Keynote: Going all out on the cloud (Jan Jongboom)

The first technical talk of the 10th Plone conference is by Jan Jongboom, who works for Cloud9.

In 1995 JavaScript appeared and was shipped with Netscape 2.0. Although the name is similar to Java, JavaScript is not like Java, but more like Scheme. The name was chosen to ride the wave of Java’s popularity. Until 1999 it wasn’t too interesting. However, Microsoft needed XMLHttpRequest (the basis of what we now call Ajax) and that sparked new development. In 2004 Google launched Gmail and used this technology to show mails in your page without having to refresh the whole page.

The problem with JavaScript is that the implementation differs between browsers and browser versions. The best sold JavaScript book is JavaScript: The Good Parts.

The DOM was never meant to be scripted! And dealing with the DOM in JavaScript was a reason for Jan to dislike JavaScript. But then jQuery appeared in 2006. The big power from jQuery comes from Sizzle which allows nice selectors. And this makes working with the DOM way better.

Then JavaScript really started to pick up. With Node.js you can even use JavaScript on the server. But the actual power comes from the underlying platform: LibUV, which abstracts away the operating system calls.

Writing synchronous code is easy. Asynchronous code however… A simple thread on a Linux system uses 2Mb. And every time someone does a request, a thread is started. This can become a problem when there are requests that take a long time. And if e.g. Apache is limited to a certain amount of memory, you are limiting the number of possible requests. With LibUV this is managed so you don’t need the 2Mb per thread. So if you have a web application that requires a lot of concurrent connections, you are no longer limited by the memory usage of the threads.

Node.js is basically a JavaScript binding to LibUV, with standard libraries in JavaScript, using the Google V8 engine.

Why use Node.js over e.g. Twisted? There was no module system in JavaScript, so one could be invented. And JavaScript is already written asynchronous, in contrast to most Python code. This made it easier to get started.


Cloud9 wanted to bring the cool stuff from other languages to JavaScript. It’s an on-line, open source, IDE. It used ACE for their editor. It’s completely written in HTML, CSS and JavaScript and has many features. Currently it’s only supported by Node.js. However, you should be able to run it with Python in a couple of months.

With Cloud9 you get a free Linux OpenShift VM. Including a real terminal. But the coolest feature is collaboration. Someone else can come into your IDE and see the same things you see. He/she can see your cursor and see you type. (Also: If you close a file, the files is also closed in the IDE of the other person.) So you can easily debug and work together on something. You also don’t even have to leave your browser to deploy your code.

Plone doesn’t run on the OpenShift VM yet because of a LibXML problem. But you can also bring your own server. So Jan used an Amazon EC2 instance for his VM. The Plone Unified installer ran fine there. He can just open and edit the files (e.g. the buildout configuration files) from his browser.

Cloud9 is very proud of their code completion. It should become available for Python as well in the next few months.

Since Cloud9 in open source, you can fork the GitHub repository and contribute if you want to. Or join Cloud9 since they are hiring.

View the slides or watch the video.

Update (2021-07-26)
According to Wikipedia Cloud9 was acquired by Amazon in 2016. Current information about Cloud9 can be found its product page.