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True PaaS: What users need to succeed in the cloud

The market’s interest in all things cloud has recently exploded and organizations are beginning their early deployments of cloud computing. True cloud concepts, known under many different names, have been in development for well over fifteen years. Only now, cloud computing has become truly viable because of the cumulative advancements in multiple levels of virtualization, abstraction, automation and management. By enabling the sharing of all levels of computing resources, on demand cloud computing helps lower IT costs, simplify IT, and enables organizations to become more responsive.

We expect PaaS (platform-as-a-service) to play a major role in cloud computing, simplifying overall application development, deployment, and management while lowering the costs to build and run applications. However, many PaaS solutions available today – arguably the initial first generation of PaaS – may not meet customer needs and take organizations down the path of redundancy, higher costs and proprietary lock-in.

Many PaaS solutions available today require companies to rewrite their applications, effectively starting over. This may lead to new lock-in. Many first generation PaaS offerings are also failing to provide any true PaaS benefits, leaving users to address deployment complexity on their own. These first, rudimentary attempts at PaaS are likely to result in customer frustration.

To succeed, organizations need a different approach to PaaS. We believe that users need True PaaS. They need PaaS to support their current programming models and applications, enable cloud portability, and provide the abstraction and management capabilities necessary to simplify application development and deployment. Most importantly, PaaS systems need to have flexibility and portability designed into the architecture to prevent technology lock-in. True PaaS offers these benefits. True PaaS uses the same notion as True North in navigation. True North provides for more accurate navigation, enabling voyagers to reach their destination quicker with less time and fewer resources. True PaaS helps IT users to reach their intended destination quicker with fewer errors, fewer resources and greater benefits. This is why we are embracing True PaaS.

Support today’s and tomorrow’s programming models A True PaaS solution needs to support today’s programming models and languages, as well as position itself to support the programming models of tomorrow. Organizations have made substantial investments in developer skills and in developing custom applications using Java Enterprise Edition, PHP, Groovy, Spring Framework, GWT and a variety of other languages and frameworks. PaaS systems must be able to support all of these models as well as models of the future as programming continues to evolve. Too many first generation PaaS systems are forcing users to learn entirely new programming languages or they force a single, often proprietary, programming model. These PaaS systems may be quite limited and prevent users from developing full-featured applications, thereby restricting the enterprise use of PaaS to simple non-transactional applications. By limiting support to a single proprietary language or programming framework, common PaaS technologies may have the effect of creating a new, perhaps more painful form of technology lock-in.

Support existing applications True PaaS systems should enable users to move existing applications to the cloud and support application deployments across both on-premise and cloud deployments. Too many first generation PaaS solutions may force users to “start over”, which might be fine for experimenting to create a new simple application, but could prove unacceptable to organizations with billions of dollars worth of investments in applications. Many of these first generation PaaS systems lack the ability to dynamically link a cloud deployment with an on-premise deployment. By failing to address existing applications and accommodate on-premise deployments these PaaS solutions require more resources for rewriting applications. They may also lock users into a specific, proprietary cloud and prevent them from balancing on-premise and cloud workload needs.

Portability across many clouds True PaaS systems need to be able to easily move their applications from one cloud to another cloud, and move them to and from on-premise. No user wants to be completely locked into a single cloud deployment or service provider. The underlying PaaS system and the applications built on it should be portable across many different public and private clouds and cloud providers. Unfortunately many PaaS offerings today lock a user into a single provider.

Management and deployment abstraction True PaaS seeks to provide different levels of abstraction to simplify development, deployment and ongoing runtime management. Far too many traditional middleware software companies appear to be introducing “PaaS” systems that merely allow a company to run their middleware containers in a hosted deployment. Unfortunately, that isn’t really PaaS and provides limited benefits. Configuring the system and managing updates and changes are still the user’s responsibility. Furthermore, many hosted middleware solutions are not integrated with any IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service) management, thereby lacking any elasticity and scaling benefits. To simplify deployment and reduce cost, PaaS needs to hide the complexity of configuring and deploying an application, manage all versioning and changes of the underlying middleware and tightly integrate with IaaS to leverage the benefits of elasticity and scale.

Our mission with Red Hat PaaS, powered by JBoss Enterprise Middleware and part of Red Hat’s Cloud Foundations, is to offer organizations and developers the enhanced flexibility and portability to solve the workload needs of today as well as tomorrow. Our True PaaS solutions seek to solve today’s real problems, protecting investments in applications and skills, while improving flexibility to address changing business models and technology. As the leader in open source solutions, we have always lived the philosophy that IT solutions should prevent lock-in, enable flexibility and lower TCO.

So begin your journey to the cloud today; and to ensure you arrive at your destination when you want, use True PaaS for better, more accurate navigation for your journey.