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Demystifying the PaaS Landscape

Fishing in the muddied waters of cloud

Every other day there is a new cloud product / platform announcement. Not just startups, even the mega ISVs are jumping onto the cloud bandwagon. Oracle's Larry Ellison first said cloud is all crap and then announces ‘Cloud-in-a-box,' sort of an oxymoron, and in this year's OOW Oracle made a flamboyant announcement - this is just one of the more popular samples. The platform-as-a-service landscape is muddied every day as more vendors are cloud washing their offerings.

With all this, I thought it would be a good attempt to demystify different platform categories in the cloud with some vendor examples. There are two broadd categories of PaaS platforms:

  1. aPaaS - Application Platform as a Service
  2. iPaaS - Integration Platform as a Service

In this post, I want to focus on aPaaS, i.e., Application PaaS. There are three categories of aPaaS:

  1. Instance PaaS
  2. Framework PaaS
  3. Metadata PaaS

Instance PaaS: Is Suitable for moving existing applications to a Cloud Platform. For example, if you have applications developed using .NET or Java, you can consider slapping those existing apps on Azure or Amazon's Elastic Bean Stalk and make a move to the cloud. However, bear in mind it's a lift and shift approach and is not the most optimum technical solution - while it might get you Tick marks in your marketing collaterals. The central issue around this option is that the architecture of our existing application may not comply to cloud's stateless architecture that gives you the transparent scale -out option.

Framework PaaS: In this option programmers have to comply with the constraints of the framework. However, the good thing is the framework automatically deploys the application on as many compute nodes as is required for the traffic/load at any given time. This essentially is like app server in the cloud with a built-in load balancer, web server and app container. And, in some cases such as Google's App Engine, a database - big table - is also provided. App Engine and Heroku are good examples of framework PaaS. This type of PaaS is suitable for building new consumer-facing (B2C) web applications. Moving existing code to these will require good amount of rework - if not a heart surgery.

Metadata PaaS: This type of PaaS can be visualized as a layer of abstraction on top of Framework PaaS. In many ways it provides all the good things for a framework PaaS and more. This is suitable for developing transaction-oriented B2B business applications. Examples are SaaS applications such as CRM, SFA, Dealer Management, and Agency Management. Force.com and OrangeScape fit into this category of PaaS. These cloud platforms typically feature a visual studio for designing/modeling the applications and a runtime that executes the application. There are capabilities for designing data model, workflow process, UI / Forms, integration tasks and reports. Enterprise IT teams, system integrators, and service providers will benefit from this - Metadata PaaS - at OrangeScape we call it ‘Visual PaaS.'

Bottom Line
It"s important to understand the trade-offs to make a good choice between these three categories of PaaS - that is:

  • Abstraction vs Granularity
  • Modeling vs Programming
  • Productivity vs Control

More Stories By Suresh Sambandam

After an initial entrepreneurial stint for three years at the age of 19, Suresh Sambandam went on to work at Hewlett-Packard. Later, Suresh joined Selectica and rose to senior position, as Director of e-Insurance product division in a short-span. The e-Insurance division and its products were later acquired by Accenture. Suresh is a technocrat specializing in product engineering with expertise in software architecture for complex enterprise applications, inference engines, configuration engines, rule-based computing and enterprise middleware. He has applied for multiple patents. Suresh is passionate about entrepreneurship, technology startups and spends a significant amount of personal time in the start-up ecosystem in Chennai. Suresh is a member of the National Council for Emerging Companies Forum and also a core committee member of Product Forum at NASSCOM. He also does mentoring for budding entrepreneurs at IIT Bombay, E-Cell. Suresh is a regular speaker at various industry forums & academic institutions.

Suresh is the Founder & CEO of OrangeScape. OrangeScape is a platform (PaaS - Platform as a Service) to develop process oriented business applications that can be deployed "On Cloud" and "On Premise". OrangeScape supports platforms like Google App Engine and Microsoft Azure as cloud deployment option and Microsoft .Net and J2EE as on-premise deployment options. OrangeScape has 50+ customers including global brands like Unilever, Citibank, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Fullterton, etc. OrangeScape in the only Indian company has been featured in the PaaS research reports of Forrester and Gartner. OrangeScape has been featured as 'India's Rising Tech Stars' by Forbes(US) magazine. OrangeScape was showcased as one of the 3 emerging product companies in India by Nasscom and was also awarded 'Top IT Innovations' for 2 consecutive years.

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