PaaSaaP and the Distro Wars
Cloud Foundry has won the PaaS war. Heroku blazed the trail with their PaaS for Twelve-Factor Apps, and VMWare/Pivotal have built an open-source implementation and ecosystem to provide both enterprises and developers with an obvious choice. Buildpacks have become the standard for translation from application code to runnable unit.
The question is rapidly changing from “which PaaS are you using?” to “which distribution of Cloud Foundry are you using?”. Just as Hadoop became synonymous with big data so Cloud Foundry has become PaaS. The emerging battle is between the distribution vendors; Pivotal, IBM, HP and ActiveState already have offerings in the market. I’m sure we’ll see more from other players as the Cloud Foundry Foundation gains momentum.
The other fascinating aspect of the development of the Cloud Foundry ecosystem is ‘Platform as a Service’ versus ‘Platform as a Service as a Product’(PaaSaaP). Some vendors are offering Cloud Foundry as installable, supported software – where the onus is on the customer to deploy the software to their chosen infrastructure in order to provide a service. Other vendors are deploying and running Cloud Foundry on behalf of their uses to provide a true PaaS experience. A few vendors are offering both. Some PaaS purists have denigrated Cloud Foundry for offering this flexibility, but I see this as one of Cloud Foundry’s greatest strengths. Developers can minimise Time-to-Value by deploying quickly to a vendor’s cloud-based solution – and then deploy Cloud Foundry to their own infrastructure when non-functional requirements emerge to make a custom deployment necessary.
We will also see domain-specific Cloud Foundy implementations for particular markets. The ‘core’ Cloud Foundry specification, provided by the CF Foundation, will provide a key set of capabilities and an API for developers to work against – but we will see extensions providing for additional requirements and innovation. Time will tell which flavours of Cloud Foundry are successful and which are left behind.