Platform as a service (PaaS) is a core layer of the cloud computing architecture, and its evolution will affect the future of most users and vendors in enterprise software markets, according to IT research firm Gartner. PaaS is a common reference to the layer of cloud technology architecture that contains all application infrastructure services, which are also known as "middleware" in other contexts.
PaaS is the middle layer of the end-to-end software stack in the cloud. It is the technology that intermediates between the underlying system infrastructure (operating systems, networks, virtualization, storage, etc.) and overlaying application software. The technology services that are part of a full-scope comprehensive PaaS include functionality of application containers (servers), application development tools, database management systems, integration middleware, portal products and business process management suites-all offered as a service.
"With large and growing vendor investment in PaaS, the market is on the cusp of several years of strategic growth, leading to innovation and likely breakthroughs in technology and business use of all of cloud computing," said Yefim Natis, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "Users and vendors of enterprise IT software solutions that are not yet engaged with PaaS must begin building expertise in PaaS or face tough challenges from competitors in the coming years."
As Gartner predicted last year in the report "PaaS Road Map: A Continent Emerging," the broad vendor adoption in 2011 amounted to a sound industry endorsement of PaaS as an alternative to the traditional middleware deployment models. In 2012, the PaaS market is at its early stage of growth and does not yet have well-established leaders, best use or business practices, or dedicated standards, and the adoption of PaaS offerings is still associated with some degree of uncertainty and risk, the report said.
"However, PaaS products are likely to evolve into a major component of the overall cloud computing market, just as the middleware products-including application servers, database management systems (DBMSs), integration middleware and portal platforms-are the core foundation of the traditional software industry," Natis said. "The tension between the short-term risk and the long-term strategic imperative of PaaS will define the key developments in the PaaS market during the next two to three years."
Some of the newly announced PaaS offerings will reach general availability late in 2012, and by the end of 2013, all major software vendors will have competitive production offerings in the PaaS market. By 2016, competition among the PaaS vendors will produce new programming models, new standards and new software market leaders. However, until then, users will continue to experience architectural changes to technologies, business models and vendor alignments in the PaaS market.
"While there are clear risks associated with the use of services in the new and largely immature PaaS market, the risk of avoiding the PaaS market is equally high," Natis said. "The right strategy for most mainstream IT organizations and software vendors is to begin building familiarity with the new cloud computing opportunities by adopting some PaaS services now, albeit with the understanding of their limitations and with the expectation of ongoing change in the market offerings and use patterns."