Cloud computing platform service provider Joyent is today announcing the availability of 3500 free hosting accounts for Facebook application developers. Joyent has partnered with Dell to offer Facebook developers the free one-year accounts, which include 500GB of bandwidth, 512MB of RAM, as well as 10GB of storage. The accounts retail for $75/month, making the total value of the accounts Joyent is giving away about $3.2 million. Facebook developers can sign up for the program at this link.

After the free year is up, Joyent will offer developers the accounts at a discounted rate of $45/month, no strings attached. I was told that the account that Joyent is offering as part of this promotion should be able to handle most apps up to 10,000 users -- i.e., the majority of Facebook applications. Anyone whose app grows larger will be offered an upgrade path by Joyent.

Because what Joyent is offering are on-demand virtual appliances ("accelerators") operating in a cloud, they can be deployed almost instantly with very little hassle. That means that scaling both vertically and horizontally to handle increased load can be done rather painlessly within minutes by purchasing more accelerators. Joyent is hoping that a small percentage of apps created on its free accelerators will become popular enough to need to scale larger on their hosting platform.

"Facebook is one of the hottest platforms for developers right now and Joyent wants to allow them to create the next viral application and scale without anxiety and effort," said Joyent CEO David Young in a press release. "We designed Accelerator to partner with developers and give them everything they need to build, experiment, evaluate and scale their applications without spending a small fortune to do so."

The company points to Kinzin, makers of the very popular Are Your Normal? app, as proof of their platform's ability to scale. Kinzin started developing Are You Normal? on a small accelerator, and was able to scale the application by adding accelerators as their hosting needs grew very rapidly and the app added 150,000 users in just three weeks. Now adding tens of thousands of new users per week, Kinzin relies on four large sized accelerators (at a cost of $500/month) to keep their application online.

The only requirement for Facebook developers is that they actually be actively developing (or have deployed) an application. Anyone whose account sits idle for 60 days will have it revoked and returned to the pool for another developer to use.

Joyent's goal is to make life easier for Facebook app developers. The company has created server templates for Ruby on Rails, PHP, Python and Java specific to the needs of Facebook application deployment that should make the tricky process of being a SysAdmin much easier. Rather than focusing on server management, by using on-demand virtual hosting appliances, the set up and management is taken care of for you.

In all, this is a great deal for fledgling Facebook developers -- you can't beat free, and Joyent's service is top notch.