Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Tom Leyden, Carmen Gonzalez, Sematext Blog , Elizabeth White, Michael Bushong

Related Topics: Cloud Expo, SDN Journal, DevOps Journal

Cloud Expo: Blog Feed Post

Is PaaS Dying?

The ‘platform’ tier in the middle of cloud computing’s architecture is being squeezed

The ‘platform’ tier in the middle of cloud computing’s architecture is being squeezed, folded and reshaped beyond recognition. Even with continued investment, can it survive the transformative pressures forcing down upon it from the software/application layer above, or the apparently inexorable upward movement from the infrastructure layer upon which it rests?

To look at recent investments and enthusiastic headlines, it would be easy to assume that Platform as a Service (or PaaS) is on the up. RedHat recently trumpeted the launch of OpenShift Enterprise — a ‘private PaaS,’ whatever that might be. Eagerly tracked super-startup Pivotal pushed PivotalOne out to the world, strengthening the position of the Cloud Foundry PaaS offering upon which it sits. Apprenda, a PaaS that almost predates wider recognition of the term, secured an additional $16 million to continue expanding. And, more tightly integrated into Salesforce’s latest vision for world domination, Heroku continues to attract enthusiasts.

457px-Nuremberg_chronicles_-_Phoenix_(CIIIIv)And yet, the role of rich PaaS ‘solutions’ is under increasing pressure. More lightweight approaches such as Docker are attracting attention and, perhaps more importantly, the other layers of the cloud architecture are adding capabilities that look increasingly PaaS-like. The orchestration capabilities of Amazon’s Elastic Beanstalk, for example, mean that many (but by no means all) AWS users no longer need the PaaS tools they might previously have integrated into their toolkit. We’ll keep needing PaaS functionality, but it may not be long before the idea of a separate PaaS solution no longer makes good sense.

For many years, some of the most basic explanations of cloud have broken it into three layers;

  • at the top, Applications, Services and Software. The things most people see and interact with. The GMails and Salesforces and Boxes of the world;
  • at the bottom, Infrastructure. The nuts and bolts. The engine room. The servers and routers and networks. To paraphrase former colleague Ray Lester, the stuff;
  • and, in the middle, the Platform. The piece that assembles bits of network and bits of infrastructure and bits of code, and simplifies the process of knitting them all together in order to deliver one of those apps or services. The glue, if you will.

The role of the platform is clear, compelling, and powerful. It should be the fundamental piece, far more important and interesting than a bunch of cheap virtual machines running on commodity hardware. It should be the driving force behind cloud; the reason cloud can continue to transform businesses and business models around the world. It should be all that and more, but PaaS as a category falls far short of this promise.

In early planning for VentureBeat’s second CloudBeat conference, in 2012, Ben Kepes and I argued for PaaS, PaaS vendors and PaaS customers to be given real prominence. We knew that the story of the glue was where this whole industry needed to shift. That’s still true today. The glue remains important, but maybe it’s less clear that we need — or that the market can sustain — glue companies. Instead, those capabilities are increasingly to be found across a range of loosely coupled components, or in the offerings of Applications and Infrastructure providers both above and below the PaaS layer. CenturyLink’s recent acquisition of Tier3 is a clear attempt to address exactly this, moving up from the Infrastructure layer.

I’m far from alone in asking questions about PaaS in its current form. My friend René Büst, for example, argued this week that PaaS is typically used for prototyping work but that it doesn’t permit sufficiently granular control for the most efficient delivery of enterprise-grade applications. Possibly an over-simplification, but it’s still a sentiment that is increasingly repeated. Over at Gigaom, Barb Darrow has been asking the question too, most recently with So… do you really need a PaaS? For now, Barb appears unsure about how to answer her own question… but the comments on her post are pretty conclusively in the affirmative. Matt Asay offers his own take on the Twitter conversation which inspired Barb, writing a more up-beat piece for ReadWrite;

The ‘platform as a service’ market—or PaaS, in which cloud companies provide developers with hardware, OS and software tools and libraries—is starting to heat up. IDC predicts it will $14 billion by 2014, and competitors are angling for enterprise wallets.

Matt closes by stressing the importance of solid, sustainable customer adoption; a very different thing from the froth, page views, and jockeying for popularity that seem to underpin much of the conversation today.

Another friend, Ben Kepes, has been tracking the PaaS space closely for several years, and recently commented;

It’s a strange time for PaaS in general. Pivotal One’s flavor of Cloud Foundry seems to be sucking up the vast majority of the mindshare leaving other Cloud Foundry vendors scratching their heads over how to differentiate. At the same time RedHat is trying to achieve some kind of breakout velocity for its own version of PaaS, OpenShift. Stalwarts Heroku (now owned by Salesforce.com) and EngineYard keep turning the PaaS wheel also. Add to that the fact that some of the OpenStack players have decided to create their own PaaS initiative, Solum, and you have for a confused and confusing market. Throw the monsters from Seattle, AWS and Microsoft, on top of that and seemingly there is one vendor for every one of the half dozen companies in the world that have actually made a decision to buy PaaS.

From here in sunny (and, for once, it actually is) East Yorkshire, the various PaaS vendors appear hard-pressed to tell a truly compelling story right now. Bits of their product offering resonate with customers, but only really around those functions that are increasingly aped by other providers from beyond the PaaS world.

The broader story, of deep integration and easy orchestration, raises as many red flags as it does smiles of welcome. Is it about simplicity or loss of controlintegration or lock in? At a time when public, private and hybrid cloud implementations are becoming more mainstream, more mission-critical, and more capable, I hear far more concern expressed about relying upon PaaS than I do about relying upon a cloud infrastructure provider or a SaaS product vendor. Which isn’t to say that those cloud builders don’t need PaaS-like capabilities. They do. They’re just (increasingly) looking elsewhere to find them.

And proponents of PaaS are evolving, too, perhaps faster than the companies with which they were once associated. One of my meetings during a trip to San Francisco earlier this month was with Derek Collison. Formerly CTO Cloud Platforms at VMware (and intimately involved in the incubation of Cloud Foundry), Collison is now CEO of Apcera. Barb Darrow commented as Apcera emerged from stealth last month,

The company describes Continuum as an IT platform that ‘blends the delivery models of IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS’ but overlays (underlays?) them all with technology that handles policy. PaaS is great for developers, according to the blog post, but it’s not enough to deliver applications for grown-up companies that must deal not just with technology but with with compliance and regulatory rules and regs.

(my emphasis)

Collison talks compellingly about the need to move beyond separate consideration of infrastructure, integration and deployment capabilities, and the application. Instead, he sees a continuum of capabilities with different levels of abstraction suited to meeting the real (and complex) requirements of an enterprise and its hybrid IT estate. Policy, Collison argues, “must be a core part of the DNA” in order to truly meet the business needs of an organisation. It’s early days for Apcera, and it remains to be seen whether this is a truly new take on the space or simply a more enterprise-friendly reframing of the problem.

So, is there a future for today’s PaaS companies? It sometimes seems unlikely that they can keep doing what they’re doing and make enough money to grow sustainably. Will they be rendered irrelevant by the increasing capability of offerings above and below them in the stack? Will new and more integrated offerings such as Apcera’s eat their lunch? Or can they rise, Phoenix-like, from the ashes of current business models to meet a broader set of business requirements? If they do, how recognisable will their new incarnations be?

Image of a Phoenix from the 15th Century Nuremberg Chronicle. Public Domain image shared with Wikimedia Commons.

More Stories By Paul Miller

Paul Miller works at the interface between the worlds of Cloud Computing and the Semantic Web, providing the insights that enable you to exploit the next wave as we approach the World Wide Database. He blogs at www.cloudofdata.com.

@CloudExpo Stories
ScriptRock makes GuardRail, a DevOps-ready platform for configuration monitoring. Realizing we were spending way too much time digging up, cataloguing, and tracking machine configurations, we began writing our own scripts and tools to handle what is normally an enormous chore. Then we took the concept a step further, giving it a beautiful interface and making it simple enough for our bosses to understand. We named it GuardRail after its function - to allow businesses to move fast and stay sa...
In high-production environments where release cycles are measured in hours or minutes — not days or weeks — there's little room for mistakes and no room for confusion. Everyone has to understand what's happening, in real time, and have the means to do whatever is necessary to keep applications up and running optimally. DevOps is a high-stakes world, but done well, it delivers the agility and performance to significantly impact business competitiveness.
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover ...
"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Media announced today that Sematext launched a popular blog feed on DevOps Journal with over 6,000 story reads over the weekend. DevOps Journal is focused on this critical enterprise IT topic in the world of cloud computing. DevOps Journal brings valuable information to DevOps professionals who are transforming the way enterprise IT is done. Sematext is a globally distributed organization that builds innovative Cloud and On Premises solutions for performance monitoring, alerting an...
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com...
Verizon Enterprise Solutions is simplifying the cloud-purchasing experience for its clients, with the launch of Verizon Cloud Marketplace, a key foundational component of the company's robust ecosystem of enterprise-class technologies. The online storefront will initially feature pre-built cloud-based services from AppDynamics, Hitachi Data Systems, Juniper Networks, PfSense and Tervela. Available globally to enterprises using Verizon Cloud, Verizon Cloud Marketplace provides a one-stop shop fo...
Leysin American School is an exclusive, private boarding school located in Leysin, Switzerland. Leysin selected an OpenStack-powered, private cloud as a service to manage multiple applications and provide development environments for students across the institution. Seeking to meet rigid data sovereignty and data integrity requirements while offering flexible, on-demand cloud resources to users, Leysin identified OpenStack as the clear choice to round out the school's cloud strategy. Additional...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IDenticard will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. IDenticard™ is the security division of Brady Corp (NYSE: BRC), a $1.5 billion manufacturer of identification products. We have small-company values with the strength and stability of a major corporation. IDenticard offers local sales, support and service to our customers across the United States and Canada...
The move in recent years to cloud computing services and architectures has added significant pace to the application development and deployment environment. When enterprise IT can spin up large computing instances in just minutes, developers can also design and deploy in small time frames that were unimaginable a few years ago. The consequent move toward lean, agile, and fast development leads to the need for the development and operations sides to work very closely together. Thus, DevOps become...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, p...
SYS-CON Events announced today that AIC, a leading provider of OEM/ODM server and storage solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. AIC is a leading provider of both standard OTS, off-the-shelf, and OEM/ODM server and storage solutions. With expert in-house design capabilities, validation, manufacturing and production, AIC's broad selection of products are highly flexible and are conf...

ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --  IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's

The BPM world is going through some evolution or changes where traditional business process management solutions really have nowhere to go in terms of development of the road map. In this demo at 15th Cloud Expo, Kyle Hansen, Director of Professional Services at AgilePoint, shows AgilePoint’s unique approach to dealing with this market circumstance by developing a rapid application composition or development framework.
SYS-CON Events announced today Isomorphic Software, the global leader in high-end, web-based business applications, will exhibit at SYS-CON's DevOps Summit 2015 New York, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Isomorphic Software is the global leader in high-end, web-based business applications. We develop, market, and support the SmartClient & Smart GWT HTML5/Ajax platform, combining the productivity and performance of traditional desktop software ...
"Our premise is Docker is not enough. That's not a bad thing - we actually love Docker. At ActiveState all our products are based on open source technology and Docker is an up-and-coming piece of open source technology," explained Bart Copeland, President & CEO of ActiveState Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
AppZero has announced that its award-winning application migration software is now fully qualified within the Microsoft Azure Certified program. AppZero has undergone extensive technical evaluation with Microsoft Corp., earning its designation as Microsoft Azure Certified. As a result of AppZero's work with Microsoft, customers are able to easily find, purchase and deploy AppZero from the Azure Marketplace. With just a few clicks, users have an Azure-based solution for moving applications to the...
“In the past year we've seen a lot of stabilization of WebRTC. You can now use it in production with a far greater degree of certainty. A lot of the real developments in the past year have been in things like the data channel, which will enable a whole new type of application," explained Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The cloud is becoming the de-facto way for enterprises to leverage common infrastructure while innovating and one of the biggest obstacles facing public cloud computing is security. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Jeff Aliber, a global marketing executive at Verizon, discussed how the best place for web security is in the cloud. Benefits include: Functions as the first layer of defense Easy operation –CNAME change Implement an integrated solution Best architecture for addressing network-l...
“We help people build clusters, in the classical sense of the cluster. We help people put a full stack on top of every single one of those machines. We do the full bare metal install," explained Greg Bruno, Vice President of Engineering and co-founder of StackIQ, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.