Platform as a service is the fastest-growing area of cloud computing: Gartner forecasts the worldwide enterprise market for PaaS platforms will grow from $900 million in 2011 to $2.9 billion in 2016, representing a 26.6 percent rise each year.
The problem is that no two PaaS offerings are alike. Plus, as the market expands, anything and everything that looks like development is adopting the PaaS label, further confusing the field. As a result, I see weak excuses for PaaS clouds these days as wannabes toss their hats into the arena and chase the gold in them thar clouds. But ignore them. The truth is that a small set of established providers rule -- and will continue to rule -- PaaS.
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The core PaaS providers are Amazon.com, Red Hat, Google, Microsoft, Heroku (now part of Salesforce.com), and Engine Yard. Dozens of others may wave their tiny little arms, but the game is shifting toward big infrastructure and devops, both of which these core companies are already covering. The reality is that the smaller providers don't have the money to make the investments, so the larger providers have little to worry about. Thus, the smaller providers will become niche players quickly.
That infrastructure scale has other implications than your vendor choice. The major PaaS providers (Google and Microsoft) are building bigger and better storage, database, and compute services for application operations. In other words, they're moving down the stack from PaaS to IaaS. Others, such as Amazon.com, are moving from IaaS up to PaaS or up the stack -- like Elastic Beanstalk.
The clear trend for the vendors is that they need to have IaaS in their PaaS, else they'll be SOL. For IT and developers, that means app dev and raw cloud capacity are becoming part of a larger cloud context -- in other words, devops in the cloud.
Given this industry direction, the best way to think about PaaS is as a means to extend core cloud services to solve business problems. IaaS is the pool of infrastructure resources, such as storage, data, and compute power that you need to execute those services. PaaS is how you're able to transform those services into application and business processes. Because the apps and their enabling infrastructure are in the cloud, you can operate those applications reliably with an increasing set of services and features.
This article, "PaaS promises devops in the cloud," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.