Debating Philosophical PaaS Differences


As with any new movement, there is a lot of debate as to what constitutes the right approach to creating a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment. There are those like Salesforce.com that argue that the goal should be to abstract IT infrastructure issues away from the developer all together. Others, however, say the real goal should be to give application developers as much transparency and control over the underlying IT infrastructure as possible.

One of the leading proponents of that PaaS approach is Engine Yard, which today announced that it will be upgrading the Engine Yard Orchestra PHP Cloud service this month to provide greater configurability through APIs and improved performance via stack images that have been optimized for the PaaS platform. In addition, the auto-scaling of elastic configurations is now better tuned to track variations in workloads.

According to Mark Gaydos, senior vice president of worldwide marketing, the thing that makes Engine Yard different than other PaaS platforms is that while the company allows developers to exploit shared infrastructure like any other cloud, each application instance on the Engine Yard cloud is given "dedicated tenancy." That means that developers not only have full transparency into the environment, says Gaydos, but they can also work with Engine Yard engineers to optimize that environment any way they see fit.

Gaydos says Engine Yard is trying to provide developers with all the benefits and simplicity of the cloud without compromising their flexibility. That approach, says Gaydos, is what allowed Engine Yard to generate $28 million in revenue from over 2,000 customers looking to create and deploy PHP and Ruby on Rails applications in an open source environment.

As PaaS continues to mature, the battle for the hearts and minds of developers is well under way. There's obviously nothing that would prevent one cloud provider from offering different levels of PaaS services to different classes of developers. But in the short term, it's the PaaS platform that attracts enough developer support that will continue on, while a host of others will succumb to an inevitable wave of merger and acquisition activity. In the meantime, IT organizations need to ask themselves what they really want in the cloud before they can really start separating PaaS providers from the rest of the pack.