One of the delivery models of Cloud Computing is Platform-as-a-Service. In its true definition, a PaaS provider takes care of the underlying infrastructure including the VMs, OS patches, elasticity, auto-scaling, firewalling, etc and provides an API — and a language runtime — to which the programmer should write the code. The users of PaaS have no control over the underlying infrastructure, i.e. there is nothing “open” about it. The most prominent PaaS offerings are Force.com from Salesforce (Apex), Google App Engine (Python and Java), and Microsoft Azure (.NET). It is obvious that “vendor lockin” is one of the biggest issues with PaaS — once you write your program for a particular platform, you can’t take it elsewhere.
Along came VMware with its idea of “OpenPaaS” that would take away the “vendor lockin”. With their SpringSource acquisition, they claim that as long as IaaS supports Spring Framework, the programmers could then write Java code directly on Spring and not be worried about the underlying infrastructure — that is essentially the “open” nature of the solution. They teamed up with SalesForce to create VMForce, which is essentially Spring Framework running on Force.com in SalesForce’s data centers. They have also teamed up with Google to provide Spring Framework running on Google Infrastructure. None of these products is available for public yet, as far as I know. Strictly speaking, one of Trend’s own product lines can become an OpenPaaS provider by adding support to Spring Framework! Based on this approach, it could be argued that VMware seeded the concept of taking your own “Java” to the cloud of your choice but still a certain level of lockin exists — it is to the Spring Framework.
Some companies provide “value-added PaaS-like services on top of existing IaaS players”. Examples of these are StandingCloud, Rightscale, etc. Recently, Amazon itself started offering a service called “Elastic Beanstalk” which allows the customer to run PaaS services; the major difference of this offering from traditional PaaS vendors is that you can still access and control the underlying IaaS services.
A new and interesting player in this space is CloudBees (www.cloudbees.com) which just GA’d its products DEV@cloud and RUN@cloud. The basic premise of their “Java In The Cloud” concept is essentially to make sure that (a) the developers need not be concerned about the underlying infrastructure, and (b) there is no vendor (cloud) lockin. You write the code in Java and can take your Java application to the cloud of your choice. CloudBees states that it: “…supports Java EE web applications and applications written in all JVM-based languages in an IaaS-agnostic environment so you are not locked into a single infrastructure provider.” Their current release supports only Amazon EC2 but they have plans to support all major cloud providers.
Having followed this PaaS and OpenPaaS for a while, I think that CloudBees offering is truly interesting. However, as any PaaS-knowledgeable person would say, “The strength of PaaS is the services that it provides…” Salesforce is wildly popular because of the services like chatter, IAM, etc. It will be interesting to see how CloudBees follows up on this offering.
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