costs, and that together act as a catalyst to the end of software development and use as we've known it. Others, especially Microsoft, will need to follow suit, just to hold onto developers -- but also to hold on to their CALs.
I saw a Bungee Connect-powered demo of Microsoft Exchange Server delivering email and calendar as a service via a browser -- not Outlook Web Access, no! Bungee Connect was doing it, all on the level, CALs protected. But the Exchange functions were mashed up with a bunch of other non-Microsoft services. All in own browser view, easily changed and re-arranged, all on the server. Freedom! Indeed, the Bungee Connect model plus the Microsoft Live model, dragging along the older Microsoft stuff, is a hyper disrupter, but without a rip-and-replace. Just make it all a service. Toss in Google and PayPal monetization and business services and we're in a whole new ball game, baby.
We can expect to see this emerge as a greenfield play, but there's no reason why enterprises as they adopt more SOA principles won't quickly grok the value of an increasing portion of their services development taking place in such a manner, especially if the grid holds up under all kinds of demand, and the costs of supporting that grid begin to redefine TCO ... Like subtract the cost of infrastructure support and maintenance.
SMBs can essentially get the best of a SaaS model and their own custom application development capabilities without a need for an IT department (beyond a handful of creative demons). They might even begin to cotton more to the idea of a thin-client or a desk top-as-a-service approach.
Service providers, telcos, and hosts would do well to consider layering a similar app dev as a service approach -- perhaps an OEM arrangement -- on top of their business services offerings. Imagine one monthly fee for network, telephony, mobile, and application development and deployment. Sure you can!
Hey, perhaps you'd like to create or apply a professional services business that caters to those learning and using a Bungee Connect service? Yep, bolt that puppy right on there. Developers could even enjoy the benefits of an auction approach for their service and support needs. Low cost meets lower cost. Check-in and check-out for multi-developer process management. Instantly deploy applications to any URL. Anywhere in the world. Globalization 'r us.
Downsides? Bungee Connect is its own environment, when you build in it, that's where the code runs. That will provide food for thought for a lot of developers and businesses, but the fit for start-ups and for creation of essential web services at SMBs is compelling. Perhaps Bungee Labs will someday need to find a way to "release" code for a fee, but I think many developers and builders will opt to use one of the more open licenses and recognize this a web services ecology play -- and increasingly a shared web services world -- a least for the foreseeable future.
Bungee Connect is a very interesting development, one that reminds me of a little Dutch boy who just took his finger out of the dike.