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What I'm Talking About When I'm Talking About PaaS


I recently got some feedback on my previous musing that from the customer viewpoint, PaaS equals automation. That led me to think of ways to articulate better what this means both to customers and vendors.

Customers are basically indifferent to PaaS. This can be seen in the very modest market for PaaS as opposed to all the other aaS-es. Where is the PaaS that is producing anywhere near the value of the biggest SalesForce's $2.3B in SaaS revenues or Amazon's ~$1B in IaaS revenues?

Customers are indicating - in the only way that matters - that they value they perceive from PaaS is orders of magnitude lower that the value of other cloud offerings.

Are customers right to be so indifferent about PaaS? In a word, yes.

Vendors have not done a good job of explaining the value of PaaS beyond singing paeans to productivity that comes from being able to deploy a complete application without having to configure the platform services for that application.

The NIST definition of PaaS defines it as "the capability to deploy applications onto the cloud without requiring the consumer to manage the underlying cloud infrastructure." (note: paraphrasing here as the NIST folks don't seem to write in English)

Here's the problem with that definition: it mirrors exactly how 99% of Enterprise developers already work! In the enterprise, the functional equivalent of PaaS is IT. Once an enterprise developer is done with their app, they throw it over the wall to dev ops/app ops folks who magically push it through the production cycle.

For most developers, the value proposition articulated by PaaS vendors just doesn't seem all that different from what they can get from internal IT or external IaaS.


  • IaaS allows me to rent a data center with a credit card and zero delay versus going through a six month IT acquisition cycle - eureka!
  • SaaS allows me to deploy whole new business capabilities without a two-year funding and development cycle - hallelujah!
  • PaaS has a lot more to offer than just productivity, but so far, that is all customers understand about it - so they let out a collective yawn.


Until PaaS vendors find ways to connect their platform to solving critical IT and business problems, PaaS will remain an under-perfoming member of the cloud family.

 

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