Orchestra Co-founder Eamon Leonard describes the Irish Platform as a Service (PaaS) provider’s primary value proposition as saving developers time. PHP script-based Orchestra was founded in February 2011 as a spin out from web consultancy and software development firm Echolibre. A little over six months later, Orchestra, has been acquired by PaaS pioneers Engine Yard. Clearly, time-wasting is not on his agenda.
Having worked with over thirty startups from Ireland to Hong Kong and Australia since 2008, Eamon and his colleagues found that the repetition of certain tasks from project to project was distracting them and their clients from more activities like coding.
“There’s nothing worse for a software developer than to be doing the same thing over and over again. A software developer likes to be challenged, likes to be faced with problems to find interesting solutions to.
“Every time we started a project we’d have to set up a new server from scratch, we’d have to configure it, and then we’d have to put the code onto the server and then we’d have to maintain it.
Eamon recalls situations when servers would go down at the most inconvenient times, “You’d have a scenario when you’re on your iPhone trying to connect to the server to bring it back up and that’s ridiculous.”
The then-Echolibre team looked at the different trends happening in the market around them and the subset of cloud computing known as Platforms as a Service was one that Eamon saw as, “Gaining momentum,” particularly amongst developers using the Ruby on Rails web development framework.
“We saw that what the Ruby developers had was they could basically deploy their code; with a couple of clicks they could create servers and then they could have it automatically monitored with a whole lot of fail-safes built in in case anything goes wrong. So, those guys could actually go out at the weekend and enjoy it and not have to worry about their servers going down because they were hosted in the cloud.”
PHP developer Eamon wanted to bring the convenience and peace of mind that PaaS brought to the Ruby community to the global PHP development community, which he numbers at between four and five million people worldwide.
“Ultimately, we wanted to never have to spend literally four or five hours setting up and configuring a server every time we that wanted to deploy a project, so we created Orchestra to allow us to do that.
“That’s the immediate value proposition to developers, it saves time. The second value proposition is the fact that it gives you peace of mind, and it gives you the ability to focus more on your code and writing good code, than being a system administrator.
“Most developers, given a choice, would go for writing good code over sysadmin any day, because sysadmin is a different mindset it’s a different kind of problem that you’re solving, and there’s a lot of repetition in it and that doesn’t sit well with developers.”
When Orchestra’s founders were approached by Engine Yard, pioneers of Ruby-based PaaS, Eamon says the decision to approve the acquisition was, “a no-brainer”, as the market is moving away from single-stack PaaS, offering support for only PHP, or only Ruby.
“We saw that there was an opportunity for us to get where we wanted to go faster with a name like Engine Yard behind us, who were pretty much one of the pioneers of PaaS, so when the option presented itself to us, we went for it.”
Engine Yard now owns 100% of Orchestra, and Eamon and his co-founders are now responsible for the PHP stack in Engine Yard. Despite this, Eamon says there are no immediate plans to retire the Orchestra brand or to alter their plans for the future.
“Both Engine Yard and ourselves feel that Orchestra is a strong brand and has a certain degree of recognition in the PHP community so it doesn’t make sense to go and mess with that. Nothing’s changing in the immediate future.
“Up until now we were in a position where part of the team were doing client consultancy work to pay for the development of Orchestra. But now we’ve left that behind and we can be one hundred percent focused on it and it’s a great opportunity for us and it’s a great opportunity for PHP developers.
“We have a long road map of uses we want to add in based on conversations we’ve had with our peers and our customers, and we’re focused now one hundred percent on rolling out those features.”
While Eamon envisages that he will be doing a lot more travelling now, he is adamant that Orchestra will remain based in Ireland, and will be creating jobs here.
“It is a very synergistic meeting of companies and we’re really happy with it. There was never any talk about [leaving Ireland]. We’re not going anywhere.”