Nodejitsu Takes On Heroku, Microsoft Azure With Node.js Platform Cloud

Nodejitsu announced a long awaited public beta for its Node.js platform cloud service this week. The service can be run from private or public clouds, including Amazon Web Services, Joyent and Rackspace. The company also offers suites of tools for deploying, monitoring and managing Node.js applications in cloud environments.

Nodejitsu launched its first private beta, which co-founder and CEO Charlie Robbins calls “more of an alpha,” way back in November 2010. It was one of the first platform-as-a-service (PaaS) providers to focus on Node.js, a development platform that enables programs to run JavaScript on the server. Since then there’s been an explosion of interest in Node.js and companies like Labs, LinkedIn and Yahoo are now running Node.js in production. Meanwhile, PaaS competitors such as Cloud Foundry, Heroku and Windows Azure have announced Node.js support. But Nodejitsu is only just allowing the larger Node.js community a peak at its service.

Robbins says other companies were able to bring Node.js support to market quickly by using off the shelf software like Puppet and Chef while Nodejitsu has obsessively built custom infrastructure automation and orchestration tools. Robbins is confident that the custom tools will make Nodejitsu more competitive in the long term, and the patience is starting to pay off. In April Joyent, the company that sponsors Node.js development, shuttered its competing Node.js PaaS and partnered with Nodejitsu instead. “PaaS was outside their core business, and they wanted someone who would take it on as their core business objective,” Robbins explains. Robbins says Nodejitsu’s focus on building custom tools has also landed the company some major customers who are paying for services and support for private clouds, but he declines to name those customers.

But as it competes with tech giants like Microsoft, and VMware, Nodejitsu’s greatest asset may be its roots in the Node.js community. Robbins first became interested in Node.js in 2009 while working as a .NET developer on Wall Street. “With Silverlight Microsoft had been extremely effective at marketing the idea of writing the same code on the server and the client,” Robbins tells me. “In their mind it was going to be .NET.” But Robbins eventually realized that JavaScript was winning the client side wars, and that there would be a need for a server side JavaScript solution. He was drawn to Node.js and started attending JavaScript meetups with his high school friend Marak Squires. There the pair met Paolo Fragomeni. The three decided to start a Node.js company.

The team spent much of their first year building open source libraries and tools for Node.js, such as the command line deployment tool Jitsu. These tools were necessary for the development of Nodejitsu, but they also helped the Node.js community during its formative years. This work, along with the partnership with Joyent, gives Nodejitsu some real Node.js street cred.

Nodejitsu is going to need that cred as it tackles the giants.