Public PaaS, for a variety of reasons, is not accessible to a majority of enterprise IT use cases. However, PaaS in general is highly beneficial to enterprises as it automates typically mundane and long running tasks such as application deployment and provides a foundational architecture for guest application scalability. Private PaaS allows enterprise developers to access the value of PaaS without the accessibility problems of public PaaS since it is offered to them by their own IT department. By deploying private PaaS enterprises will experience significant value including faster time to market, increase agility, reduced costs and complexity and streamlined application management. Being the best of both worlds, private PaaS enables significant cloud-based improvements in the enterprise IT experience without the adoption hurdles associated with public PaaS.
The past decade of enterprise IT has been driven by SOA and virtualization. While these technologies have brought great value to the enterprise they have not provided a universal remedy to all that ails enterprise IT strategies. Significant issues still exist but the recent emergence of PaaS has been touted as the newest technology to promise to revolutionize enterprise IT. With PaaS enterprise software developers can write applications using traditional programming languages and modern architecture patterns, and deploy those applications in the cloud. In addition to providing commoditized platform services, the PaaS model also allows developers to bypass internal infrastructure and to avoid becoming entangled in cumbersome internal procedures required to deploy and manage their newly developed app.
Private PaaS should be a top priority for all enterprises as it provides the full benefits of public PaaS without the outsourced infrastructure hosting which both builds and operates the PaaS and whose tight coupling can be awkward and counterproductive.
The biggest challenge is cultural. Enterprises are accustomed to much more friction in interactions between their developers, data center, and IT managers because there is no common layer that they all agree on. Developers write applications that get “thrown over the fence” to other teams for deployment and management, and typically, this is mired in process and bureaucracy. Private PaaS enables a self-service model. Through the PaaS software, data center and IT managers define strict parameters and boundaries for how infrastructure can be used – “the playground” where anything goes since proper controls are in place – and developers can log in to the private PaaS and “publish” applications to the infrastructure in a mouse click or two. The private PaaS defines a common layer that all parties can agree on, so learning to operate without red tape will take some time.
A second challenge would be that all parties would be operating in an environment where the application (rather than the infrastructure) is the “first class citizen.” Although infrastructure is typically deployed in support of applications, applications are rarely the common currency. Recognizing and managing an IT department that is PaaS-based means changing processes and mindset to be application oriented, which would be a first for most managers.
Overcoming these challenges can best be tackled via two strategies. The first strategy involves working with a vendor. Over the past few years, some early adopters within the Fortune 1000 have done a phenomenal job of building their own PaaS layers. Now that PaaS has been productized, vendors have the ability to evolve PaaS faster than any in-house project. Probably more important than the technology evolution, however, is the experience that private PaaS vendors accumulate across multiple projects where they help organizations roll-out internal private PaaS offerings. A private PaaS vendor can bring their experiences in implementing dozens of internal PaaS offerings to enterprise IT organizations that have never deployed PaaS, which could have a tremendous impact on cultural adoption. Those who build their own PaaS have to learn everything from the ground up, and can’t rely on the experiences of others the way they can through working with a PaaS vendor.
Second, taking an active role in evangelizing the service to developers internally would help significantly in overcoming the aforementioned challenges. It would signal to all parties involved in IT that the offering is well understood and a preferred choice for building apps going forward, building significant confidence to adopt the service.
Strategically, I would urge IT and data center managers to focus on solutions that can truly deliver on the key value drivers of increased agility, increased utilization and increased productivity. Private PaaS is a relatively broad area, and some technologies may not represent a true end to end PaaS, leaving one or more of these value propositions out of the picture. This means that IT managers should scrutinize the product and have the vendor prove that the platform can, in fact, deploy applications within minutes, that the infrastructure is abstracted away from applications, and that the PaaS provides APIs that expose access to complex architectural patterns and platform services. It is unlikely that a given solution can deliver on the organization’s goals without fulfilling a vision that equips IT and developers to:
- Build better applications faster
- Simplify the management of infrastructure and applications to a set of autonomic workflows
- Make better use of infrastructure than virtualization can, thereby boosting utilization
Tactically speaking, test the private PaaS. Engage in a pilot with the vendor to verify that the platform can run on your infrastructure and that applications can be deployed to it. This “rubber meets the road” analysis will weed out imposters and cloud-washed solutions in short order.