According to this blog post and several mentions on Twitter, Phusion announced today’s release of Passenger (aka mod_rails) 2.0 at RailsConf. Apparently, Passenger 2.0 will be Rack compliant and thus support not only Rails, but any Rack compatible web framework, including Merb and Sinatra. Interestingly, Passenger will not even be limited to Ruby any more and extend their support to WSGI, the Python web adapter framework that inspired Rack in the first place. For example, this will allow Passenger 2.0 to run the popular Django web framework. In light of these changes, Passenger will drop the name mod_rails.

I think these are fantastic news! As I mentioned in my previous post on Phusion Passenger, it makes deploying Rails apps trivially easy, and I am planning to use it as the default deployment platform for my Rails apps. I have also been flirting with Merb lately, and knowing that I am going to be able to deploy it just as easily as Rails makes a big difference to me.

Support for Rack is the logical next step for Passenger, so I am not all that surprised about the direction they are going. I am however a bit surprised about the timing. After all, version 1.0 was only released fairly recently and prominently branded as mod_rails. The http://www.modrails.com/documentation.html even states (although I assume that this will be updated within the next few days):

Does it support other Ruby frameworks (Merb, Camping, etc.)?

No.

What?! Why??

Because this is an evil plot created by evil overlords, with the goal of world domination destroying all other Ruby frameworks. …

Actually…

There is the following saying: Jack of all trades, master of none. Our intention is to be masters, not Jacks. The primary goal of version 1.0 was to create an easy-to-use, low-maintenance, stable and fast Ruby on Rails deployment system for Apache. And we’ve put a lot of effort into reaching that goal. Implementing support for other Ruby frameworks would have deviated us from that goal and would have increased development time significantly.

That said, nothing prevents future versions from supporting other Ruby frameworks, or from becoming a generic Ruby web application deployment platform. Please discuss it with us if you’re interested in steering development towards that direction.

My guess is that there was a lot of demand for Rack support from users (even Rails now supports Rack), and after looking into it, they realized it was easier to integrate this than they initially expected. Either way, this is great news, and I look forward to trying out Passenger 2.0 with Merb and DataMapper, or even Sinatra for smaller apps.

Update: 2.0 RC1 has been released, and you can find more details in the release announcement on the Phusion blog. In addition to Rack and WSGI support, 2.0 sounds like a more solid and stable release overall, with a significantly smaller memory footprint, faster startup time, fair load balancing, upload buffering, and some convenient analysis tools. There’s also a native Ubuntu package now, in case you want to avoid compiling from source.