What the latest cloud explosion really means

Cisco, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft all made major cloud announcements last week, with far-reaching implications for business customers

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2. App dev in the cloud

The most interesting part of the Google announcement actually involved App Engine, Google's PaaS. Today, PaaS offerings like App Engine are used mostly by independent software developers to build, test, and deploy Web or mobile apps (Snapchat was touted at the Google announcement as an App Engine poster child). The problem with a public cloud PaaS, though, is that you're limited to the languages, databases, and other services offered by the PaaS, which is why many devs who opt for the cloud build on an IaaS platform where you can build your stack can from the VM up as you like it.

Google's new Virtual Managed Machines (VMMs) introduced a hybrid approach. You build, deploy, and manage the core of your app or service on App Engine, where you can now also manage VMMs containing other components of the app or service deployed on Compute Engine. In addition, Google made many App Engine developers happy by announcing integration with both Git and GitHub.

PaaS is the hottest area of the cloud right now. Enterprises are actively exploring public cloud PaaS for building new, customer-facing applications -- many are looking at on-premises PaaS as well. Inside the enterprise data center, PaaS is poised to replace the application server, ushering in scale-out architecture and support for multiple languages.

3. SaaS redefined

Technically, SaaS is defined as multitenanted software maintained by the provider with a browser-based client, like Salesforce or Google Apps. But the user experience needs to come first. Using Office for the iPad is vastly better than trying to use Office Web Apps on the iPad, for example.

If Microsoft has really changed its tune and plans to support all platforms equally instead of saving the best user experience for Windows, then Office 365 and Azure could together become a SaaS powerhouse. Not necessarily SaaS in the Web app sense, but as a cloud distribution center for software by subscription, with Exchange, OneDrive file storage, Azure Active Directory for user identity, and more all maintained in the Microsoft cloud.

Ultimately, I can also see Microsoft expanding its line of enterprise apps, modeled along the lines of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, which is a classic SaaS app with a browser-based client. That's the new software model: native clients where they're needed for the user experience, JavaScript where it isn't, and back-end functionality in the cloud.

To be clear, the events of last week do not indicate that we're getting any nearer to putting "everything in the cloud." But it's getting clearer what should and shouldn't be there. And what should be there is getting closer to its destination.

This article, "What the latest cloud explosion really means," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Eric Knorr's Modernizing IT blog. And for the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld on Twitter.

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