PaaS market heats up with Red Hat OpenShift, Savvis AppFog buy

PaaS made headlines last week, but it's still difficult to gauge the true level of interest in Platform as a Service in the enterprise world.

A recent acquisition and product launch have shifted attention toward Platform as a Service, but it's still too early to predict whether many enterprises will jump on the PaaS bandwagon.

Red Hat Inc. made its public OpenShift Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering generally available last week, and cloud hosting provider Savvis Inc. opted to acquire AppFog Inc. to offer PaaS. The acquisition, for an undisclosed amount, closed last week.

Platform adoption is happening, but it's kind of fitful.

Carl Brooks,
analyst, 451 Research Inc.

For many enterprises, however, PaaS is an abstract concept. A recent study by 451 Research found that approximately 1% of enterprise IT budgets annually are spent on Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and PaaS combined. By comparison, Software as a Service accounted for 2% of spending.

"Our application goes out pre-compiled; we do everything on our end and we don't have to worry about all the languages that are out there," said Robert Banks, director of PZFlex, a virtual prototyping company based in Mountain View, Calif. "I don't think [PaaS] is of much interest to us, to be honest."

However, PaaS may appeal to enterprise shops over time.

"As public clouds mature, we have seen organizations show interest for a blend of IaaS and PaaS from the same provider," said Al Hilwa, analyst with Framingham, Mass.-based IDC. "[The acquisition of AppFog] by Savvis is indicative of this trend."

Even if the appeal of PaaS expands, there are other players who have gotten in the PaaS market door prior to Red Hat and Savvis.

"If you ask people who their platform providers are, within the enterprise, they answer in this order: Microsoft, Google and Salesforce," said Carl Brooks, an analyst with 451 Research Inc. "Platform adoption is happening, but it's kind of fitful."

In the meantime, not every enterprise cloud computing vendor is betting on PaaS, pointed out James Staten, an analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.

"Is PaaS truly what customers want, or is what they want really automation of middleware?" Staten asked.

That depends on which vendor you ask. For example, Dell Enstratius and RightScale Inc. are going the automation route, controlling the infrastructure and platform through automation and scripts, Staten said. Others, such as Rackspace Inc., offer traditional managed services at this point.

Red Hat, Savvis make moves into PaaS market

OpenShift is now available in three flavors: OpenShift Origin, an open source PaaS project; OpenShift Online, a commercial public PaaS offering; and OpenShift Enterprise, an on-premises private PaaS product. OpenShift Online can be integrated with Red Hat's new Open Hybrid Cloud IaaS package.

Languages supported on OpenShift Online include Java, Ruby, PHP, Python, Node.js and Perl. For a monthly fee, developers subscribing to OpenShift Online's commercial offering -- dubbed the Silver tier -- will have access to Red Hat technical support. The Silver tier for OpenShift Online is now available in North America and Europe, and is priced starting at $20 per month.

While Red Hat has been developing its own PaaS since 2011, Savvis officials said AppFog's PaaS will continue to support Hewlett-Packard's public cloud, along with Rackspace and Amazon Web Services as IaaS underpinnings, and will be ported to support Savvis' IaaS, as well.

Both Red Hat and Savvis hope to appeal to developers with these moves into the PaaS market, but they also give a definite nod to enterprises with the option to deploy PaaS locally rather than on a public cloud infrastructure. AppFog officials said the company has 100,000 developers signed up; Red Hat said a million applications have already been developed using OpenShift. Neither company could specify what proportion of existing customers hail from enterprises.

IaaS and PaaS have been together in a number of vendor's portfolios in recent years. Google App Engine, for example, is attached to the Google Compute Engine under the covers. Microsoft's Windows Azure also offers both IaaS and PaaS. Rackspace Hosting has also made moves to appeal more to developers, including new mobile cloud stacks and the acquisition of Exceptional Cloud Services.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for Write to her at [email protected] or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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