Will 2012 be the year of platform as a service?
If you let the vendors tell it, 2011 was to be the year PaaS offerings began to coalesce and take off. And the major market research firms have been watching the space carefully, predicting consolidation and more and more investment in PaaS.
While many people are still unfamiliar with the concept of PaaS, Gartner has actually been tracking PaaS since 2007. In its latest report about the technology, the research firm said that PaaS revenue would rise about 38 percent from $512.4 million in 2010 to $707.4 million in 2011.
PaaS represents the on-ramp to the cloud in that it provides the linkage between application platforms and underlying cloud infrastructures, according to Forrester Research. Further, Forrester defines platform as a service as a complete application platform for multitenant cloud environments that includes development tools, runtime, and administration and management tools and services and adds that PaaS combines an application platform with managed cloud infrastructure services.
With more IT suppliers moving their offerings to the cloud and more enterprises adopting the cloud computing model for a number of reasons--fast, easy deployment, immediate access to resources, immediate scalability, at-your-request development and testing capability, and pay-as-you-go pricing--the cloud model continues to grow and offer a viable alternative to on-premise solutions.
"I think that PaaS is a foundation for a major transformation of how people build software," said Dave West, an analyst with Forrester. "Imagine a world where business-type people, or at least business developer types, assemble their applications from a combination of PaaS and software as a service. This is particularly true for systems of engagement, with a strong focus on the consumption rather than the creation of information. It will be interesting to see how the PaaS vendors shake out in the next year."
In many cases, PaaS is viewed as an alternative to middleware stacks offered by the likes of IBM, Microsoft and other software providers.
Depending on which cloud technology provider you ask Salesforce.com, Microsoft, Google or VMware--almost all appear to have leadership positions in PaaS.
In a May 2012 report on PaaS, Forrester chose Salesforce.com and Microsoft as leaders.
However, Evans Data ranked VMware s Cloud Foundry as the top technology in its PaaS survey, while giving IBM and Google high marks. Forrester also gave Google credit for its early entry with Google App Engine.
The PaaS space is in the process of evolution. It represents a new development paradigm and can enable users to move existing applications to new platforms.
For instance, Jelastic, a Palo Alto, Calif., startup that provides a next-generation cloud platform for Java server hosting, offers a PaaS product that enables Java applications to be uploaded in minutes without changes to code or programming language and with no need to write for specific APIs.
Application developers can choose which stack components they want and need, and their application will run and scale on the Jelastic platform.
However, not all PaaS offerings are created equal. Some are more complete than others. Most PaaS providers like startup Jelastic and CloudBees are small, and even large vendors like Google and Microsoft have incomplete offerings, according to Forrester.
In a blog post from May, Forrester analyst John Rymer wrote: "The PaaS market is a sprawling, fast-changing, and immature market. Most PaaS vendors are small, and even big vendors like Google and Microsoft have incomplete, new products. Salesforce.com has the most mature PaaS, but it just acquired an entirely new PaaS product (Heroku), and its fit into the portfolio and strategy isn't yet clear."
Despite its immaturity, the PaaS space deserves continued monitoring by enterprise IT managers and development teams as it becomes a favored method of developing and deploying new applications.