MAAS (Mudslinging as a Service) at Web 2.0

Who's a real platform provider? Opinions abound at Web 2.0.

SAN FRANCISCO-A funny thing happened in the buildup to the Web 2.0 Expo.

During briefings with Web application platform provider Etelos and PAAS (platform as a service) provider Bungee Labs, it became clear there is some disconnect on what companies qualify as platform providers and which simply don't.

For example, when asked if there were too many application platform providers in the market, Etelos Founder and Chief Technology Officer Danny Kolke said too many companies are calling themselves Web platform providers, even though they aren't actually platform providers.

"I struggled with this because when Facebook released their 'platform,' can you really build and host a database application on Facebook? As an enterprise app developer, can I actually build and host an app with Google?" Etelos told eWEEK while discussing the new beta of Etelos' AOP (Apps on a Plane).

These were rhetorical questions from Kolke: Clearly the answer on Facebook is no, while Google, he said, is starting to head in that direction with its new App Engine, which Sun Microsystems' Tim Bray has likened to "sharecropping."

"It's a Python-thing, sort of," Kolke said. AppExchange, which Etelos views as a proprietary rival, is a "Java-like thing," Kolke said. "Most of them are not really open. And then you go to folks that are totally open and they're so open that they're basically an on-demand ISP [such as] Amazon EC2 and what they're doing."

What does Kolke mean? Etelos is based on the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP/Python/Perl) stack, which means you can run Linux Apache, MySQL and Python applications on the company's platform. Because Google and support only one language, and because Amazon Web Services doesn't place constraints on languages, Kolke isn't inclined to see them as a true platform.

"The challenge with all of the new platform models is there's not a bridge to the legacy world, which is why we base what we're doing on open standards," he said.

Meanwhile, Brad Hintze, director of product marketing for Bungee Labs, told eWEEK that Bungee is best articulating a complete PAAS.

To wit, Bungee defines PAAS as a single environment delivering the entire software life cycle as a service.

This includes cloud-based integration that lets programmers develop, test, deploy and host on the same integrated environment; automated integration of Web services and databases; built-in team collaboration; built-in scalability, reliability and security; and detailed application instrumentation.

In other words, Bungee Connect aims to be everything a developer needs to create applications for theusers-in Bungee's case, CRM (customer relationship management) and e-commerce business users.

"Etelos, Amazon EC2, Google's App Engine ... many of them are targeting the business end user instead of the developer," Hintze told eWEEK in a briefing on the company's new products. "The distinction we're trying to make is that PAAS needs to span the whole application lifecycle."

In that case, even Kolke's Etelos platform does not fit the bill.

Religious evangelism from Kolke and marketing chutzpah from Hintze aside, all of these companies-Google, Amazon Web Services, Etelos, Bungee Labs, and so on-are Web platform providers.

They're just different iterations of platforms, different levels of completeness and, obviously, openness. Do products such as Etelos need to be open-source to qualify as Web platforms? No. Moreover, it may be incorrect if not impossible to try to be the full PAAS Bungee is shooting for.

There no doubt will be more definitions slung around at the Web 2.0 show, which is littered with PAAS companies and opinions.