Go modular or die

Composable PaaS vs. Modular Cloud Services

Has PaaS had its day already? Cumulogic’s CEO Mike Soby dissects contextual and composable platforms and the customer’s desire to leverage AWS. This article appeared in JAX Magazine: On Cloud Nine.

Recently, James Urquhart brought up a fascinating debate about contextual versus composable PaaS, which has created an equally interesting, broader debate for application deployment in general. Contextual PaaS provides an integrated deployment framework with no ability to add custom components and requires applications to be written to that platform. Composable PaaS on the other hand allows for greater flexibility, as components can be plugged in to support diverse applications. While we believe composable PaaS delivers value and caters to a wide variety of applications, cloud services provide almost infinite flexibility for application development, which begs the question: are composable PaaS or modular cloud services a better way to develop applications?

Looking at the cloud market, is there a company today that is experiencing broad success in providing solutions to developers and if so, how are they succeeding? I’ll submit here that AWS is absolutely that market leader and when one drills into that success, we find that a strong contributing factor to their adoption success is indeed their modular approach to delivering services. 

I’ll be the first to admit that there is no singular contributory factor to the unparalleled success that we’ve seen from Amazon in these early innings of cloud, but I will also assert that their modular approach is certainly a factor in that success. 

In speaking with actual customers, there have been several factors cited in the desire to leverage AWS and chief among those factors was the ability to gain access to exactly the services needed, when needed— EC2, Beanstalk, RDS, DynamoDB, Elastic Load Balancer, etc. In other words, AWS is providing the best of both worlds by offering a solution like Beanstalk for integrated PaaS and additionally offering individual services discretely that can be composed by the user into the specific experience he/she desires.

When assessing the solutions that AWS brings to the table, it’s obvious that they are doing something right, both in the ease of resource availability and the modularity. AWS Beanstalk grew organically by orchestrating existing AWS services.

The platform grew out of the services, it didn’t pre-define the services. Most PaaS providers had it backwards by trying to define the platform first. The lessons learned at Amazon seem to have solved the debate of contextual vs. composable by going beyond and offering cloud services. CumuLogic’s clients have offered similar insights. PaaS may yet emerge as a market in the future, but only after a foundation of cloud services – only after we get the cart and horse in proper perspective.

Figure 1: The New Middleware

Our current belief at CumuLogic is that this debate should be rendered moot because we, like AWS, believe that the developer need not pick one or the other when they have the option of orchestrating modular cloud services. Developers should be afforded the choice to use contextual or composable PaaS for simple applications and modular cloud services for more complex architectures. 

For providers, over the next few years there will be a far greater opportunity for revenue from the later than the former. In taking this a step further, we believe that the best solution should be available on top of any cloud and not just be locked into EC2. We also believe that an optimal solution should also be tailored to fit inside the firewall and afford the same AWS-like functionality while riding on a private cloud, eliminating the enterprise security concerns. This is the problem that we’re striving to solve.

We’d welcome your input to this debate, our approach or our product, which is now available as pre-release for evaluation purposes on HP Cloud

Author Bio: A pioneering entrepreneur in the datacenter infrastructure and IT consulting space, Mike came to CumuLogic from CA, Inc. where he was VP of Cloud Consulting. He joined CA through the acquisition of 4Base Technology where he was co-founder, leading 4Base from initial inception to acquisition in less than four years.

This article appeared in JAX Magazine: On Cloud Nine. Click the link for that issue and others.

Mike Soby
Mike Soby

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