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Engine Yard, a startup that manages web applications built using the Ruby on Rails programming framework, is planning to expand its services for applications running on Amazon‘s infrastructure, adding to its existing Solo product (for smaller developers) with Engine Yard Flex, for larger, industrial-scale deployments.

The goal of companies like Engine Yard is to remove much of the difficulty from deploying and scaling web applications (so they work across lots of users) — once someone has built the application, Engine Yard’s platform can handle the infrastructure headaches. Originally, the company hosted those applications on its own infrastructure, but Vice President of Marketing Michael Mullany says the responsiveness and capabilities of Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud were too much to resist. By using the EC2 infrastructure, Engine Yard can offer services that would be impossible in a private data center, such as adding several servers in a matter of minutes to run a copy of your application, then scaling back down when you don’t need them anymore.

The closest competitor to Engine Yard may be Heroku, which rolled out the pricing model for its app deployment service (also built on EC2) last month. Mullany says Engine Yard can offer developers the best of both worlds — the flexibility and affordability of using public clouds like Amazon’s, but, when necessary, also providing the security of running on private infrastructure. It’s also unique in its combination of a self-service platform with “the best Rails expertise and technical support in the industry,” he says. (In comparison, Heroku’s system is all about automation.)

Engine Yard Flex will be available in June. The company already has more than 500 customers, including 100 on Solo. It has raised a total of $18.5 million from Benchmark Capital, Amazon, and New Enterprise Associates.

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