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Is the PaaS market as we know it dying?

IaaS and SaaS companies putting the squeeze on PaaS vendors

By , Network World
January 13, 2014 04:12 PM ET

Network World - Cloud's platform as a service (PaaS) market hasn't even grown up yet, but already some people are saying it's doomed.

A report by 451 Research Group’s Senior Analyst Jay Lyman titled “Is PaaS becoming just a feature of IaaS?” codified a growing theory within the cloud computing industry that the PaaS market - which provides a cloud-based application development environment - will be consolidated into the two other major cloud models, infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and software as a service (SaaS).

Already IaaS and SaaS vendors have rolled out PaaS-like features for customers to build applications on their services. Leading SaaS company Salesforce.com, for example, has Force.com for users to build custom applications based on data already in the company’s cloud. IaaS providers like VMware, CenturyLink and Verizon have adopted PaaS technologies so customer can build applications and then host them in their IaaS cloud. Meanwhile, there is a market of independent PaaS vendors taking a plethora of approaches to serve the needs of application developers. But, reports like Lyman’s cast a shadow of doubt over just what the future of this industry holds.

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PaaS is an application development environment that sits in between IaaS and SaaS models. IaaS provides virtual compute, storage, database and other infrastructure hardware services on-demand, while SaaS gives customers cloud-based applications. PaaS allows developers to build applications that run in a cloud without having to worry about the underlying hardware that will be required to host it. A PaaS usually comes with tools to bake in features to the application, such as easy integration with security authentication services like Active Directory. Various PaaSs cater to applications written in different programming languages like .NET, Java or Ruby, while other PaaSs are polyglot, meaning they support multiple languages.

Because PaaSs are a way to build applications and the IaaS and SaaS layers host apps, there are natural confluences between these markets. IaaS and SaaS vendors are rolling out PaaS feature to become a one-stop shop for cloud services.

A lot of people want to say PaaS is DOA – dead on arrival.

That could be good for end users, but Lyman says it could squeeze out pure-play PaaS vendors. “It is clear that PaaS is facing pressure and potentially being supplanted from below in the IT software stack by IaaS and from above by SaaS,” he writes in his report (This is a view that others in the industry, like North Bridge Venture Capital’s Michael Skok have expressed as well). “This is not to say PaaS as a set of capabilities and features or as a market will simply vanish, but it does highlight how the definition of PaaS is changing, particularly in the context of IaaS and SaaS,” Lyman’s report continues.  

PaaS has played an important role in the cloud, and enthusiasts say that it could be a key model for enterprises to build custom applications in the future. Some of the biggest IaaS vendors in the market began their cloud go-to market strategies with PaaS before rolling out IaaS. Azure PaaS was the first Microsoft cloud service, while Google launched Google Application Engine (GAE) before Google Compute Engine (GCE), its IaaS.

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