1. Puzzlement-as-a-Service

    © 2014 Jeff Sussna, Ingineering.IT

    I’ve been observing the latest PaaS debate with some interest and more frustration. The relationship between PaaS and IaaS is being questioned: is PaaS becoming just an attribute of IaaS? Which one is more central? Does it make sense for PaaS vendors to continue to exist as independent companies?

    With all due respect to the participants, all of whom I hold in great esteem, I fear that the debate may be missing the point. I’ve long been a fan of PaaS on general principle. At this point, though, it’s hard to tell what it really is. I haven’t seen enough in the way of concrete, detailed, grounded description or analysis. Claims for its benefits are highly unicornish: “PaaS will liberate developers from the thrall of IT”. These claims often dismiss, and risk alienating, the ops side of things. To me this dismissal and alienation is very ironic. Having worked with enterprise IT teams that supported multiple applications on a single set of infrastructure, I believe PaaS has as much potential benefit for ops as it does for development. Unfortunately, I feel a bit like I’m talking to myself. The current discourse doesn’t help me understand whether I should advise my clients to run as fast as they can towards PaaS, or away from it.

    According to its vendors, the PaaS market is maturing. The information about PaaS needs to mature as well. Imagine, if you will, a hard-nosed, skeptical IT ops architect conducting a PaaS evaluation. Now imagine that this architect issues a concluding report along the lines of “here’s why I tried to convince myself we should avoid PaaS, and here’s how I convinced myself we should adopt it instead.” The report would include specific details about which features facilitated which beneficial outcomes, and how they did so. 

    Such a report would be incredibly useful to everyone analyzing, selling, supporting, or considering adopting PaaS. I want to challenge one or more of the PaaS vendors to write such a report, or at least to use it as a conceptual model for their marketing material. I think it would be a great step towards helping PaaS cross the chasm. If its benefits really are as great as those being touted, then we really do want everyone to use it.


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