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6/17/2013
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Forrester Rates Public Cloud Choices For Developers

Forrester examines IaaS and PaaS options for developers, as the line blurs between these two types of public clouds.

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Public cloud computing is often discussed in simplistic terms when it comes to a crucial interest group: developers. It's either plain-vanilla infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), or a specialized platform with built-in tools for developers, a.k.a. platform-as-a-service (PaaS).

In fact, says Forrester Research, both types of public clouds serve developers well, and in some cases, the lines are rapidly blurring between them. Analysts James Staten, John Rymer, Vivian Brown and Phil Murphy interviewed 28 developer organizations to reach their conclusions on developers' uses of the cloud. Their findings were published in "Forrester Wave: Enterprise Public Cloud Platforms, Q2 2013."

The June 14 report not only covers the three best-known PaaS platforms, Salesforce.com's Force.com, Microsoft's Azure and Google's App Engine, and runners-up IBM, Rackspace and Verizon Terremark, but some lesser-known public cloud suppliers as well that have proven popular with enterprise developers: SoftLayer, CloudBees, Cordys, Engine Yard, GoGrid, Miosoft and Mendix.

Amazon Web Services is not, strictly speaking, a PaaS platform, but it nevertheless hosts many developers, noted James Staten in an interview following the release of the report. It does so by putting together a string of services that speed a developer's work and allows him to proceed without worrying about configuring infrastructure.

[ Want more on Google Compute Engine? See Google Opens Compute Engine To Cloud Customers. ]

Other PaaS platforms offer specific language tools and software stacks that cater to particular developer interests, such as an interest in Ruby on Rails and other scripting languages at Engine Yard. Only one software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform was included, Salesforce.com's Force.com, which can be used to customize Salesforce online applications or develop new ones that work with Salesforce.com data. Most SaaS vendors have not built out a full-fledged development environment, although several are working on one. Salesforce runs Force in its own data centers, but Salesforce still runs its acquisition, the Heroku platform, as a service on Amazon Web Services.

Instead of one undifferentiated body of developers, there are in fact several different types bringing their work to the cloud. Developers who want quick turnaround on applications, rather than "deep resource control," value graphical development environments with automated processes working beneath them, the report said. These developers are working in Ruby, Javascript, PHP or Python or other dynamic, scripting languages and want a platform that supports rapid development. Microsoft, Google App Engine, Force.com, Heroku and Engine Yard to varying degrees are such platforms.

"They see public cloud platforms as a fresh start with the potential to yield massive gains in the quantity, velocity and quality of applications delivery," and they want that delivery to occur in a few weeks or few days, not months, the authors wrote.

A second group, which Forrester termed "coders," wants to generate complex business logic in reliable and fast-running code and do not wish to set up, configure and manage infrastructure. They like cloud platforms that offer them the tools they wish to use, such as Microsoft's Azure, Google's App Engine with its Python programmer orientation, IBM's SmartCloud with its Rational and WebSphere developer tools, and others. These development settings offer many services, such as automated connections to a database system and pre-configured, supporting middleware that speed development and ease deployment. Coders can change their applications and perfect them, with many deployment choices made by the development platform.

The third group, DevOps pros, want configuration control when they need it, the report stated. They are seeking optimized, modifiable production applications and might want to configure the database to work with the application, not receive a standard database service. They are skilled programmers who don't want graphical tools that make some configuration decisions for them.

Among other things, they are C, C++, C# and Java programmers who know how to assemble and deploy a complete software stack, then improve its performance. They are IaaS users and in some cases adopt some services on top of the public cloud, but don't wish to be impeded in having access to all the "tuning knobs," the authors wrote. Windows Azure infrastructure, Google Compute Engine and AWS as well as smaller IaaS providers can satisfy this group's needs.

Microsoft, with its Visual Studio tools and .Net technologies, concentrated on PaaS for its Azure cloud from 2009-2013, before adding IaaS in April. Despite that, it hasn't emerged as the overwhelming leader in PaaS the way Amazon dominates the market for IaaS. Asked to comment on that, Staten in an interview said Microsoft's customer base has largely been absent from the early adopters of cloud computing.

"Its customers have tended to wait for Microsoft to make something easy for them," he said. Most Windows developers have not modified their applications to run in Azure, and Microsoft "needs to find something to get that market moving," he added.

The adventurers in the customer base who wished to try cloud computing have found ample tools and opportunities to do so through open source code, such as the Ruby, Python, JavaScript and PHP languages and KVM and Xen hypervisors, he said.

At the same time, Microsoft is a keen observer of when a market is approaching the mass-market size that it prefers, "and they are a fast follower, once a market develops. There's more opportunity in front of Microsoft than what it's lost by not being on the front edge," Staten noted.

Authors James Staten and John Rymer will discuss the report in a webinar titled "Developers: Which Public Cloud Is Right For You?" on Tuesday, June 18.

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