Let the PaaS wars begin

Picking a PaaS path is harder than ever for newer enterprises

Chris Mayer
path-cloud

As Red Hat mount their PaaS embrace, we ask whether it’s too much too soon and look forward to how PaaS can gain greater adoption

By now, you probably know what the latest trend in cloud
computing, Platform-as-a-Service is and what it can do for your
business. But equally, with an embarrassment of riches at your
disposal, it’s difficult to know which is the right choice or
whether you should embrace PaaS right now or hold off.

Recently, a tranche of companies have appeared in the space
vying for enterprise attention by each offering something different
– whether that’s focusing on high concurrency, latency or so on.
They’ve never really tried to go for all at the same time, when the
revolution has yet to be televised, well at least fully.

That was until Red Hat jumped first last week – laying down the
foundations for their PaaS strategy and how OpenShift would utilise
a large number of Red Hat’s technologies (Red Hat Storage and
JBoss Enterprise Middleware forming the backbone
) to entice
enterprises who had previously steered well clear. Their ace in the
hole appears to be in offering a multitude of management options,
by giving the enterprise a choice – either control it the old
fashioned way in ITops or go for the new age DIY Devops world,
which allows for more open source options with the developers in
control.

The biggest stumbling block for enterprises currently is
operations; many are just too fearful of giving developers too much
power in an age where risks no longer hold the rewards they once
did. 

Lead Developer of Cloud Solutions at New Relic, Adron Hall knows
what it’s like making these tough decisions, having helped
enterprises great and small make informed choices. He believes
there’s two main reasons for enteprise scepticism:

Firstly, enterprise shops often fear the drastic nature of
the change that PaaS brings with it. It breaks the traditional
bureaucratic flow of most enterprises and speeds up the business
cycle in huge ways. Secondly, many people in enterprise shops still
don’t even know about PaaS and when they do learn about the
technology it is hard to believe.

 At this point I think the majority of
Enterprises are just becoming familiar with cloud technology. Many
still haven’t even learned about or know that PaaS technologies
exist. Those that are just now finding about them and stepping into
cloud technologies like PaaS will have an immediate advantage over
competitors.

Education is a huge problem when it comes to cloud computing,
sometimes it feels like the blind leading the blind. Only through
deeper understanding can any enterprise learn of the benefits, and
Red Hat knows this. Their attempt to target the untapped market is
a bold move putting it mildly, but perhaps it’s at exactly the
right time.

451 Research reckon that the enterprise PaaS market could be
worth $3 billion by 2015, comfortably easing past the ailing SaaS
market and leaving it in its wake. Back to the present day, there’s
an array of vendors currently trying to play catchup, working out
where they fit in. Hall believes that ‘around 30% of all new
startups use PaaS Solutions to get started’ so there’s clearly room
for maneouver here.

Red Hat’s OpenShift wants to be an everyman’s cloud, which
means treading on the toes of VMware’s Cloud Foundry – both have
extremely active open source communities behind them, both have
interesting deals with smaller vendors like JasperSoft and both
believe that they way forward is through a particularly hybrid
model. VMware of course has the edge when it comes to
virtualisation.

But is this biting off more than you can chew? OpenShift
has built its empire from the ground up and steadily, and clearly
they’ve put a lot thought into it, but is it better to focus one
section first and then challenge others, rather than tackling it in
one fell swoop?

The key challenge for any given PaaS is changing CIO
mentality. Developers know exactly what OpenShift et al are
offering but do the suits? Hall, who works with AppFog and
Tier3 on a regular basis, 
adds:

CTOs and CIOs need to realize that in almost every
scenario these days they need to be providing a way to access and
implement these services vs implementing the environments to build
out these services. The later option is becoming more and more
risky for a company and for the office of CTO/CIO to encourage.
Enabling a business through software and services implemented via
cloud provisions such as SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS in some scenarios is
often the best option for most companies.

There are a number [of risks to the
enteprise], a rather large book could be written and it still
wouldn’t include them all. One of the key things to think about is
that traditional architectures don’t hold up well in a PaaS
environment. New thinking and new architectures need to be utilized
to gain full benefits of PaaS usage. These new architectures take
into account much more scalable, geographically dispersed, and more
computer- and data-intensive capabilities over the limited
traditional-style architectures. Above all, the architecture
decisions are the biggest change for using PaaS
effectively.

What does the future hold for PaaS? It’s a
bright one no doubt, but some PaaS specialists will fall by the
wayside through making bad decisions in which markets they target.
In time, enterprises will get up to speed in understanding which
PaaS works best for them – through better documentation and
informers.

At the moment though it’s anyone’s guess who
will come out on top in this game – it won’t be one vendor for
sure. Red Hat has laid down the gauntlet by jumping in headfirst
with a wide variety in their cloud palette. You wouldn’t bet
against them.

Stay tuned tomorrow for our special Java Tech Journal
devoted entirely to the world of PaaS.


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