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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.

portable too, he said. Use of Docker containerization is one way to achieve that application environment portability, he added.

Each panel member's definition of PaaS largely reflected his or her company's strengths versus those of competitors. Microsoft's Windows Azure, now just Azure, was PaaS before it became IaaS, and it was equipped with collaborative versions of Visual Studio and .Net before general-purpose virtual machines became available on it. At a panel that attracted a large audience of developers, Russinovich wanted to remind attendees of Azure's roots. Azure added general availability of IaaS to its services in mid-April 2013, but it continues to attract Windows developers, even though "Windows" has been dropped from the name. Russinovich's definition distinguishes Azure PaaS from something that VMware and its Pivotal spinoff might call PaaS.

Proudman is the founder of Blue Box in Seattle, which offers OpenStack cloud workload orchestration and Cloud Foundry tools for developers working on applications. It has contracted for workloads by making it easy for developers to produce them and deploy them on Blue Box. Blue Box, to some extent, is a direct competitor to Red Hat's OpenShift.

HP tends to claim that it has a more vendor-neutral point of view than other companies and you can trust it to supply non-lock-in, OpenStack cloud technology. Dawson stuck to that theme, which includes the idea of being able to move a workload from cloud to cloud. HP Cloud is based on open source, public APIs used by several other public clouds and enterprise private clouds.

Smithurst's ActiveState with Stackato is also a competitor to Red Hat's Openshift and was early to market with a packaged version of Cloud Foundry for the enterprise. Its most direct competitor on that front is not Red Hat but the VMware/EMC spinoff Pivotal, which also packages open source Cloud Foundry for enterprise use.

The debate over PaaS's future continues among users and providers. Some knowledgeable people foresee it merging as a feature into general-purpose infrastructure-as-a-service. Others, such as Subramanian and Dawson, see it remaining as a distinct layer and set of products far into the future.

Emerging technologies are cutting costs and boosting setup speed and flexibility. IT's intrigued, our survey shows. Also in the How Cloud Will Transform The WAN issue of InformationWeek: Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has a vision that needs a dose of reality. (Free registration required.)