That's where platform-as-a-service comes in. In the PaaS model, service providers offer development tools and other resources, such as middleware and database services, that let organizations build custom applications and then run them in the cloud. Throw in some infrastructure-as-a-service resources and the cloud becomes more than a simple application faucet to turn on and off.
Microsoft's Azure cloud platform is an example of that type of cloud service. In a recent article in InformationWeek, editor Chris Murphy explores Microsoft's ambitious strategy for offering cloud services through Azure. Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft's server and tools division, comments on the opportunity and the challenge of such an environment. "There are a few people in the world who can write cloud applications," Muglia says. "Our job is to enable everybody to be able to do it."
Some CIOs see potential benefits in being able to build and test applications in a PaaS environment and then bring those apps back into the corporate data center to run in so-called "private" clouds. Another interesting option is the ability for enterprises to build and run cloud-oriented applications in their own data centers, but tap public online services if more capacity or resources are needed. This is known as the "hybrid" model.
All this calls for new expertise and experience in application development, which vendors like Microsoft can enable but can't provide. IT executives should be encouraging that experience and seeking out that expertise.Software-as-a-service ushered in the era of cloud computing. SaaS featured one-size-fits-all applications that customers could tap online to exploit the advantages of the cloud: availability, flexibility, scalability. But to really employ and deploy cloud computing to its fullest measure, enterprises need to learn to write their own cloud-oriented applications.