VoIP Business and Virtual PBX

Microsoft, Google, IBM and SalesForce.com heat up PaaS

While PaaS is after all a developing market, some experts predict that PaaS could become the most important cloud model. PaaS lets companies build customized applications and designed from the start to run in the cloud. In the nearly term companies that embrace PaaS have a market differentiator compared to competitors, says Steven Hendrick, an IDC analyst tracking the PaaS market. As the IaaS and SaaS offerings continue to gain widespread adoption, the real differentiators for companies will be applications they have tuned to the specifications of their business needs, he says.

PaaS has some research advantages as so then, he adds. A PaaS environment sits between the software and infrastructure layers, which gives applications designed in a PaaS space insight into the supply and demand of the cloud environment. "That uniquely positions them to understand the workload demands of the applications and the system resources of the infrastructure," Hendrick says.

One of those "new" tech companies O'Brien seemed to be referring to is Salesforce.com, Rob Woolen, senior vice president of the Salesforce Platform seemed to take some issue with. Salesforce was one of the first to define the SaaS market with its CRM tool that's hosted in the cloud, which Woolen says is now used by a majority of the Fortune 100 companies, proving the company's enterprise credentials. "The conversations we're having are not are you willing to store business critical information with us, it's what else can I do in the cloud?" he says. The company is moving authoritatively into the PaaS space as it has made public the platform that it built the Salesforce software on named Force.com. It as well purchased Heroku, the Ruby programming language, which has extended to include Java, Node.js, Python and other languages as then. "The real value of PaaS is that it allows clients to not spend time managing the infrastructure, however instead making their applications," he says. Salesforce and Force.com, he says, benefit from what he calls a federated security approach: Each of those Fortune 100 companies using Salesforce.com has independently verified the security processes of the software and if any bugs are found they alert the company and the bugs are fixed out across the entire system. This "democratized approach to security," he says, has built in a unequalled platform offering that he says has enterprise class security features.

Completely Internet

Google's heritage of being a completely Internet and cloud-based company give it advantages over legacy IT giants, says Peter Magnusson, an engineering director at Google. "Google has been a cloud company from the beginning," he says. The company's PaaS layer, named AppEngine, takes advantage of the breadth of services offered by the company. It can integrate with other Google apps, just as its e-mail, map and other features. "Looks at what your IT needs are," he says. "Don't miss the possibility because competitors may already be making the switch." Google launched AppEngine in preview in 2008 and launched it last year to support Java and Python languages. "Hereafter we'll stop talking about platform and infrastructure as two different things," he says. "There's a package that people want and users want a complete set of managed and unmanaged aspects of the cloud."

While the other three companies each have a PaaS offering of their own, IBM's strategy is to enable PaaS applications, says Mac Devine, director and CTO for the Cloud Portfolio of IBM Global Innovation Services. IBM breaks the PaaS world down into two main categories: Legacy applications that are being converted to be delivered through the cloud, and new applications that are built from scratch in a PaaS environment, and each one has its own needs. "If you try to build one platform that will satisfy developing both, you may satisfy neither," he says. IBM has a series of cloud products, including its PureSystems and SmartCloud appliances, which enable PaaS environments by allowing for migration of legacy data and applications into a new PaaS environment. Integration services, he says, will be key for migrating legacy applications to the cloud and allowing PaaS environments to interact with the IaaS layers. The company's purchase of Cast Iron last year, which specializes in cloud integration and migration, solidifies the company's position. As a differentiator as the PaaS market grows, he says there will be an increased desire by developers to integrate big data analytics and tools into those applications, which IBM has to tools to supply.

Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

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