I’ve always had a soft spot for .NET PaaS provider Apprenda, they were one of the very first PaaS providers, their CEO Sinclair Schuller is a thought leader around PaaS and Cloud more generally and they display a laser focus on sticking to their core business – delivering the best PaaS stack for .NET possible. That said they’re a vendor who has been eclipsed a little by the likes of Heroku, CloudFoundry and others as the industry looks to polyglot as the preferred way to deliver Paas.
AppFog on the other hand is a recent newcomer that, from its former days as a PHP PaaS, has broadened to be all things to all people. Built on top of CloudFoundry, AppFog is an important player in the burgeoning PaaS space. It is a strongly polyglot following platform and is happy to shout the fact from the rooftops.
Both providers are simultaneously releasing (at least in both cases to a select group of customers with GA due in the next few months) a hybrid cloud solution for .NET. Essentially with these products, organizations can achieve symmetry between on-premise or private cloud and public Windows Azure. This is a big deal as hybrid cloud, and in particular the idea of moving workloads more easily between traditional and public cloud infrastructure takes hold. This product will prove attractive for existing customers, as well as organizations with applications written in other languages who want to move onto Microsoft Azure. The solutions enable companies to sidestep the debate around public versus private cloud and run their applications wherever they see fit.
In terms of functional breadth, Apprenda Azure provides enterprises with new hybrid cloud capabilities, such as:
- The transitioning of applications and workloads between Windows Azure and internal data center resources
- Simplified IT management with the ability to pool both public and private infrastructure resource, define usage policies, and more, all from a single dashboard
- Increased developer productivity through frameworks and APIs integrated with Visual Studio to accelerate application development and deployment to internal or external infrastructure resources
AppFog on the other hand promises;
- Interoperability of cloud service providers
- Extended developer language and service support for AppFog and Windows Azure customers including support for Enterprise .NET, PHP and Node.js applications
- A new, simple and flexible approach for open source developers to try Windows Azure
In articulating the value of their Azure functionality, Schuller said that;
Hybrid cloud is the end state for enterprises. Instead of fragmented capabilities split between public and private cloud infrastructure, enterprises receive full-scope benefits without previous lock-in limitations or added risk. With Apprenda Azure, enterprises get the ability to merge their public Azure resources with their datacenters, getting the best of public and private cloud for .NET all under one umbrella.
AppFog CEO Lucas Carlson reall talks up how big this is in terms of moving CloudFoundry across may different infra providers;
CloudFoundry has created an industry standard API around PaaS, AppFog working together with Microsoft has proven that the API can be implemented across wildly different backend providers, creating consistency and reducing vendor lock-in for developers.
Polyglot PaaS makes total sense from the perspective of delivering to the widest possible audience, no one is denying the real strength that Microsoft holds with enterprise developers. While a polyglot PaaS supporting .NET could arguably deliver the same functional strength as a pure-play .NET PaaS, the perception amongst developers is that best of breed is just that, the best tool for their particular language of choice.Given that Apprenda is both articulating a pure play .NET story and also with this release a strongly hybrid-centric one, I believe that Apprenda Azure will see the company gain more attention, credibility and ultimately customer success.
That said, indications are that Microsoft sees this move as much broader than .NET, rather it’s an opportunity to go wide and attract large numbers of applications on Azure, regardless of language. That’s a pretty strong blow to those (Apprenda in particular) asserting a best of breed position. I put this hypothetical situation to Schuller who said that;
it [developments like the AppFog deal] could be a bonafide hybrid competitor to us, but in a weak market position since its primary sponsor (VMware) is Microsoft’s biggest enemy. Because of this, a CloudFoundry based competitor would not be aligned with Microsoft and would unlikely fill the market gap of helping enterprises bridge into Azure over time, putting them at a significant strategic disadvantage (I.e. our goal is to help people adopt Azure, theirs would not be, thereby nullifying their market position in he context of Microsoft)
Schuller has a point, but while AppFog is built on CloudFoundry, all things being equal they are more than happy for customers to move to Azure. I’m sure there were some strong discussions about the issue between the two parties with the agreement that the fact that AppFog is built on top of an arch rival’s product should be put to the side in the interests of gaining mutual customers. What that means for Apprenda only time will tell.
For someone who follows the machinations of the PaaS world pretty carefully – these are two exciting, and fascinating, pieces of news.