Platform as a Service, better known by the acronym PaaS, represents an opportunity for IT organizations to become more agile and responsive to business dynamics. However, issues about the visibility of PaaS offerings continue to persist — according to a panel session at the recent Deploycon Cloud Connect conference held in Santa Clara, California. With PaaS spending set to reach $1.5 billion in 2013, vendors clearly must work harder to remove any doubts users might have regarding the efficiency of the technology.
For both startups and already established enterprises, the ability of developers to run applications within minutes has intensified PaaS adoption.
“For the startups, it’s really about time to market,” said Margaret Dawson, vice president of product marketing and cloud evangelist at HP Cloud Services. “They’re willing to try new things, don’t have deep pockets and have a small team. Thus, PaaS is a natural approach.”
Within the enterprise, she added, having a platform as a service enables teams to continually build and push apps, without having to line up to their IT departments, to something like an enterprise application marketplace. Dawson further indicated that with an enterprise application marketplace, it’s less likely for developers to rebuild apps.
Red Hat’s take is that PaaS helps IT architects streamline and automate developer workflows, automates application scaling, and provides a broad choice of languages, frameworks, and middleware.
Gordon Haff, cloud evangelist at Red Hat, said: “PaaS tears down the wall between development and operations — efficiently accelerating service delivery.”
Despite the upswing, Robust Cloud’s Larry Carvalho, who moderated the panel discussion, cautioned that inefficiency of the abstracted platform is a factor that might slow down PaaS adoption.
“PaaS vendors are expected to optimize systems for best value to users and follow necessary protocols to ensure that users are meeting compliance guidelines,” he said. “Recently, some users claimed to have been overcharged for infrastructure, suggesting that the PaaS vendor did not optimize resource utilization, leaving users responsible for the additional costs.”
Carsten Puls, vice president for product management at Engine Yard, stressed the need for visibility in PaaS. “Visibility is about gaining access to everything that happens within your application,” he said. “You never should have to trade off visibility. At any given time, you should be able to tell what’s happening with your app.”
Visibility throughout the entire lifecycle is key, Puls added. “Visibility goes beyond what’s happening in the app — there should also be visibility into all the components that’s affecting the app,” he said. “PaaS vendors must proactively provide all of these info and resolve bottlenecks. These are key services a PaaS vendor must provide.”
In addition to providing visibility, PaaS vendors must be able to provide options in the event that their customers decide to move out or if their customers need to run their applications on a different environment, he said.
On the issue of how newbies or those just exploring to use PaaS should start and decide which solution to use, Benny Schnaider, president and co-founder of Ravello Systems, said that the best approach is to go with applications or use cases that are not in production, such as testing and development environments.
In addition, he said companies should re-consider the one-time singular migration to the cloud approach. “The future is about running today here and tomorrow there,” he explained. “It needs to be in hybrid mode. You run your load somewhere here and somewhere there.”
Elaborating, Schnaider said: “Platform as a Service, as it is defined today, is not flexible enough. If you’re trying to do things that are simple or just getting started, then PaaS is good enough.But if you’re trying to do all kinds of optimization for performance, you need more than PaaS. You cannot build something that’s one size fits all. This theory of a magic one size fits all may only be good for companies that are starting from scratch.”
For her part, Dawson of HP Cloud Services said: “Most enterprises are going to move to a hybrid world. What we don’t have yet is a common management and monitoring layer. For enterprises, to be able to audit and control everything in one interface is going to become critical.”