If one technology was upcoming in past year that will even be bigger in in the future, it must be cloud computing and hosting. Instead of running websites on dedicated servers that are hard to scale, software will run more and more on a flexible network of virtualized computers. Popular cloud hosting providers are Microsoft Azure, Amazon EC2 and Google App Engine (GAE).
Amazon EC2 is classified as an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), only providing the infrastructure, while Microsoft Azure and Google App Engine are classified as a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS): they offer a full development platform to deploy your software in the cloud. The downside is that they dictate what technology to use. The upside is that you have the power of Google technology at your hands. For free!*
Since Google App Engine does not run PHP and MySQL natively, we dived into Python and GQL (Google Query Language). As a testcase we decided to develop a much overdue support tool to track bugs and calls of our clients. Although we are used to build stuff from scratch, we decided to start with a web framework. After giving the much applauded Django web framework a spin, it turned out web2py just fitted our brain better conceptually.
It's fun to see that a lot of "best practices" we accumulated over the last 10 years years working with PHP are default in web2py: things as good URL design, Model-view-controller separation, a templating system, form generation and validation to prevent CSERF, XSS and SQL injection. Web2py can easily compete with other full-stack frameworks like Ruby on Rails.
Both GAE and web2py have an easy to install development environment that can deploy directly to the Google App Engine. GAE itself has a solid web interface to manage your application(s). Everything you need and would expect is there (versioning, database viewer and editor, logs, cron jobs), albeit sometimes a bit Spartan. But as with all Google's products they are actively being developed, and we have seen a lot of new and improved features rolled out the last few months. Also things like having access to multiple deployed versions of the same application is just golden for testing purposes.
Once you get past the restrictions of not writing to files, no sockets and a non-relational database (meaning you have to forget everything you know about database normalization and joins) Google App Engine could be an ideal platform for tech start ups. With virtually no start up costs to host and launch your website or service, but when it does catches on you would never have to worry about server and application scalability and performance anymore. And then you only pay for what you use at very competitive pricing. By using a web framework like web2py you insure you can always move away from GAE to traditional hosting as it runs on standard Linux/Apache/MySQL environment as well. So you don't have to worry about vendor lock-in.
We have added GAE and web2py to our arsenal of tools.
*You get free daily quotas of 1 GB storage, 6.50 CPU hours, 1 GB of bandwidth in and out per day, 2000 mails and 43 million requests.