Cloud Computing War Enters Next PaaS Phase

    As the next major battleground in the cloud, platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings are generating more interest than actual current usage. But as IT organizations start to realize that infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offerings simply transfer the location where IT needs to be managed to a third-party data center, many of them are starting to realize they need a more complete cloud computing environment that allows them to actually build and then deploy applications.

    In the meantime, there is a lot of jockeying for position going on among companies large and small. For example, AppFog, a provider of a PaaS offering that supports multiple application development languages, today expanded that footprint by acquiring Nodester, a provider of a PaaS offering that supports the increasingly popular Node.js application development language.

    Node.js is built on a JavaScript runtime that was originally developed for the Google Chrome browser. It is based on a lightweight, event-driven, non-blocking I/O model that is optimized for distributed computing scenarios in the cloud. Among the cloud providers supporting Node.js is Microsoft, which also has a close partnership with AppFog under which the AppFog PaaS environment can be deployed on the Microsoft Azure cloud.

    With the acquisition of Nodestar, AppFog is positioning itself to be the provider of a PaaS environment that not only supports multiple application development languages, but also other cloud platforms such as those that support the open source Cloud Foundry framework created by VMware.

    AppFog CEO Lucas Carlson says one of the primary reasons that AppFog moved to acquire Nodestar was to gain access to Websockets expertise. Websockets is an emerging transport that is being used as an alternative to HTTP to speed up application performance across the Web, which Carlson says will prove crucial to the future development of mobile computing applications based on HTML5 that for the most part are dependent on the cloud for delivery.

    Carlson says a significant price gap between PaaS and IaaS offerings hampered the adoption of PaaS. But now that the price differential between those two classes of services has closed, he says there’s no reason not to expect IT organizations to opt for robust PaaS offerings that are fully managed for the customer. At the same time, many IT organizations making the move to private clouds are finding it more expedient to jump right to a private PaaS implementation that can be deployed in their own data center or on servers managed by hosting companies.

    In addition, Carlson notes that as IT organizations become more comfortable in the cloud they are finding it more expedient to distribute different types of application workloads across various cloud platforms that are optimized to process those workloads. That process is easier to manage, says Carlson, via a PaaS environment.

    While it’s still unclear how all this will turn out, it’s more than apparent that we’re entering a new phase of cloud computing consolidation in which PaaS environments will likely dominate. The question at this point is not so much whether IT organizations will eventually move to a PaaS environment as much as where that PaaS environment will ultimately be deployed.

    Mike Vizard
    Michael Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist, with nearly 30 years of experience writing and editing about enterprise IT issues. He is a contributor to publications including Programmableweb, IT Business Edge, CIOinsight and UBM Tech. He formerly was editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise, where he launched the company’s custom content division, and has also served as editor in chief for CRN and InfoWorld. He also has held editorial positions at PC Week, Computerworld and Digital Review.

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