I am no cloud computing expert. But when I interviewed a bunch of experts last spring, it quickly became clear that the types of applications used by a company, both existing ones and ones it planned to develop, as well as internal development expertise (or lack thereof) would dictate whether it would use software-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service, infrastructure-as-a-service or some combination of the three.
For commodity applications, SaaS is probably the best way to go, especially for companies that are short on IT resources. The answer becomes a little less obvious as you move up the cloud "stack" to PaaS and IaaS. But both approaches may find it easier to win mainstream enterprise adoption if they meet somewhere in the middle, that is, modify their models to include some elements of the other.
That's the takeaway from Network World coverage of a presentation by Tim O'Brien, senior director of Microsoft's Platform Strategy Group. O'Brien sums it up: While it's simpler to develop cloud applications using Microsoft's Azure and other PaaS platforms, it's generally more difficult to migrate existing enterprise applications to the cloud via PaaS. IaaS makes it easier to migrate existing apps but creates additional application management hassles.
Because of this, O'Brien said, Microsoft within a year will offer the ability "to provision a bare-metal VM (virtual machine) and run your application on that." Though an Amazon spokesman told Network World the company would continue to offer customers "the flexibility to build their applications without being locked into a particular programming model, language or operating system," O'Brien predicts there will be a convergence of the IaaS and PaaS approaches, "where infrastructure-as-a-service providers like Amazon will move up the stack toward platform-as-a-service."
Writing on CTO Edge, David Tan gave Microsoft the edge in understanding the wants and needs of enterprises better than cloud competitors like Amazon. He said:
Microsoft is calling Azure the OS for the Cloud. When you think about it that way, it makes a lot of sense. Despite some missteps and mistakes along the way, the one area you have to admit Microsoft has always dominated is the operating system. It started on the desktop, moved to the server, and now it is moving into the cloud. While all the competition is giving you either a specific suite of applications (Google Apps, Salesforce.com) or component blocks (Amazon EC2), Microsoft Azure is at the heart a platform. Let Azure handle the provisioning and management, and you focus on building the application.
Amazon does have a head start, as can be seen from ZDNet coverage of an Amazon event in which Amazon Web Services adopters shared their impressions with other potential enterprise customers. The impressions are largely positive. (And why wouldn't they be? I certainly wouldn't expect Amazon, or any other vendor, to trot out any dissatisfied customers.) Yet there are still hints it may need to make changes to win more mainstream acceptance. For instance, neither Pfizer nor Newsweek has an enterprise agreement with Amazon. As ZDNet puts it:
All parties involved said there's good back and forth about enterprise nuances and scaling enterprise-friendly agreements at a later date.
Early adopters may be OK with this kind of "back and forth," but not every enterprise will be.