Which app store is best?
My users want an easy to use Web App Store. Select from a library of pre-configured applications. Click to start.
Get a free HTTPS domain name. Make it easy to switch to a custom domain name. Easy backups and restores. When upgrading versions allow a rollback if something goes wrong.
And one layer down, allow some customizations. Maybe control the number of parallel containers. Maybe switch to a particular version of a container. Maybe allocate more hard drive.
And they want to do all of this in the web browser, without having to know how to use an ancient ascii shell, and memorized commands. They are not programmers, just end users who want to fire up an app. Much like they do on ios, Android, Mac OS X and Windows. But somehow this is not so common on the web.
Here I review the market based on three concepts: clickstarter, customization and mental model.
ClickStarter.: can I click to start a complex application.
Customization: can the user customize the system?
Mental model: What is the mental model of the underlying platform. Some App stores, (Digital Ocean and Jelastic) give you a virtual linux machine with some docker applications installed. My end user definitely cannot handle that. The hot item nowadays is Kubernetes. I tried reading the documentation, my eyes glazed over. And I am a developer. Way way too complex. These users are not building the next Google, they just want a chat app or something similar. The mental model I liked is the one from Sloppy.IO, running on MesOS and Marathon. Arukas does something similar. There is no VM, just my collection of docker containers talking to each other.
Google has a gorgeous one click app store. They do everything so well. But their catalogue is limited to 42 titles. Why? Well to publish, you have to be a US corporation with a US bank account and $1Million in annual revenue. Worse yet, when you go under the covers, the app store is hosted on Kubernetes, which has a way way too complicated model for end users.
Microsoft has two channels. Now merged. The app store is for Windows applications. The Azure marketplace is for technical applications. Sadly it runs Kubernetes. Even their one click deploy was too complicated. It exposed the Kubernetes mental model to the end users. Worse yet you need to fire up a fixed size vm, and then scale out in that. HUH? The end user wants to be able to add one container at a time.
There is the docker store. They qualify images. But they no longer do hosting, so no one click deploy.
Jelastic has some kind of quick starters. They have a lot of them. But it appears that they install in a VM, and then the end user has to manage both the VM and the containers. WRONG! But they did give me a free pass to the upcoming CloudFest conference in Germany. Thank you.
Digital Ocean keeps coming up in my searches. They offer low cost vm’s called droplets, and fantastic documentation. They have a click starter for a VM running docker, but end users do not want to be responsible for a linux VM.
Joyent Triton is an operating system designed from the ground up for containers. While CoreOS hacks linux to make it work, Triton is technically brilliant. They use the concept of zones from open solaris, and have a real network piece, not the hacked network stack of docker. So their security is better.
They appear to have a nice GUI, but tech support is weak. They got bought by Samsung, they are hiring, but appear not to be growing that fast. Some web comments are bad. I had a terrible time logging in, and quite slow service. I logged in, their GUI looks nice, they support lots of different user mental models. VMs, Kubernetes, Marathon, Docker Swarm. They have a "simple" example for installing wordpress. "First install the cli..."
Rancher has an impressive catalogue of application templates, but again the user has to administer a linux box.
Their website talks about how easy the GUI is, but when I login, the first thing they say is to download the cli to spin up a kubernetes container. Wrong!
Arukas. Just to be thorough, I went ahead and tried to sign into arukas. Sadly they only have a waiting list, and even that signup was broken.
So as far as I can tell the two best App store is SLoppylio. They have one click apps. They have a simple mental model. Are they perfect? Well no. But that is the topic for the next blog posting.