Will PAAS Solve All Developer Ills?

With interest in platform as a service on the rise, what must developers look for to ensure that they are making the right moves and not falling into traps of previous generations of technology?

When it comes to the alphabet soup of cloud computing, at least one vendor is staying above the fray. Amazon Web Services, whose offerings include IAAS, PAAS and SAAS (infrastructure, platform and software as a service), is intent on not being grouped under any particular label.

"We don't spend any time talking about the acronyms," Andy Jassy, senior vice president of AWS, told eWEEK. "All those lines will get blurred over time. It's a construct to box people in and it fits some stack paradigm. We started with raw storage, raw compute, and raw database in SimpleDB. And we've added load balancing, a relational database, Hadoop and Elastic Map reduce, a management GUI... All those lines start to get blurred, and you can expect to see additional abstraction from us."

Amazon Web Services' objections aside, the January release of the company's Elastic Beanstalk service offers an excellent example of PAAS, versus IAAS: Developers upload their Java applications into the Elastic Beanstalk service, and Amazon handles all the capacity provisioning, load balancing, auto-scaling and application-health-monitoring details. The PAAS service taps lower-level AWS services to do the work, with compute power provided by Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud, an archetypal IAAS offering.

If you mapped an existing IT organization to the new world of the cloud, your IT operations team would be the IAAS layer, the standard applications (email, social, office, ERP, CRM, etc.) would be available as SAAS, and the custom applications would run on a PAAS, Sacha Labourey, CEO and founder of Java PAAS player CloudBees, told eWEEK. So all three of them are really important as companies move toward the cloud, he said.

Ross Mason, CTO and founder of MuleSoft, which offers an iPAAS (integration platform as a service) solution, said, "SAAS changes the way we acquire applications, IAAS changes the way we deploy and consume infrastructure and PAAS changes the way we build applications. Platform is the magic word; it creates a development platform for building software in the cloud. It's important to understand that, like enterprise software platforms, the PAAS universe is evolving to serve various development communities, e.g., languages, as well as serve different functions."

Bob Bickel, an advisor at CloudBees and chairman at eXo, said, "PAAS is for developers what virtualization was for system administrators. Virtualization let sys admins forget about the underlying servers and to really share resources a lot more effectively. PAAS will be the same, and in a long-term vision really supplants lower layers like OS and virtualization as being the key platform custom apps and SAAS are deployed on."

Patrick Kerpan, president, CTO and co-founder of CohesiveFT, a maker of onboarding solutions for cloud computing, told eWEEK: "The significance of PAAS will be the transition from OS-based features to network-based features, that take advantage of growing customer acceptance of the idea and the fact that their information assets (their -stuff') is -out there somewhere' and the increasing ability of PAAS (and applications built on top of it) to seem more local, controlled and secure."