Rails excels as a rapid Web development platform. Deployment of Rails applications, on the other hand, has until recently been a lot less rapid and a lot more complicated. A new Rails technology called Mongrel is now set to change all of that.
Mongrel is a fast Rails application container. It can be used in standalone mode - exactly like WEBrick. For hassle-free scaling, your Rails application can also be run on multiple Mongrel instances (either located on the same server or on multiple servers) behind a load balancer such as Pen, Balance, or Apache 2.1+. Using Mongrel is very simple: it's packaged as a Ruby Gem and requires minimal configuration. Mongrel is also stable (Version 1.0 was just released), actively maintained (unlike lighttpd), and apparently quite secure.
What does this have to do with cheminformatics? Quite a lot if you, like me, see the Web as the ideal platform for developing cheminformatics applications. Sure, a lot of technologies will need to be created first. But this is just another way of underscoring the big opportunities ahead. Future articles will discuss some of them.