PostgreSQL is getting a lot of love from cloud providers this year. It was the first RDBMS chosen for OpenShift, and VMware gave the elephant a big squeeze earlier this year as the platform for its "database as a service." Now Heroku is launching PostgreSQL as a standalone service.

Folks using Heroku as their PaaS have been able to make PostgreSQL their database of choice for some time. What's new here is that Heroku is letting people sign up for PostgreSQL services without using the rest of the Heroku platform. So if you're hosting some kind of app on AWS or your own server, you can tap Heroku for the database alone.

Heroku PostgreSQL is off-the-shelf PostgreSQL, "unforked and unmodified" according to Heroku. So if you decide that you need to bring your database back in-house for some reason (or to another provider), no worries. It's also assured to work with any client that uses libpq, so it should require no tweaking for programs that are already using PostgreSQL.

Why choose Heroku PostgreSQL rather than self-hosted PostgreSQL? Pretty much the same reason that you'd want any PaaS: scalability and handing off the hassles of maintenance to another provider. According to James Lindenbaum, who announced the service on Heroku's blog, "Heroku Postgres creates multiple, geographically distributed copies of all data changes as they are written. These copies are constantly checked for consistency and corruption. If a meteor were to wipe out the east coast, you won't lose your data."

Provisioning Databases on Heroku Postgres from Herkou Postgres on Vimeo.

Let's not test that. But you can scope out the features that Heroku and PostgreSQL bring to the table. The pricing starts at $200 a month for the "Ronin" plan that includes a 1.7GB cache and goes all the way up to the "Mecha" plan with a 68GB cache at $6,400 a month.

This seems like a good strategy from Heroku. Customers that already have deployed apps elsewhere can still tap Heroku's platform for PostgreSQL. Maybe they'll pick up new customers over time who will deploy more apps on Heroku's platform, or maybe they'll just get the database business. Either way, it's a win for Heroku if they can get developers in the door. Anybody planning on taking them up on this?