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Integrated PaaS/IaaS Technology Complements Your Enterprise Cloud Strategy
The migration to the cloud offers IT departments the ability to become an agile utility and services provider to the enterprise

Infrastructure-as-a-Service and Platform-as-a-Service are technologies that are fast becoming integrated, and this is good news for enterprises looking to implement private, public or hybrid clouds.

The availability of resources on-demand through companies like Amazon and Google has provided developers with the ability to quickly define a scalable and highly available infrastructure to develop and deploy applications. The availability of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) means that anyone can provision servers, storage and networking in the cloud with a high level of configurability and control and pay (in general) for the amount of resources reserved.

While IaaS is growing quickly, for an enterprise looking to provide its architects and developers with control of their development environment and the ability to build and deploy applications rapidly, Platform-as-a-Service goes a step further. PaaS provides self-management for DevOps and developers, providing the ability to build scalable, load balanced and highly available application environments without worrying about app server configuration, load balancers or tools.

PaaS, however, has not grown as quickly as IaaS (IDC predicts that PaaS will grow to a $14B market by 2017 - IDC, The Evolving State of PaaS, October 2013) even though some might argue that PaaS is a key technology for enterprises looking to become more agile and utilize the cloud. To a large degree, the growth of PaaS has been affected by:

Confused market messaging:

  • A large number of PaaS vendors have emerged over the past few years with multiple marketing messages. With so many choices and, sometimes, conflicting messages, CTOs were left to separate the wheat from the chaff. More recently there has been consolidation in the PaaS space with infrastructure providers being motivated to move up the stack and provide PaaS functionality and vice versa.
  • The emergence of the Cloud Foundry Alliance, supported by IBM, EMC, VMware and others, and OpenShift, championed by Red Hat, provides enterprises with yet another decision point: both of these PaaS options have waves of support from the Open Source community and both run on top of multiple infrastructures. An enterprise CTO needs to decide if these initiatives are the safe choice, or whether one of these will turn into the Betamax of PaaS.

Black box approach:

  • Many PaaS vendors have adopted the approach of working on top of existing infrastructure offerings and obfuscating the infrastructure from the PaaS layer for ease of use. However, some solutions take this black box" approach too far, meaning that developers are restricted from even basic access to configuration files for their environments.

Vendor lock-in:

  • Most, but not all, PaaS solutions require that developers code or re-code applications to a proprietary API. While this might be acceptable for green-field environments it is not okay for large enterprises. In addition to the work involved in modifying legacy applications, betting on a particular vendor's API means that the decision to implement PaaS becomes a major strategic "bet" on the PaaS vendor's success in the market.

This last factor has been perhaps the largest inhibitor to PaaS adoption in the last few years.

However, there is good news for enterprises. PaaS and IaaS are merging and this means that many, but not all, of the barriers to PaaS are being removed. It also means that enterprises get more from their IaaS/PaaS solutions vendor.

Here are five reasons that enterprises will benefit from PaaS/IaaS convergence.

1. Easier and Faster Implementation
User quote: "One of the largest gains we are experiencing, and a key reason for adopting private cloud vs traditional server architecture is the ease and speed of server creation and deployment. Historically, if we have wanted to create additional servers, it's been a sys admin task that would take a week of turnaround. The difference is now staggering. The short version is I am minutes from new server deployment instead of weeks."

An integrated PaaS and IaaS solution means faster implementation and a more "turnkey" installation.

With Open Source solutions offering a building block approach to PaaS that can be integrated with multiple infrastructures, installation, configuration and management can become challenging.

PaaS/IaaS convergence will ultimately result in one-click installation on bare metal with everything from the operating system, container or hypervisor technologies, PaaS layer and tools being installed and pre-configured at once.

Server vendors today are already offering "cloud-in-a-box" solutions where popular cloud software is pre-configured by the server vendor.

2. Better Management - Lower ROI
User quote: "With the cloud, cost compared to our existing infrastructure is small enough that it is insignificant to me."

Beyond installation, PaaS/IaaS means fewer points of management that more accurately reflects the needs of the modern IT organization.

IT organizations are moving to provide IT-as-a-Service where the IT department retains tight control of resources, security and compliance (the infrastructure) but, for example, delegates the management of development and test environments (via PaaS) to developers and DevOps.

This move results in a more secure and agile enterprise by providing IT as a utility to the rest of the organization and allows agility in developing, deploying and managing new business applications

PaaS/IaaS convergence mirrors this trend by offering IT control of the resources in the cloud as a single point of management, and offering DevOps and developers control of their application environments through a delineated, second management utility.

3. Better Scalability and Density
User Quote: "I chose my cloud vendor for three key reasons. First and foremost, the ability to scale both vertically and horizontally. Particularly dynamic vertical scaling."

Application scaling in a traditional virtualization environment with VMs of a fixed size has been trumped by improved elasticity in the cloud, with IaaS providing more granular resource "chunks" that can be reserved by applications.

But true elasticity requires an infrastructure that is "application-aware." In enterprise environments being able to claw back unused resources is almost as important as scaling up. And freeing up underutilized resources means better application density and reduced overall resource consumption across the cloud.

IaaS/PaaS integration provides that level of control of applications.

  • Vertical scalability within a server beyond the traditional restrictions of a single VM or Container is possible by growing containers where necessary.
  • Use of a single server becomes more intelligent with, for example, a high-demand application being allocated more single-server resources by automatically moving other applications to different servers in the cloud.
  • Seamless horizontal scalability across multiple servers in the cloud.
  • Improved density with more granular allocation of resources and "claw-back" of unused resources in the cloud (for example, for unruly applications that claim resources but are reluctant to release them).

4. Improved Availability and Security
User quote: "For production we had a master and cold standby server, so worst case scenario recovery was a matter of hours of downtime. We also had no option for server clustering, without significant hardware investment. Now Clustering/HA is already a reality."

The improvement in availability and tightness of security in an integrated environment is more than just the intuitive benefit of limiting integration points and providing less moving parts.

The removal of a PaaS vendor's dependency on a changing and sometimes indeterminate infrastructure allows that vendor the luxury of controlling release environments and testing the full stack for security loopholes and solution stability.

In addition, the ability to manage installation and configuration more tightly reduces the opportunity for configuration issues.

Finally, integration should result in simplicity. An integrated IaaS/PaaS environment should limit or remove an enterprise's dependency on third-party services to build, configure and manage the cloud.

This reduction in architectural, business and operational complexity are major factors in the appeal of a single cloud stack for the enterprise

5. A Single, Yet Open, Cloud Stack
A single stack does not necessary imply a closed solution. As IaaS and PaaS continue to merge, vendors offering this integrated approach will "cherry-pick" the best technologies to use at each level of the stack. It makes sense for those components to provide open interfaces and APIs.

Ultimately, the worst type of vendor lock-in is at the application level. An enterprise that has rewritten legacy application and developed new applications for a particular API has made a total commitment to that solution. This should be avoided at all costs.

Further down the stack the integrated PaaS/IaaS vendor is free to make the best choice for the customer. The OS layer should offer the customer multiple choices, perhaps a free, open option and an upgrade to an "enterprise" OS. The container or hypervisor layer should offer the customer choice and advanced functionality. Tools, languages and plug-ins should be an ever-increasing set of options for the enterprise.

The migration to the cloud offers IT departments the ability to become an agile utility and services provider to the enterprise, and IaaS and PaaS are key technologies to enable this. The integration of these key technologies is inevitable as enterprise requirements become clear. PaaS/IaaS will drive a simplified, more functional cloud that directly responds to these trends within the enterprise.

About John Derrick
John Derrick is currently CEO of turnkey cloud provider Jelastic. He has extensive business leadership experience in the private and public cloud, big data, database, and enterprise markets. John focuses on the intersection of these markets, technology and teams to deliver solutions that really work for people. He has delivered product and profit at IBM, Chicory Systems, Conformative Systems, Intel, MIPS, and now Jelastic. Between these companies he has led and advised about 50 different startups and public companies.

John can be reached at john.derrick@jelastic.com.

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