Following in the footsteps of the software-as-a-service (SaaS) market boom, platform-as-a-service (PaaS) is set to take the cloud computing industry by storm, as more independent software vendors (ISVs) and resellers realise the value of its offerings.
Market watcher Forrester Research expects the market to expand to $15bn by 2016.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines cloud PaaS as a capability for the consumer to deploy consumer-related or acquired applications, created using programming languages and tools supported by the provider, onto the cloud infrastructure.
The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure including network, servers, operating systems, or storage, but has control over the deployed applications.
A question of capability
David Pratt, chief operating officer at IT services from the cloud provider ThinkGrid, said resellers should be asking themselves whether they have the capability to build, manage and run the infrastructure needed to deliver these services profitably.
Pratt continued: “Is there a quick and strong ROI opportunity in going down this costly route to delivering cloud services such as PaaS?
“With cloud computing, customers are placing critical parts of their IT in the hands of external suppliers. Resellers will need to provide strict guarantees around quality, scalability and uptime or risk failure from the outset. Partnering with existing cloud providers that have the platform and infrastructure in place is a more viable route, and one that can lead to much greater margins.”
“They cannot achieve that aim without applications knowledge and they cannot become application-relevant without having relevant development capabilities,” he said. “More and more these capabilities will have to be associated with PaaS.”
Hughes said PaaS provides VARs with the ability to deliver flexibility on an individual-customer basis and to add-on features and functions they do not have to build.
“At the end of the day PaaS frees VARs from the day-to-day problems of traditional software development,” he added.
Martino Corbelli, marketing director at cloud computing provider Star, said traditional ISPs are evolving into managed service providers with the infrastructure and skills to deliver PaaS.
Corbelli said: “The opportunity for VARs is to utilise the platform on offer in order to work closely with customers to deliver the specific solutions they need. VARs have always been very good at packaging their services around technology in order to add value.”
Corbelli believes VARs should be looking to partner with PaaS providers that are specialists in delivering the platform but do not have their own pro-services division to compete with their channel.
“This ensures a much more collaborative partnership and does not confuse the customer,” he said.
David Shacochis, vice president for research and development at Savvis, said while many companies end up hosting the production versions of these in-house applications on dedicated or virtualised server platforms, the appeal of PaaS environments is the rapid ability to upload code and test right away without the need to build out a server environment.
“Applications can run inside PaaS environments for extended periods of time while they are refined, tested and proven,” he said. “One opportunity in the service provider market is the creation of private PaaS environments for enterprises to use as development ‘sandboxes’ for rapid prototyping in an internally-shared environment.
“These private agile programming environments could either be built out by VARs and handed off to the enterprise, or be offered as a utility service by an IT service provider.”
A golden opportunity
Phil Rothwell, sales director at managed service provider Postcode Anywhere described PaaS as ‘rocket fuel’ for resellers and ISVs.
“There is gold in those hills. Take time to understand the cloud technology and find areas to invest in where the value delivery is clear and the risk to your client minimal,” he said.
“This is a good time to learn the trade by working closely with service providers such as Postcode Anywhere; Salesforce; Amazon and NetSuite, to name but a few. Let them make the market, while you earn your crust facilitating value delivery.”
Rothwell added: “New ways of working always take time to capture the imagination of IT users, especially those that are difficult to understand and implement.
“While, in principle, most people understand why outsourcing your IT infrastructure can cut costs, the perception of loss of control, in particular of data and hardware assets, will take longer to overcome.”
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