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Can Platform as a Service (PaaS) vendors meet user expectations?

As enterprise cloud adoption increases, CIOs are looking not just to use the cloud as the next shiny technology, but to also harvest major benefits. Regulations and compliance bring a set of new challenges when new transformational technologies like cloud computing are adopted. Although large technology vendors have widely promoted private clouds, recent surveys show CIOs are willing to sit out the private cloud trend until public cloud matures enough for broader use. In the same manner, many enterprises bypass some Windows releases until an upgrade is announced that is proven to deliver reliable and significant bottom-line revenue.

Platform as a Service (PaaS) is often hawked by proponents as a technology that can improve application development by abstracting the infrastructure layer, envisioning a future where business users log on to a portal and assemble an innovative application without involving technical folks. For CIOs with large enough application development budgets, PaaS can deliver significant improvement to efficiency by embracing the DevOps model. For smaller enterprises and start-ups, PaaS can be a game changer by enabling custom applications to be built and delivered at lightning speed leveraging public cloud resources.

When enterprises adopt cloud computing, most expect lower costs to result. However, significantly more value can be harvested through a cloud’s ability to improve business agility. Software as a Service (SaaS) and Business Process as a Service (BPaaS) are easily measurable, since invoices are based on the volume of transactions consumed. However, since PaaS hides the underlying infrastructure complexity from developers, a great deal of the responsibility is placed on vendors who deliver the service.

Herein lies the challenge of PaaS adoption. Abstraction of infrastructure is the underlying value that removes the need for a developer to understand the intricacies of the entire cloud computing set-up, including integration, storage, network and compute resources. PaaS vendors are expected to optimize systems for best value to users and follow necessary protocols to ensure that users are meeting compliance guidelines. Recently, some users claimed to have been overcharged for infrastructure, suggesting that the PaaS vendor did not optimize resource utilization, leaving users responsible for the additional costs. While users get value from reduced complexity, they understandably tend to lose trust in vendors when they experience the abstracted infrastructure used inefficiently.

So how do vendors open visibility into PaaS infrastructures and remove any doubts users might have regarding the efficiency of the technology? While vendors are adding functionality to PaaS (like support for multiple languages or infrastructure portability), providing visibility into and clear communication of performance are important and must be continuously refined as adoption increases. Vendors and users need to collaborate so that best practices can be shared in the community. Finally, measurement standards should be developed to help users benchmark the performance comparing multiple PaaS platforms.

At Deploycon (www.deploycon.com) I will be moderating a panel on PaaS Visibility with experts from Ravello Systems, Engine Yard and HP. We plan to discuss the PaaS visibility problem, especially with regards to resource allocation, security and choice of components. It is our hope that the discussion increases awareness and helps PaaS users trust the platforms they choose.

We are offering exclusive discounts for RobustCloud readers:

  • The first 10 readers to register for the conference (using the code DCCOMP3) will have their conference fee waived.
  • All other RobustCloud readers who register, (using the code DCDI50 ) will enjoy 50% off the conference fees.
  • All Deploycon attendees will also receive access to CloudConnect keynotes and the expo hall.
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