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Intro

About 2 months ago I was looking for hosting company that supported Coldfusion. My requirements were:

  1. Low cost
  2. Reliable
  3. Support as much CFML as possible (ie no disabling cfdump)

I'm not sure what led me to them but I ended up signing up for a beta of Stax.net whose tag line is "Java applications in the cloud". Stax.net met all of my requirements and it came with a free buzzword, "cloud", so I was sold (and at a great price -- Free!). Soon afterward my invite email came and I signed up (I was giddy).

Creating Applications

Creating an application is very simple. You only need to fill out some basic information and select which type of application it will be.  The official list of application runtimes is kept up to date here (under Stax Application Templates).

Creating Data Sources

Easy. That is all there really is to say. Creating a datasource is a button click and 4 input fields away.

Managing Applications

After logging in, you are presented with the "Stax Application Console" which is where you manage all of your applications. The interface is simple and very intuitive to navigate around. The left hand side contains a list of your applications and data sources. Simply clicking the application's name that you wish to manage produces another screen that gives you total control of your application.

From here you can:

  • Download the source
  • Put the application to sleep
  • Invite other developers to work on the app
  • Manage deployment history (I'll come back to this)
  • View stats on the application usage (recently updated see here)

Deployment History

This is by far one of the coolest things in Stax.net. The deployment history shows well, the history of deployment =) Here is a screenshot of an application that I'm working on. Each row corresponds to a deploy and the buttons in the left most column give me the option to either download the source of that deployment or to redeploy that instance. I'm sure you can do something very similar to this with a build tool on your own, but this is built in and it comes with every application. Everyone has had one of those "Oops! I just uploaded a script with a bug!" moments and this makes it pretty painless to fix.

[caption id="attachment_258" align="alignnone" width="331" caption="Stax.net Deployment History Screen"]Stax.net Deployment History Screen[/caption]

Configuration Options

The configuration options are pretty basic, but I've yet to need any more control than they provide. You can set the privacy of your app (private/public),  setup domain aliases  and choose the cluster size (from single to 5 servers). The only option not available (during the beta at least) is setting the "Server zone". Here is another screenshot.

[caption id="attachment_259" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Stax.net Configuration Tab"]Stax.net Configuration Tab[/caption]

Managing Datasources

The datasource view also gives us the ability to take snapshots of the database throughout time. Outside of that, there isn't much functionality here. You can also connect to the database with your choice of tool (I used  MySQL Query Browser ).

Developing and Deploying Applications

This process is also very easy. To start developing & deploying your applications you only need to know 3 commands (getapp, run and deploy). More details can be found about the commands with the SDK's built in help as well as the developer's wiki.

Conclusion

While Stax.net might still be in beta (and the pricing model hasn't been released), I've yet to have any major issues. If you are a developer that would like to deploy an application "in the cloud", I'd recommend trying out a beta account. I will be doing a future post and screencast showing the creation a very simple CFML application.

One thing that I do believe deserves special recognition is the support. Spike Washburn (founder of Stax Networks) has replied almost instantly to nearly all of my questions/requests on Twitter. He even went so far as to start implementing Railo support due to a tweet. This guy kicks ass and if my experience so far is any indication, this will be a great service.

Please note: this post was prompted by Spike's immediate attention to something that had been bugging me for a while (www.stax.net stax.net wasn't working and you could only alias 1 domain per application). The twitter conversation about a "glowing review" was in jest and I did not write this post as a bribe to fix my specific issues any faster.

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Jon Dowdle

Jon Dowdle currently works on the internet at a lovely place called InVision.


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