Which cloud is best for building new applications? That depends on your developers and how they like to code, according to new research from Forrester.
There are a lot of cloud platform choices though, so Forrester analyzed 16 vendors. A handful -- such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Salesforce.com -- met stringent enterprise security and maturity criteria. But each of those vendors caters to a different type of developer.
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“Public cloud platforms take several forms, including those providing basic infrastructure-as-a-service up through those providing full or partial platform services and tools. Each of these types of platforms is best suited to a distinct type of application development and delivery (AD&D) pro within your ranks,” states the Forrester report, titled Enterprise Public Cloud Platforms, Q4 2014.
Not all developers create applications the same way. Some want to write code fast, launch quickly and not have to deal with provisioning the infrastructure required to run their apps. Other developers want to tinker with the underlying infrastructure when launching new programs to specify it to their applications’ needs. Through contact with many enterprises, the report’s primary authors John Rymer and James Staten (Staten recently accepted a job at Microsoft) have found that there are three basic types of developers:
*Rapid Developers: These developers value ease of use, prefer graphic development interfaces and limited coding. They want to build applications in weeks or days, and don’t want to waste time configuring infrastructure.
*Coders: These developers love to code, but they don’t want to manage the infrastructure necessary to write applications. They thrive in a cloud-based application development platform that configures the resources they need but still gives them the opportunity to tinker with some infrastructure components to get the best app performance.
*Devops: These developers like to be hands-on with the infrastructure supporting the apps they write. They want to manage the databases, virtual machines and storage that their applications rely on.
There’s another important party here that can’t be left out: The CIO. Theoretically, the CIO should be in charge of deciding where developers build and host new applications. Unlike the developer who is concerned with building apps, the CIO is primarily concerned with security and compliance, along with developer productivity.
Familiar cloud players
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Forrester found that big-name vendors are the most attractive cloud platform providers for both CIOs and developers. AWS, Microsoft and Salesforce stood out for services that have earned the trust of CIOs while having the tools developers need.
But different cloud providers serve specific niches better than others. For example, Forrester says Salesforce.com is ideal for the “rapid developer” group. Mendix, another PaaS provider, and OutSystems, scored highly in this category as well. These vendors provide easy development platforms with graphical user interfaces for building apps. The Salesforce1 platform integrates such apps directly with its popular CRM SaaS platform. This allows apps to be built quickly with little coding or infrastructure management.
Other coders and devops pros want to be more hands on with the infrastructure. For these developers, platforms like AWS and Microsoft score highly. As Infrastructure-as-a-Service platform providers, these vendors give users the ability to control the virtual machines, storage and databases their applications run on. Salesforce (with its Heroku platform), IBM and Google scored favorably for coder-specific and Devops-friendly clouds, too.
Complicating this issue is another trend that Forrester has found. The cloud market is becoming more complex as vendors overlap their services.
For example, AWS and Rackspace were once considered pure IaaS vendors. Now they fashion their clouds as not only platforms for IaaS functions like hosting virtual machines and databases, but they also provide Platform-as-a-Service offerings such as middleware and application development environments for building applications. Meanwhile, PaaS vendors offer the ability to build applications on their platforms, while enabling developers to customize the underlying infrastructure as well. And SaaS providers like Salesforce.com, Intuit, NetSuite, Box and others are allowing customers to build applications in their cloud that integrate closely with their hosted software.
The blurring of the lines among vendors reinforces Forrester’s point that instead of considering vendors based on whether they’re in the IaaS, PaaS or SaaS market, CIOs should evaluate providers based on the platform they offer to developers.
With a fast-moving cloud computing market expected to continue to spur innovations, Forrester says it’s important to consider many factors related to finding the right provider: Does their platform match the developer style within your enterprise? Does it meet your security and compliance needs? Are there any integrations with existing systems or platforms that need to be considered? Those end up being the driving factors for choosing providers.