Putting the S(ervice) in PaaS

At the recent JavaOne conference panel one of the panelists from a hosted PaaS vendor positioned their offering as the "S" in PaaS to distinguish themselves with other platforms represented in the panel (OpenShift, CloudFoundry, etc.). I think it is an argument that has gone stale long back. If I had the twitter snark hat on, I would say

2008 called and wants its Service in *aaS argument back #enufsaid

After the initial few years of Public Vs Private cloud debates, market (and, more specifically, clouderati on Twitter) are mature enough to understand that the needs of the enterprise are very diverse and their requirements varies from traditional data centers to private clouds to hybrid clouds. The days of enterprises will use only public cloud are either very far off or next to improbable. With PRISM, the chance of "public cloud only IT" future is fast fading in our rear view mirror. With the new talk about how some of the early hosted PaaS players are considering private PaaS as an option in their enterprise strategy, it is completely meaningless to stick to the talking point that S in PaaS is (publicly hosted) Services. In fact, OpenShift and CloudFoundry even offer hosted version of their platform along with private PaaS offering.

Without focussing any more on the rhetorical talking points, it is important we focus on the S and define what it means. Even though it is more of a PaaS 101 discussion, I want to put it out in the interwebs to reduce confusion among the enterprise buyers. Also, I want to use this discussion to kickstart a series of blog posts segmenting the PaaS landscape. At the outset, I want to make it clear that this is not Red Hat's view of the PaaS market. It is my personal view and I have spoken about it publicly when I was an analyst covering the space. I am going to dig deeper on this topic now to set the stage for future blog posts focussing on enterprise platform market.

So, what is S then?

To me, the "S" in PaaS means either "Service" or "Service enabling software." If the PaaS is a hosted PaaS offering, the meaning of S is a no brainer (It is Services, stupid). If the PaaS is discussion is private PaaS, S will imply Service enabling Software. Instead of third party providing the Service, enterprise IT offers the same user experience to the developers. One of the biggest selling point of public cloud is elasticity to meet the web scale needs. Enterprises seldom need web scale and, even if they need such a scale unexpectedly, they can achieve it with a hybrid cloud approach.

The elasticity as a selling point for public cloud sits well in IaaS and SaaS discussions. However, these arguments are moot in the PaaS layer. With a right platform architecture, the platform elasticity can be achieved seamlessly if the underlying infrastructure elasticity is well managed. With hybrid infrastructure cloud and the right PaaS on top of it, enterprises can take advantage of the same benefits of hosted PaaS.

Any attempt to twist the meaning of "S" in the private PaaS context as software rather than service is totally misguided. We are done with that debate once and for all. Let us instead focus on how we can empower customers based on their needs.