The PaaS market accelerates

Alex Handy
January 6, 2012 —  (Page 1 of 3)
The term "platform-as-a-service" has officially graduated to buzzword. With dozens of new companies, and hundreds of old ones now looking into or offering PaaSes, that 2011 was the start of the PaaS boom is undeniable.

New PaaS offerings have grown out of the ISV landscape at a rapid pace this past year. Coupled with the US$250 million purchase of PaaS originator Heroku by this past spring, the PaaS world is an environment primed for cutthroat competition over the next year.

But just how will all of these PaaS companies and services compete? While battles over features are the traditional way software companies compete, the PaaS market includes a number of other factors that contribute to the success and appeal of a platform.

Some of those hot features and capabilities are around management and administration. Another big trend is the addition of multiple languages to a platform.

For a time, the conventional wisdom was to serve one language and serve it well. Many emerging PaaS leaders got their start this way. Engine Yard and Heroku, for example, were entirely Ruby-on-Rails shops before both companies added Java support to their platforms this fall. PHPFog, on the other hand, expanded its own offerings beyond simply PHP, and as a result the company was renamed AppFog.

Lucas Carlson, CEO of AppFog, said that all these platform expansions indicate that the future of PaaS may not be about feature wars. “There are a lot of features that differentiate different platforms-as-a-service," he said.

"Each one of these features—language support, infrastructure choices—no matter what feature you're talking about, we're headed in a direction where all the PaaS vendors are going to have similar technologies, so it's going to be very hard to differentiate on features."

In fact, Carlson predicted that a major factor in the success of a PaaS will be its community and ecosystem. “I think what is going to make the difference is going to be something harder to measure externally than features," he said. "What I feel is going to make the difference is a vibrant and healthy ecosystem.

“I think the ecosystem is what will differentiate PaaS because when you have the best ecosystem built on your service and around your service, that's where people are going to go simply by virtue of having the most connections to other services. Developers will choose the one that most of their friends will be using. I think this is the most important thing for these PaaS players, and that's certainly not a feature that can be copied.”

No privacy
If the ecosystem matters, you might be forgiven for expecting PaaS companies to push out open-source projects, and to get behind popular data-center and cloud operating systems like Eucalyptus, Nimbula or OpenStack. But Adam Wiggins, CTO of Heroku, said that PaaS is about the public cloud only. Although he used harsher language to describe the private cloud and PaaS market, he indicated that he and Heroku believe the private cloud to be entirely vapor.

“My opinion--and this is not a widely held opinion--is that private cloud is total BS. If you make it private it is no longer cloud. You destroy all the value you get from cloud by making it something you have to run yourself. Anyone pursuing that path is advocating a false trail,” said Wiggins.

“Being able to move your application is important. Customers should be able to move their applications to different platforms with a minimum amount of re-architecting. It should be the case that if we want to spread to other providers, that requires a good level of abstraction at the infrastructure-as-a-service level, but I don't think that leads naturally to giving people software to run the platform."

Related Search Term(s): AppFog, Heroku, PaaS, Red Hat, VMware, Cloud Foundry

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