Referencing Jack's magic beanstalk that just kept growing and growing, Amazon Web Services launched its first platform-as-a-service today: Elastic Beanstalk. Initially, AWS will only support Java, but the company plans to add support for other languages and application environments in the future. For example, Engine Yard is working with AWS to bring its Ruby on Rails stack to Elastic Beanstalk.

Elastic Beanstalk is available at no additional charge to AWS customers, and can be used with the AWS Free Usage Tier.

AWS is setting Elastic Beanstalk apart by giving developers a usable platform out of the box, but also giving them the ability to customize their infrastructure if they choose.

From the announcement:

"We'd been grappling with how to simplify application deployment and management on AWS without removing the flexibility and control our customers have come to expect,"" said Adam Selipsky, Vice President of Amazon Web Services. "Once we started exploring the mental model of customers being able to 'open the hood' to tinker with the infrastructure management themselves, a light bulb went off and we realized we didn't have to make this 'either/or' decision. AWS customers can now choose to have as much automation or as much control as they wish."

AWS claims developers will be able to move their applications off of Beanstalk easily if they choose. The service is built on standard software such as Apache Web Server, Tomcat, and the Enterprise Edition of the Java platform.

There's been an explosion of interest in PaaS providers since Salesforce.com announced its acquisition of Heroku and Red Hat announced its acquisition of Makara last month. Just last week PHPFog, a PHP PaaS, announced $1.8 million in funding. Node.js hosting services have been sprouting up. Interest is high.

Elastic Beanstalk's Java service will compete with Salesforce.com's VMForce.

Third-party PaaS providers like Engine Yard will likely still have a businesses model selling management and support. We looked at AWS's support plans recently, and found that for many developers it's worth it to go with a reseller.