Monday, 31 October 2011

5 minute wonders: From zero to hero with AppHarbor

Monday, 31 October 2011

In case you’ve been living under a rock this year, AppHarbor is one of the hottest things to hit .NET since, well, just about ever. It packages up the entire app lifecycle of source control, build, deployment and hosting and makes it dead simple; in fact it couldn’t be easier. It then adds a comprehensive collection of add-ons to do everything from persisting data (MS SQL, MySQL, MongoDB) to caching services (Memcacher) to load testing (blitz).

And the best bit? It’s free. Zero dollars. Nada. Zilch. If you want to get a bit demanding then you start to pay money but it’s in the order of figures like $10 a month for a 10GB SQL DB. This is truly the cloud promise of low cost, high agility, commoditised services done right and it’s what's helped me make ASafaWeb a reality.

Let me show you just how easy this is; in the last 5 minute wonder about the ASP.NET membership provider, I built an app from scratch which included a web front end and a SQL back end with registration and log in functionality. This included the secure storage of passwords protected with a cryptographically random salt and hashed with SHA256. Let’s take another 5 minutes and put this in the cloud under source control with continuous build and release courtesy of the very awesome people at AppHarbor:

Update: As Troels Thomsen from AppHarbor just reminded me, you can have AppHarbor automatically replace your connection string on deployment rather than using config transforms (see Managing environments on the support site). This keeps the sensitive bits out of your repository which is always nice.

References

The config transform practice I mentioned when editing the release version of the web.config is explained in detail in You're deploying it wrong! TeamCity, Subversion & Web Deploy part 1: Config transforms.

The AppHarbor blog is a great place to keep track of what’s happening. There are frequently new add-ons making an appearance and the service as a whole is evolving quite quickly in a very positive direction. Keep an eye on the blog for breaking news.

The AppHarbor Twitter account is also worth following and I’ve regularly had very quick responses from the guys behind this when giving them a mention. Now that I think about it, they offer far better support than many of the paid services I have!

And speaking of support, there’s always the AppHarbor support site. This has a pretty good wealth of information on it already and of course you can always plug your own questions in if need be.

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