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A world of PaaS-ibilities

Platform-as-a-service market remains fragmented, but clear leaders should emerge within next year or two

By Christine Burns, Network World
February 27, 2012 12:00 AM ET

Network World - Enterprise developers looking to tap into Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings over the next 18 months will not want for choice. In fact, one could argue that the existence of so many choices is creating confusion and inhibiting the growth of PaaS.

Gartner has estimated that the worldwide PaaS market will reach $927.3 million this year. The biggest segment of the market (pulling down 38%) is what Gartner calls aPaaS -- or application PaaS - which is defined as a service that offers functionality similar to that of an application server in the traditional on-premises software architecture sense.

TECH ARGUMENT: IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS

10 most powerful PaaS companies

IPass -- a suite of cloud services enabling development, execution and governance of integration flows between any combination of on-premises and cloud-based processes, services, applications and data within individual, or across multiple organizations -- is a very distant second in Gartner's forecast. From there, the PaaS categories get broken down into application life-cycle PaaS, business process management PaaS, database PaaS and messaging PaaS, to name only a few of the "other" market segments.

What further complicates the PaaS menu is that vendors jockeying for position in this space can't be neatly categorized. Most deliver a variety of services that span Gartner's segmentation. Take PaaS power player SalesForce.com, for example. It's got its own foot in four segments, sometimes with multiple offerings. Partners building services on top of the SalesForce.com platform play in still other categories. Microsoft's Azure PaaS conglomeration touches on four PaaS segments, as does IBM's portfolio, and Google registers in three.

Even seemingly razor focused start-ups like CloudBees, which has pinned its early success on bringing both existing and new Java-centric applications into the cloud (see Case Study), play in multiple PaaS segments. CloudBees CEO Sacha Labourey, considers this type of breadth a competitive advantage. "What we're offering is complete, end-to-end life cycle management for Java-based cloud applications," Labourey says.

It makes perfect sense for vendors to be scrambling to cover as much PaaS ground as possible because - as Gartner and several other competing analyst firms contend - the market currently stands at the cusp of several years of strategic growth, hitting $1.755 billion by 2015. Industry watchers predict there will be an eventual aggregation of PaaS offerings into suites that are both well integrated and optimized. Gartner says this process will take place in steps with PaaS functionalities consolidating around certain use cases circa 2013 with integrated, comprehensive PaaS offerings emerging in 2015.

"Whoever owns the platform this year will own the cloud for the next 10 years," says Kamesh Pemmaraju, head of marketing for Cloud Technology Partners, a cloud computing consultancy.

Pemmaraju divides the PaaS playing field into public and private sectors. Public PaaS vendors - companies like Saleforce.com with Force.com and Google with App Engine -- are the most mature in his estimation. "You just subscribe to these services and access them through a Web browser. You own nothing. You just jump in," Pemmaraju says.

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