Welcome!

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.

Latest Stories
With Cloud Foundry you can easily deploy and use apps utilizing websocket technology, but not everybody realizes that scaling them out is not that trivial. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Roman Swoszowski, CTO and VP, Cloud Foundry Services, at Grape Up, will show you an example of how to deal with this issue. He will demonstrate a cloud-native Spring Boot app running in Cloud Foundry and communicating with clients over websocket protocol that can be easily scaled horizontally and coordinate...
In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Scott Davis, CTO of Embotics, discussed how automation can provide the dynamic management required to cost-effectively deliver microservices and container solutions at scale. He also discussed how flexible automation is the key to effectively bridging and seamlessly coordinating both IT and developer needs for component orchestration across disparate clouds – an increasingly important requirement at today’s multi-cloud enterprise.
Any startup has to have a clear go –to-market strategy from the beginning. Similarly, any data science project has to have a go to production strategy from its first days, so it could go beyond proof-of-concept. Machine learning and artificial intelligence in production would result in hundreds of training pipelines and machine learning models that are continuously revised by teams of data scientists and seamlessly connected with web applications for tenants and users.
Vulnerability management is vital for large companies that need to secure containers across thousands of hosts, but many struggle to understand how exposed they are when they discover a new high security vulnerability. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, John Morello, CTO of Twistlock, will address this pressing concern by introducing the concept of the “Vulnerability Risk Tree API,” which brings all the data together in a simple REST endpoint, allowing companies to easily grasp the severity of t...
Recently, WebRTC has a lot of eyes from market. The use cases of WebRTC are expanding - video chat, online education, online health care etc. Not only for human-to-human communication, but also IoT use cases such as machine to human use cases can be seen recently. One of the typical use-case is remote camera monitoring. With WebRTC, people can have interoperability and flexibility for deploying monitoring service. However, the benefit of WebRTC for IoT is not only its convenience and interopera...
IT organizations are moving to the cloud in hopes to approve efficiency, increase agility and save money. Migrating workloads might seem like a simple task, but what many businesses don’t realize is that application migration criteria differs across organizations, making it difficult for architects to arrive at an accurate TCO number. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Joe Kinsella, CTO of CloudHealth Technologies, will offer a systematic approach to understanding the TCO of a cloud application...
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to w...
For financial firms, the cloud is going to increasingly become a crucial part of dealing with customers over the next five years and beyond, particularly with the growing use and acceptance of virtual currencies. There are new data storage paradigms on the horizon that will deliver secure solutions for storing and moving sensitive financial data around the world without touching terrestrial networks. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Cliff Beek, President of Cloud Constellation Corporation, d...
Most companies are adopting or evaluating container technology - Docker in particular - to speed up application deployment, drive down cost, ease management and make application delivery more flexible overall. As with most new architectures, this dream takes a lot of work to become a reality. Even when you do get your application componentized enough and packaged properly, there are still challenges for DevOps teams to making the shift to continuous delivery and achieving that reduction in cost ...
"With Digital Experience Monitoring what used to be a simple visit to a web page has exploded into app on phones, data from social media feeds, competitive benchmarking - these are all components that are only available because of some type of digital asset," explained Leo Vasiliou, Director of Web Performance Engineering at Catchpoint Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Secure Channels, a cybersecurity firm, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Secure Channels, Inc. offers several products and solutions to its many clients, helping them protect critical data from being compromised and access to computer networks from the unauthorized. The company develops comprehensive data encryption security strategie...
From 2013, NTT Communications has been providing cPaaS service, SkyWay. Its customer’s expectations for leveraging WebRTC technology are not only typical real-time communication use cases such as Web conference, remote education, but also IoT use cases such as remote camera monitoring, smart-glass, and robotic. Because of this, NTT Communications has numerous IoT business use-cases that its customers are developing on top of PaaS. WebRTC will lead IoT businesses to be more innovative and address...
Connecting to major cloud service providers is becoming central to doing business. But your cloud provider’s performance is only as good as your connectivity solution. Massive Networks will place you in the driver's seat by exposing how you can extend your LAN from any location to include any cloud platform through an advanced high-performance connection that is secure and dedicated to your business-critical data. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Paul Mako, CEO & CIO of Massive Networks, wil...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
Deep learning has been very successful in social sciences and specially areas where there is a lot of data. Trading is another field that can be viewed as social science with a lot of data. With the advent of Deep Learning and Big Data technologies for efficient computation, we are finally able to use the same methods in investment management as we would in face recognition or in making chat-bots. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Gaurav Chakravorty, co-founder and Head of Strategy Development ...