What Is Platform-As-A-Service? Experts Disagree - InformationWeek

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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.


Interop 2014: 8 Hot Technologies
Interop 2014: 8 Hot Technologies
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In a panel on "The Future of PaaS in an IaaS World" at Cloud Connect Summit, colocated with UBM Tech's Interop Las Vegas, there was a surprising amount of disagreement on how to define platform-as-a-service as a form of cloud computing. Each member of the panel, which included several well-known cloud spokesmen, had a different definition.

Mark Russinovich, a technical fellow on the Microsoft Azure team, said he sees PaaS as "writing code that is integrated with a runtime environment, as opposed to code that is dropped into a virtual machine that's sitting on a bare-metal server, a legacy kind of server. That's the key differentiator point. The software knows something about the environment it's running in."

Margaret Dawson, HP's cloud evangelist and VP of product management, claimed: "It's really about that full environment for application development all the way through full, lifecycle management, even some of the orchestration stuff. It's about a full environment, not only for development of the application. To me, it adds a layer above IaaS."

Jesse Proudman, founder and CEO of Blue Box Group, a hosting service that, among other things, provides developer services and manages large-scale Ruby applications for customers, said: "For me PaaS is really about the service catalogue -- consumable types of services -- whether it be application delivery or container service. It's that abstraction that delivers the ability to move workloads from cloud to cloud. I think that's one of the most powerful features of PaaS technology in the market today."

[Want to learn more about the debate over the future of PaaS? See Cloud Crossroads: Which Way PaaS?]

Brent Smithurst, VP of product management at ActiveState, supplier of Stackato PaaS software, said Stackato is "a platform-as-a-service based on Cloud Foundry and our primary market is Fortune 500 enterprises who use the platform in-house, on-premises. We've actually tried to get away from calling it PaaS. We really just call it an application platform."

Krishnan Subramanian, director of Red Hat's OpenShift platform strategy, said that, in addition to Linux containerization and open source tools, "I have a simple definition for PaaS. The application scales with the platform. It scales with the infrastructure seamlessly."

So cloud platform-as-a-service, according to the PaaS experts, is a platform where the software knows about its environment in which it's running. It's also full application lifecycle management, from development through deployment and its production life. It's also a catalogue of application services. It's also an "application platform" and it's a platform that can scale with the application seamlessly. Is that clear?

Proudman listened to the definitions and inserted an additional thought: "I really believe PaaS as a technology stack focuses on application delivery; it goes beyond just packaging up applications or services and really needs to provide a full orchestration chain to deliver those applications." This comment makes deployment a more important part of PaaS.

Dawson also added a thought on why she continues to see PaaS as a distinct cloud layer separate from IaaS. "One reason that it doesn't become part of IaaS is you've got to be able to have application portability. If it's just tied to one type of IaaS, then you don't have that portability."

Red Hat's Subramanian, however, disagreed. "I don't think it's just application portability... It's application portability and portability of application environments." That is, all the things that the application needs to run -- its database interface, middleware, and security policies -- need to become

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Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive ... View Full Bio

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Charlie Babcock
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.
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

Charlie Babcock
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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