It’s 2014 and PaaS is Eating the World

PaaS is eating the World picture Back in 2012, Marc Andreessen famously said “software is eating the world.” In 2014, PaaS is now poised to eat the world of Enterprise IT. While some cloud pundits continue to predict the end of PaaS, or at least it’s disappearance into the miasma that is labelled “infrastructure”, many prominent companies are building real, high-growth, high-margin, highly defensible businesses by leveraging this technology. In just the first month of 2014, OpenShift alone has seen public declarations of adoption from Cisco, FICO, Atos/Worldline, and a number of other real businesses that are delivering real value with PaaS.

PaaS Gains Momentum in 2014

According to Morgan Stanley Analyst, Jennifer Swanson Lowe:

“Morgan Stanley’s CIO Survey results point to PaaS Adoption as being poised for growth in 2014. Survey respondents expect PaaS usage to increase in 2014, with 50% more CIOs expecting to use PaaS solutions by the end of CY14 vs. those using PaaS today.”

As we come to the end of the first month of 2014, a quick google search on PaaS tallies up over 275 news articles, corporate blog posts, announcements and other SEO-enabled content that dissected PaaS as a technology and its place in the Cloud ecosystem. The vast majority of the content is overwhelmingly positive and developer focused. I take this as healthy and positive sign of the growing adoption of PaaS throughout the industry.

Developer Enablement is a Game Changer and a Cultural Shift for IT

PaaS is often perceived as a disruptive force in organizations because it enables developers to change the application life cycle. PaaS changes the nature of the development process from IT’s hardened and industrialized processes, to one of self-service on-demand abstraction that removes the rigidity and enables agility.

By abstracting away the complexity of the application lifecycle, PaaS takes “developer enablement” in the cloud to a whole new level. This change is pushing on the cultural boundaries within IT organizations. It provides the tooling and support to enable developers to accelerate and enhance the development experience – providing a range of capabilities such as standards-compliant APIs, service creation and service management tools – all designed to be used in a self-service model. PaaS enables developers to test, deploy, launch, scale, fail and iterate safely without all the past IT operations overhead. PaaS’s standardization at the API level mitigates risk and brings automation of the application life cycle to a new self-service level previously only attained by massive in-house customized scripting and virutalization efforts which only the very largest of enterprises could afford to build and maintain.

The Rise of the Internet

When the Internet reached a critical mass in the early 1990s, it brought about a fast evolution of technology allowing for a rapid global communications and networking and at the same time, re-shaping the way IT organizations delivered services. The rise of the Internet made web application development a huge part of the programming field. It also introduced a whole new level of complexity and choice in the tools that are available for developers and the IT teams charged with deploying and managing the application at scale. New concepts slipped into the programmers domain, and things like caching, load balancers, memory allocation, etc entered into our vocabularies. The ‘art’ of programming moved beyond just writing elegant, efficient code – it became more about the operations considerations which then became part of the programmer’s daily life. Coding got complex and, for some of us, became less fun.

In order to deploy a simple web application to compute stock prices, developers had to deal with configuring the entire WAMP or LAMP stack; deal with things like load balancers, web servers, security, dns configuration and basically become sysadmins themselves.

During this period of change, IT moved out from behind the firewall and into the public domain where both the risks and the stakes were higher. This brought about a change in IT culture. IT began treating internal developers as customers and created testing, QA and deployment processes that helped to mitigate the risks inherent in the New Internet World Order.

But with these new processes came a rigidity and bureaucracy that made the time to production for most applications outrageously lengthy–procuring the servers and access to resources to do testing a new application could take months.

Fast Forward to 2007

The world changes. By June 2007, Amazon claimed that more than 180,000 developers had signed up to use Amazon Web Services.
But more significantly, Heroku launches one of the first Public PaaS offerings. Ruby on Rails developers get a taste of the ease that a little automation of the application deployment and scaling process can be like; and with the swipe of a credit card the IT barriers come tumbling down.

And the era of developer entitlement begins. Over the next 7 years, developers’ expectations of the convenience, self-service, and speed with which PaaS enables them, turns into a sense of “entitlement.” When they return to their enterprises they expect the same levels of service. This is driving enterprise IT teams to bring PaaS on premise.

Developer Culture eats Corporate Strategy for breakfast – and everyone wins.

As the Morgan Stanley survey points out, 50% of CIOs recognize that PaaS is the solution and are planning on deploying PaaS in 2014. As Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats Strategy for breakfast.” This is the year that PaaS eats the world of Enterprise IT (or at least 50% of it). PaaS is clearly a case of Developer Culture moving Corporate Strategy to a new level of innovation and agility.

Next Steps

OpenShift Origin, Thought Leadership
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