The PaaS segment of the cloud computing market is hot. Just look at the ado VMware and Salesforce.com created with their VMforce announcement, or the attention Heroku is attracting with its Ruby-centric service. Could Amazon be the next cloud player to enter this market?

The Platform as a Service, or PaaS, segment of the cloud computing market is hot and getting hotter. Just look at the ado VMware and Salesforce.com created with their VMforce announcement a couple weeks ago. Or the attention Heroku is attracting with its Ruby-centric service -– 60,000 applications and $15 million in VC investment are nothing to scoff at. Could Amazon be the next cloud player to enter this market?

As I discuss in my weekly column for GigaOM Pro (sub. req’d) VMforce and Heroku are public versions of what, up until now, has been a largely internal phenomenon — “adaptive PaaS.” They allow developers to launch applications without writing to the cloud platform; instead, the platform adapts the code to take advantage of the platform’s capabilities. Both VMforce and Heroku currently are limited in scope — VMforce within the Salesforce.com environment and Heroku to Ruby developers — but VMware is planning an expanded PaaS presence, and Heroku intends to open its service to new languages.

The popularity of Amazon Web Services (AWS), meanwhile, continues to grow. This week alone, Netflix expanded its EC2 usage to include some of the video service’s most important features and the White House migrated the Recovery.gov web site entirely to EC2. Investment firm research shows AWS crushing competitors’ offerings in terms of adoption, as do analysts looking solely at website hosting. AWS certainly doesn’t have a market share problem at present, but as IaaS resources become commoditized, value-added, “adaptive” PaaS offerings — and even value-added IaaS offerings — could start eating into its lead.

So, my question is this: If AWS really will be simplifying management within the coming weeks, what are the chances it does so via a PaaS offering of sorts? AWS has the tools to build a holistic PaaS offering, the economies of scale to make it profitable, and the SDKs to cater to specific set of developers. If it does so, the cloud computing discussion will take on an entirely different tenor as PaaS providers scramble to differentiate themselves from AWS in this area, too.

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Photo courtesy Flickr user Dominic’s Pics photostream

  1. Alan Wilensky Sunday, May 16, 2010

    Isn’t this a no brainer? The applications tools layer is a natural extension of the infrastructure, as the output code should be optimized for the underlying load carrying layers. This occurs at the bytecode or intermediate code build.

    We haven’t had any luck getting out EDI Communications Web Services API into the cloud infrastructure companies, like Amazon, Azure, etc. We think it belongs there. But we may be seeing light with the PAAS crowd, because that is where it is used. So, optimal is not always where you get the pluggin.

    Many new cloud based B2B apps will need EDI Message routing, and its great being the only web service API that allows that services consumption. That’s why we sing about it, and we hope that company’s like VMware and Heroku will someday respond to our letters and calls. Meanwhile we RAP! http://bit.ly/ediguy

  2. Shlomo Swidler Sunday, May 16, 2010

    Heroku already announced experimental support for Javascript node.js:

  3. Carson McDonald Sunday, May 16, 2010

    There is only one major part of the equation that Amazon is missing at this point and that is some type of application container infrastructure. They already have a lot of the key components that other services like Azure or Heroku offer, storage, queueing, nosql, and a traditional database.

    The logical fit for them would seem to be Java/J2EE but they would be instantly competing with Google’s app engine. What that will probably do however is just result in them coming out with something much more honed.

    In a way Amazon has already dipped their toes in to the PaaS area with their map reduce offering. They really just need to commit to an enterprise framework and move forward.

    I wonder if Amazon has any plans of trying to acquire Heroku and some of the smaller systems like SendGrid and Twilio, all of which have a heavy reliance on AWS already, or if they want to only shoot for the larger enterprise players.

    1. If history teaches us anything, I think it’s that AWS will build its own PaaS offering rather than buy something like Heroku. Plus, Heroku already is a moneymaker for AWS. Would it cost more to operate Heroku or to keep charging it for usage and compete against it?

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