Although the platform as a service (PaaS) market is smaller than both IaaS and SaaS segments of the cloud computing industry, research firm Forrester says this technology could be one of the most important cloud-based services for businesses moving forward.
While IaaS provides infrastructure for companies to get on-demand virtual machines, storage, databases and other services and SaaS vendors offer a cloud-based version of an application, PaaS vendors provide an application development platform for building and hosting customized applications that are tuned specifically for their business's needs. "Public cloud platforms are the keys that unlock the flexibility, productivity, and economic advantages of cloud computing," says the research firm's most recent Wave report on the public cloud platform market.
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Familiar faces from the cloud industry are quickly establishing themselves as the heavyweights in this market, Forrester found. Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and Salesforce.com offer the broadest range of services for the PaaS market, plus they combine a strong network of partnering companies and enough market share for them to be stable over the long-term, Forrester says. But instead of offering a pure-play PaaS, these vendors are blurring the lines between their strongholds in the IaaS and SaaS markets and increasingly incorporating PaaS functionality into their services, Forrester cloud experts James Staten and John Rymer found after reviewing 60 vendors and writing in-depth profiles of 14.
IaaS vendors such as Amazon Web Services are rolling out features that make it easier for developers to not only build applications in its cloud, but scale them and host them. Core services like its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) on-demand virtual machines and Simple Storage Service (S3) are augmented by more developer-focused services like Elastic BeanStalk and Amazon Simple Workflow Service, and a broad variety of software development kits (SDKs). AWS does not have a pure PaaS offering, instead, it has "focused on providing a collection of services that can be combined with custom code to accelerate application creation," Forrester reports.
On the other end of the PaaS spectrum would be a company like Salesforce.com, which has a strong holding in the SaaS market, and has begun expanding its services into the PaaS market. The company's Force.com platform provides a way for workers with little coding experience to create applications and workflows that integrate with its core SaaS offering, which focuses on customer relationship management (CRM). In addition to Force.com, it also has Heroku, which is tailored more toward developers who want to customize their code. Ironically, Heroku runs on AWS's infrastructure.