The three legs of cloud computing have long been considered to be infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and software-as-a-service. Various other as-a-services crop up from time to time, but they generally fall into one of these broad categories.
Each XaaS is optimized for a specific function and carries with it different levels of commitment when it comes to integration, hardware support and cost. IaaS is considered to be the most weighty deployment because it requires a tight link between internal and external resources on the infrastructure level. As such, it is usually reserved for backup, failover and disaster recovery. PaaS is generally viewed as a dev/ops environment because it offers a flexible, virtual platform that can be created, shared and dismissed with relative ease, and SaaS is usually given over to application-specific functions like BI and CRM.
Of the three, however, it seems that PaaS is having the hardest time working its way into the enterprise consciousness, which is odd considering that it is the one service that offers a key competitive advantage – getting products to market more quickly – as opposed to simply lowering costs. It also leverages what is probably the key advantage that the cloud has over legacy infrastructure: agility.
According to Mike Kavis, vice president and principal architect at Cloud Technology Partners (CTP), most of the problems PaaS suffers from are business-related, like poor marketing and messaging and the absence of a clear industry leader. But there is also a noticeable lack of operational features in leading PaaS platforms, such as SLAs for public deployments and management features needed to integrate into legacy architectures. There is also the fact that none of the leading platforms today is adept at supporting both of the top development languages: Java and .Net.
This is part of the reason why public PaaS is starting to wither. CloudBees is the latest to pull the plug, shutting down its Run@Cloud service to concentrate more fully on hosted versions of its Jenkins integration and deployment platform. It seems that most of its customers prefer private, open source PaaS solutions like Pivotal’s Cloud Foundry and Red Hat’s OpenShift rather than a general-purpose public solution. As well, smaller providers like CloudBees have a tougher time convincing enterprise customers that their PaaS offerings will be able to offer the continuity, availability and resources needed to sustain long-term service. However, the company will retain its partnership with Pivotal and its private PaaS solution.
This is a peculiar dilemma for public cloud providers because they are desperately in need of cloud-optimized applications and the best and fastest way to build and deploy them is through PaaS, says CTP’s David Linthicum. The two main choices on the table are do-it-yourself offerings from Pivotal and Red Hat, or a rebranded, white-label solution sourced by a commercial provider. Of the two, he says, white-label solutions consume fewer resources, offer better management and continuity, and are much easier to deploy.
Anyone who is interested in the future of PaaS might want to pop in on a session during Interop later this month entitled “How Next Generation Apps Are Changing Platform as a Service.” Moderated by Information Week’s Charles Babcock, the panel will cover issues like container-based virtual solutions, as well as the ins and outs of leading PaaS solutions like Stackato, OpenShift and Cloud Foundry. Interop will be held at the Javits Center in New York City from Sept. 29 to Oct. 3.
Paas will most certainly find a home for itself in the new cloud paradigm. The question is where and how? Whoever figures that out first will be sitting pretty when it comes to guiding the application development environment for the next-generation data environment.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.