Summary:

Boston-based cloud computing startup CloudBees has received $4 million to advance its vision of building a top-to-bottom Java Platform as a Service (PaaS). CloudBees already offers a Java development Platform as a Service, but its plans include a production-ready Java runtime PaaS called RUN@cloud.

Baltic bees

Lewes, Del.-based cloud computing startup CloudBees has received $4 million to advance its vision of building a top-to-bottom Java platform as a service (PaaS). The company is led by several former JBoss executives and developers and, in fact, JBoss founder Marc Fleury (as well as JBoss EVP Bob Bickel) joined Matrix Partners in this Series A round. CloudBees already offers a Java development platform as a service – called DEV@cloud, and based on the popular Hudson continuous integration tool – but its plans include a production-ready Java runtime PaaS called RUN@cloud. CloudBees’ funding further girds the belief that the next wave of cloud innovation will come at the PaaS level.

The general idea behind PaaS is to move cloud computing a level up the stack beyond the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offered by providers like Amazon Web Services. With Platforms as a Service, developers need only port their applications to the service (often with only minimal recoding) and the platform takes cares of the rest. Developers are free of infrastructure-level concerns like provisioning new servers and managing databases. In fact, some PaaS offerings, including Makara and Heroku, run atop public IaaS clouds (primarily Amazon EC2).

Certainly, there’s an appetite for PaaS offerings supporting Java applications. VMforce made big news by letting Force.com users run Java applications written atop VMware’s Spring Framework, as did Google when it announced a similar partnership with VMware. Some of the excitement around Microsoft’s Windows Azure platform was centered on its support for languages beyond .NET, including Java. Presently, Makara looks to have the market cornered in terms of offering PaaS built from the ground up to support Java applications.

CloudBees intends to set itself apart from the pack by pushing its JBoss connections, which suggests its team understands how to build application platforms, as well as openness and abstraction. According to the CloudBees web site, RUN@cloud, once available, will be completely open-source, and will run atop any cloud infrastructure. Further, CloudBees Founder and CEO Sacha Labourey says RUN@cloud will give developers more control than they have with Google App Engine, and will provide a greater level of infrastructure-level abstraction than Makara currently offers. In terms of abstraction, it sounds like CloudBees wants to do for Java applications what Heroku did for Ruby applications, a comparison with which Labourey agrees.

As noted, CloudBees won’t have an easy path to PaaS domination, even solely within the Java realm. The providers mentioned above all have more-developed products and more mindshare, and, I can assure you, are not sitting idle on the PaaS front. Should Heroku expand beyond Ruby support, as has been suggested, Java PaaS competition will be even tighter. I suspect we’ll see the PaaS market start to really take shape over the next several months, at which point it will be easier to determine winners and losers. Labourey says RUN@cloud will be available for public beta in the first quarter of 2011.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia contributor Wilberus.

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