Last week, I was having a debate with a renowned technology analyst about the open source cloud fabric model and why, in my opinion, are destined to become one of the predominant models in the Platform as a Service (PaaS) space. In a nutshell, PaaS encompasses the principles of delivering an entire computing and application development technology as a service. This paradigm extends the basic infrastructure as a service model to enable the deployment of entire applications in a cloud hosted environments. At the center of every cloud platform, we will find computing fabrics that control the management, deployment and scalability of the technologies of those specific cloud platforms. Arguably the most notable examples of examples of PaaS fabrics are the Windows Azure, Force.com and VMWare cloud platforms.
At the moment, Pass infrastructures are just starting as a developing and computing paradigm but we can already foresee some of the vendors and technologies that are emerging as front runners in that space. Whether Microsoft has been an unquestionable visionary in the PaaS space with technologies like Windows Azure and the Windows Azure AppFabric platform, we are seeing new technology stacks emerge as a very viable PaaS alternative to Microsoft’s stack. The interesting thing is that none of those technologies are coming from the traditional vendors like Oracle or IBM which are the traditional rivals of Microsoft in the enterprise software space. Instead, the biggest threat to Windows Azure in the PaaS world seems to be posed by companies like VMWare who have chosen the bank in Open Source technologies as the foundation of their PaaS platforms.
Following Heroku’s the $212 million acquisition by Salesforce.com , it seems that there is been an explosion on cloud computing fabrics based on open source technologies. Let me give you a small chronological list of some of the things that have been happening in the open source PaaS space.
As you can see, more and more PaaS technology vendors are banking on open source stacks as the future of cloud application development. Here are some of the reasons that, in my opinion, are causing this phenomenon.
The line between commercial and open source technologies sorts of disappear with cloud fabrics
If you are developing on-premise enterprise applications, there are a lot of factors that could play against open source technologies. Lack of documentation, support or no clear roadmap are some of arguments that often cause companies to favor commercial software over sometimes more innovative open source alternatives. If you are using a PaaS fabric, this argument is not that relevant anymore. In a PaaS environment, you are relying in a trusted vendor to update, manage, scale and support the open source technology on your behalf at which point is no different from any commercial alternative.
It’s not a secret that most of the interesting technology innovations in the enterprise software space in the last few years has come from the open source world. Dynamic languages, functional languages, the Ruby on Rails movement, NOSQL databases, Android, Hadoop, Node.js are just some of the latest revolutions in the software industry which have been originated in the open source space. Could you reference something similar in the commercial software space?
When considering PaaS platforms, innovation has to be at the center of the decision making process and, in that sense, open source technologies offer a very attractive alternative to slower evolving and more complex commercial software technologies.
By embracing an open source PaaS fabric, you will automatically reduce the development cost given that open source technologies are normally available for free. Using this model, your developers could implement the applications in an on-premise environment and deploy and test in a fully-supported, highly scalable, and fully managed PaaS environment.
Variety of technologies
Let’s face it, in the open source world we have technologies for everything that is needed in an enterprise software application. Ranging from IDEs to middleware technologies, caching services, relational databases, NOSQL databases, portals, etc we can find a large variety of open source technologies that enable the traditional capabilities on an enterprise applications. Having all this at your disposal in a fully managed PaaS fabric will, undoubtedly, result very attractive to enterprises.
It’s a bubble!
And like any other technology bubble, the Silicon Valley machinery of investors and entrepreneurs wants a part of it. Given that most of open source technologies have found a warm home in internet startups, we can foresee new innovations and large investments by companies in the Valley in this space.
What does this mean?
I am convinced that cloud fabrics are the next natural evolution of the open source model. A lot of the concerns that traditional enterprises express are naturally mitigated by the delivery model in a fully managed environment. If to this, we add the typical levels of excitement and innovation in the open source space, I think open source cloud fabrics will become a very viable option for companies trying to embrace PaaS models.
We are definitely living in interesting times for the software industry…..
What do you think?