All PaaS All the Time? Probably Not

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

Eight Insights on the True Value of SaaS

Cloud computing and SaaS bring so much more to the table than simple outsourcing.

The track record for technology predictions is spotty at best. For every home run that was correctly identified at the outset, there are dozens that failed to materialize for one reason or another. So it's with a grain of salt that I read headlines touting the next big thing in IT, namely the Platform-as-a-Service.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying PaaS isn't a viable technology or that it doesn't represent a dramatic advancement over today's virtual architecture. It's just that I think the days of any one technology remaking the entire IT industry are over. Systems, infrastructures and even basic data requirements are much too diverse these days to fall under the domain of a single technology. So it seems likely that PaaS will play a crucial role in IT in the coming years, just not a dominant one.

According to the latest research, interest in PaaS is running high. A survey by F5 Networks (vendor-sponsored - also taken with a grain of salt) shows more than 67 percent of organizations are working toward PaaS or ITaaS capabilities already, with another 15 percent laying the groundwork for implementation in the near future. A key driver is the need to foster greater flexibility in data environments to both drive down costs and increase productivity. Meanwhile, Forrester has flagged PaaS as one of the top technology trends to watch over the next three years, along with developments like elastic application platforms, mobile computing and "always on" architecture.

For many of the old line hardware vendors, PaaS represents a significant shift in their business models. As The Register's Timothy Prickett Morgan noted after IBM's launch of new platform services on its SmartCloud, the company expects to draw more than 200 million new IaaS and Paas seats by 2015, but that will come at the expense of about $4 billion in external hardware and software sales. Resellers, however, shouldn't fret too much: IBM is creating a certification program that will allow channel partners to resell capacity on the SmartCloud, similar to how they distribute hardware and software today.

Even without support from their main suppliers, VARs should have plenty of opportunity to get into the PaaS market in the coming year. A company called Synnex recently introduced an automation platform called CloudSolv that gives resellers the ability to manage their own PaaS infrastructure. The system provides "digital lockers" that allow for management of cloud-based applications and license keys, which can work with pre-configured application bundles or the VAR's own targeted services.

Clearly, then, there is a lot of incentive to get PaaS architectures up and running as quickly as possible. However, in order to create a thriving industry, you need both providers and consumers. The relative success of Software-as-a-Service suggests that enterprises should have little trouble taking the next step to full PaaS operations.

But again, the point is that neither PaaS nor any other offering is likely to become "the next big thing" in IT, and that's OK as long as it draws enough support to form a viable market.

It seems that the pieces are all in place. All that's needed is the execution.

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