There are a small number of platform-as-a-service vendors today, and most have interests rooted in building a binding relationship through a comprehensive offering. Vendors such as Microsoft have been doing this for decades, and if the vendor remains viable and relevant and responds to the user community, it's generally a benefit for both parties.
Every cloud framework has its own interface methods, services, and costs. The unfolding nature of the platform-as-a-service approach puts everything at risk--costs could change overnight, services could be dropped, and quality of service could worsen. Standards bodies are just beginning to look at the market. Would you bet a critical business application on such a new arrival?
Privacy And Control
Vendors generally offer extensive protection methods, and it's in their interests to offer high levels of security. PaaS often provides a relatively sophisticated suite of access controls. But you, not the vendor, still own the risk.
Misjudging "Flexibility Versus Power"
Generally, you want more flexibility over design, development, and deployment for a custom system such as a new profit center--and PaaS doesn't offer flexibility. Instead, it gives power and ready-made services. The trade-offs are similar to the ones for outsourcing.
Testing Is Deployment
The U.S. Army vows to "fight like we train and train like we fight." For development teams, that translates to test like they deploy and deploy like they tested. Cloud computing gets them very close--trying multiple machines, different configurations, and different locations; running stress tests; and testing compatibility, performance, and response in ways impossible in a local environment.
To compete with the pace set by the likes of Twitter, Facebook, and Google, modern IT teams must be able to all but flip a switch to turn up a new service or features, or test it on a small segment of customers. Before cloud computing, that was unthinkable. Now business IT teams can approach the "perpetual beta" for which Google is known.
The biggest strategic benefit is that developing through platform as a service, combined with quick deployment on infrastructure online, can empower visionaries in any part of the company. Consider creating a cloud budget, letting teams experiment with cloud computing resources, and see what they dream up.
Dana Moore is a division scientist at BBN Technologies.
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