The PaaS Problem in the Enterprise

    Too many IT organizations seem to think that cloud computing is simply about shifting the place where their applications are delivered versus reimagining how those applications are actually built and managed.

    As such, much of the discussion surrounding cloud computing tends to focus on infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offerings. In reality, however, IaaS doesn’t do all that much to lower the total cost of IT, and in some cases it can wind up being more expensive. IaaS does provide the organization with more flexibility and the ability to shift IT expenses to the operating — versus capital — budget. But all the software required to build and manage an application still has to be acquired and managed. The end result, says CloudBees CEO Sacha Labourey, is just another stack of computing that resides in a third-party data center.

    As a provider of a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering for Java JRuby and Grails applications, Labourey concedes that not enough people in the enterprise get what PaaS, and by extension cloud computing, is really all about. Rather than continuing to buy application servers and everything that goes with them, PaaS is about offloading the management of the infrastructure and associated software stack to someone else. Some organizations may opt to deploy a private PaaS of their own, but as time goes on Labourey says that the economics of having a third party manage IT from end to end will be too compelling to ignore.

    Obviously, there are a lot of complex issues associated with PaaS in the enterprise, not the least of which is the relative maturity of the offerings. In addition, many IT organizations have yet to work a PaaS model into their application development process and while many of them may be willing to give up control over IT infrastructure, control over the application servers and middleware that run on top of that hardware touches on a lot of cultural issues for the organization.

    Ultimately, however, Labourey sees hubs of applications emerging on various cloud services that will share a common set of application programming interfaces. That’s critical because that level of integration will enable collaboration across business organizations at a level of scale that was once unattainable.

    Eventually, Labourey says that as enterprise IT organizations begin to build more applications in the cloud, the pressure to attain and maintain higher levels of service while reducing costs will push more organizations to embrace PaaS. In the meantime, as cloud computing begins to enter adolescence, there is still more unknown than known about just how this emerging computing model is going to ultimately envelop the enterprise.

    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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