The term “Platform-as-a-Service” or PaaS is gaining widespread popularity. The PaaS promise is that either a hosted solution or a private cloud solution gives your enterprise all you need. You just write an application and post it to the Cloud. “Cloud Magic” will run and scale it for you. There is no lack of competition in this space: Heroku, Force.com, Google App Engine, Amazon’s Beanstalk, RedHat Openshift, WSO2 Stratos, Pivotal CloudFoundry, etc.
Do you really want your IT department to define your application stack?
CTO’s should take a step backwards and ask this simple question: “Who should be defining my application stack?”. In the last years IT departments have had a hard time making themselves relevant. More and more people have taken their own phones and tablets to work, even their own laptops. People are using credit cards to rent cloud servers when internal IT processes or prices where not in touch with reality. Now it is unreasonable to think that an IT department, or even worse a procurement team, might not be the ideal group to choose a one-size-fits-all solution for your enterprise.
Why do you need this flexibility?
Even if you are a global leader, it is unlikely that you can force all your software suppliers to standardize on one stack. You will either end up reducing your choices if you really want to standardize or supporting old and new or even multiple competing PaaS platforms. This can not be the right approach.
Also with the speed of innovation it is unreasonable to assume that your preferred PaaS will include the latest and greatest Big Data, NoSQL, Real-Time Event, Distributed Machine Learning, Massively Scalable Object Stores, etc. You will have to assume that your PaaS will be outdated the moment you launch it.
Are there any alternatives?
What if an IT department could choose a next-generation PaaS, a PaaS 3.0, a flexible PaaS, etc. This FlexiPaaS would allow the IT department to easily manage solutions with regard to security, monitoring, scaling, upgrades, etc. But at the same time allow application developers spread across the enterprise to have full flexibility on choosing an application stack. It would even be possible that some application developers would choose a “traditional PaaS” to run on this FlexiPaaS.
There are some vendors that already have products that show great promises in becoming a FlexiPaaS. Ubuntu’s Juju can already run CloudFoundry, Hadoop, Storm, Cassandra, etc. on top of any public or private cloud. You are only a “Charm” away of instantly deploying, integrating and scaling your solution. Other competitors are trying to follow pace, e.g. Salt, Openstack HEAT, IBM’s TOSCA, etc.
So before you sign your purchase order for a PaaS, you should wonder if you are not selling your flexibility without any need for it…