Cloud

Why PaaS isn’t just for startups

paas-cloud-engine-yard

Sacha Labourey is CEO and founder of CloudBees.

It took a while for the market to get comfortable with the concept of SaaS, but now the acronym is practically a household term – like cloud or IT. Will the same be said for PaaS a year, two years from now? Maybe, but first people will have to get their heads around exactly what PaaS (Platform as a Service) is and how companies are using it to their advantage.

There certainly is some confusion around PaaS. Think of it as a set of services that software developers use to build and test apps without having to worry about the underlying infrastructure. Developers don’t want to stress about details such as provisioning the servers, installing operating systems, application servers and load-balancers, ensuring adequate storage, and providing the backup resources required to develop and launch an app. They want to write code, test the app, launch the app, and be able to continually make changes needed to fix bugs. The back-end tasks can be done automatically and transparently where they belong – in the background. That’s the promise of PaaS: to industrialize the software deployment best-practices we have built over the last two decades.

PaaS is a little like middleware, the software layer that developers can tap to handle tasks like transactions, security, and clustering, so they can focus on building their custom applications instead of solving those hard problems repeatedly. But with middleware, you still have to configure it, deploy it on servers, manage, and monitor it – and this is typically left to IT teams to do. PaaS pulls together all of these middleware functions and offers them to developers. It also takes care of the operational aspects that were typically owned by IT teams.


Editor’s note: Our upcoming CloudBeat conference, Sept. 9-Sept. 10 in San Francisco, will be tackling revolutionary cases of enterprise cloud usage. Register today!


PaaS is a relatively small market now – about a tenth the size of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) — but it’s doubling in size every year. By 2020, probably 80 percent of  the new workloads will happen in the public cloud. Every time they face a new need, tomorrow’s CIO will either pick a ready-to-consume SaaS if they can find one that matches their requirements or build an application on top of a PaaS, if they have custom needs a SaaS can’t satisfy. In both cases, they won’t care about what infrastructure is required to make that happen. This is what makes PaaS such an extremely strategic play: It will become the core tool of any enterprise developer.

There is a myth out there that PaaS is mainly for startups or small companies because big enterprises prefer to maintain more control over their development environments and can’t use PaaS. That’s not true. There are good examples in the market of companies, both big and small, using PaaS to cut costs and improve speed, flexibility, and agility. For example, I’ve seen PaaS used successfully at the following companies [Disclosure: These are all clients of my company, Cloudbees.]

  • Bullhorn, for example, provides SaaS solutions for 2,500 staffing and/or recruiting organizations. The company uses PaaS to accelerate customized application development. The platform allowed the staff to cut the time it spent resolving infrastructure issues by 80 percent.
  • Groupe Adeo, based in France, is the fourth largest Do-It-Yourself (DIY) retailer in the world. It used PaaS to develop an e-commerce application, enabling collaboration among teams in France, India and Belgium. The staff estimates that it set up its project infrastructure five times faster than if it had to initialize the development environment.
  • On the smaller side, Lose It!, based in Boston, used PaaS to develop and run a Java app for weight loss and weight management. With just five staff members, Lose It! didn’t have the resources to set up a server room, and it wanted to get to market quickly. So, it deployed its app on a PaaS and now can manage transaction volumes as high as 25,000 per minute.

Many enterprises are starting to split their IT organization between “Core IT,” the IT we’ve known for decades, and “Fast IT,” a new generation of always-on services, making it possible for enterprises to create new projects very fast, with no IT friction, while still securely leveraging their Core IT.

After years of confusion, PaaS is starting to take its place on center stage – in the market and at shows such as CloudBeat, the cloud gathering hosted by VentureBeat Sept. 9-10 in San Francisco. Attendees will hear from some of the largest companies in the space, like Pivotal, and end users like Netflix that will outline the true power of PaaS. My company, CloudBees, will be there as well, so I encourage you to attend and see how PaaS is helping to shape the app development market.

Sacha Labourey is CEO and founder of CloudBees, a provider of PaaS development, integration and runtime services.