PaaS Gains Cloud Momentum

Guess you could say Gartner is bullish on Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). The research firm declares: PaaS is a fast-growing core layer of the cloud computing architecture, but the market for PaaS offerings is changing rapidly.

The other layers include Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) but before the industry build-out of cloud computing is finished (if ever), expect to see many more X-as-a-Service offerings. Already you can find Backup-as-a-Service (BaaS). Symantec, for instance, offers BaaS to service providers, who will turn around and offer it to their clients.

But the big cloud action is around PaaS. Late in November Red Hat introduced OpenShift Enterprise, an enterprise-ready PaaS product designed to be run as a private, public or hybrid cloud. OpenShift, an open source product, enables organizations to streamline and standardize developer workflows, effectively speeding the delivery of new software to the business.

Previously cloud strategies focused on SaaS, in which organizations access and run software from the cloud. Salesforce.com is probably the most familiar SaaS provider. There also has been strong interest in IaaS, through which organizations augment or even replace their in-house server and storage infrastructure with compute and storage resources from a cloud provider. Here Amazon Web Services is the best known player although it faces considerable competition that is driving down IaaS resource costs to pennies per instance.

PaaS, essentially, is an app dev/deployment and middleware play. It provides a platform (hence the name) to be used by developers in building and deploying applications to the cloud. OpenShift Enterprise does exactly that by giving developers access to a cloud-based application platform on which they can build applications to run in a cloud environment. It automates much of the provisioning and systems management of the application platform stack in a way that frees the IT team to focus on building and deploying new application functionality and not on platform housekeeping and support services. Instead, the PaaS tool takes care of it.

OpenShift Enterprise, for instance, delivers a scalable and fully configured application development, testing and hosting environment. In addition, it uses Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux) for reliable security and multi-tenancy. It also is built on the full Red Hat open source technology stack including Red Hat Enterprise Linux, JBoss Enterprise Application Platform, and OpenShift Origin, the initial free open source PaaS offering. JBoss Enterprise Application Platform 6, a middleware tool, gives OpenShift Enterprise a Java EE 6-certified on-premise PaaS capability.  As a multi-language PaaS product, OpenShift Enterprise supports Java, Ruby, Python, PHP, and Perl. It also includes what it calls a cartridge capability to enable organizations to include their own middleware service plug-ins as Red Hat cartridges.

Conventional physical app dev is a cumbersome process entailing as many as 20 steps from idea to deployment. Make it a virtual process and you can cut the number of steps down to 14; a small improvement. As Red Hat sees it, the combination of virtualization and PaaS can cut that number of steps to six; idea, budget, code, test, launch, and scale. PaaS, in effect, shifts app dev from a craft undertaking to an automated, cloud-ready assembly line. As such, it enables faster time to market and saves money.

Although Red Hat is well along in the PaaS market and the leader in open source PaaS other vendors already are jumping in and more will be joining them. IBM has SmartCloud Application Services as its PaaS offering.  Oracle offers a PaaS product as part of the Oracle Cloud Platform. EMC offers PaaS consulting and education but not a specific technology product.  When HP identifies PaaS solutions it directs you to its partners. A recent list of the top 20 PaaS vendors identifies mainly smaller players, CA, Google, Microsoft, and Salesforece.com being the exceptions.

A recent study by IDC projects the public cloud services market to hit $98 billion by 2016. The PaaS segment, the fastest growing part, will reach about $10 billion, up from barely $1 billion in 2009. There is a lot of action in the PaaS segment, but if you are looking for the winners, according to IDC, focus on PaaS vendors that provide a comprehensive, consistent, and cost effective platform across all cloud segments (public, private, hybrid). Red Hat OpenShift clearly is one; IBM SmartCloud Application Services and Microsoft Azure certainly will make the cut. Expect others.

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