Welcome!

DevOps Journal Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Trevor Parsons, Martin Etmajer, Andrew Phillips

Related Topics: Cloud Expo, SDN Journal, DevOps Journal

Cloud Expo: 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.

@DevOpsSummit Stories
High-performing enterprise Software Quality Assurance (SQA) teams validate systems that are ready for use - getting most actively involved as components integrate and form complete systems. These teams catch and report on defects, making sure the customer gets the best software possible. SQA teams have leveraged automation and virtualization to execute more thorough testing in less time - bringing Dev and Ops together, ensuring production readiness. Does the emergence of DevOps mean the end of Enterprise SQA? Does the SQA function become redundant? In her session at DevOps Summit, Anne Hungat...
The term culture has had a polarizing effect among DevOps supporters. Some propose that culture change is critical for success with DevOps, but are remiss to define culture. Some talk about a DevOps culture but then reference activities that could lead to culture change and there are those that talk about culture change as a set of behaviors that need to be adopted by those in IT. There is no question that businesses successful in adopting a DevOps mindset have seen departmental culture change, the question remains, is culture the leading edge of this change? I posit that in large enterprises,...
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps, abiding by privacy concerns and making the concept a reality. These challenges can't be addressed w...
Our expectations for buying all sorts of consumer goods has gone through a radical transformation we now take for granted. Why should we not expect this same level of service from IT businesses? We accept the status quo for how software delivery exists today but would reject it without hesitation if it were applied to pretty much any other online consumer experience. Take pizza delivery as an example. Fifteen years ago ordering a pizza meant trying to choose an item from a grease-stained menu somebody shoved under your door. You'd make a phone call and end up speaking to somebody who sounded ...
The 4th International DevOps Summit, co-located with16th International Cloud Expo – being held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY – announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's largest enterprises – and delivering real results. Among the proven benefits, DevOps is correlated with 2...
Leysin American School is an exclusive, private boarding school located in Leysin, Switzerland. Leysin selected an OpenStack-powered, private cloud as a service to manage multiple applications and provide development environments for students across the institution. Seeking to meet rigid data sovereignty and data integrity requirements while offering flexible, on-demand cloud resources to users, Leysin identified OpenStack as the clear choice to round out the school's cloud strategy. Additionally, the school sought a partner to provide OpenStack infrastructure deployment and operations expert...
We are all here because we are sold on the transformative promise of The Cloud. But what good is all of this ephemeral, on-demand infrastructure if your usage doesn't actually improve the agility and speed of your business? How must Operations adapt in order to avoid stifling your Cloud initiative? In his session at DevOps Summit, Damon Edwards, co-founder and managing partner of the DTO Solutions, will highlight the successful organizational, process, and tooling patterns of high-performing companies that have reshaped their Operations to enable the business to get full value from their Clo...
Software-driven innovation is becoming a primary approach to how businesses create and deliver new value to customers. A survey of 400 business and IT executives by the IBM Institute for Business Value showed businesses that are more effective at software delivery are also more profitable than their peers nearly 70 percent of the time (1). DevOps provides a way for businesses to remain competitive, applying lean and agile principles to software development to speed the delivery of software that meets new market requirements. IBM's new DevOps Innovation Services help address the challenge of s...
Docker offers a new, lightweight approach to application portability. Applications are shipped using a common container format and managed with a high-level API. Their processes run within isolated namespaces that abstract the operating environment independently of the distribution, versions, network setup, and other details of this environment. This "containerization" has often been nicknamed "the new virtualization." But containers are more than lightweight virtual machines. Beyond their smaller footprint, shorter boot times, and higher consolidation factors, they also bring a lot of new fea...
The move in recent years to cloud computing services and architectures has added significant pace to the application development and deployment environment. When enterprise IT can spin up large computing instances in just minutes, developers can also design and deploy in small time frames that were unimaginable a few years ago. The consequent move toward lean, agile, and fast development leads to the need for the development and operations sides to work very closely together. Thus, DevOps becomes essential for any ambitious enterprise today.

ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --  IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's platform-as-a-service. The new platform enables developers to build ap...

SYS-CON Media announced today that Aruna Ravichandran, VP of Marketing, Application Performance Management and DevOps at CA Technologies, has joined DevOps Journal’s authors. DevOps Journal is focused on this critical enterprise IT topic in the world of cloud computing. DevOps Journal brings valuable information to DevOps professionals who are transforming the way enterprise IT is done. Aruna's inaugural article "Four Essential Cultural Hacks for DevOps Newbies" discusses how to demonstrate the value of DevOps behaviors, tools and processes. She states: "DevOps is not only hot it's the approa...
"Our premise is Docker is not enough. That's not a bad thing - we actually love Docker. At ActiveState all our products are based on open source technology and Docker is an up-and-coming piece of open source technology," explained Bart Copeland, President & CEO of ActiveState Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. 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 wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
At first glance, it might seem that the goals of DevOps and regulatory compliance are inherently at odds. Whereas much of the buzz around DevOps advocates delivering software at dizzying rates, compliance and security are concerned with proper oversight of the change management process to ensure that the enterprise isn’t opening itself up to potential vulnerabilities. With the tedious amount of rules and regulations that enterprises are subjected to, compliance can end up being a governor on the release process, defeating the potential benefits from adopting DevOps practices.
SYS-CON Media announced today the IBM, which offers the world’s deepest portfolio of technologies and expertise that are transforming the future of work, has launched ad campaigns on SYS-CON’s numerous online magazines such as Cloud Computing Journal, DevOps Journal, Virtualization Journal, and IoT Journal. IBM's campaigns focus on application testing, improving application development processes, common challenges in testing composite applications, continuous testing as part of the DevOps lifecycle, and deploying higher quality software faster through continuous integration testing.
Considered by many as the next step beyond Agile, DevOps has proven to be effective at accelerating development cycles, improving performance, reducing bugs and overall improving the innovation and velocity of development teams. There are a couple ways to look at DevOps: first, DevOps is a development methodology based on continuous integration and continuous delivery supported by set of configuration management tools such as Chef, Puppet, Salt and Ansible. We can also think of DevOps as a simpler set of principles that guide development and deployment practices – automate everything, monitor...
Cloud computing started a technology revolution; now DevOps is driving that revolution forward. By enabling new approaches to service delivery, cloud and DevOps together are delivering even greater speed, agility, and efficiency. No wonder leading innovators are adopting DevOps and cloud together! In his session at DevOps Summit, Andi Mann, Vice President of Strategic Solutions at CA Technologies, explored the synergies in these two approaches, with practical tips, techniques, research data, war stories, case studies, and recommendations on how to: Embrace, source, consume, and expose shared...
Software is eating the world. Companies that were not previously in the technology space now find themselves competing with Google and Amazon on speed of innovation. As the innovation cycle accelerates, companies must embrace rapid and constant change to both applications and their infrastructure, and find a way to deliver speed and agility of development without sacrificing reliability or efficiency of operations. In her Day 2 Keynote DevOps Summit, Victoria Livschitz, CEO of Qubell, discussed how IT organizations can automate just-in-time assembly of application environments - each built fo...
AppDynamics is the next-generation application performance management solution that simplifies the management of complex, business-critical apps. No one can stand slow applications - not IT operations and development teams, not the Chief Information Officer, and definitely not end users. With AppDynamics, no one has to tolerate slow performing apps ever again. AppDynamics customers include TiVo, AMICA Insurance, Expedia and StubHub.
Roger: Could you explain for our audience the significance of containerization, and how it differs from virtualization? Ben: Traditional virtualization was created over a decade ago, when applications were long-lived, monolithic, and deployed to a single server. In this world, when the problem to be solved was proliferation of single purpose physical servers – e.g. one server for Microsoft exchange, one server for Mac Print, one server for a custom Unix inventory -- it made sense to turn all of those single-purpose physical servers into single purpose virtual servers. The VM was created, whi...
In his keynote at DevOps Summit, David Tesar, Microsoft Technical Evangelist on Microsoft Azure and DevOps, will discuss how Microsoft teams who have made huge progress with a DevOps transformation effectively utilize operations staff and how challenges were overcome. Regardless of whether you are a startup or a mature enterprise, whether you are using PaaS, Micro Services, or Containerization, walk away with some practical tips where Ops can make a significant impact working with the development teams. Operational teams and functions are increasingly more important as the industry delivers so...
Founded in 1997, ActiveState is a global leader providing software application development and management solutions. The Company's products include: Stackato, a commercially supported Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) that harnesses open source technologies such as Cloud Foundry and Docker; dynamic language distributions ActivePerl, ActivePython and ActiveTcl; and developer tools such as the popular Komodo Edit and Komodo IDE. Headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, ActiveState is trusted by customers and partners worldwide, across many industries including telecommunications, aerospace, software, fina...
In today's application economy, enterprise organizations realize that it's their applications that are the heart and soul of their business. If their application users have a bad experience, their revenue and reputation are at stake. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Anand Akela, Senior Director of Product Marketing for Application Performance Management at CA Technologies, will discuss how a user-centric Application Performance Management solution can help inspire your users with every application transaction.
The impact of DevOps in the cloud era is potentially profound. DevOps helps businesses deliver new features continuously, reduce cycle time and achieve sustained innovation by applying agile and lean principles to assist all stakeholders in an organization that develop, operate, or benefit from the business’ lifecycle. In his session at DevOps Summit, Prashanth Chandrasekar, General Manager at Rackspace, will exam whether / how companies can work with external DevOps specialists to achieve "DevOps elasticity" and DevOps expertise at scale while internally focusing on writing code / developme...