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4/2/2014
02:16 PM
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What Is Platform-As-A-Service? Experts Disagree

Is PaaS just a feature of general-purpose infrastructure-as-a-service or a distinct layer of products in the cloud? Experts debate the definition of PaaS at Cloud Connect.

portable too, he said. Use of Docker containerization is one way to achieve that application environment portability, he added.

Each panel member's definition of PaaS largely reflected his or her company's strengths versus those of competitors. Microsoft's Windows Azure, now just Azure, was PaaS before it became IaaS, and it was equipped with collaborative versions of Visual Studio and .Net before general-purpose virtual machines became available on it. At a panel that attracted a large audience of developers, Russinovich wanted to remind attendees of Azure's roots. Azure added general availability of IaaS to its services in mid-April 2013, but it continues to attract Windows developers, even though "Windows" has been dropped from the name. Russinovich's definition distinguishes Azure PaaS from something that VMware and its Pivotal spinoff might call PaaS.

Proudman is the founder of Blue Box in Seattle, which offers OpenStack cloud workload orchestration and Cloud Foundry tools for developers working on applications. It has contracted for workloads by making it easy for developers to produce them and deploy them on Blue Box. Blue Box, to some extent, is a direct competitor to Red Hat's OpenShift.

HP tends to claim that it has a more vendor-neutral point of view than other companies and you can trust it to supply non-lock-in, OpenStack cloud technology. Dawson stuck to that theme, which includes the idea of being able to move a workload from cloud to cloud. HP Cloud is based on open source, public APIs used by several other public clouds and enterprise private clouds.

Smithurst's ActiveState with Stackato is also a competitor to Red Hat's Openshift and was early to market with a packaged version of Cloud Foundry for the enterprise. Its most direct competitor on that front is not Red Hat but the VMware/EMC spinoff Pivotal, which also packages open source Cloud Foundry for enterprise use.

The debate over PaaS's future continues among users and providers. Some knowledgeable people foresee it merging as a feature into general-purpose infrastructure-as-a-service. Others, such as Subramanian and Dawson, see it remaining as a distinct layer and set of products far into the future.

Emerging technologies are cutting costs and boosting setup speed and flexibility. IT's intrigued, our survey shows. Also in the How Cloud Will Transform The WAN issue of InformationWeek: Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has a vision that needs a dose of reality. (Free registration required.)

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek, having joined the publication in 2003. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse ... View Full Bio

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Stratustician
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Stratustician,
User Rank: Ninja
4/10/2014 | 12:25:46 PM
Re: Whatever PaaS is, it's more open than closed
I think the real differentiator for PaaS is the market it will appeal to, the developer market.  IaaS is really more of a pure computing play, heavily resource driven.  PaaS is really where the innovation will sit as it will create the layer which applications will sit, and it will also add more value to a pure IaaS environment.  THe other nice thing is that PaaS in a way brings standardization which will help drive more universal adoption of services as opposed to everyone figuring things out individually.  This way we can have base standardization and applications can be spun off more efficiently thanks to basic controls and services already based in the platform.  PaaS is a definitely needed service, the trick is ensuring that it is positioned the right way to avoid confusion.
t_thornton
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t_thornton,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/6/2014 | 10:19:27 AM
Great article
I recently took a job in the PaaS space and, being somewhat new to cloud offerings, I thought this article touched on some great points and cleared up a few things for me.  

I've also heard the term "aPaas" or "Application Platform as a Service".  This is more or less the space that my new company plays in, but I'm finding that people aren't really familiar with this one yet. 

It's tricky because as I have been catching up with old friends and colleagues and they ask me about my new job, it's hard to describe it in just a few words.  If I say "PaaS" they will probably come away the wrong idea.  If I say "aPaaS" they look at me funny :)
TechYogJosh
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TechYogJosh,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/4/2014 | 12:54:21 AM
PaaS and IaaS
Does it really matter what you call it? How can you develop, scale. and migrate/port applications without a platform? Are we saying PaaS becomes a "feature" or integral part of IaaS, unlike traditional applications where hardware/infrastructure was very different from platforms such as WebLogic, WebSphere, .Net, J2EE, etc.? The confusion benefits certain vendors (e.g., BlueBox, HP) and harms others (e.g. Microsoft, RedHat). The moot point is you need a platform to build your applications on and you need an infrastructure to host the applications on. The functionality may overlap or be similar, but it will always be distinct. One may integrate platform services within infrastructure, but then the infrastructure will provide "platform" service.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
4/3/2014 | 6:45:08 PM
Whatever PaaS is, it's more open than closed
As the panel progressed, there was a rough consensus that PaaS, however it's defined, would provide an open application building environment, with the resulting app able to be moved onto different clouds. The emphasis was on no-vendor lock-in and portability rather than the specific capabilities or tools of any particlar PaaS. That discussion of course was aimed at least in part at Microsoft, the proprietary parts of Azure and its potential to gobble up marketshare.
brentsmi
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brentsmi,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/3/2014 | 1:47:40 PM
Re: Small correction
No worries, Paul. It happens all the time.
Paul_Travis
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Paul_Travis,
User Rank: Author
4/3/2014 | 8:02:02 AM
Re: Small correction
Sorry about the typo. It has been fixed.

 

Paul Travis

Managing Editor

InformationWeek.com
brentsmi
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brentsmi,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/3/2014 | 2:30:58 AM
Re: At the crossroads: Which way PaaS?
Li, you nailed it. The terminology is completely unimportant. As I said, we don't even call it 'PaaS' anymore. Call it whatever you want, but it is key to providing developers with the ability to easily deploy and scale applications in a predictable, repeatable, portable, secure, and easily manageable manner.
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
4/2/2014 | 10:10:59 PM
Re: At the crossroads: Which way PaaS?
Very good post, gentelman. Since long ago I have doubts/confusions about PaaS. This post helped me to somehow get out of the ambiguous area. In my humble opinion, PaaS just provides more intelligence to IaaS to enable portability, scalability and easy of workload sharing in cloud computing. The terminology itself is not significant but the essence underlying is of more importance.
brentsmi
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brentsmi,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/2/2014 | 8:01:52 PM
Small correction
Great post, Charles. The panel was lots of fun and it was great to meet you in person. Small typo: my last name only has one "h"...
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
4/2/2014 | 4:03:29 PM
At the crossroads: Which way PaaS?
Several of these Cloud Connect panelists, including moderator Ben Kepes, principal of Diversity Ltd. and Forbes blogger, debated this issue here as well: http://www.informationweek.com/cloud/platform-as-a-service/cloud-crossroads-which-way-paas/d/d-id/1114123
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