Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Nicole Bryan, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Greg Schulz

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, SDN Journal, @DevOpsSummit

@CloudExpo: 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
When it comes to cloud computing, the ability to turn massive amounts of compute cores on and off on demand sounds attractive to IT staff, who need to manage peaks and valleys in user activity. With cloud bursting, the majority of the data can stay on premises while tapping into compute from public cloud providers, reducing risk and minimizing need to move large files. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Scott Jeschonek, Director of Product Management at Avere Systems, discussed the IT and busin...
The Internet of Things will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform and how we integrate our thinking to solve complicated problems. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm ...
The cloud market growth today is largely in public clouds. While there is a lot of spend in IT departments in virtualization, these aren’t yet translating into a true “cloud” experience within the enterprise. What is stopping the growth of the “private cloud” market? In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Nara Rajagopalan, CEO of Accelerite, explored the challenges in deploying, managing, and getting adoption for a private cloud within an enterprise. What are the key differences between wh...
"My role is working with customers, helping them go through this digital transformation. I spend a lot of time talking to banks, big industries, manufacturers working through how they are integrating and transforming their IT platforms and moving them forward," explained William Morrish, General Manager Product Sales at Interoute, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
The pace of innovation, vendor lock-in, production sustainability, cost-effectiveness, and managing risk… In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Dan Choquette, Founder of RackN, discussed how CIOs are challenged finding the balance of finding the right tools, technology and operational model that serves the business the best. He also discussed how clouds, open source software and infrastructure solutions have benefits but also drawbacks and how workload and operational portability between vendors ...
SYS-CON Events has announced today that Roger Strukhoff has been named conference chair of Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo 2016 Silicon Valley. The 19th Cloud Expo and 6th @ThingsExpo will take place on November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. "The Internet of Things brings trillions of dollars of opportunity to developers and enterprise IT, no matter how you measure it," stated Roger Strukhoff. "More importantly, it leverages the power of devices and the Interne...
"We work in the area of Big Data analytics and Big Data analytics is a very crowded space - you have Hadoop, ETL, warehousing, visualization and there's a lot of effort trying to get these tools to talk to each other," explained Mukund Deshpande, head of the Analytics practice at Accelerite, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
The idea of comparing data in motion (at the sensor level) to data at rest (in a Big Data server warehouse) with predictive analytics in the cloud is very appealing to the industrial IoT sector. The problem Big Data vendors have, however, is access to that data in motion at the sensor location. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Scott Allen, CMO of FreeWave, discussed how as IoT is increasingly adopted by industrial markets, there is going to be an increased demand for sensor data from the outermos...
The initial debate is over: Any enterprise with a serious commitment to IT is migrating to the cloud. But things are not so simple. There is a complex mix of on-premises, colocated, and public-cloud deployments. In this power panel at 18th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, Randy De Meno, Chief Technologist - Windows Products and Microsoft Partnerships at Commvault; Dave Landa, Chief Operating Officer at kintone; William Morrish, General Manager Product Sales at Interou...
So you’ve heard how click-to-call widgets can really enhance a website’s potential for customer interaction and you want to try it out for yourself. Or you’re considering offloading pieces of your VoIP infrastructure, but want to see how that would unfold first. Where can you find this technology, that’s free and available to try out? Spotting the potential in a space where customers can experiment with these types of features, Voxbone is launching The Workshop.
Internet of @ThingsExpo has announced today that Chris Matthieu has been named tech chair of Internet of @ThingsExpo 2016 Silicon Valley. The 6thInternet of @ThingsExpo will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
As organizations shift towards IT-as-a-service models, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and now cloud environments grows with it. Commvault can ensure protection, access and E-Discovery of your data – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud, or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enterprise. In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Randy De Meno, Chief Technologist - Windows Products and Microsoft Part...
Dialogic has announced that ZVRS chose Dialogic® PowerMedia™ XMS software media server as part of its latest video relay and translation service offering. ZVRS uses Dialogic’s PowerMedia XMS technology to provide a robust solution that supports a broad range of legacy devices and any-to-any video capabilities with its flagship Z70 videophone. ZVRS selected Dialogic’s solution to facilitate a release of Z70 that met its stringent requirements for legacy device support (H.263 and H.264) with high...
CenturyLink has announced that application server solutions from GENBAND are now available as part of CenturyLink’s Networx contracts. The General Services Administration (GSA)’s Networx program includes the largest telecommunications contract vehicles ever awarded by the federal government. CenturyLink recently secured an extension through spring 2020 of its offerings available to federal government agencies via GSA’s Networx Universal and Enterprise contracts. GENBAND’s EXPERiUS™ Application...
Basho Technologies has announced the latest release of Basho Riak TS, version 1.3. Riak TS is an enterprise-grade NoSQL database optimized for Internet of Things (IoT). The open source version enables developers to download the software for free and use it in production as well as make contributions to the code and develop applications around Riak TS. Enhancements to Riak TS make it quick, easy and cost-effective to spin up an instance to test new ideas and build IoT applications. In addition to...
In addition to all the benefits, IoT is also bringing new kind of customer experience challenges - cars that unlock themselves, thermostats turning houses into saunas and baby video monitors broadcasting over the internet. This list can only increase because while IoT services should be intuitive and simple to use, the delivery ecosystem is a myriad of potential problems as IoT explodes complexity. So finding a performance issue is like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.
You are moving to the Cloud. The question is not if, it’s when. Now that your competitors are in the cloud and lapping you, your “when” better hurry up and get here. But saying and doing are two different things. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 18th Cloud Expo, Robert Reeves, CTO of Datical, explained how DevOps can be your onramp to the cloud. By adopting simple, platform independent DevOps strategies, you can accelerate your move to the cloud. Spoiler Alert: He also makes sure you don’t...
Edge Hosting has announced a partnership with and the availability of CloudFlare, a web application firewall, CDN and DDoS mitigation service. “This partnership enhances Edge Hosting’s world class, perimeter layer, application (layer 7) defensive mechanism,” said Mark Houpt, Edge Hosting CISO. “The goal was to enable a new layer of customer controlled defense and compliance through the application of DDoS filters and mitigations, the web application firewall (WAF) feature and the added benefit ...
Digital Initiatives create new ways of conducting business, which drive the need for increasingly advanced security and regulatory compliance challenges with exponentially more damaging consequences. In the BMC and Forbes Insights Survey in 2016, 97% of executives said they expect a rise in data breach attempts in the next 12 months. Sixty percent said operations and security teams have only a general understanding of each other’s requirements, resulting in a “SecOps gap” leaving organizations u...
"A lot of times people will come to us and have a very diverse set of requirements or very customized need and we'll help them to implement it in a fashion that you can't just buy off of the shelf," explained Nick Rose, CTO of Enzu, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.