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4/29/2014
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Apprenda, Microsoft Team For Hybrid PaaS

Microsoft hedges its bets on containers with an alliance that brings Apprenda customers to Azure under an on-premises license.

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Apprenda is one of the few companies selling platform-as-a-service as a system to be installed inside the enterprise datacenter. Now it has teamed up with Microsoft to give enterprise users built-in access to Microsoft's Azure cloud.

By linking development to an automatically available amount of Azure cloud services, the two firms are smoothing the path to a hybrid-cloud style of operations.

The Azure compute services are included in the price of the on-premises license. The license assumes a fraction of the total development conducted under its terms will end up deployed in the cloud. Apprenda is sold as an annual subscription, based on the amount of server memory that the system is using. So a customer buying 500 GBs of Apprenda to use on-premises might find an equivalent of 10% or 20% of the licensed space available on Azure as well, without paying Microsoft any fees for it.

Apprenda supplies a Java and .Net development management system designed for installation in the enterprise, supporting the two languages most likely to connect to legacy systems. It's been used by such enterprises as McKesson and Boeing.

[Want to learn more about the debate over which PaaS is best? See Cloud Crossroads: Which Way PaaS?]

The move gives enterprise developers who are often working with Java and .Net applications a reason to modernize those applications and/or develop new applications that can run in either location. Apprenda CEO and co-founder Sinclair Schuller remembers working for financial services employers where the development team solved the same problems of scalability and deployment over and over again. "We'd spend 3-5 months writing an application, then 90-120 days to deploy it. We were constantly re-inventing the approach to scalability and rules for deployment ... We thought, 'What if we could solve those two problems?'" he said in an interview with InformationWeek.

(Image: Ron Pieket via Wikimedia Commons.)
(Image: Ron Pieket via Wikimedia Commons.)

Apprenda is a system that can take a fresh application and learn its scalability needs on the fly, then address them. It uses a form of containerization of the application for final deployment, whether on-premises or in the cloud, which allows Apprenda to run applications as multiple tenants on a host server. The container provides isolation for each application from the other; the host supplies a single copy of the operating system, serving multiple containers.

Heroku, Engine Yard, and Cloud Foundry are forms of PaaS that largely have an opposite approach, with their clearest focus on the emerging Web languages, such as PHP, Ruby, and JavaScript deployed to Amazon or other clouds in virtual machines. They help build applications that are easy to deploy on the public cloud.

Apprenda PaaS started out with more of a legacy system and enterprise point of view, said Schuller. At the same, it focuses development on CentOS, the free version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and deploys to production on licensed RHEL.

The alliance with Apprenda moves Microsoft into the front ranks of companies willing to supply a container approach, instead of relying solely on virtual machines as a form of workload distribution.

While Amazon Web Services and PaaS suppliers based on Amazon offer a "use the public-cloud first" approach, Microsoft is starting to hedge its bets

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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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sschuller
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sschuller,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/29/2014 | 5:29:20 PM
Re: The battle for next gen. developers is the battle for the cloud
Lorna, C/C++ is a tough nut to crack. On Apprenda, for example, apps with C/C++ code CAN be deployed, but they inherit basic PaaS value. Managed runtimes like the .NET CLR and JVM allow us to do some interesting enhancements to make apps "cloud like" without being architected that way.

The short answer? You can kind-of use C/C++, but typically only when it's an extension of some managed code.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
4/29/2014 | 2:19:53 PM
Re: The battle for next gen. developers is the battle for the cloud
Charlie, given the Microsoft deal, is there any possibility of support for C/C++? Also, noticed that word "containerization" again for Apprenda's approach. Do other PaaS players use containers as well?
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
4/29/2014 | 1:38:09 PM
The battle for next gen. developers is the battle for the cloud
Microsoft's Azure itself started as a PaaS platform for Windows and .net, later expanded to Java. That makes it all the more revealing that Microsoft has decided to increase Azure's appeal with an on-premises vendor. Visual Studio and dozens of other Windows development tools are on-premises as well, so in theory Microsoft doesn't need a hybrid cloud partner. But in fact, PaaS is an all important battleground and Apprenda has thought t hrough the enterprise PaaS problem. In the end, it makes sense for Microsoft to endter this partnership. 
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