2011 will be year of platform as a service

All the leading enterprise software vendors, as well as large cloud specialists, will introduce new platform as a service (PaaS) offerings this year, according to Gartner.

Gartner says 2011 is the year of PaaS. Major vendors are expected to deliver new or strongly expanded PaaS service offerings and cloud-enabled application infrastructure products over the next few months, the research firm claimed.

PaaS is a common reference to the layer of cloud technology architecture that contains all application infrastructure services, which are also known as middleware in other contexts. PaaS is the middle layer of the software stack in the cloud. It is the technology that intermediates between the underlying system infrastructure (operating systems, networks, virtualisation, storage, etc.) and overlaying application software.

The technology services that are part of a full-scope PaaS include functionality of application containers, application development tools, database management systems, integration brokers, portals, business process management and many others, all offered as a service.

“By the end of 2011, the battle for leadership in PaaS and the key PaaS segments will engulf the software industry,” said Yefim Natis, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.

“Early consolidation of specialised PaaS offerings into PaaS suites will also be evident. New vendors will enter the market through acquisitions or inhouse development. Users can expect a wave of innovation and hype. It will be harder to find a consistent message, standards or clear winning vendors,” he stated.

Today’s PaaS offerings come in over a dozen specialised types. However, during the next three years, the variety of PaaS specialist-subset offerings will consolidate to a few major application infrastructure service suites, and, over a longer time, comprehensive, full-scale PaaS offerings will emerge as well, said Gartner.

Gartner believes that during the next five years, the adoption of PaaS in most midsize and large organisations will not lead to a wholesale transition to cloud computing. Instead, it will be an extension of the use patterns of on-premises application infrastructures to hybrid computing models where on-premises application infrastructures and PaaS will coexist, interoperate and integrate.

“The cloud computing era is just beginning, and the prevailing patterns, standards and best practices of cloud software engineering have not yet been established. This represents an opportunity for new software providers to build a leading presence in the software solutions market,” said Natis. “It is also a major technical and business challenge to the established software vendors, to retain their leadership by extending into the new space without undermining their hard-earned strength in the dominant on-premises computing market.”

During the next five years, the now fragmented and uncertain space of cloud application infrastructure will experience rapid growth through technical and business innovation.

Natis said large vendors will grow through inhouse development, partnerships and acquisitions, while small vendors will grow through partnerships and specialisation. Users will be driven into cloud computing as business application services (eg, SaaS) and advanced platform services (eg, PaaS) reach acceptable levels of maturity and offer new innovative technological and business model features that will become increasingly hard to resist.

“During the next two years, the fragmented, specialised PaaS offerings will begin to consolidate into suites of services targeting the prevailing use patterns for PaaS,” Natis said. “Making use of such pre-integrated, targeted suites will be a more attractive proposition than the burdensome traditional on-premises assembly of middleware capabilities in support of a project. By 2015, comprehensive PaaS suites will be designed to deliver a combination of most specialised forms of PaaS in one integrated offering.”

Gartner predicts that by 2015, most organisations will have part of their run-the-business software functionally executing in the cloud, using PaaS services or technologies directly or indirectly. Most such organisations, will have a hybrid environment in which internal and external services are combined.

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