Platform-as-a-Service: Cloud Computing's New Battleground

And with the increased amount of offerings poised to hit the market, PaaS will become the new battleground among cloud computing providers and will spark a new level of competition.

"By the end of 2011, the battle for leadership in PaaS and the key PaaS segments will engulf the software industry," Yefim Natis, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, wrote in a recent study. "Early consolidation of specialized PaaS offerings into PaaS suites will also be evident. New vendors will enter the market through acquisitions or in-house development. Users can expect a wave of innovation and hype. It will be harder to find a consistent message, standards or clear winning vendors."

Gartner calls PaaS the layer of the cloud computing technology architecture that contains all application infrastructure services, or middleware. Essentially, PaaS is the middle layer of the software stack in the cloud and is the technology that intermediates between the underlying system infrastructure such as operating systems, networks, virtualization and storage and the overlaying application software. PaaS services include functionality of application containers, application development tools, database management systems, integration brokers, portals, business process management and others offered as services.

Along with the amount of PaaS players and products growing throughout the year, Gartner also predicts that over the next three years the variety of PaaS subsets will consolidate into a few major application infrastructure service suites and, over a longer period of time, into comprehensive, full-scale PaaS offerings.

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Gartner estimated that during the next five years PaaS adoption in midsize and large enterprises will not lead to a wholesale transition to cloud computing, but PaaS will sit as an extension of the user patterns of on-premise application infrastructure to hybrid computing models where on-premise application infrastructures and PaaS coexist, interoperate and integrate.

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

"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," Natis continued. "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."

According to Gartner, the next five years will see swift growth in the cloud application infrastructure space, a boost fostered by innovation. Gartner predicts that large vendors will grow through in-house development, partners and acquisitions; and smaller vendors will grow via partnerships and specialization. Meanwhile, users will be driven into the cloud as SaaS and PaaS mature and new technological and business model features are harder to resist.

"During the next two years, the fragmented, specialized PaaS offerings will begin to consolidate into suites of services targeting the prevailing use patterns for PaaS," Natis wrote. "Making use of such preintegrated, 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 specialized forms of PaaS in one integrated offering."