Moving Beyond The PaaS Paradox
In my strategy role I’ve been looking at PaaS for awhile now. In doing that, I keep hitting upon what I call “The PaaS Paradox.” If you take any given analysts forecasts for PaaS, the overall market looks “bad” compared to IaaS and SaaS: $2.9B by 2016 by a recent Gartner estimate – or about 3% of the ~$110B public cloud market in 2016 (I subtracted out that annoying “advertising” segment that Gartner tracks).
And then you have some real gorillas already moving in there: Microsoft, Salesforce, Google, IBM, Oracle, and so on. While several billion may seem amazing to individuals, in the IT industry, it’s not much…esp. if you’re competing with those guys. (As another data point along the PaaS road: EngineYard helpfully reports its revenue from time-to-time, $28M back in July, 2011.)
And yet, everyone is always going on about how PaaS is mega important. Each year it’s going to be “the year of PaaS,” and analyst survey data always indicates high interest in PaaS.
My theory has been that when most people, esp. all those gleeful survey respondents, think of PaaS they’re not thinking of “pure PaaS” (or 1st and even 2nd generation PaaS). Instead, they just are thinking “doing software development with cloud technologies and practices.” Once you re-calibrate your whiz-bang charts to include all of software development, “PaaS” seems a lot more attractive.
I ran this by Jeffery Hammond and James Staten in a conversation the other day and they framed it in another, interesting way: people want the ability to run, and target different frameworks in a cloud context. Heroku is the classic of example of this. While Heroku is a PaaS, it’s more about being able to run rails (and plenty of other languages and frameworks now). This flexiblity fixes that unsettling feeling that 1st generation PaaS had: you were using, essentially, a propriety framework that was limiting your choice.
Or, as Stephen puts it: PaaS is the new middleware.
With that framing, you can escape the PaaS Paradox, and PaaS is a lot more interesting. So far, Cloud Foundry has seemed one of the better architectural fits for this “PaaS as middleware” think.” As we move “Project Fast” through (the new) Dell Cloud Labs, I’ll be eager to see how that architecture plays out and even more excited to see how the Dell community reacts to and participates in the project. As with Project Sputnik, a huge part of what we’re doing is engaging with developers, which sounds like a pretty good way to spend time to me.
Also: check out some demo videos of Project Fast PaaS.