PaaS tug of war over developers intensifies

Much of the news this week has centered on Platform as a Service (PaaS) and the increasingly vibrant competition in this market, which is great news for developers.

The multitude of PaaS providers are scrambling to support the broadest set of languages and frameworks to entice developers to their platforms, and it’s obvious why. The PaaS market did about a billion dollars in revenue worldwide in 2011 and is expected to hit $1.8 billion by 2015, according to various sources. Within the next decade it will be the dominant model for developing all applications.

Cloud IaaS giant, Amazon Web Services is on a tear to dominate in this arena just as it has at the infrastructure layer. To that end it has added support for Microsoft SQL Server to its relational database service (RDS). Previously users could deploy SQL Server on Amazon EC2, but it was much harder to manage. Amazon RDS takes care of this, resizing the database, patching, doing log backups for disaster recovery and monitoring, as your application and compute capacity scales.

In further support of Microsoft developers, Amazon added ASP.NET applications to it’s PaaS offering, Elastic Beanstalk. Previously Elastic Beanstalk only supported Java and PHP apps.

If you’re a Microsoft development shop, you’ll probably still use Microsoft’s Platform as a Service, Windows Azure. But for organizations plugging in SQL Server or .Net as a part of their stack, Amazon’s cloud is now a viable alternative. Amazon’s support for Microsoft developers is also a signal of the maturing of cloud services, as enterprise developers have been slower to adopt cloud services than developers in the web, mobile and gaming space.

Also this week, Red Hat talked up its PaaS, called OpenShift, but didn’t have much more to offer besides more talk. It’s been in developer preview since May 2011 via openshift.red.hat.com and a fee-based version is expected to be available later this year.

The Linux vendor said its plan is to provide a variety of consumption models across different cloud providers. So companies will be able to deploy and manage their own private PaaS, or deploy it on external clouds and in a couple of different models, including a DevOps model that lets developers deploy and manage their apps, or in an IT Ops model that gives IT organizations centralized control over the environment. The strategy sounds solid, but until it’s generally available developers are moving in their droves to all the other PaaS offering out there. Most notably, VMware’s Cloud Foundry PaaS, which has been an open source project for more than a year and has considerable momentum behind it.

Much of that momentum is coming from third party service providers who are taking the Cloud Foundry code and running it as a PaaS atop their existing infrastructure. Tier 3, an IaaS provider out of Bellevue, Washington announced this week that it’s using Cloud Foundry and Iron Foundry to offer a PaaS to its cloud customers.

There’s so much action in the PaaS arena right now that anyone in software that is not either playing with it, on the developer side, or building it on the vendor and provider side, is going to get left in the dark pretty quickly on this next wave of software development.

Question of the week

Which PaaS offerings will still be here in three years?
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