Blurred lines

Has PaaS past its sell by-date?

Lucy Carey

There’s a growing chatter on the impending demise of PaaS as we know it – but, we might be writing the obituary a little bit prematurely.

Like all good death rumours, talk of the impending demise of PaaS has been going on for a while now. In the past few weeks, a rising hum of chatter from analysts in the space that it’s well on its way to being dissolved into IaaS and SaaS models has reached a crescendo.  

The pending dissolution of the PaaS model is a view shared by JFrog’s Fred Simon, who listed the consolidation of IaaS and PaaS as one of his key predictions for 2014 earlier this month. He added that the, “technical line will get more and more blurry, and the companies involved will also merge.”

This ‘blurring’ of the lines is evident in new services by AWS and Microsoft, which have both put forth offerings which mix up the traditional parameters of PaaS and IaaS. For example, with Amazon, you can get services from infrastructure up, bundled up to include middleware facilities, as well as ongoing operations services and deployment.

Leading the charge against the formerly buzzy service is Research 451, who wrote a blog post which outlined the ways which PaaS is being “squeezed between consolidation with IaaS and heavy use of SaaS”.

Now, you can’t herald the death of a widely used service like that and not expect a few detractors.  Several vocal critics of this theory promptly weighed in – notably RedHat’s Krishnan Subramanian, who insists that it remains alive and well as a key service category.

Subrahmanian attributes this “premature” eulogising of PaaS as a failure on the part of the naysayers to recognise that the service is flourishing – it’s just evolved into a new state of being. He notes that, whilst many enterprises utilised PaaS for their production workloads in 2013, how it was adopted crystallised into two very clear strands.  

PaaS began life as the filler layer between IaaS and SaaS in the cloud stack,  with PaaS serving as the deck used to build apps, and the IaaS and SaaS sandwiched around to host them. In recent times however, innovations to tailor the offering to the needs of modern enterprise by the likes of Red Hat in OpenShift and Pivotal have naturally served to alter the traditional architecture of PaaS.

What we have now is PaaS by service orchestration, wherein PaaS takes the form as a composition of hosted services needed for the applications to run, and PaaS by container orchestration. This latter form was propelled in development by Linux Container technology reaching maturity, and, as the rise of Docker has shown, is perfect for users looking for a swift, lightweight means for porting their applications across diverse cloud providers.

He notes that the hum of interest around OpenStack’s Project Solum, which focuses on building an abstraction layer for app deployment with container technology, is further evidence of a growing vendor interest in this new variant of PaaS.

It’s true that, more and more, vendors are looking to consolidate the functionality of IaaS and SaaS into PaaS systems – and that’s something we’re going to be seeing a lot more of this year. Although analysts may not recognise the newly emerging models as traditional PaaS per say, it’s safe to say that any eulogies for this cloud technology are well and truly off the mark.

Image by Sascha Wenninger

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