Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Enterprise PaaS

The recent PaaS announcements from Google and Amazon have grabbed the attention of the enterprise customer. Utility computing, clouds, pre-integrated platforms and business services are all sexy topics. But these same companies also realize that there are huge hurdles to adopting these concepts. They're big ships - and they don't turn easily.

How do I get PaaS?
Companies will ask how they can take advantage of this incredibly disruptive computing phase. I'm in agreement with Michael Nygard who feels that "everyone will want one". See:

Michael discusses the typical progression of high tech products:
  1. Very expensive. Only a few exist in the world. They are heavily time-shared, and usually oversubscribed.
  2. Within the reach of institutions and corporations, but not individuals. The organization wants to maximize utilization.
  3. Corporations own many, as productivity enhancers, some wealthy or forward-looking individuals own one. Families time share theirs.
  4. Virtually everyone has one. To lack one is to fall behind. No longer a competitive advantage, the lack of the technology puts one at a disadvantage.
  5. Invisibility. Most people have or use several, but are not aware of it.

Michael goes on to say that he feels that Cloud Computing is currently at Stage 1 but it won't be long before large enterprises want their own. I'd argue that several enterprises already have their own cloud or utility computing environment. However, not many of them have a pre-integrated, platform sitting on the cloud ready for I.T. customers to use. There's a big difference between virtualized hardware and offering a software computing platform.

If you need to store data using the Amazon or Google offering, the options are clear. They have a couple services available - just grab the one you want and use it. To accomplish the same task in your average enterprise I.T. shop, you'd call up your enterprise architect, get a copy of the Technical Reference Model, identify the applicable elements, and then go to an infrastructure group to try and get them loaded so that you can test to see if they will work for their project. Ugh!

It will take a rebellion for enterprise I.T. to change but this act might be sooner than you think. Developers are already using Amazon and will quickly be messing with Google. They'll be telling management that they want to use this stuff because it is quick and easy to get going. (It's the same reason why people wanted off the mainframe and eventually ignited the client/server era).

In my opinion, Enterprise PaaS is inevitable. Organizations will not be able to switch to a purely outsourced model but will look for hybrid solutions, including creating their own PaaS. The PaaS model of the future will have to embrace multiple PaaS vendors (dare I say federated Paas). But, of course, the major infrastructure vendors will offer a PaaS-in-a-Box that mimics their own hosted model (think Oracle/BEA, IBM, SAP, Microsoft).

Who will win?
It's too early to say. Early indications are that it isn't Google. Their decision to go "Python-Only" is an extremely strong statement. Personally, I can't think of a single enterprise that considers Python part of their strategic computing platform (nor do they have armies of trained Python developers). The winner should be IBM, but they tend to think everything is a consulting problem. SAP isn't exactly known for their technology... Amazon has done some pretty cool stuff. Normally I would have discounted them, but who knows? Salesforce has an early lead but they don't have much of a footprint in the enterprise. Oracle/BEA and Microsoft both have interesting prospects in this space. If I were a betting man (which I am), I'd throw my chips on these guys.

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