A lot of internal IT organizations are under a lot of pressure to build a private cloud as soon as possible. While the board of directors may not know what a cloud exactly is, they are convinced that cloud computing will help lower costs. The internal IT organization is just as anxious to demonstrate that private clouds built and managed by them are the best way to go about achieving that goal.
The trouble is that a private cloud without any applications that really take advantage of it becomes an exercise in futility. Rather than focusing on infrastructure, many IT organizations are beginning to realize that they need a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) capability that they can use to build their own cloud applications. None of this has been lost on Microsoft or IBM for that matter, but the private PaaS efforts of both companies are relatively nascent.
As a result, many IT organizations looking to build private cloud applications that can scale have been turning to companies such as ActiveState, which this week unfurled a 2.0 release of its Stackato private PaaS platform that supports Microsoft.NET and configuration management tools developed via Iron Foundry, an open source project that extends the Cloud Foundry PaaS platform that VMware developed to Microsoft.NET environments.
While competing with Microsoft in the cloud application development space may seem like a daunting proposition, ActiveState CEO Bart Copeland says Stackato, in addition to .NET, also supports Java, Ruby, Python, Perl, PHP, Node.JS, Clojure, Scala and Erlang. As most IT organizations don’t know for sure what application development languages they will be using in the future, they need a PaaS platform that can support multiple application development languages. That’s important, notes Copeland, because cloud applications are likely to be made up of multiple modules written in different languages. Copeland says the new release of Stackato also makes it easier to secure and manage those cloud applications.
Microsoft, meanwhile, has a lot riding on Azure, and hasn’t done much in the way of promoting Azure appliance usage in private cloud computing scenarios since its first introduction in 2010. That may change with the arrival of a more robust cloud platform in the form of Windows Server 2012. But if history is any guide, it will take a while to iron out all the kinks in any new Microsoft private PaaS platform that at best could be described as a very long work in progress.
In the meantime, rather than wrestling with all the trials and tribulations of infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), a private PaaS platform makes it easier to deliver a return on a cloud computing investment by creating an application that has actual business value, as opposed to merely deploying a new set of servers to run existing applications that were never optimized for the cloud in the first place. Besides, it’s not like commercial software vendors are going to allow IT organizations to pay for applications on a usage-based model, so the most cost-efficient path to a private cloud these days is to build your own applications.
Beyond the fact that private clouds give IT organizations more control, the whole point of the exercise is to create a flexible IT environment where the cost of managing that environment scales up and down as required. That’s tough to accomplish when you’re paying licensing fees for commercial application software based on the class of processor they are deployed on or the number of users who might be accessing an application during a specified time period. When you really think about it, it may be the reason we’re seeing so much interest these days in custom application development and open source software in the cloud.