Deploying, configuring and monitoring web servers is a daunting task.
And for PHP programmers who would rather be programming or learning new concepts and frameworks, even the thought of having to dive into server administration can be dreadful.
This is the problem that RunCloud.io is trying to solve.
With the rise of affordable and more powerful cloud hosting and VPS service providers like Digital Ocean, Linode, Vultr, and even Amazon Lightsail, more and more PHP programmers are moving their applications from shared hosting services to the cloud.
However these companies offer their services in a self-service manner. What you get is like a (virtually) empty server box with an IP address and internet connection. You are expected to set up and configure your servers yourself.
While this gives developers freedom to configure their servers any way they like, server configuration and administration are not common skills among developers.
A typical server setup would mean that you need to install Apache or Nginx for the web server, PHP itself, MySQL database and all other modules and dependencies before you can start to deploy your PHP application codes. Because this is not something you do everyday, a PHP programmer will normally be seen scouring the internet for tutorials and guides to get this done. And then executing the lessons step-by-step would normally take hours.
With RunCloud, the team helps to get the server online in no more than 15 minutes.
The Team’s Beginnings
In the heart of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia in Johor, three young boys put their brains together five years ago while pursuing their bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Arif Tukiman, now the CEO of RunCloud, invited Amir Fazwan and Ahmad Fikrizaman (Fikri) to build Sejuk Studio together as each of them bring different skillsets and personalities to the table.
Sejuk Studio, which means “cool studio” was just a partnership business registration. When they were accepted into MAGIGX UTM Incubator Programme, they were required to register a private limited business entity.
However when they were trying to register Sejuk Studio Sdn. Bhd. with the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM), SSM pointed out there were some issues with the name. So with that, they settled with the name Cool Code Sdn. Bhd., which is still a pretty “cool” name.
They came up with various ideas and launched one or two failed projects. Even RunCloud itself was originally a different product called WHOP, which targeted web hosting companies instead of programmers. But the landscape for a control panel for web hosting accounts was too competitive, and solutions like CPanel and WHM were already dominating the market.
But later they found out that something like RunCloud is what programmers are looking for. The lack of a strong market leader brand was also an opportunity for RunCloud to enter it. Plus, WHOP was already 50% of what RunCloud now is. So with that, they would not have to start developing something new from scratch.
For the past one year and a half, WHOP was redeveloped and repositioned into RunCloud. RunCloud made its debut in JOMLAUNCH4 last year in November. And in January 2017, it made its official launch. The team has also recently qualified for MaGIC’s Global Accelerator Programme, starting in July 2017.
Just about three months into the market, RunCloud has found itself gaining some interest. RunCloud currently manages about 500 servers and they expect those numbers to grow.
Breaking Down The Service
So what is it that RunCloud really does for PHP programmers?
Initially RunCloud will help you setup and configure your server, and optimise it for any PHP application. Once the server is ready, not only can you deploy your application easily into the server, but you are also equipped with an array of tools to better manage and monitor your server in the future.
To illustrate with one example, a server can host multiple websites and domain name. But having to configure it every time there is a new domain or website to build is a painful task.
You normally have to do it manually by connecting to the server using a black and white command line tool, and you type your command line by line, just like how you see it in hacker movies.
You would have to find where the configuration file is, modify the configuration codes for the web server and quickly reboot the web server. Not only it is time-consuming and quite a hassle, at times you may have written the wrong codes and your server would not restart. You would have to redo it all over again to fix the errors.
With RunCloud, there is an interface for that. You can quickly and easily create a new website folder where your PHP application will live. You can also pick which PHP version you want to use, whether it is PHP 5.5, 5.6, 7.0 or 7.1. And then you can assign domain names for the web application. All of these are done with no messing around with the server codes.
RunCloud can also serve as a single management console for multiple servers, no matter where they’re from. At times a programmer may have to manage servers from various providers like Digital Ocean and Linode, or maybe more.
Traditionally you would need to connect to these servers one by one separately to be able to manage each one of them. With RunCloud it doesn’t matter where the servers are, they all can be seen and managed from one user interface.
With other features in the works, RunCloud is looking to grow to be a standard in deploying PHP applications to the cloud after a few years.
This article was written and contributed by Khairil Iszuddin Ismail. The CTO for E-Sentral.com, he also leads a programmers’ community group on Facebook called JOMWEB. On some odd days, he plays the role of Vice President 1 in Persatuan Usahawan dan Industri ICT Bumiputera Malaysia, better known as NEF.