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Enterprise Cloud Curves Ahead: PaaS Carefully

Is the Cloud chasm too wide for legacy players to cross?

We’re seeing a lot of changes in the IT landscape. Oracle buying its way into the Cloud, AMD wants in on the server business, Dell is no longer a PC company, and some legacy players are learning about the Cloud market the hard way (see: Harris Scraps Secure Public Cloud).

Harris claims customers have a preference for on premise (private cloud) solutions, though a McKinsey survey mentioned in the article indicates CIOs will take a “balanced” approach (read: Hybrid Cloud). Besides, acquiring on-premise IT business won’t get easier in the Federal government space with its shift to a Cloud First Policy, nor in State government (see Time For State And Local Govs To Head To The Cloud).

Is the Cloud chasm too wide for legacy players (like Harris) to cross?

Everyone in the industry is positioning for the game of the century as a result of the disruptive Cloud forces. As I write this, Bernard Golden, VP of enStratus Networks, just published a post titled, “How Cloud Computing Is Forcing IT Evolution”, and he’s right. This isn’t your usual IT industry innovation disruption, Cloud computing will completely reconfigure every industry where it can be widely adopted (entrepreneurs take note). For SMB, that meant rapid adoption of Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, for large enterprise it’ll most likely be a challenging trek to Hybrid Cloud and the mid-market may opt for a combination of SaaS and virtual private clouds. What Cloud Flavor Will You Choose?

In any event, the pragmatic reality of large enterprise (as Harris found out), is that mission-critical, legacy, custom, and many integrated applications can’t be easily decoupled from the business, process, or underlying infrastructure and migrated to the public cloud. Even if it was feasible, many enterprises will take a protectionist stance, or are simply not ready culturally, to make such a transition. The inescapable reality for large enterprise is Cloud bifurcation:

  1. Private Cloud (not popular with some Cloud advocates) for mission-critical applications that have high security, privacy, and regulatory compliance requirements, and
  2. Public Cloud for applications that do not have the aforementioned requirements.

In other words, Hybrid Cloud, and the path from legacy IT development to Cloud goes through PaaS. PaaS abstracts the underlying infrastructure, allowing developers to be more efficient in the same manner that IaaS is a more efficient way to leverage infrastructure, and SaaS a more efficient way to consume applications. Some of the benefits of PaaS are:

  • Developers ability to create and deploy software faster.
  • Lower application development risks & costs
  • Better security (via common security model)
  • Greater scalability, resilience & interoperability
  • Faster time to market (TTM) and Return on Investment (ROI)

To get a feel for the state of PaaS affairs I spoke with Bart Copeland, ActiveState CEO, Toph Whitmore, VP of Marketing, and Troy Topnik, Technical Communications Specialist. Bart described the state of the affairs this way:

The PaaS market is at its early stage of growth and does not yet have well-established leaders, best use, business practices or dedicated standards. The adoption of PaaS offerings is still associated with some degree of uncertainty and risk. - Bart Copeland, ActiveState CEO

Not an unreasonable characterization of the marketplace. ActiveState, for those that may not know, is focused on the private PaaS segment of the market with their Stackato product (general availability announced just last week). You can try Stackato’s Micro Cloud free of charge or see more information on Stackato. Here’s a high-level depiction of the product:

ActiveState is one of the many PaaS companies in the market today. There is no shortage of players in the PaaS segment. Salesforce’s Force.com / Heroku, Google’s GAE, Microsoft’s Azure, VMware’s Cloud Foundry (not to be confused with the open source project Cloud Foundry.org) CloudBees, RedHat’s OpenShift, Apprenda, Cordys, OrangeScape, Tibco, and AppFog.

As an advocate of Hybrid Cloud, I can see large enterprise’s attraction for a single PaaS platform to run on public and private environments supporting legacy applications, multiple languages, the latest application frameworks, and IaaS Cloud Service Providers like Amazon’s AWS, OpenStack, and VMware vSphere to name just a few.

Some may believe that PaaS is a public cloud only phenomenon, I don’t share that perspective. Though I will concede that private Cloud (and private PaaS) can be a more difficult endeavor for enterprises to undertake. Nevertheless, I have no doubt we will see private clouds and private PaaS right along with them.

You can rest assured that successful journeys to the Cloud will not be made with a traditional application development approach. Ultimately, it will be the PaaS players that capture the heart and mind of the developer community that will successfully lead large enterprise through the Cloud curves ahead.

More Stories By Ray DePena

Ray DePena worked at IBM for over 12 years in various senior global roles in managed hosting sales, services sales, global marketing programs (business innovation), marketing management, partner management, and global business development.
His background includes software development, computer networking, systems engineering, and IT project management. He holds an MBA in Information Systems, Marketing, and International Business from New York University’s Stern School of Business, and a BBA in Computer Systems from the City University of New York at Baruch College.

Named one of the World's 30 Most Influential Cloud Computing Bloggers in 2009, Top 50 Bloggers on Cloud Computing in 2010, and Top 100 Bloggers on Cloud Computing in 2011, he is the Founder and Editor of Amazon.com Journal,Competitive Business Innovation Journal,and Salesforce.com Journal.

He currently serves as an Industry Advisor for the Higher Education Sector on a National Science Foundation Initiative on Computational Thinking. Born and raised in New York City, Mr. DePena now lives in northern California. He can be followed on:

Twitter: @RayDePena   |   LinkedIn   |   Facebook   |   Google+

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