PaaS 2013

DSC_1139I started out 2013 working as an analyst focussed on cloud services, in general, and Platform as a Service, in particular. By the end of 2013, I am now the Strategy guy for OpenShift @ Red Hat focussing more on OpenShift platform. As I plot my way to keep the research community around Rishidot Research going with independent content in 2014, I thought I will use the last day of 2013 to take a look back on what happened in the PaaS space this year, without putting my Red Hat on. My advanced apologies if there is any tinge of bias in this post but I am trying my best to keep this post clean.

2013 started off with PaaS in the hype phase with punditry getting excited about PaaS. In fact, Deploycon 2013, a PaaS conference organized by my research firm Rishidot Research, was a huge success with solid discussions on how organizations are using PaaS and the evolution of platforms to meet the big data needs. You can watch the videos of the conference here. As 2013 progressed, and especially towards the end of the year, the mood in punditry turned from excitement to disillusionment. This is yet another example of punditry’s quarter by quarter short term thinking and their faster gravitation towards next talking point. I could confidently use this snark because 2013 has really been a successful year for many vendors in the PaaS space. In this post, I will highlight some of the interesting developments (as I see it) that happened with some of the prominent vendors in the space.

Pardon me for starting off with OpenShift but the order is immaterial with regards to the importance of the news.

Red Hat: Red Hat’s Platform as a Service offering OpenShift had a great year in 2013. After the successful launch of OpenShift Enterprise in the latter part of 2012, their enterprise offering with commercial support, they moved ahead to offer paid subscription offering for their public PaaS. This made OpenShift the only platform with commercial offering for both public and private PaaS. Towards the end of the year, they pushed ahead aggressively in the public PaaS space by lowering the prices to be very competitive in the industry. Paypal announced at the GigaOm Structure conference that they are using OpenShift for their PaaS needs. Along with Accenture and many others, Red Hat showcased FICO and Cisco as customers during their webcast announcing OpenShift Enterprise 2.0.

CloudFoundry: CloudFoundry had a pretty exciting year in 2013 building the Version 2 of their platform and expanding their ecosystem. Even though different people might point out to different instances of success in the CloudFoundry ecosystem, I see the following three as important ones; Spinoff of Pivotal from VMware and EMC and eventual launch of Pivotal One Platform, IBM’s embrace of CloudFoundry and Acquisition of AppFog and Tier 3 by CenturyLink. The third one is especially important because the talent from AppFog and Tier 3 puts CenturyLink on equal footing with Pivotal in terms of contribution to the open source project.

Apprenda: In the past, many people had dismissed Apprenda as a lost cause in the crowded PaaS space dominated by open source software. In fact, when I was an analyst, I had pushed Sinclair Schuller, CEO of Apprenda, on their strategy for long term survival. He had always dismissed the critics with confidence saying that they will survive and be a strong player in the PaaS space catering to the enterprise needs. They also realized that focussing only on .NET can only take them so far and shifted their strategy to support Java, another important programming language in the enterprise space. They released version 4.5 of their platform in 2013 and towards the end of the year, they proved that they are in for a long slog by securing 16 M Series C funding.

Heroku: Salesforce’s two pronged strategy with Force.com and Heroku is finally coming together to offer a more unified storyline. After their initial attempts to integrate both platforms under Salesforce canvas in 2012, they announced Heroku1, a new edition of Heroku just for Salesforce data. Acknowledging the industry’s need for dedicated instance of Salesforce applications and platform, Salesforce announced Superpod during Dreamforce 2013 in partnership with HP. It is still too early to know if it is a long term strategy or a short term media hype like the VMForce announcement but Salesforce is definitely looking to expand their enterprise marketshare. Along with many interesting features they announced in 2013, like DataClips, Heroku also announced Helios mobile backend framework for iOS under open source license.

Engine Yard: Engine Yard continued to add support for additional languages. They added support for PHP and Java this year. They also completely re-architected the platform to make it more modular and added support for multiple IaaS providers including Windows Azure and Oracle Public Cloud.

Docker: One of the exciting trends in the PaaS space is the pivot by dotCloud who moved from being a PaaS provider to building a company around Docker, lightweight application container based on Linux. Docker gained tremendous community support with a vibrant ecosystem building around the project. Docker’s partnership with Red Hat has turned out to be one of the pivotal moment for the project and the last few months saw tremendous enthusiasm for the project in the industry. The company behind Docker is yet to finalize their monetization model yet but it is just a matter of time before they do it.

CloudBees: CloudBees continued its push as Java PaaS putting emphasis on Continuous Integration. Some of the interesting news that came out of the company include their support for CloudFoundry, expansion of partners and hybrid cloud pitch.

Google, Microsoft and Amazon has taken a dual strategy of IaaS -> PaaS and they are continuing to invest heavily in the platform space. It will be interesting to see how their strategy is going to play out against pure-play PaaS players in the coming years. Others like CloudSoft and Cumulogic had pivoted from their original strategy and are focussing on building frameworks to standup services. CloudSoft has taken a vertical focus by releasing OpenGamma as a Service for financial services. There are other providers focussed on Platform as a Service and Docker project is also pushing more startups to focus on application deployment platforms.

Another interesting development in the PaaS space is the announcement regarding Project Solum, a stand alone project in the OpenStack ecosystem. Project Solum is meant to help enterprises using OpenStack to offer an application deployment platform to their developers. It is still in early stages and we will know how the project develops in 2014.

Even though some pundits think PaaS (as we know it today) is over, anyone who is closely watching this space will know that 2013 was the year when PaaS moved from being a hype to enterprises using them for their production needs. If companies like JPMC, Paypal, FICO, Cisco and some of the federal agencies can trust PaaS for their application deployment needs, I don’t see any rationale for the pre-mature obituary written by certain pundits. In my opinion, the hype around PaaS will be down in 2014 but we will hear more and more stories from enterprises using PaaS in production environments.

Good Luck and a very happy 2014.

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