This is how we know PaaS is winning

September 7, 2012

We talk to a lot of analysts and a lot of journalists here at AppFog. One of the questions we’ve been asked a lot over the last two years is, “is the Enterprise really going to adopt PaaS?”

In the last week we’ve seen the clearest indications yet that the Enterprise is already adopting PaaS. Sure there are seven-figure deals being signed. Sure Fortune 500 companies are adopting PaaS. Sure Intel decided to fully back Cloud Foundry. But I am not talking about those today. Today I am talking about the clearest indication that PaaS is being adopted by the Enterprise yet. I’m talking about how the legacy Enterprise IT vendors are suddenly trying to insert themselves into the PaaS discussion either by (falsely) claiming that they offer PaaS or by trying to control the PaaS environment.

This is perfectly illustrated by two news items that have been heavily discussed at this week’s cloud related events and by leading analysts covering the cloud.

First – Oracle announced that they have created and submitted standards to govern and define PaaS.

Second – Enterprise IT automation software provider rPath repositioned to claim that they are a PaaS provider.

Nothing pleases us more than to see this sort of validation for Platform-as-a-Service. It’s obvious that within the Enterprise the argument is over and PaaS has now crossed the chasm.

That said, it would be irresponsible of us to not comment on these two news items.

Let the Market and the Market Leaders Define Standards

While it is clear that the lack of standards (and more importantly the lack of common definitions) is negatively impacting Enterprise adoption of PaaS — we feel that standards should be set by the market and by the market leaders. While we have enormous respect for Oracle and what they have built and accomplished, they are not leaders in the Cloud market much less the PaaS sector. Oracle’s move reminds us of the failed attempts by vendors to create semi-proprietary mobile web protocols like WML and WAP.

The reality is that the market is already adopting an existing standard for PaaS and it is called Cloud Foundry. The Cloud Foundry ecosystem encompasses the leading v2.0 PaaS providers and the leader in virtualization. This endorsement plus the market’s buying decisions clearly indicate that Cloud Foundry should be at the present time consider the de facto standard for PaaS. Given this – as said above, we feel that the standards should be set by the market – and the market leaders.

And Oracle is, frankly, not a leader in this market. As Ben Kepes put it, “The companies pushing for a PaaS standard can’t rightly claim a dominant incumbent that needs to be brought down by open standards, rather they’re trying to find de facto ways of becoming important.”

We see no reason why the market or the PaaS vendors need a new standard and cannot help but assume that this is simply a somewhat cynical attempt to stall a fast-moving train that Oracle missed.

A Platform is a Platform is a Platform – And Service is Service

The rPath announcement, on the other hand, is (to paraphrase leading cloud analyst Krishnan Subramanian) “pure marketing BS.”

While we are flattered that non-PaaS vendors would see so much opportunity in the PaaS space that they would reposition their entire business to claim that they are a PaaS provider – the reality is that claiming you are a PaaS does not make you a PaaS.

Now… let me first say that what rPath actually does do (providing a toolkit and services to help Enterprise companies migrate legacy apps to the cloud) is not only worthwhile but is in fact highly valuable. Every large company has legacy apps that need to migrate to the cloud – and few if any of these companies have the tools and skills to do this effectively and efficiently. Providing services that automate and manage this is a great business and rPath should be praised and supported for doing this.

But being a PaaS provider is not as simple as saying, “hey presto! We’re a PaaS now!!”

First of all – you need to be a Platform. To quote Wikipedia, “A platform might be simply defined as a place to launch software.” A toolkit or toolchain is not, by definition, a Platform (or by definition a PaaS) in other words.

Secondly – you need to deliver your Platform “as-a-Service.” If your Platform is installed software – it’s not PaaS. If your Platform is purchased hardware – it’s not PaaS.

To quote Gartner’s Lydia Leong, PaaS is “Scalable elastic on-demand app infrastructure functionality where underlying system infrastructure is abstracted.”

Given this, rPath is simply not a PaaS provider.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

At the end of the day, as much as the efforts of these non-PaaS companies to gain credence, control and credibility in the PaaS space might frustrate us – it’s also fantastic validation of what we and the other (true) PaaS providers have built.

We and all our partners have said for more than a year now that PaaS will be the default primary Enterprise Cloud Touchpoint for devs. Moments like this should make all of us smile and say, “told you so.”

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