LAS VEGAS—The definition of platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and how the cloud computing paradigm are evolving seem to be in the eyes of the beholder, according to members of a panel of cloud vendors at the Cloud Connect Summit, which was co-located with the Interop conference.
Mark Russinovich, a technical Fellow at Microsoft, said he sees different types of PaaS platforms: compute PaaS offerings that include code with a runtime operating environment and PaaS platforms that simply enable developers to drop code into a virtual machine.
For Margaret Dawson, vice president of product marketing and cloud evangelist at Hewlett-Packard Cloud Services, the concept of a PaaS is all about providing a full application development environment that also includes management capabilities.
Jesse Proudman, founder and CEO at Blue Box, said PaaS is all about providing a service catalog of consumable services, which could include application delivery or database capabilities. PaaS is a layer of abstraction that can enable workloads to move from cloud to cloud, he added.
Krishnan Subramanian, director of OpenShift strategy at Red Hat, has a simple litmus test of defining what is and what isn't a PaaS. With a true PaaS, an application can scale with a platform and the underlying infrastructure, he said.
Though PaaS is currently defined differently from the infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platform, there is a coming convergence between the two. An IaaS is typically associated with a cloud service like Amazon whose users configure and manage services on their own.
Russinovich explained that Microsoft's Azure started out as a pure PaaS play, but it's a model that is now changing. What Microsoft realized over time is that people also want additional flexibility to leverage the platform for customized needs.
"A year ago, we made infrastructure-as-a-service generally available, and we're on a path now to blend the two worlds," Russinovich said.
The panel also took aim at the question of where PaaS should run.
If a PaaS is built properly, the actual underlying IaaS or physical infrastructure should not matter, Proudman said.
"Where PaaS vendors need to spend energy is building compatibility and abstraction from provider to provider," Proudman said. "The application shouldn't care where it's running."
The question of whether a PaaS platform should be open-source or not was also a subject of debate among panelists.
A PaaS platform doesn't need to be open-source; it just needs to be portable so developers can take their applications and deploy it in the cloud or in their own data centers, Russinovich said.
Subramanian explained that open source is important to building an ecosystem.
"Open source opens up more opportunities," he said.
Red Hat has its own open-source PaaS platform called OpenShift, while Pivotal's Cloud Foundry is another popular open-source PaaS on the market.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.