PaaS, DevOps & The Third Platform - InformationWeek

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Bernard Golden
Bernard Golden
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PaaS, DevOps & The Third Platform

Legacy application architectures and processes can't compete with modern demands for mobile, scalable apps. Take a new path with DevOps and PaaS.

Join Bernard Golden at Interop London in June where he will be delivering a session, Cloud Computing is Just the Start: Building a Next-Gen IT Organization.
Interop London will take place 16 - 18 June at ExCeL London.
Find out more and register here.
Interop London

The technology industry is going through a major upheaval: IT is moving from the process automation of the back office up to the front lines of customer engagement and, through IoT, into the product itself.

At the same time, the technology platforms and application architectures of a decade ago, while perfectly serviceable for that era’s applications, are totally inadequate for what’s required going forward.

Fortunately, a new platform is emerging, one far better suited for the demands of today’s IT. The new platform goes by different monikers; IDC calls it the Third Platform, while others use the SMAC acronym. Whatever you call it, this platform shares these characteristics:

  • Social media – A variety of tools offer greater transparency and immediate communication between and among companies and their customers
  • Mobile – With the release of the iPhone in 2007, mobile phones moved from talking devices to computing devices. Users work and play anywhere at all hours of the day and night
  • Analytics (or Big Data, if you prefer) – With more information produced in the past two years that in all of previous human history, there are huge amounts of data to sift and sort through, with the potential of providing, as the phrase goes, actionable insights
  • Cloud – The rise of the cloud means computing infrastructure and services are available quickly and cheaply, with no long-term commitment and a usage-based model. This facilitates scale, experimentation, and low capital cost, which has led to an explosion of innovation

There are hundreds of examples of Third Platform innovation, but let’s look at just one: Airbnb. While private accommodations have long been made available for short-term business or personal travel, Airbnb has achieved enormous growth and global scale by leveraging the elements of the Third Platform.

Social: Both guests and hosts rate one another in Airbnb. If your ‘cozy cottage’ ends up being a cramped and cold pile of bricks next to a garbage dump, all potential guests will know about it immediately and choose other offerings. Likewise, if your guest behavior is at the Animal House end of the scale, you’ll quickly find it impossible to get anyone to provide you lodging.

Mobile: A huge amount of Airbnb traffic and transactions occur on smartphones and tablets.

Analytics: Airbnb quickly finds out what time of year you travel, where you like to go, what kind of lodging you look for, and a thousand other facts. This lets Airbnb target its marketing to you with greater precision and higher satisfaction for you.

Cloud: Airbnb was born in the cloud and continues to operate there today. At the scale and load variability it experiences, trying to build and operate its own data centers would be an enormous challenge and a distraction from its mission.

Airbnb poses a real threat to established hoteliers. Where Hyatt used to consider its competition to be Marriott, Hilton, and Starwood, it now goes up against every spare bedroom on the planet – and faces a competitor that knows far more about its customers than Hyatt does.

This situation isn’t unique. IDC, the analyst firm that coined the Third Platform term, says that the platform will disrupt one-third of top incumbent firms in every industry. Every industry.

Going forward, every company must be a software company and has to leverage the Third Platform and operate with the skills of an Airbnb. This means not only having talented technologists, but internal processes that operate at the pace of Third Platform companies.

This need for speed is why you’re hearing so much about DevOps, a term that stands for integrating application development and operations, with automation throughout the application lifecycle.

While the concept is simple to describe, reengineering IT processes to meet the DevOps model is a significant challenge.

One way to pursue DevOps is to emulate the best Third Platform companies, such as Airbnb, Uber, Netflix, Pinterest, and others. Typically, they have world-class talent, leverage open-source components, and build bespoke DevOps systems, unique to each company.

Most organizations, however, will be hard-pressed to compete for workers against companies like Netflix, and may not have the capital to invest enormous sums in unique operational infrastructure.

But there is another path.

This path comes with pre-built DevOps components and processes, and lets a company concentrate scarce talent where it should be – at application functionality that differentiates the company and allows it to compete with industry innovators.

This more standardized path has a name: Platform as a Service (PaaS). I believe PaaS will allow mainstream companies and IT organizations to deliver world-class applications with end-to-end automation.

The importance and implication of the Third Platform is spreading throughout the technology industry. Every day I speak with IT organizations under tremendous pressure from business units and corporate executives to accelerate application development and delivery and provide best-in-class functionality.

Legacy application architecture and processes are hopelessly outdated in this new Third Platform world. Organizations need to find a new path that removes process bottlenecks and delivers applications that scale, enable transparency, provide analytical insights, and operate anywhere at any time.

Keep your eyes open and your ears peeled – you’ll see and hear DevOps and PaaS, and recognize them for what they represent: the future of IT.

Interop London logo (small)To hear from Bernard Golden and learn more about the future of IT join us at Interop London this June. Find out more here.

Named by as one of the ten most influential persons in cloud computing, Bernard Golden serves as Vice President, Strategy for ActiveState Software. Prior to ActiveState he was Senior Director, Cloud Computing, for Dell Computer, which he joined when it acquired ... View Full Bio

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