Watch this space: The PaaS cloud computing lock-in and how to avoid it
Cloud Computing changed from choosing an easy solution, into making a difficult decision. The reason is the proliferation of cloud offerings at all layers; today we do not only find ‘everything-as-a-service’ cloud solutions, but also ‘everything-is-tailored-for-your-specific-situation-as-a-service’ tagged as cloud solutions.
Is this good? I do not think so. My main objection is that you will end up with a cloud solution that is no different than any solution you have previously designed and installed yourself, at a cheaper rate and lower quality SLA.
True cloud solutions should not only focus on cost reduction, increased agility and flexible capabilities. You should also be buying something that supports portability between the private and public computing domain, and across different vendor platforms.
In early cloud solutions, mainly the ones focussing on Infrastructure-as-a-service, this portability has been heavily debated (remember the ‘Open Cloud Manifesto’?) and in the end we concluded that server virtualization solved a lot of the portability issues (I am simplifying of course).
We also had Software-as-a-service and some publications showed that the portability could be addressed by looking at standardized business process definitions and data normalisation (again, I am simplifying).
Now the Atos Scientific Community is about to publish a whitepaper that looks at the most complex form of cloud computing; Platform-as-a-service.
“PaaS offerings today are diverse, but they share a vendor lock-in characteristic. As in any market for an emerging technology, there is a truly diverse array of capabilities being offered by PaaS providers, from supported programming tools (languages, frameworks, runtime environments, and databases) to various types of underlying infrastructure, even within the capabilities available for each PaaS”
So a common characteristic that can be extracted of all this diversity is the fact of PaaS users currently are being bound to the specific platform they use, making the portability of their software (and data) created on top of these platforms difficult.
As a result we see a slow adoption of PaaS in the enterprise; only those groups that have a very well defined end-user group are looking at PaaS – and mostly for the wrong reason: ‘just’ cost saving through standardization. In the whitepaper they are identified as:
“Two primary user groups which benefit from using Cloud at the Platform as a Service level: Enterprises with their own internal software development activities and ISVs interested in selling SaaS services on top of a hosted PaaS.”
The current situation where PaaS is mostly resulting in a vendor lock-in scenario is holding back the full potential for applications on a PaaS. By introducing a general purpose PaaS, we would allow a comprehensive, open, flexible, and interoperable solution that simplifies the process of developing, deploying, integrating, and managing applications both in public and private clouds.
Such an architecture is proposed and explained in detail in the whitepaper; it describes the desired capabilities and building blocks that need to be established and it also offers an analysis of market trends and existing solutions, in order to establish a future vision and direction for PaaS, as well as outlining the business potential of such a solution.
We can all continue to feel positive about the power and the business potential of cloud computing. Changing your cost base from capex to opex, increasing your speed in your go-to-market strategies and the flexibility in capacity and location are very important for your business. We should not however confuse vendor specific solutions with cloud solutions only because they promise flexibility in cost and easy deployment; being able to shift and shop around is always better – also in cloud computing.